Travel Agent received an invitation from Charles Cohen of Balad Vintage Tours last month to accompany him on a tour of Versailles in his vintage 1930 Aston Martin. Taking the train from Paris to Versailles we were astonished by the long hooded, fire engine red convertible waiting for us out side the station. Charles, a tall, teddy bear of a guy with curly gray hair, greeted us enthusiastically and proudly shared about his love of vintage cars and his prize possession. We admired the meticulously maintained features, including the handsome wood-paneled dashboard, the gleaming steel wheel spokes and black leather seats.
Manufactured in England, we had to shimmy our way into the left side of the vehicle as Charles kindly opened the door for us and helped us get in. There was also a backseat bench, enough for two kids or two small adults.
Slowly driving through the streets of downtown Versailles in an open car, enjoying the sunny weather and cool breeze, we were the center of attention with people waving at us and yelling “Bonjour” while Charles acknowledged his friends and admirers.
Balad Vintage Tours offers three tours, and we chose Le Vins et Terroirs, a wine and food tour. Tucked away in a lovely interior courtyard, our first stop was Atelier Saveurs, a marvelous gourmet food shop and home furnishings boutique stocking mostly French products, including many items locally manufactured in the region.
It’s a good thing someone else was driving when we sampled wines at BiboVino, a wine shop and bar, as the owner generously poured the shop’s specialties. BiboVino is best known for its mostly organic, high quality boxed wine, and our favorite was a crisp but fruity 2017 Chardonnay from Jean Paul Brun, perfect for a summer day. We were also served a bountiful platter of excellent goat, blue and Brie cheese, along with charcuterie of country paté and aged sausage.
Sated from our wine and cheese, we ventured on an historic tour of Versailles and learned about Notre Dame des Versailles Cathedral, built under the reign of King Louis XIV, the 18th century indoor and outdoor food market, and the former private mansions, houses and buildings dated between the 1600s and 1800s.
At the end of the tour, we sipped Champagne at the Palace of Versailles and received skip the line tickets to visit the palace and the gardens.
Please note the car can fit up to three passengers.