Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Europe 2009 ... the dream and the beginning

Well, as some of you know, 2009 is a big year for me. I finish graduate school, turn 30, and Mr. Lush and I will be married a year. All good reasons to take a trip to Europe, don't you think? Well, I'm in the very baby beginning phases of planning. So far, we've decided Burgundy for sure. Everyplace else, including a non wine country visit to either Ireland or Amsterdam, is up in the air. Although last night we looked at the map and Ireland is really far and while Amsterdam is far as well, its not as far.

Well in my preliminary searching, I'm looking up existing tours to get ideas, as well as hotel names, chateaus, etc. I found one that has a lot of great stuff. Its private and its a bit expensive, though. Ok, more than a bit. Read on:

LUXURY WINE & CULTURE (11 Days, 10 Nights)
To really know a wine you need to know its terroir, an utterly French alliance between a wine and the region that produces it. Come along on a tour de force journey through the wine regions of Champagne, Alsace, Burgundy, & Chablis. Taste each region's different wine and enjoy gastronomic cuisine. This journey will enable you to sample the finest wine and cuisine day after day. Your journey will conclude with a visit to Paris . This is a once in a lifetime experience!


Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), you will be met and escorted in your private car by a professional private guide, who will stay with you throughout your journey. You will be driven to the prestigious 4-star Château de Montvillargenne. Located only 30 minutes from CDG, and yet secluded in the Chantilly Forest, this Château was built at the turn of the 20th century, combining local and foreign architectural styles including Norman, Württemberg, and Béarn. Here you will find the perfect setting for some R &R after your long trip. The Master Chef of the Château will prepare a light 4-course gastronomic dinner for you this evening, and the sommelier from Maxim's in Paris will help you select your wines for the meal.

After buffet breakfast, departure for the illustrious Champagne region of France. Your first stop will be the town of Epernay, one of the two towns that produce champagne and the home of Moët et Chandon, the world-renowned champagne house. This house makes, arguably, the most famous champagne in the world, Dom Pérignon. After an exclusive private tour of Moët et Chandon cellars, the ´Chef de Caves' will guide you though a champagne-tasting, and you will have the opportunity to purchase some superb champagne from this eminent champagne house. We will continue to the city of Reims, the other home of champagne. Reims is called the "City of Kings" because its Cathedral was once the site of the coronations of the Kings of France. Indulge in a gastronomic lunch at the 2-Michelin Star Boyer Les Crayères, including wines selected by the chef. After lunch, visit the famed Maison Pommery in Reims with its 11-mile galleries. These galleries, lined with sculptures carved into the chalk walls, are used to allow the champagnes to age under precisely controlled conditions. From Pommery you will be taken to the legendary champagne house of Mumm founded in 1827, for a visit to its cellars that hold an inventory of over 25 million bottles. Your day ends at the Château d'Etoges where you will spend the night. Just 30 minutes from Reims, this 17th-century chateau, surrounded by a moat, was once frequented by kings during their travels east. This evening, the chateau will feel like a grand private home where you can relax for the night.

After a restful night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, depart towards the Alsace-Lorraine region. Your destination is the beautiful village of Ribeauville situated at the foot of vine-clad hills, with its charming old shop signs, turrets, pierced balconies, and flower-decorated houses. This village is celebrated for its Riesling and Geürztraminer wines. Overnight at the Clos St-Vincent, a charming 4-star hotel surrounded by vineyards that affords a great view of the Alsatian countryside. Mr. Chapotin, the owner, will provide a dinner of Alsatian specialties as well as comfortable lodgings for relaxation after a full day of traveling.

Today, you will experience part of "The Wine Road of Alsace" and discover wineries off the tourist track. Your guided excursion will take you north along the wine road starting with a visit to Sélestat, an important city during the Renaissance. Overlooking the town is the Château Huat-Koenigsbourg, the largest château in Alsace. This 15th-century castle was dismantled during the Thirty Years War by the Swedes and rebuilt by Germany in 1901 as a gift to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Continue on to Oberbeim for free time for shopping at your leisure and lunch on your own. We recommend a light lunch so that you can thoroughly enjoy your elegant 7-course dinner this evening. In the afternoon, travel along the wine road sampling wine in a few villages including Riquewihr, well-known for its "Eau de Vie de Framboise" a distilled raspberry liquor. Then after some to relax at the hotel, you will be taken to the renowned Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern. At this 3-Michelin-star restaurant known for delicacies like Frog Mousseline created by Paul Haeberlin, you will feast on a sumptuous 7-course gourmet dinner featuring specialties chosen for you by the Chef.

Today you will say "au revoir" to the Alsace region, but before leaving, you will enjoy the morning in Colmar, a medieval city that is a gateway to the Rhineland. The third largest city in Alsace, Colmar is also an excellent place to ask your guide where to buy delicious Alsatian wines like Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat d'Alsace, Tokay Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir. Now, with the best of the local wines of the region in your suitcase, you will travel along the German and Swiss borders to still another border, the border of the Burgundy wine country. Your drive is bound for Dijon, the mustard capital of the world. Your home for the next two nights, Château de Gilly, is located between Dijon and Beaune, the capital of the Burgundy wine region. This château was the home of the Cistercian Monks until the French Revolution in 1790. It was restored by the government in 1978 and became a hotel ten years later. Dinner tonight will be in the chateau's Le Clos Prieur Restaurant, under the direction of Chef Olivier Dupart, newly arrived from the 3-Michelin-star Lucas Carton in Paris.

