A Politics and Prose Trip with Author Martin Walker
June 1 to 8, 2022
Join Politics & Prose on an exploration of this unique part of France, well known for its food specialties (truffles, walnuts, foie gras) and wines (Bruno loves wine!). A highlight of the trip will be spending time with Martin Walker. We’ll spend one whole day in “St. Denis,” tasting wines at Bruno’s favorite wine shop, and then going on to Martin’s house, where we’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch while Martin pours us some favorite wines and regales us with stories about the region.
We’ll begin our stay in Bordeaux, a world-renowned center for wine and gastronomy. Its 18th century buildings of warm golden stone border the broad river Garonne. The city itself is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a historic trading center in the 1700s for wine, coffee, cocoa, sugar, cotton, indigo and – sadly – enslaved peoples from Africa.
Then we’ll move on to the medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, with its beautiful yellow sandstone buildings housing restaurants and shops. Small and extremely walkable, Sarlat has more historic monuments than any other town in France. Martin will take us on a walking history tour there.
Politics & Prose trips are made up of small (maximum 18 people) groups of congenial people who, like you, love to read. You’ll have two experienced trip leaders with you each day – on a trip that features many of Martin Walker’s favorite places in the region.
Please note that we may make changes to this itinerary in response to unexpected closings, road conditions, weather or other unforeseen events.
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
Depart from home for your overnight flight. You will change planes at a European airport and continue on to Bordeaux, France.
Wednesday, June 1
Arrive in Bordeaux. You’ll have the afternoon free to catch up on your sleep from your flight, or begin to explore Bordeaux’s cafés, museums and shops. Our hotel is located in the center of town in a gracious old building restored to contemporary tastes. You’ll find Bordeaux a very walkable city, but it also has an astonishingly quiet tram system to help you get around. 6pm. Meet in the hotel bar for orientation for the week.
Thursday, June 2
We depart from the hotel for a walking tour of some of the most spectacular of the city’s UNESCO sites: the Port de la Lune (Moon Port) that has defined its character for centuries, the spacious Place de la Bourse, the Miroir d’Eau fountain on the river walkway, the ancient St. Pierre district and much more. We’ll break for lunch where you’ll have your choice of a number of charming outdoor cafés.
We board the tram for a quick ride to the Cité du Vin, a comprehensive museum on the history of wine. It’s also quite a sensory experience, where you inhale the scents of wine, feel the rocking of an ocean-going vessel and – of course – end with a wine tasting at the top of the building, with a wide view of the city and the river below.
Meet in the hotel for wine and conversation.
Friday, June 3
We’ll take a short tram ride to the Bassin de Lumières, a light-filled immersive art experience set to evocative music. This year’s show will feature, among other artists, the French painter Yves Klein, who pioneered a blue pigment so intense that it is named after him. The show is set in a World War II Nazi submarine base and factory. (Bordeaux was occupied during the war; its close access to the Atlantic Ocean was a key strategic point for the Nazis.) Afterwards, we’ll head for the lush Bacalan food market, where you can enjoy lunch at an outdoor café or browse the delicacies inside the market.
We’ll go back into the center of the city to the Musée Aquitaine, the museum of the history of Bordeaux and its regions. The timeline begins in prehistoric times and continues through Bordeaux’s booming Atlantic trade up to the present day. The building was constructed on the site of an ancient convent where celebrated humanist writer Michel de Montaigne was buried. A highlight of the museum now is his cenotaph with a marble effigy. Afterwards you’ll have time on your own. You might want to visit the Saint André Gothic cathedral, whose oldest section dates to 1096. It was the wedding site for the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Louis VII of France. Or, for something completely different, spend some time at CAPC, the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s located in the chic Chartrons district where you can browse in small boutiques for clothes and antiques, or just idle away some time with coffee in a sidewalk café. 6pm This evening we’ve invited French/Senegalese writer Karfa Diallo to talk with us about his research into the history of the slave trade in Bordeaux and contemporary French diversity interests.
