After a four hour train ride slicing South through the country, we arrived in Bordeaux. Then, after checking in with Avis and signing a few papers, we sat in our cute little Citroen for about half an hour trying in vain to switch the navigation system to English.
No such luck.
That’s okay! We’re savvy intrepid travelers with a firm grasp on five phrases in French! We can handle this! Gingerly we crept around around a few corners, scooted onto the highway, and with every mile we became more confident. It wasn’t long after we had mastered “Droit” and “Gauche” (right and left) that we were at our destination!
Saint-Émilion is an insanely picturesque town perched on a hillside about thirty minutes outside of Bordeaux proper. Though it’s widely known for it’s outstanding wine, we came to love it for so much more.
Romans planted vines here around the 2nd century, the Cordeliers constructed their safe-house of a cloister in the mid-1300’s, and the monolithic church began it’s emersion from a limestone cliff in the 11th century. So much history, and to this day it’s all still there to see and touch and drink in!
We stayed at Les Logis du Roy, a quaint set of apartments situated above a wine shop in the heart of town. The “Magnum” suite hosted us with a very large living room, fully equipped kitchen, big bright bathroom, and a lovely bedroom with views of the garden below. They had thoughtfully stocked the fridge with the basics: ham, cheese, eggs, milk, etc. In an even more thoughtful gesture, pastries and a baguette were delivered to our door in the morning! Heaven.
Despite wanting to collapse into bed with a plate of those welcome goodies, we quickly unpacked and hit the cobblestone streets.
Knowing the town was far to small to get lost in, we just set out wandering. Wine shops line just about every street, tempting us with their wares. We stopped for a quick lunch of gallettes in a courtyard shadowed by towering romanesque church, and then treated ourselves to ice creams from a shop around the corner before carrying on our way.
I can’t get enough of old churches. I love how they smell, I love the corners of candles lit for loved ones, I love the damp cool emanating from the age-old stone, I love the quiet passageways and imagining all the secrets of the past. In contrast to the bustle of Notre Dame, the churches and cloisters here offer a beautifully quiet sanctuary to reflect.
Fast-forward to the next morning. (The ever-present jet-lag combined with the town’s delicious wine resulted in a fuzzy evening which there are few photos to document). MUCH more bright-eyed, we awoke with a penchant for day drinking. Because……….vacation, right?
Promise me that if you’re ever in Saint-Émilion, that you will day drink. And you will start your debauchery at Cloître des Cordeliers. Go to the counter and order a
bottle glass of their vintage dry rosè, THEN customize a little picnic basket and carry it out into the courtyard or garden out back and toast the Cordeliers with a little bit o’ the Sacrament!
Warmed by the sunshine and a morning buzz, we carried our merriment into town for more! Every shop we visited offered a casual tasting, and some even let you walk through their cool, dark caves packed with barrels and ancient dusty bottles. My favorite shop, across from our apartment, not only gave us a stellar tasting line-up but fed us delicious foie gras! We bought four tins of the sinful and politically incorrect deliciousness and immediately stuffed them to the depths of our suitcase so as not to be tempted to eat it all at once.
Eventually we sobered up by one final hike up and down the steep streets, and had to pull ourselves away from Saint-Émilion’s embrace. We got in our trusty Citroen and drove away, deeper into the countryside, on to our next adventure.