We arrived at Saint-Emillion and parked and walked up to the tourist office. We booked ourselves onto an afternoon tour of the underground churches and sights of the town. We just had time beforehand to have lunch and on our way to find somewhere to eat stopped in at a great looking wine shop just for a look! The owner was great and fill of knowledge about his wines. We tasted a lovely red from a vineyard that has been in operation for 400 years and they still do everything the traditional way including using horse and plough. We also tasted some wine with the tournefeuille label as apparently the winemaker came from their (we live in tournefeuille).
Our wine breathing before we tasted it!
After buying 9 bottles of wine we asked the store owner for a lunch recommendation and he pointed us in the direction of a gorgeous little restaurant down some stairs. We had a great lunch and I had my first experience of boeuf tartare (raw mince with herbs and spices)! It was actually very tasty once I got over the fact that it was raw!
After the standard three course French lunch plus coffee we headed back to the tourist office to join our tour.
The tour took us to the underground hermitage of saint Emillion where he had lived for the last 17 years of his life. Quite inspiring to be in the same cave that he had lived in 1200 years ago. We then went into the chapel that was built above the hermitage, then the catacombs where weathy people of the area were buried then finally into the amazing underground church - the largest in Europe. A lot of these historic monuments are privately owned so in order to view them you need to go on a tour so we were very thankful we did as it was a wonderful thing to do.
We then went and had a bit of an explore of this gorgeous hilltop town discovering towers and extremely steep cobbled streets.
View over saint Emillion
This street was steeper then the photo shows
The gate into the hermitage courtyard
The top of the underground cathedral.
We wanted to do some wine tasting but for most vineyards you have to ring and make a booking. The tourist office has 2 vineyards a day that are guaranteed to be open for public tastings. We rang one of these up and organised for an English tour at 4.30pm. We got there just before 4.30 and saw the owner in full voice talking to some customers in French. We were wondering if we had come to the right place so said we had come for the tour and his reply was that the tour was now in French but we could go to the house for some tastings. We couldn't find the entrance to the house so decided to just leave and go to our accommodation instead.
The petite mandeline b n b was perfect, Right in the middle of vineyards in a tiny little village with friendly owners. We discovered all the vineyards were closing for the day so no more wine tasting for us. Rather then feel deflated by our lack of being able to do wine tasting in French wine country we decided to drive to Bordeaux. It was about 40 mins drive away and was a very grand city to drive into with beautiful buildings lining the river. We found a park then walked through the very busy city down to the river.
There was a great water feature there which Hannah would have loved!!
Fountains in Bordeaux
The start of the Garonne river - which also goes through Toulouse
The most fantastic statues on this fountain - huge and very detailed.
The complete statue
Some modern art by the wine bar where James and I had a wine and a beer.
The opera square
By this stage it was now 8pm so a suitable time to get dinner. We did a bit of research on trip advisor and decided to eat at an Indian restaurant nearby. It was lovely although after a year of mild food we really wanted something hot and spicy and were a bit suspicious when the waiter never asked how hot we wanted our curry. Sure enough the Indian food was not hot at all which was fine for my butter chicken but James had really wanted a bit more spice in his rogan joch. Apparently there is an excellent Indian restaurant in Toulouse so I think we may have to give that a go!
We decided to head home so put our destination for the car park into James' phone as he had marked it. After going around in circles for a bit and nothing looking familiar we realised that his phone had not synced so although we knew where the car park was near we didn't really know how to get into the car park building. Eventually we saw two men struggling with a ticket machine on a side street and realised it was the carpark ticket machines! There were no signs anywhere for the carpark so were very fortunate we recognised the ticket booths then saw the elevator (which also was not marked for parking). We were very thankful to finally find the car an head for the BnB.
After a yummy breakfast including gluten free bread for James we decided to make use of the bikes at the BnB and cycle through the countryside. Using the wine guide we found a local vineyard that was open on Sunday so we rang them and yes we could go for tastings at 11am. We headed off on our bikes feeling very lucky to be living in such a beautiful country!
Grapes almost ready for harvesting
The wine tasting was great and luckily James had chosen the bike with panieres on the side so he could fit in our box of wine! We did a bit more of a cycle down the gorgeous country lanes before heading back to the motel. We decided to go back into Saint-Emillion for one last look around and to have some lunch and yet again found a great place to eat, this time in the sunshine.
We then headed for home and were welcomed home with happy faces as well as some beautiful Father's Day cards for James. A huge thank you to Sue and David for doing such a wonderful job of looking after the kids so that James and I could have some much needed time out.
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