Saturday, June 4
We board our transport for a three-hour drive to the Périgord Nord, where we’ll stay in the four-star hotel Plaza Madeleine. We’ll have time for lunch in the center of the medieval town. 3pm Martin Walker meets us in Sarlat to give us a walking tour of the most famous city in the Périgord Nord. It was hotly contested during the Hundred Years War and was actually part of England for about ten years. Martin will show us the town’s most celebrated sites. He tells the most marvelous stories about its history, and will answer all your questions as well. 6pm Meet in the hotel for wine and conversation.
Sunday, June 5
This morning we drive to the Chateau des Milandes, a Renaissance castle built in 1489. It was abandoned after the French Revolution, but beautifully restored and improved in the early 1900s. Most notably now, it was the home of Josephine Baker, the wildly popular black dancer and entertainer who took Paris by storm. Less known about Baker are her work for the French resistance in WWII and her adoption of numerous children. The interior of the chateau is still decorated in the art deco style Baker loved. At the chateau (weather permitting), we’ll also wander through the beautiful gardens and, if such a thing interests you, watch their demonstrations with live birds of prey, some of them endangered species. Afterwards, we’ll drive to Domme, a hilltop town labelled one of The Most Beautiful Villages in France. Here we have a selection of places for lunch, plus wide vistas across the landscape.
We leave Domme for a short drive to the Gardens of Eyrignac Manor, a site that has been family-owned for 22 generations. Inspired by 17th and 18th century designs, Eyrignac is distinguished for its topiary, white rose garden and flower gardens. Here you can stroll through the gardens and – if you wish – have tea in their café.
Monday, June 6
Today we begin with a visit to Lascaux IV. In addition to the almost perfect replica of the entire cave and all its art, the new center features many exhibits and experiences to help us understand both why these early peoples painted such dramatic pictures of animals and how they used the very surfaces of the cave walls themselves to make artistic decisions. Afterwards we’ll drive to the nearby town of Montignac, where we can choose from several restaurants along the scenic river Vézère.
We drive to the Chateau de Hauteforte, originally a medieval fortified castle set high on a rocky outcrop. It was transformed by the Marquis de Hauteforte into a palatial 17th century country residence. In the 19th century a French style garden of parterres and sculpted boxwoods was added. It’s now recognized for its furnishings and gardens, all meticulously restored by the Baroness de Bastard in the 20th century. 6pm: Meet in the hotel for wine and conversation.
Tuesday, June 7
We depart to Le Bugue, Martin Walker’s village in the Périgord; it will remind you of the fictitious St. Denis. It’s market day there, so we’ll have half an hour or so to browse the market in the town. Then Martin will join us. We’ll stop at Bruno’s favorite wine store -- Julien de Savignac – where we’ll taste some of his favorite wines. On the way to Martin’s home in the countryside, we’ll stop at some of his favorite places in the area. Then we’ll all have a leisurely lunch (and lots of wine) at his house, sitting around a big table in a shaded alcove with vine leaves filtering the sunlight. We’ll have time to stroll around the garden and visit the chickens before we board our bus for a relaxed and sleepy ride back to Bordeaux.
Wednesday, June 8
Depart from Bordeaux airport on your flight home.
How many people will be on the trip?
Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
What’s the best way to get to Bordeaux?
Do we have to fly to Bordeaux? What about taking the train from Paris?
Do I have to pay a single supplement?
I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
Tell me about the trip leaders.
What is the Hotel Plaza Madeline like? What about the hotel in Bordeaux?
What’s included in the breakfast at the Plaza Madeleine?
Is there internet access at the hotel?
What will the weather be like?
What to wear?
I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Is it safe to walk around by myself at night in Sarlat and Bordeaux?
When do I need to sign up by?
Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And we hate eating at long tables where we haven’t got a choice about what to order. Instead, we’ll find typically French places for lunch, and, in both Bordeaux and Sarlat, there are lots of restaurants to sample at dinner. You can choose where you eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.
