The Progressive Traveller Goes To Bordeaux
Dreams do come true…..
Visit to Bordeaux
My husband Paul and I have a great love of France so much so, we purchased a petite Maison in 2008. Our petite Maison is in the village of Herepian, located in the largest wine growing region in France. Herepian is in the Languedoc region of South France and located 1.5 hours from Montpellier and 30 minutes from Beziers.
The home and village ticked all the boxes on our pre-purchase list – four restaurants, two boulangeries, mini mark, newsagent, two hair and beauty, barber, two florists, charcuterie, sports store, two bars, weekly market and a large supermarket only 3 k away.
The Joy Of Purchasing A Home In France
After researching the net for over a year, we did a short course on “How to purchase a house in France” and joined an Australian French Information site who introduced us to an English speaking Real Estate agency.
Once, we established the region we wanted to purchase in, a girlfriend and I fly over from Australia and inspected several homes throughout the desired region. Having previously created a ‘must have’ list, the purchase process was relatively simple, actually, we ended up purchasing the first house we inspected. The other properties were either too big or difficult to maintain from afar.
The attraction for us to purchase in France has always been the food, wine, culture and history. We wanted to buy a home in a village where we could fit in and feel part of the community, in the same way we do in Australia. I believe Paul and I have probably experienced and visited more villages, events and attractions than the average French National in our village.
Discovering the villages on the Green Way is a highlight and an excellent way to keep fit while travelling in France.
The Progressive Traveller’s New Adventures in Portugal and Spain
Being a “Progressive Traveller”, it has been four years since my last visit to France. We holiday rent our petite Maison for some months of the year which helps to pay some of the village taxes, insurance, maintenance, internet and utilities. The home is a lovely, ‘comfortable’ base for us and close enough to explore other regions in France and nearby European cities.
The Progressive Traveller walks the ‘Portuguese Way’ from Valance Portugal to Santiago de Compostela before visiting her petite Maison in France.
Collecting the offical documents at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela.
Home In France…
We arrived in Herepian, France on the 4th November after walking part of the Camino and touring Portugal and Spain. The first few days in Herepian, we like to return to all our favourite haunts and eat and drink everything we’ve missed and love.
Our tradition is pizza from Sergio’s Pizzzeria on the first night we arrive in Herepian. Another tradition is 6 fresh shucked oyster and a glass of Picpoul de Pinet at Lamalou les Bain Tuesday Markets.
One thing Australians can be immensely proud of is, we love to see and do as much as possible while on holiday. By the end of the first week, we always get itchy feet and want to discover new places.
After some discussion, the decision was made to head to Bordeaux as neither of us have been there before. Paul loves researching new destinations and came up with a short two-night itinerary which included St Emilion and Bordeaux.
Three Nights In Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the world’s major wine industry capital which has been producing wines since the 8th century. It is home to the world’s main wine fair, ‘Vinexpo’, and the wine economy within the area has an estimated wealth of 14.5 billion euros each year.
St Emilion Wine Region In Bordeaux
The first night, we stayed in complete luxury; a stunning vineyard chateau named Chateau Grand Hotel Barrail about 7k from the centre of the old town in St Emilion. We rarely splash out on luxury accommodation preferring to spend our money in other ways however when we do it feels so good!
Unlike Australian cellar doors, visitors must make a reservation to take a wine tour and tasting in Bordeaux. As our trip to Bordeaux was spontaneous, we’d made no reservations, however being off peak season, we were sure that the rules could be broken! The Manager at Chateau Barrail made a few calls and we were very fortunate to join a tour and tasting at Chateau Gaudet in the heart of the old town in St Emilion.
Vincent, the winemaker lived five years in Australian working for various vineyards including Voyager Estate and Mitchell Winery. Vincent also gained winemaking skills in the USA and Chile. After travelling and working for ten years abroad, Vincent returned to the family business and is now in charge of all facets of the estate, including the wine-making. He and his father Guy-Petrus take the one-hour + tours which was both educational and informative. The winemaker was very passionate about the industry and he was a pleasure to listen to. Chateau Gaudet became ‘viticulture’ certified organic in 2010, and bio-dynamic in 2014, becoming the second bio dynamic winery in the St Emilion region.
Wine production here is done totally by hand just like it was done centuries ago. The Chateau has an extensive limestone quarry located directly under the premises. Wandering through the limestone tunnels was a fascinating experience, all the wine vintages are stored in small limestone alcoves, depicted only by a small black chalkboard with the details of the year of production. The vineyard is situated 500 metres north of the village of Saint Emilion and planted with 80% of Merlot and 20% of Cabernet Franc. The size of the estate is 5.50 hectares (13.6 acres) and mostly clay and sand on the limestone plateau of St Emilion.
