Loire Valley: Guide to the Wines of France: (French Wine Guide) Approach Guides
The last entry in our Useful to Really Good Guides list is from Rick Steves. Immensely popular, good value, always updated, and filled with useful tourist tips. We're not so keen on the footstep-by-footstep approach to sightseeing often found in Steves' guides. Adhere to this too strictly and you tend not to look around you, notice the life of the city, or follow other interesting paths. Paris, we always tell our readers, friends and guests, is meant for meandering. Even so, this is a safe if predictable choice.
Bonjour and welcome to Paris! Your adventure begins with your first taste of French hospitality when a chauffeur picks you up from the airport and shuttles you into the city for a personal welcome at your hotel. Spend the day exploring the neighborhood around your hotel, with personalized suggestions by your local specialist. After your customized self-guided walking tour, take a load off at a picturesque sidewalk cafe, where you can enjoy an aperitif before heading to a well-recommended restaurant. You could order a perfect steak frites at a timeless cafe or try a trendy bistronomy spot, where up-and-coming chefs serve exciting haute cuisine in a fun and approachable way. Think fusion flavors and reinvented French classics paired with expertly mixed craft cocktails or brilliantly selected natural wines. Walk your meal off along the resplendent Seine or stroll the Champs de Mars under the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower as you drink in the romance of the City of Lights.
You'll spend today like a local in the hip neighborhood of Le Marais. This neighborhood has played an important part in French history since the 13th Century when the Order of the Temple constructed a fortified church, an edifice that inspired the construction of a number of beautiful religious buildings and churches, and later, the epicenter of the Parisian Jewish community. Get to know the district by foot after you enjoy a classic breakfast of cafe au lait and a buttered tartine or, of course, a perfect croissant. Alongside centuries-old synagogues, you'll find high-end fashion boutiques, dining hotspots, art galleries, and LGBT run businesses.Stroll to the Haut-Marais, or Upper Marais, a section of the neighborhood that has transformed from former working-class factories to chic shops and galleries. There you'll meet a Maître Fromager, or Master Cheesemaker, at a renowned local cheese shop. With expert guidance, you'll learn about the cheese maturation process and taste selected cheeses from different regions paired thoughtfully with complimenting wines. After, you'll meet your local guide for a two-hour private walking tour through Le Marais's lively streets and hear tales of the magnificent 17th-century mansions that once dominated the district.The afternoon is yours for further discovery; visit the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP), which boasts an incredible selection of work by premiere and emerging photographers, or opt for the funky Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, a museum devoted to hunting and taxidermy, filled to the brim with curiosities. Explore the neighborhood's stylish boutiques and hidden gardens and when you're feeling peckish, pop over to Rue des Rosiers for a warm kosher pastry or wait in a quick-moving line for an iconic falafel sandwich. If you're hungry for something more, sample international specialties at the Marche des Enfants Rouges or stop in at a wine bar to wind down the day.
Below, our wine enthusiast guides offer several recommendations for wineries to visit beginning in the north near Geyserville, then continuing through Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Kenwood, and, finally, the city of Sonoma. This way you can concentrate on a particular region or plan out a more extensive day hitting several of the most prominent winegrowing regions in the valley.
Extanomical Tours has been hosting visitors to Sonoma for 15+ years from its base in San Francisco, just 50 miles away. With over 400 wineries and gads of great restaurant choices it is a real challenge to stay up to date but our cast of wine educators and guides does a pretty good job finding and serving up the best the valley has to offer.