Day 1 – 50 shades of blue: Let’s start our day in Toulouse where your driver guide will pick you up and drive you to the Château des Plantes, where our host, Gilles, an internationally recognized expert for his work in essential oils and natural dyes, will introduce us to the secrets of Woad paste. Gilles will show the process from the plant sources to the extraction of the dyes. We’ll also learn about the ancient dyeing techniques used to obtain the typical blue colour called “pastel”, and the production of oil and cosmetics based on the woad paste of the “Pays de Cocagne”. The medieval village of Puycelsi, will welcome us for a lovely lunch at “L’Ancienne Auberge”, one of the most impressive noble houses in the village. After lunch, we will continue our day by heading to our vinification and wine-pairing workshop at the Chateau de Terride, a castle full of charm and authenticity in a classified AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) domain. The day ends in Albi, a magnificent pinkbricked town on the banks of the Tarn. We will stroll into the old city through its winding streets and halftimbered houses. We will stop on the main square for an ice cream or a “café au lait” just before settling into our hotel, the incredible 5-star Relais Château Hôtel La Reserve. The gastronomic restaurant of the hotel will host us for a wonderful dinner next to the pool.
Day 2 – Bohemian Rhapsody: This morning, after a generous breakfast, we will pay our respects to Albi’s most celebrated son, the worldfamous bohemian painter: Toulouse Lautrec. Situated in the Palais de la Berbie, the museum dedicated to the artist has on display more than 1000 original works by Toulouse-Lautrec – the largest collection in France after the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Cordes-sur-Ciel awaits us now. Considered to be the most beautiful medieval village in France, and located on a hilltop with fortified gates, ramparts, sculpted gothic façades and little hidden corners, this town will conquer your hearts for sure. There we will enjoy our lunch at the Auberge de la Halle. On our way to the Dordogne region, we will stop at Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, a stunning village at the crest of a sheer cliff high above the Lot river, overlooking the beautiful ”Vallée du Lot”. A magical setting where our friend Pat will be waiting for us. She’s by far one of the most renowned bread bakers in Europe, and she will teach us how to produce and bake the perfect bread with the local flours. In her wood-fired oven our hostess will expose all the secrets of this timeless craft. After this masterclass, we will head to Sarlat where our 4-star hotel Plaza Madeleine lies right in the center. After a well-deserved rest, we will stroll through the spectacular streets of Sarlat, one of the most important European cities in terms of cultural architectural heritage. Our steps will take us to Le Bistrot de l’Octroi for dinner.
Day 3 – …Early birds: Today an experience well-worth the early call is waiting for us. After a quick drive to the beautiful village of Beynac-et-Cazenac we will meet Lionel. He will be our Hot air Balloon captain this morning!!! Flying over the Dordogne river with the first sunlight is a magical experience we couldn’t miss. After having recovered from the experience with a glass of white Dordogne wine, we will have the pleasure of meeting Edouard and Farah, a lovely couple and producers of black truffles. They will explain to us their passion for this very special mushroom and all the nuances of its flavor, and of course we will have a truffle hunt with their lovely dogs. We will enjoy our lunch At their estate and discover the many ways to cook this star ingredient in the local cuisine. We will then take leave of our hosts and head to the world famous caves of Lascaux, where in the 40’s some children playing accidentally discovered the most wondrous prehistoric cave paintings. The building that houses the museum is one of the best interpretation centers for Paleolithic archeology. Back to Sarlat and to our hotel where we will get ready for our Michelin star dinner at Le Grand Bleu where Maxime Lebrun, the starred chef, will tell us about Dordogne’s local products and how he uses them in his gastronomic art.
Day 4 – Legendary wines: Following the Dordogne river towards Bordeaux. This morning we’re entering the most renowned vineyards in the world in Saint Émilion : UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, this mindblowing village enjoys the reputation of its oenological and gastronomic heritage worldwide. This morning, the 18th century Château Ferrand is opening its doors for us to experience the art of blending and crafting our own vintage with Adrien Baudry, the estate’s sommelier. He will educate our palate and help us understand the different grape varieties and the best way to combine them into the perfect blend. There’s no better way to end this morning than to enjoy a buffet lunch of local specialities at the same Chateau Ferrand. This will be our opportunity to visit this amazing Chateau which has recently been restored by the architects and designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku in the most exquisite contemporary lines respecting the original raw materials. After lunch, we’ll stroll into the town of Saint-Émilion and take in its main monuments: cloisters, city gate, fortifications and underground monuments. It is time now to discover our last hotel, the 5-star Hôtel Château Grand Barrail, a unique property next to Saint Emilion surrounded by a 3-hectare park. A unique stay where you will enjoy the best lodging and Spa in France. Tonight we will enjoy a wonderful dinner at the gourmet restaurant of our hotel. In order to stretch our legs a bit after lunch, we will have a gentle bicycle ride through the vineyards and get to know the “châteaux”, family-run estates where we might have to taste some more of those superb local wines. Back to our hotel for a deserved rest where we will get ready for our final night dinner at the best restaurant in the area, the 2-star Michelin restaurant La Table de Pavie where the chef Yannick Alléno, sublimates local products with passion. He will later on join our table for a chat with us and the last toast of the trip.
Day 5 – Let’s cook in the chateau!: After a lazy morning enjoying our hotel, we will head to Château Ambe Tour Pourret, one of the Grand Cru vineyards in the area and close to Libourne, one of the richest wine regions in France. There, the Lannoye family will host us for a local food cooking class in the Château’s kitchen. This will be the occasion for us to understand local habits and the traditional way of life in this part of France. Meanwhile, after cooking the seasonal ingredients we will, of course, taste the estate’s blends and best wines.
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