Tour Paris By Zeppelin

Looking for a way to avoid the tourist crowds in Paris? You might try looking up. Airship Paris is a new company offering tours of the French countryside around Paris by zeppelin.

Tickets range from 250 euro for a half-hour “first flight” tour of the castles around Vexin (including the Villette Castle from “The Da Vinci Code” movie), to 650 euro for a royal tour of Versailles with Paris in the background. Flights take off from the Pontoise airport about 25 miles from Paris. The 250-foot-long airship carries up to 12 passengers and cruises at an altitude equivalent to the Eiffel Tower.

After takeoff, you are free to take in the views from the panoramic windows, sitting or standing. Unlike a hot-air balloon or blimp, the zeppelin is wind-resistant and heavier than air, with a low level of vibration and noise (the company compares it to that of a dishwasher). Airship Paris is the first commercial airship service in the area in 30 years.

Read more and book tickets here.

Bordeaux Chateaux

When you’re planning your trip to visit the incredibly lovely Bordeaux region of France, you’ll simply have to cast off your urge to bring along your backpack and camp. Bordeaux must be done haut-style.

Whether you arrive in Bordeaux via the TGV from Paris or by plane into the Bordeaux airport (Merignac), head north out of the city, and you’re right in the Medoc region. I can give a strong recommendation to Chateau Le Lout, a wonderful nineteenth-century, Venetian-style chateau in Le Taillan-Medoc, that serves as a B&B.

We relied heavily upon the proprietor, Olivier Salmon, for our evening entertainment recommendations, and weren’t disappointed. The rooms were sizable (by European standards) and the bathrooms were well-appointed and large. You can take your Continental breakfast on the back terrace, in the morning sun. Don’t forget to bring your Speedo, to enjoy the pool.

Within minutes from the chateau, a magical road that twists past wineries took us to fine dining at Lion D’Or, in Arcins, to sample the wine and a local specialty: milk-fed veal. They open for dinner at 8, and be sure to call ahead for a reservation, as the place is small and the friendly and jovial patron, Monsieur Barbier, packs everyone in, to create a festive mood.

For fantastic outdoor dining, you can’t beat the cozy atmosphere of Restaurant Le St. Julien, further up the road in St. Julien-Beychevelle, which had a huge rotisserie-barbecue area in the middle of the terrace. This time, we sampled the fantastic local roast lamb. The tables were covered by tent-like canvas awnings, and the lighting was soft and romantic. Definitely a place to take in the night air and enjoy dinner for two. Or three, if you are really feeling French.

The Slowest Marathon in the World

Combining running with wine tasting? Leave it to the French to invent a marathon that actually sounds like fun. And reporting from Medoc, France over a glass of magnificent red wine, I can confirm that it is.

The annual Marathon du Medoc in the Bordeaux region of France ended just a few hours ago in scorching heat of some 100F. Although the fastest man ran the 42-kilometer (26-mile) track in 2 hours and 28 minutes, most other people did not run this for the adrenaline as much as the “vino”. Over 8000 people from all over the world came here to race through picturesque French villages dressed up in more or less creative costumes. I must say that there were disturbingly many men in drag or dressed up as babies, pacifier, diapers and everything. Pirates of the Caribbean and sailors of all kinds were a huge hit this year.

The marathon route goes through some of the best chateaux of this region and provide runners as well as spectators the opportunity to try Medoc’s wine. Hence the slowest marathon in the world title.

If you haven’t already, put this on your list of things to do before you die (or become lame). It is absolutely worth it.