Just Because a Hotel Has ‘Chateau’ In Its Name…

…Doesn’t mean it is one, or has anything to do with one. Maybe you can see a château from there…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Monday morning, fortified with a good breakfast, we checked out of the Grand Regent in Bordeaux and got a taxi for the airport. Why the airport? That’s where the cars are, silly! (We found out later that, contrary to what we had been told, Avis also has an office at the train station. Store that info away for later…)

our noble steed

By 10am, we had our luggage tucked safely in the trunk of our rented Mercedes – automatic transmission, just in case I had to drive – and we were on the way!

Saint Emilion rises in the distance

 Forty kilometers east of Bordeaux, the medievel villiage of Saint Emilion rises up from the plateau like a kingdom in a fairy tale. It began in the 8th century when a monk from Brittany named Emilian dug himself a cave there to live the secluded life of a hermit. By the 12th century, fortifications had been built, a giant church was being carved out of solid rock, and soon, the vines that would make this tiny town a winemaking powerhouse would be planted.

porte

We parked the car on one of the roads near the town walls and walked down to the entrance. The entire village is pedestrian-only, which only adds to its charm. We strolled around, ate some lunch, took some pictures.

Like these:

looking out over the land

on the perimeter road

I never did find out the story behind this remnant of of a church wall, but I photographed it from several angles. It has what appears to be tank damage, but I believe it was a ruin even before the war. As ugly as it is, it’s nothing compared to what the soldiers who bunked in the catacombs destroyed. (no pics, not allowed down there) Here is another from the wall:

church ruin with vines

After lunch, we made what turned out to be one of the smartest stops in the entire trip. Just a wineshop, with a gauge in the window that I thought would be nice to put in the wine cellar at the house

.

But, oh! It was so much more!  It was a wonderful introduction to the wines of the region – tastings, information, histories of the vinyards, and a visit to their cellar.

some of the wines we tasted

We left the wine shop with smiles and handshakes all around, and a promise to return the next day to be taken to see a winery in action. We ambled back towards the car, and started off down the road to Cadiliac, and our hotel.

Now, I’m actually not going to tell the world the name of this hotel. They were very nice people, the room was clean, and the windows opened to let the breeze blow through. But, the word ‘Chateau’ in the name is just a little misleading when it’s hung on the front of a boxy 1970’s building with grey, glittery wallpaper everywhere and cheap chrome fixtures. It is one of the dangers of choosing your accommodations on-line, and it certainly could have been worse.

We chose this hotel because of its location in the region, and because it had a restaurant. Driving somewhere for dinner in an unfamiliar town, then back after dark had no appeal, as I’m sure you can imagine. The food wasn’t particularly wonderful. As we sat and sipped our wine, the most awful squeaking, creaking sound kept coming from the entry way.

“What is that?” John asked.

I replied that, although I couldn’t be sure, I thought that it was the parrot in the lobby.

And so it was. As our meal continued, we were serenaded by the sounds of  squeaking doors, wolf-whistles, and – best of all – the ringing sound a crystal glass makes when you drag a wet finger around the rim. Oh, that was his favorite! Makes fingernails on a blackboard sound like Mozart. Coco, as I later discovered his name was, is  quite the talented bird.

A truly excellent night’s sleep followed, then a return trip to St. Emilion the next morning, and a visit to a working winery. I’ll share that trip in tomorrow’s post.

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