Posted by Lisa Hill on October 11, 2010
Yes, this post is in the wrong date order, I am now pasting in the posts I couldn’t upload while we were in Bordeaux!
We had to be up bright and early for our tour to Saint-Emilion but it was a pleasant walk to meet up at the Tourism Office and our guide, Isabelle, was lovely.
First there was a tour of the city of Bordeaux – with many fresh discoveries for us, even though we had already walked around the old quarter of the town near our hotel. Bordeaux is a World Heritage site because of the wealth and diversity of its 18th century architecture, and because of Bordeaux’s historic role as the second biggest port after London. (Its role in the slave trade was euphemistically referred to as ‘other activities between Africa, the Caribbean and Bordeaux’ and we would not have known anything about this if we had not been to the museum on the previous day).
We were also shown the original Roman gate which gave entry to the city when it was walled, the old Dominican monastery, and some remnants of the medieval city too. It is so interesting to see these vestiges of the ancient city in situ, carefully preserved among buildings from later periods – it’s just like Rome where you can wander round the corner and find yourself in a completely different era!
The 18th and 19th century buildings are protected by a strict code governing the height of the building, the columns and pilasters, the types of windows and window railings, and even the brickwork for each storey, but there are some modern buildings here and there including a truly excruciating orange clunker which is listed for protection as an example of 1960s architecture. It’s on the Left Bank but the colour is so striking it is unfortunately rather noticeable. From the tour of the city we transferred to a coach which took us out to Saint-Emilion.
The wine tour was more-or-less the same kind of tour we’ve been on in Australia except that the whole operation was much smaller. The vines were actually only 53 years old, and increasingly they are using mechanical harvesting because it’s hard to get people to come and do the picking. I am not at all surprised by this since it is back-breaking work in the hot sun, and at this chateau they did not even provide tables and chairs for the contract workers to eat their lunch, much less any shade.
Lunch was a charcuterie and cheese and three wines for tasting: different vintages of merlot/cabernet franc combinations. Good, but nothing special though they were remarkably inexpensive for those that wanted to buy them.
After lunch we then explored the village of Saint-Emilion – its Romanesque church, its ramparts, its various squares and its shops and cafes and then a swift ride back to town where we had sushi for dinner at a nearby SushiShop!