5 Exquisite Wine Routes in France

As Europe’s peak travel season winds down and most people are returning to work and school refreshed from their summer vacation, the sleepy vineyards sweeping the French countryside awaken for the annual harvest. Foliage begins to turn, days and evenings become pleasantly cooler, and the picturesque back roads call out to be traversed, beckoning in one of the best times to visit France. There’s no better time than autumn to channel your inner wine connoisseur and rent a car in France. The following list is a compilation of five lovely wine regions and scenic routes fringed with vineyards that beg to be explored. Each of these destinations is sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

Alsace Wine Route

Alsace Wine Region

The Alsace region is situated along a narrow plain, which is bordered by the Rhine River to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. Why not rent something special for your trip, like a Mercedes SLK Roadster in Strasbourg? Put the top down and leisurely make your way south along the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route). This 170 km stretch of roadway begins in Marlenheim and ends in Thann. Take your time and discover the Alsace vineyards, castles, and charming villages that dot the way.

Bordeaux Wine Route

Bordeaux Wine Region

Six distinct wine producing territories branch out from the heart of the Bordeaux region. The beauty of visiting this location is that you can create a unique tour of the wineries based on your specific taste. Sample the fine red wines north of Bordeaux, and the sweet or dry white wines south of the city. Offering an excellent array of grape varietals, colors, and tastes, you won’t be disappointed when visiting this southwestern area of France.

Provence Wine Route

Provence Wine Route

South of the Alps and north of the cliff-lined Mediterranean Sea is the Provence region, a part of France that is celebrated for its rosé wine. Start your journey by driving west along the coast with your rental car in Nice and making frequent stops to appreciate the villages and scenery, follow the 200 km course to Camargue, a town just east of Montpellier. The Provence vineyards are divided into eight appellations, and there are about 350 winemakers along the way.

Burgundy Wine Route

Burgundy Wine Route

A two hour car-ride southwest of Paris leads into the rolling hills of France’s Burgundy region. Renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyards here yield some of the country’s finest wines. Burgundy has five territories, and Route des Grands Crus (road of great wines) takes you through Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. It is the area’s most popular drive and is close to 60 km. Clearly marked road signs make this itinerary very easy to follow.

Champagne Route

Champagne Wine Route

Only 160 km east of Paris, yet seemingly worlds away from the city of light, is the highly regarded Champagne region. Sparkling wine can’t claim the name Champagne unless it originates from here. There are five circuits that wind their way through each of the appellation territories. The Coast Bar route is the longest at 220 km, and the shortest courses are Montagne de Reims and Massif of Saint Thierry, each of these is 70 km.

Before setting off on any trip in France, it is important to note the country’s new driving law, which requires every vehicle to have a breathalyzer on hand. Avoid the possibility of needing to use one of these devices by staying at a lovely Chateau when choosing to indulge in a few glasses of regionally produced wine.

Enjoy the wine and enjoy France!

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The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in 2 weeks. So what do you see? And where do you start? Well right here.

The Italy Road Trip – Getting There

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

The Italy Road Trip – Venice

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Walking along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and give into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

Italy Road Trip - Venice

The Italy Road Trip – Prosecco

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit and wines to drink. We are looking for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most wineries will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road leading to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

Italy Road Trip - Prosecco Region

The Italy Road Trip – Tuscany

There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. The wine; the food; the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion. The area covers approximately 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400 year old winery is right next door to the well known Antinori. They provide an intimate tour and wine tasting for 10 Euro. Villa San Andrea’s Super Tuscan is far cheaper than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Italy Road Trip - Villa San Andrea, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Tuscany

Among the many towns/places to visit in Tuscany are – Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands near the top. It’s an amazing, well preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants. My favourite restaurants “Le Vecchie Mura“. It has both an inside restaurant and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course local wine. Eating a Tuscan dinner overlooking Tuscany is pretty hard to beat.

Italy Road Trip - San Gimignano, Tuscany

Italy Road Trip - Pasta with Truffles

The Italy Road Trip – Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is all about the views. And getting to the coast just adds to the anticipation. Heading south, we drive along the highway through Naples, then onto the winding roads of  Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible coastal views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants down on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle – both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.

