At the beginning of the summer when LS mentioned that she was ready to drive in Europe and itching for a road trip, my first though was Bordeaux! Before coming here I had looked up all of the cities within driving distance under 10 hours to try to plan some travel. Bordeaux had always been high on that list and I was glad to finally get the chance to plan a visit. So we got two more of our friends and planned a wonderful weekend of wine tasting. It just so happened that there was a jazz festival in Saint-Émilion that weekend so we purchased student tickets in advance to check it out for almost half the price of a regular ticket.
After a 6.5 hour journey, getting lost, realizing I did’t have my TIE nor passport, and experiencing MM remembering how to drive manual, we arrived in the city center. Unfortunately, France does not keep the hours that Spain does and 10pm was definitely too late to arrive for dinner. Luckily we were able to find a restaurant that was still serving and had an amazing meal. The great thing about France is you can have a phenomenal meal anywhere you go without having to do a whole lot of research. Very different from Spain and the US.
I planned three wine tastings for our two-day trip, not wanting to over do it, and was able to book them online through winetourbooking.com, I highly recommend it. It was easy, you could pick the time of your visit and request the English tours. When I had a problem they were also very helpful in solving it quickly. I would definitely use them again.
First up was Château Larrivet-Haut Brion is located Léognan region, southwest of the city centre. The tour was short as the vineyard was small. Our guide was very kind, but her English level wasn’t enough to help us to understand the intricacies of wine making. She did however let us take a great deal of ridiculous pictures. The tasting itself was a bit poorly executed as she used the same glass to serve us the white and the red, causing the flavors to mix. We couldn’t tell if the red was very acidic or it was just the bit of white remaining in the bottom of the glass that was throwing off the senses. Though the region is best known for red, the white was much better and since I find it hard to find a white I enjoy. I purchased a bottle.
The only restaurant we kept to on my schedule was Chez Dupont not far from the city center. There was great outdoor seating and friendly attentive service. We had the menu of the day and it was well priced and delicious. I had a starter or melted camembert and greens followed by Confit de Canard. Everything was great. I couldn’t eat too much of the desert because of my lactose intolerance, but I tried the macaron topped with whipped cream and strawberries and the crème brûlée drizzled with an additional layer of caramel on top, both were executed perfectly. I wish I could have eaten more!
After lunch we tried not to get lost on our way to Château Pape-Clement, but unfortunately the traffic had a better plan for us. We missed the English tour, but were allowed to take the French one. With bits of translation from LS, we were able to understand most of it. This was a much more ostentatious château with beautiful gardens and castle like features. There was even a carriage that you could imagine a horse pulling. Since it was so much more opulent, we had a sense of being children who were not allowed to play. But the wine tasting was good but even better was the store with much cheaper wine for sale. So I picked up two more bottles (a rosé and a red to add to my collection) for under 12€.
That night we traveled to Saint-Émilion for the jazz festival. It was a small venue built-in the courtyard of a vineyard and very well done. Tents at the entry help food stalls, wine tasting and small both of art and other goods. Inside there was floor seating as well as stadium seating, all offering a great view of the performers. Out first was Joe Stilgoe, who I will definitely be downloading later today, a poppy jazz pianist with a great voice. Following him was the main act, Monty Alexander. Before I bought the tickets I didn’t realize that he was Jamaican – what a kismet moment for me! (I too am Jamaican, though no one can tell, because of internal misconceptions about what I should look like.) He played the first half of the show just static jazz piano with limited vocals, THEN, after announcing his origins, brought a Jamaican band on the stage and fused reggae and jazz with some old Bob Marley songs. It was great, but the crowd was lack luster. Hardly any movement, just staring at the stage, unfazed by the phenomenal performance that was unwinding before their eyes.
Sunday morning completed our vineyard tour with Château Pressac back in Saint Émilion. It was a great crescendo to our visit, as it was by far the most informative and most beautiful. From the entry we could see the countryside full of vineyards spread out before us. The guide had recently studied in the US and was young and knowledgeable. Best of all, the wine was superb. I went home with another two bottles. 🙂
After a leisurely lunch we headed to the city center one last time to visit Palace de la Bourse the fun water feature just on the river. It’s a great place for a little cool down on a hot summers day and when the water starts to recede you can see a mirror of your reflection.
As the very busy weekend came to an end we took the long ride home to Barcelona and were able to finally catch the sunset that is block daily by the Pyrenees when we are in Barcelona. A great end to a phenomenal weekend!