We tasted two Chateau Gaudet wines and were very impressed with Grand Cru Classe 2007. Unfortunately, freight to Australia is too expensive so we had to be satisfied with our one bottle purchase.
Day Two – Chateau Giscours Wine Tasting Tour In Medoc Region
Again, we didn’t have a booking but were lucky to join a tour and tasting at Chateau Giscours. Chateau Giscours is a magnificent facility today and can be traced back as far as the 14th century. The vineyard began in 1552 by a wealthy Bordeaux draper who planted the first vines. In the 19th century, the château was transformed into neoclassical palace and the production facilities were modernised with the construction of huge buildings, including the famous ‘Ferme Suzanne’ building.
Dasha, our tour guide, from Belarus has a degree in wine tourism and some experience in wine making. The tour and tasting took approximately two hours and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The tour started with a brief history of the past and present owners and information of the architecture on the estate. The current owner, a Dutch businessman and previous owner of the Casino Spa Grocery Chain, purchased the estate in 1995. Over the last 20 + years, Eric Albada Jelgersma has invested large funds into the estate and the technology to make it the world class winery that it is.
Travelling is a great opportunity to learn and we walked away from the tour with a better understanding of vines, wines and wine production. What we found fascinating to learn was how oak barrels impact on the final outcome of the wines. This estate uses 7 different types of oak barrels, each made by a different oak barrel maker for their Grand Crus wines.
The wine tasting was both educational and informative and we tried three excellent wines:
– Chateau Duthil (entry level)
– La Sirène de Giscours (second wine)
– Chateau Giscours (Grand Crus)
We purchased a bottle of Chateau Giscours 2013 and plan to cellar the wine in Australia for a couple of years.
Belle of Margaux Chateau Palmer
While waiting to join our afternoon tour, we drove from place to place to look at the spectacular architecture in the region. My favourite piece of architecture was ‘Chateau Palmer’. The story goes, that in 1814, (the widow or divorcee) of Château de Gascq, Madame Marie Bumet de Ferrière, sold the property for fr 100,000 to a retired English General, Major General Charles Palmer whom she met on a coach in France. Although, the estate flourished over 3 decades, in the early 1840s, Palmer had economic difficulties and was forced to sell the property to Madame Françoise-Marie Bergerac in 1843 for fr 410,000, at a substantial loss.
One Night Exploring Bordeaux Centre Ville
After a pleasant afternoon, we headed to Bordeaux city for a one-night stay about 20 minutes walking distance from the old town. We’d planned to arrive in the late afternoon to capture the perfect light and dark blue sky against the magnificent architecture, that we’d heard so much about. Our plan altered somewhat, when we got caught up in roadworks and deviations. After driving around in what felt like circles, we were relieved to check in and get outside and see Bordeaux.
Since July 2006, Bordeaux has been home to the largest water mirror in the world. Located opposite the Place de la Bourse, between the Quai de la Douane and the Louis XVIII quay, the mirror of water alternates extraordinary effects of mirror and fog. The mirror of water is the central element of the quays and is one of the busiest public spaces in Bordeaux enjoyed by its inhabitants, tourists and photographers from all over the world. The water mirror operates every day from 10am – 10pm; according to the following cycle: 3 minutes of filling, 15 minutes of mirror effect, 5 minutes of emptying and 3 minutes of fog. During the winter months, the attraction ceases some times for maintenance.
After Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France. The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as ‘an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble’ of the 18th century. Bordeaux has the longest pedestrian-only shopping street in Europe. It is 1.2 kilometres long of shops, restaurants and cafes.
The city of Bordeaux has an extensive network of bus routes and three tram routes serving all parts of the city and its suburbs. All the information you need, including downloadable maps and timetables can be viewed at www.infotbc.com but be aware that much of the information is in French only.
Cathédrale Saint-André is the most beautiful religious monument in Bordeaux. The cathedral dates back to the 11th century however what is visible today was built between the 13th and 14th centuries. The Gothic freestanding belltower is its most endearing feature and houses the cathedral’s bell. The belltower was completed in 1500 after 60 years on construction.
As the ground is notoriously unstable in Bordeaux, the tower was built some 20 metres from the cathedral itself, which also meant the main edifice would not be affected by the vibrations of the bells. If you want to get the best view of the city take the 231 wooden steps up to the top of the narrow belltower.
A number of royal weddings have taken place in the cathedral including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, the future king of France, in 1137 and later, Anne of Austria and Louis XIII in 1615.
After exploring the city, we dined at a traditional French restaurant in “Place du Parlement’, a historic square with bars, shops and restaurants. The square was built in tribute to the Parliament of Bordeaux and the building facades are richly decorated in Louis XV style. In the centre of the square sits a fountain surrounded by restaurants swarming with people.