In August, 2018 Pete and I joined our friends Sandy and Col on a river cruise around the Bordeaux region and a small group tour of Tuscany, separated by a week on our own at La Spezia in Italy.

Our wonderful trip home It’s not usual to start at the end – but the end was memorable.

A Milan stopover  We had a day and a half in Milano to catch our breath.

Goodbye Milan, hello Bordeaux In which we experience budget air travel

Appellations, Terroir and sauterne We learn some of the basics of French wine and sample sauterne in a chateau

Wine tasting French style (you don’t just rock up) We visit a winery only accessible by invitation. They have a hail cannon.

The fortress of Blaye We visit one of Louis XIV’s fortresses and a farmer’s market

Brandy, a saint, and merlot We learn about Remy Martin’s brandy and visit a real hermitage. Then we learn how to taste wine.

The beautiful city of Bordeaux We walk the old town and visit the cathedral

Getting to the Cinque Terre A mad dash through airports and train stations before we can finally visit the fabled Italian coastal villages

Fun on Assumption Day We take a bus ride to Portovenere – and have a brush with the law

The Cinque Terre from the sea We catch a ferry to Monterosso and travel back to La Spezia by sea

Off to Tuscany – with a weird rash We travel to Montecatini to join our tour group

Off to Florence On another hot day we visit Florence to see Michelangelo’s famous David, the cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio – so much to see

Lucca, the Devil’s Bridge, and some navel gazing We visit the delightful walled town of Lucca, then see the medieval bridge and some Gothic Line fortifications

The leaning tower and a cooking class We’re off to Pisa to see its wonderful cathedral and experience the wonderful acoustics in the baptistery. That evening we get a sort of cooking lesson.

The world’s craziest horse race We visit Siena, home of the famous Palio horse race.

A day of rest (sort of) We have a day to ourselves and take the trip on the funiculare to Monticatini Alto

Our final Day We visit the hilltop village of San Gimingano, then a farm where pecorino cheese is made before our final feast.