As of this writing (airline schedules are always subject to change), we strongly recommend flying Delta Airlines to Bordeaux. You have a choice of changing planes in either Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris or Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. We find the Schiphol Airport much more manageable, but of course you’ll decide what suits you best. Other airlines that fly from Washington, DC to Bordeaux with only one stop include United and Lufthansa.
Note that if you book through Delta, you’ll actually be flying on Air France or KLM. At Dulles, you’ll check in at the Air France/KLM desk, not Delta’s.
You definitely can do that. There are several nonstop trains a day; they generally take about 2.5 hours or so. If you plan to stay in Paris beforehand, that can be a good way to go. You’d catch the train at Gare Montparnasse, and there are several a day.
At this writing, there are two TGV fast trains from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Bordeaux, but neither are convenient if you are flying in that day – one too early, the other too late.
Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because French hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.
Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
We strongly recommend it. In particular, you’ll want to have trip cancellation insurance in case something happens and you can’t come at the last minute, and also medical evacuation insurance which will fly you home if needed. Remember that Medicare is valid only in the U.S., so if you’re on Medicare, you’ll definitely want some basic medical insurance. The best time to purchase your travel insurance is when you pay your deposit for the trip.
Some travel insurance companies include covid coverage, so you’ll want to make sure your policy does that.
And please read the trip Terms and Conditions carefully for our cancellation policy.
Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
Donna Morris has lived in Paris, France, for the last 10 years. She founded her business, Best Friend in Paris, in 2009 with her signature tour, Follow Me, an experience for her clients that helps them see Paris with the same love and appreciation for the City of Light that she has. She has developed and organized Politics and Prose trips to Paris, Provence, and the Loire Valley. She speaks fluent French.
Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing Politics and Prose trips for several years, in countries including France, South Africa, England and Italy. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she was a docent at the National Gallery of Art for many years. She speaks tourist French.
The Grand Hotel Français is a charming hotel in a historic building, perfectly located in the center of the city. The hotel is typically French, with small but nicely appointed rooms.
The Plaza Madeleine in Sarlat is a quite sophisticated hotel, beautifully designed, with a spa and swimming pool. We particularly love sitting outside at the bar in the evenings.
Q. What’s included in the breakfast at the Plaza Madeleine?
Both hotels offer a wide selection of croissants, rolls and pastries, cheeses, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, cereal, French yogurt and so on. At the Plaza Madeleine, breakfast is definitely a treat. Unlike many continental hotels, they also have eggs and bacon or sausage every day.
It’s hard to say for sure, but it should be sunny and warm enough most nights to sit outside at dinner. It’s always a good idea, of course, to come prepared for rain, so do pack an umbrella, a light jacket and – most important of all – very comfortable walking shoes.
Q. What to wear?
Wear just what you would at home – casual jeans, slacks or skirts, even for eating out at night. Of course, for any place where you need a reservation, you’ll want to dress appropriately. But let comfort rule your choices.
Absolutely. We’ll provide a list of common menu terms, and let you know how to do things like ask for the check.
Q. Is it safe to walk around by myself at night in Sarlat and Bordeaux?
As in any city, it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings after dark. But these are small cities with lots of charm, and our hotels are located where there are lots of people about. You can feel quite comfortable walking around after dark.
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotels, daily transportation as mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums if with the group as listed in the itinerary, tasting events, evening socials to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.
Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included; taxis or other forms of city transportation; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.
Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.
Registration and Payment
The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.
Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to email@example.com. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.
Please note that, should a covid pandemic recur after trip deposits have been paid, no refunds will be possible (the funds will now be in France), but we will reschedule the trip as soon as possible with no change in price.
Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.
We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.
Full final payment is due February 18, 2022.
Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before February 18, 2022, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after February 18, 2022.
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.
Changes to Your Reservation
If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation outside of 90 days before the trip start date. From 30 – 89 days before the trip start date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip.
Health and Medical Issues
We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. Our trips require a reasonable amount of walking, possibly several hours a day, uphill or on uneven streets or streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb stairs and board trains and buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you.
If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.
Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date 90 days before the trip start date.
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.
Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party.
Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.