Italy Road Trip - Positano

Italy Road Trip - Villa Cimbrone, Ravello

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?

5 Must-Try Activities During an Evening Desert Safari in Dubai

A desert safari is one of the best adventures you can experience in Dubai.

Exploring the beautiful topography of the Arabian Desert and trying out the different activities that come with the tour you choose will definitely make the safari truly memorable, and something that will be etched in your heart and mind forever.

If you want to witness the dazzling sunset in the Arabian Desert at night, and later catch a glimpse of  the stars high up in the heavens, go on an evening desert safari in Dubai.

By going on a desert safari in the evening, you will see the wonderful sights and enjoy all the must-try activities in the Arabian Desert under cooler, more comfortable temperatures.

Desert Safari in Dubai

Here are five activities you have to try when you go on an evening desert safari in Dubai:

1.    Dune bashing

A desert safari won’t be complete if you don’t go dune bashing. While onboard a 4×4, you will go on a thrilling ride to navigate the picturesque sand dunes of the Dubai desert.

With the sun setting in the background, you will have a more glorious, lovelier view of the desert as you go over the different sand dunes.

Since you will be going around the sparse desert wilderness when the sun is already going down, you will be more comfortable inside the vehicle as well. You can even open the windows a bit to feel the cool breeze if the driver allows you to.

2.    Camel riding

 

You won’t be going on an authentic desert safari if you don’t get to ride a camel during your tour as well. Riding a camel is quite a novelty while you also get to see the wonderful sights of the Dubai desert up close.

Whether you are riding on a camel or simply standing beside one, make sure you get lots of photos with the beautiful sunset in the background.

Desert Safari in Dubai

3.    Fire show

 

If you want to witness something truly exciting, you’re in for a treat at the camp.

After experiencing a heart-thumping fast ride up and down the sand dunes, you can look forward to relaxing and watching what’s in store at the desert camp.

A fascinating fire show is part of the night’s repertoire of skilled entertainers. Prepare to be amazed as the skillful fire showman manipulates different fiery implements complemented with his fantastic acrobatic abilities.

Everyone in the crowd would be in awe of the dazzling fire display from start to finish, so make sure to have your camera with you and capture the beautiful fire show.

Desert Safari in Dubai

4.    Get a henna tattoo

Once the tour is over and you arrive at the desert camping grounds, make sure you take home a beautiful souvenir by getting a henna tattoo.

Let a henna tattoo artist work his or her magic on your hands, arm or leg. In the end, you will have a unique work of art on your body which you can show off. Since the tattoo is only temporary, it will last for only two to three days.

5.    Enjoy a buffet dinner

One important thing that separates a morning desert safari from one scheduled in the evening is that the latter comes with a scrumptious buffet dinner.

At the end of the tour, you can treat yourself to a buffet dinner complete with a variety of mouthwatering barbecued treats. The buffet tables and stations also have an assortment of authentic Arabian and vegetarian dishes so there is an option for everyone. You won’t be disappointed by their dessert and beverage offerings as well.

The desert safari camp and clear skies will be the backdrop of the al fresco dinner you’ll enjoy in the company of other safari-goers. You can also try puffing a shisha or drinking a traditional Arabic coffee during the evening.

A nighttime desert safari will allow you to explore Dubai’s wilderness, however sparse, and try various activities more comfortably.

Best of all, at the end of the tour, you will enjoy a delectable dinner with the clear, wonderful sky and the Arabian Desert as your background.

If you’ve come to Dubai as a holiday-goer, be sure to make the most of your trip by booking your stay at a hotel accommodation which can also arrange for other unique experiences in the emirate.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Hafiz Umer Ali Zaib is the Social Media Specialist at Luxury Tours, a leading provider of tours, cruises and safaris across the UAE. The company’s top offerings include the Dubai Desert Evening Safari, City Tours, Dhow Cruises, Mountain Tours, Limousine Service, Discounted Tickets for theme parks, and a variety of many other excursions.