After a relatively relaxing day in Bordeaux, the Missus decided that we should take at least one day trip. I thought a nice 40 minute train ride into the village of St Emilion, which, in addition to claiming to being the oldest wine producing area in Bordeaux (dating back to Roman times), the village is a World Heritage Site.
Getting off the train, you immediately know what the cash crop here is......
You are engulfed by grape vines......
The walk to the village from the train station was about 15 minutes.
We had decided to arrive fairly early and the streets were sedate, it was quite charming. There were basically no one on the sometimes narrow street as we wound our way up the hill. I guess it wasn't quite "wine o'clock" yet.
There are two distinctive landmarks in the village. The first is the Chateau du Roi, which is located on the hill west of the center of St Emilion.
From here, you can view the rooftops of most of the village and get a nice glimpse of the other major landmark of St Emilion; the Eglise Monolithe, Saint Emilion Monolithic Church.
We were even more impressed after taking a tour....more on that in a bit.
We headed back down into the lower part of the village, then back up the narrow streets until we arrived at Place des Creaneux. This is where the TI office is located. They had just opened. We asked for maps and some other recommendations. As with our other experience at the TI in Sarlat, the young lady here was amazing; such a joy to deal with. She asked us if we'd "like to see a very interesting part of St Emilion that is not open to the public?" And we said, "of course".....so she booked us for "Underground St Emilion"...the first tour, which started at 1030.
This meant that we had about forty minutes of so to kill, so we wondered around a bit. Around the corner from the TI is the Eglise Collégiale, the Collegiate Church. The Romanesque styling means this church has been around for quite a while.
The cloisters, built in the Gothic style is what this church is known for.
It was quite amazing to have a place like this all to ourselves.
It was getting close to the time of our scheduled tour. So we needed to get to that plaza below us. The way down was rather steep and we passed through a gateway; the Porte de la Cadene. There was a very rustic (and old) wooden structure next to the gate, I was told that the name of the gate is derived from "catena", which meant chain. Apparently, there was once a chain which controlled access to the main square of the town at this gate.
There a quite a few questions about the existence of this gate and structure; since it was within the village, why was there a "chain/gate" here? Who was being defended and/or protected? Who doesn't love a little mystery?
We were told to wait for our tour in front of the "three windows".
The tour itself was quite good. We got to learn a bit about the history of St Emilion, which is named after a monk, named, well Emilion, of the Breton Priory, who fled to this area to escape persecution from the Benedictine Order. He settled in a cave, dug out of the hillside that is now St Emilion. During the 45 minute tour, we visited what was (supposedly) his bed, carved out of bedrock, visited catacombs, and we saw paintings within the Trinity Chapel, done in the 13th century. The most impressive thing to us was seeing the amazing "church" carved out of the stone. There were huge devices which looked like they were used to stabilize the ceiling. It was quite amazing....as this all started as a cave carved out by a single monk. What was more surprising....is that we exited by a door near those three very windows where we first gathered. Who knew what lay behind them!
Even though our tour was in French, the young lady also spoke English so we really got a lot out of our time. Highly recommended!
It was still fairly early, so we decided to head back to Bordeaux. And while the train was rather late....there was an interesting conversation I had with a nice gentleman who told me that the "French are very detailed oriented, like the Japanese"....after which I told him, "however, if the trains ran as late in Japan....you know, heads would have rolled....", which got a nice laugh.
Getting back to Bordeaux, we caught the tram and got off near Cours de l’Intendance.
It was for me to "payer le prix promis".....to go ahead and "pay the promised price" to the Missus. I had told Her that She could get whatever scarf She wanted from Hermes whenever we visited France (this, BTW has changed and gotten a bit more pricy). and so, the Missus got the scarf of Her choice....after all, love is priceless, no?
We had decided to finish up the eggs and cheese we had purchased the day before for lunch. But, we had seen some interesting beer in St Emilion....I know, we went to one of the great wine producing areas of France and bought some beer......which isn't even from the area. But the Missus still had another bottle of Her Chateau de Grand Moulin, so why not try these?
The Biere de Ferme Truffle was kind of weird....it had an strange off taste, little foam, kind of weak......fragrance of truffle, but the flavor is very difficult to describe.
The Ambree, on the other hand was very good...nutty and on the sweet (very Belgian) in flavor, I found it to be quite pleasant to drink.
We had a nice short nap, then it was off to dinner. The destination was close by. I'd read about a shop called Saveurs D' Aquitaine, which specialized in small dishes of local ingredients....the highlight being truffle. Since it was just a few blocks from where we were staying, we stopped by before leaving for the Dordogne and made dinner reservations for our last night in Bordeaux. So this was to be our last meal in Bordeaux. On the way to the restaurant, we ran into a woman who was lost, and insisted on me trying to help her....really! It was like some scene from a reality show.....me....trying to help some poor French woman...who kept speaking to me in French. Finally, she got the clue, and started cracking up at the strangeness of the situation.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was strangely closed. Soon after, a young lady arrived and opened the doors. So here's what happened; the young lady who took our reservations, didn't know that the chef was booked for another event on the day we requested. The folks at the restaurant tried to get in touch with us....but hey, we didn't have pocket wifi this time around and where we were staying didn't give out customer info...appropriately so.
They could have easily closed us out.....but instead, we had a small private dinner for two....albeit, simplified and prepped ahead of time, by a very, very, nice young lady....I could not get a grasp of her name....so she said to call her "Vic"!
And so, while there were quite a bit of truffles present for dinner.....it didn't quite raise our sails....this was a very special meal....
The restaurant could have easily locked us out....it would have been totally acceptable. But instead, they went ahead and prepped us our own little special dinner. Which if not amazing, was still quite special. '"Vic" made the meal, as we got to talk about how life is in Bordeaux, and life in general......she was the highlight......and I'm hoping she is doing well in Bogota, which is where I understood she was headed after graduation.
In a way, this might have been our best meal in Bordeaux. Perhaps one day we'll return and actually have proper meal here.
Saveurs D' Aquitaine
16 Place des Quinconces
As we took our final walk around the city....this joyfully unpretentious locale....I wondered, as I stared at the mesmerizing "head" by Jaume Plensa.....
What will I do the next time I'm here......