This morning starts with a guided tour of the Hospices de Beaune. Founded in 1443 as a paupers' hospital and home to the brilliant Ven der Wayden altarpiece "The Last Judgement", the Hospices remains famous today thanks to the world's largest annual charity auction ´Sales of the Wines of the Hospices de Beaune'. Following the tour, savor a gastronomic 6- course lunch at the 3-Michelin-star Lameloise Restaurant including some local wines: Apéritif Bourguignon, Chassagne-Montrachet 2000, Savigny-lès-Beaune aux Guettes 1er Cru 2000. After this culinary delight, you will pass through the villages of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Montrachet. During this journey, your guide will discuss the origins of the region's wines, including the villages, the soil, and the grapes. He will also examine the history of the region, as well as some ancient tales. Cellar visits and comparative wine-tastings will take place throughout the day. Upon return to the Château de Gilly, another delectable dinner will take place in the prestigious Le Clos Prieur restaurant.

After breakfast we will leave for Vézelay, another city in Burgundy and always a high point of time spent in this region. Vézelay is a living museum of French antiquity. Frozen in the Medieval time period, this town holds what is believed to be the tomb of Mary Magdalene, the'beloved and pardoned sinner,' making it one of the great pilgrimage sites in the Christian world. Continue on to your hotel for the night, Hotellerie les Clos in the town of Chablis, home of the wine of the same name. This charming hotel is located in the heart of Chablis, right across from the city hall. Michel Vignaud and his team of sommeliers will welcome you to their vaulted cellar and discuss the different grapes of Chablis and Auxerrois, followed by a wine tasting of: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Vieilles Vignes, Chablis 1er Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru. A 5-course culinary feast will follow in the Hostellerie's
one-Michelin-star restaurant.

After this gastronomic 'tour de force' in Alsace, Burgundy, and Chablis, it is time to return to Paris, the City of Light, where a pleasant 3-night stay awaits you at the Hotel Meurice. This 5-star luxury hotel, member of the Dorchester Group and Leading Hotels of the World, is the first choice of celebrities, presidents, and sovereigns. Each morning, you will be served an American breakfast in either your room or the hotel's magnificent main dining room. The rest of the day is at your leisure in Paris. Dinner this evening will be at Le Céladon Restaurant. This Regency-style one-Michelin-star restaurant is adjacent to the Hotel Westminster, just a short walk from your hotel along the Rue de Castiglione. With a backdrop of pale green damask wall hangings and Chinese porcelain, painting, drawings, and antique books, a gastronomic meal will be prepared for you by Le Céladon's master chef, Christophe Moisand, formerly sous-chef at Le Meurice. This restaurant is known for specialties like its choice fowl, cream soup and crêpes with 'Paimpol' (white beans and black pasta).

DAYS 09 & 10: PARIS
There is so much that Paris has to offer that one day simply would not be enough, so we've given you two days to explore the city on your own. The Concierge at the Hotel Meurice will be able to direct you to all best places to visit and arrange any number of activities for you during your stay. This is also a great time to do some last-minute shopping before your return home. On Tuesday evening, your farewell dinner will take place at Le Meurice, the Hotel Meurice's two-Michelin-star restaurant. Under an elaborate ceiling adorned with gilt and crystal chandeliers, in what is surely one of the cities most opulent restaurants, Chef Marc Marchand will prepare for you a French culinary experience that you will never forget as the fitting climax of your French gastronomic journey. To complement the excellent cuisine, Antoine Zocchetto, the restaurant's sommelier, has selected the perfect wines for your last evening's dinner in Paris.

Transfer to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) for your flight back home.
Note: this luxury journey can be customized to fit your needs.

* Transportation in a luxury car with a certified driver
* 1 Night accommodation on B&B at Château de Montvillargenne
* 1 Night accommodation on B&B at Château d¢Etoges
* 2 Nights on B&B at CLOS ST VINCENT
* 2 Nights on B&B at Château de Gilly
* 1 Night on B&B at Hostellerie les Clos
* 3 Nights on B&B at Hotel Meurice
Not Included
* International airfare (upon request)
* Meals, drinks not specified on the itinerary
* Items of personal nature (laundry, phone charges, etc)
* Special dinners per the program

* $6,100 per person
* $1,500.00 for a single supplement

Yeah, $12 grand. Not including airfare or some meals, or the thousands in wine we'd buy. Ah. To wish.....

But, at least it's a start. We're thinking Day 2, 6, 7, interest us most. Stay tuned for more and please, share ideas!


Abi said...

i would not go to Europe for 12 Grand! You really don't need a personal guide. Go get a Rick Steves' Europe travel book. It's like having Rick on the trip with you. I never go to Europe without him!

For wine I'd recommend the River Rhine. Flying into Frankfort is sometimes cheaper than Paris.

WineLush said...

Thanks for stopping by!
I know- 12 grand is insane! We spent about half that on our entire honeymoon! Of course I am not even considering a personal guide, unless I win the powerball, then maybe because I do like the personal driver. :)

I'm just using this as a starting ground for a potential itinerary and for idea generation. We're months away from even have a rough sketch of our itinerary.

I will certainly pick up the book though and look at flying into Franfort as well. Thank you so much for the tips!!

LucyinStLou said...

Research is key! From what I've heard from people who have done wine country in Europe, it really pays to know some of the language and make appointments as their wine "tourism" is very different than ours. In fact, we knew people who went to a winery in Brunello and had an appointment. Once there, they were asked questions about why they liked Brunello, which Brunellos they liked, what years they liked, etc. before the lady would even give them a tour. Obviously if this was with an appointment, there are very few places where you can stop by. Good luck!