Posts tagged “saint emilion

Leaving Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion is a very special place…. I’m so glad that we came here and that the weather was perfect throughout our stay.  Rich mentioned the other day that Saint Emilion reminded him of the place where the movie Chocolat took place…. it has very much the same feel and magical quality. Today we spent most of the day relaxing and walking around the city.  I did two strenuous activities in the morning…. climbing the stairs of the church steeple and then climbing the steps of the tower of the king.  Both were extremely high with very narrow and dark steps that went in a circular pattern.  I only encountered one person coming down while I was ascending and we had to rearrange our camera bags so that we could both squeeze by – very narrow.  But the views from the top were incredible and it was such a beautiful day.  So here are some of the steps along the way and the views from above.

Stairway to the top of the steeple.

 

View from above.

 

View from the top

 

This is how far up I was.

On the way to the King’s Tower, there was a very beautiful street scene that I wanted to capture and kept getting frustrated because people would enter the picture.  I finally got the shot I wanted when all of a sudden this man appeared from a doorway and entered the scene.  He stepped back into the doorway because he could see me taking a picture.  It’s funny because you can still see his stomach sticking out of the doorway.  I have one without the stomach but I thought this one was unique.

Just a tiny bit of his belly showing…

 

Here are a few shots from the tower:

 

Workers trimming the vines

View of the church steeple from the tower.

The dinner tonight was at the Hostellerie de Plaisance, the hotel we are staying at.  Philippe Etchebest is a Grand Chef of France and presents an incredible meal for all of his guests.  We started by sitting out on the terrace and selecting all of your meal selections.  We went a la carte with only 3 courses – starter, main course, cheese and dessert… well I guess that’s really four.  Anyway, you make all of your selections before you enter the dining room.  The process is very formal and you have a glass of champagne while you’re selecting… of course.  Once you enter the dining room, there are no longer any menus or choices to be made.  And everything arrives like clock work.  Our meal was outstanding beginning with several amuse bouches, a starter – Rich had an egg dish with Spanish ham along the side and I had the most humongous oyster I’ve ever seen.  One oyster cooked in coconut milk that filled the plate – delicious but very strange looking.  We both had Brittany lobster that was de-shelled table side.

 

Rich and a glass of champagne

 

Marc with his back to the hotel

 

Small amuse bouche outside to go with the champagne

 

The ham accompanying the egg dish

 

Here’s the enormous oyster – a delicacy in the Bordeaux area

 

The lobster

 

There was a slight problem with the desserts.  They mistakenly gave Rich the strawberry dessert although he had ordered the chocolate dessert.  As a result, they gave him both.  On top of that, they brought me another dessert for my birthday with fireworks and all – literally, there was a huge sparkler on the display.  The chef came to the table and started applauding and everyone in the room applauded – it was great.

 

Pineapple dessert for Marc

 

The chocolate dessert for Rich

 

And here’s the mistake – very tasting strawberry cake inside

 

And finally, the birthday surprise – see the sparkler at the bottom right

 

And then a picture with the chef….

 

 

 

The birthday cake

 

It was a great ending to our stay in Saint Emilion.  As I said, it’s a very special little village with a prestigious wine history and a very comfortable feel.  I would definitely come back.

We head off tomorrow very early because we have a long drive from here to Dinard in the north of France.  See you there.


Wine Tasting à la Française

 

Today we arranged for a couple of wine tours in the immediate area.  Saint Emilion is one of the great appellations of Bordeaux and we learned a tremendous amount by just visiting two wineries.  We went to two chateaus – Chateau Figeac and Chateau Beausejour – both within a mile or two of the village.  As opposed to Napa or Sonoma, the wineries have relatively small areas of vineyards and there is tremendous history in both the winemaking process and the wine itself. For the first visit, we drove to the chateau and requested an English tour.  Our tour guide, Gwen, was not only extremely fluent in English but also very knowledgeable.  We had a group that included us, a Brazilian couple, a Danish couple, and a couple from Virginia who were extremely annoying…. you know, constant stupid questions like, “Is this a red wine?”… of course I jest, but they were still very annoying.  Here are a few pictures of the chateau and the environs:

 

 

The Chateau – home to the owners of Chateau Figeac

 

The wine tasting area – only one wine to taste.

 

 

 

 

The tasting at Chateau Figeac was in the morning and then we had another at 2:30pm at Chateau Beausejour.  The chateau was actually within walking distance of the village and our hotel.  We had a private tour with Patrick who had previously worked in Napa and Sonoma and again was fluent in English.  He also gave us all sorts of little tidbits of information that we had never heard.  First of all, the wine for this chateau was stored in underground limestone caves – you’ll see the pictures below.  Apparently, these caves were dug centuries ago to claim the limestone which built the entire village.  The entire area including the village is built upon these caves below and are all interconnected….. amazing.  In addition, the limestone is very easy to cut underground because it contains so much moisture – Patrick showed us the humidity within the caves and it was 98%.  Evidently this keeps the wine at a stable temperature with the proper moisture.

 

 

The wine barrels

 

 

More of the caves

 

Of course with all of this walking around and education, we needed a sugar break to build up the energy.  We stopped at one of the many macaroon shops and grabbed a small bag:

 

 

Chocolate, raspberry, vanilla….. and extremely light.

 

And to end the day before dinner and to celebrate my birthday, we had a glass of rose champagne on the terrace of the hotel.  I love this shot of the champagne glass reflecting the village behind.

That’s it for tonight.  Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful birthday wishes.  We’ll be in Saint Emilion one more day.

 

 

Cheers….. à votre santé!

 


Saint Emilion

 

 

The trip from Paris to Bordeaux on the train was fairly uneventful.  When we arrived at the train station, it took us forever to find the car rental agency.  Then, of course, the car we had requested (one with GPS) wasn’t available.  After lunch and a couple of comical episodes, we were able to exchange the car and were well on our way.  It’s actually pretty funny… the car is a great diesel Peugeot, stick shift (they still make those?), and a navigation device that only offers directions in French.  She has a wonderful voice so it makes the turns and roundabouts even more fun.  The difference between straight ahead and turn right is “tout droit” vs “droit” – better pay attention or you might miss your turn.  LOL

We arrived in Saint Emilion and checked into the hotel.  Since it was Sunday afternoon, there were a ton of visitors (mostly French) in the small town – it’s absolutely beautiful!  These are the views from our room:

 

 

And then a few more from the street below:

 

 

 

The town is famous, of course, for its noble wines but is also known for its macaroons…. haven’t tried them yet but it’s next on the list.

 

 

 

 

We had dinner at a very small restaurant in the village on a very steep inclined street – so steep I almost lost my balance on several occasions.  Anyway, the dinner was great and we sat next to a couple from Cape Town, South Africa.  We talked throughout dinner and found out that the husband was originally from Belgium – sorta reminded me of Hercule Poirot.  Those Belgians are hiding in the most unusual places, don’t you think?

In closing, here are a couple of shots of the town after dark.