My cold had almost disappeared, and I was feeling better, and then, just like that, I wasn’t. We had a great time on the wine tour to the south of Bordeaux on Friday and I was feeling quite good, but I woke up yesterday morning feeling worse than ever. So, we ended up staying in the apartment all day other than making one short, last trip to the boulangerie for a baguette and pastries, and to the grocery store for some cheese. We rested, read our books, and packed our suitcases. In the afternoon Brett walked over to the Tourist Office and booked us seats on this afternoon’s St. Emilion wine tour, so we finished up our last day in Bordeaux, and in France, drinking wine again and visiting the medieval village of St. Emilion.
Traveling requires flexibility. After our aborted effort to get out to St. Emilion earlier in the week, we had planned to try again yesterday. The combination of weather, sickness, and scheduling difficulties had kept us from getting there earlier, and we thought yesterday would be our last chance. We had also thought it would be more affordable for us to go out to the village on our own, but after some research we discovered the senior discount offered by the tourist office actually made a tour the more affordable choice. Although neither of us was thrilled about spending another afternoon on a bus, on our own the trip would have cost us around 45€ each, at a minimum, but with our senior discount the tour was just 36€ per person which included a guided tour of the village and a wine tasting at a nearby chateau. We also remembered that everything (ATMs, stores, etc.) would be closed on Sunday, and all the errands we needed to do before our departure on Monday morning would be impossible, so in the end it made far more sense for us to take the Sunday tour and to take care of errands and chores yesterday.
Finally, the tourist office, where the tours began, is only a 20 minute walk from our apartment. To get to the village of St. Emilion on our own we would have to make the same walk to the tourist office in order to catch a tram to the Bordeaux train station, then take a 35 minute train ride out to the village followed by another 20 minute walk (minimum) from the St. Emilion station into the village, with the journey repeated on the way back. It was exhausting just thinking about it! In the end the tour turned out to be a very good decision even though St. Emilion was holding its annual balloon festival this weekend. The village was quite crowded, and the walk would have been very difficult.
Although we are generally not “tour people,” we thought both of the wine tours were very enjoyable and well done, and we learned quite a bit about the French wine industry, its regulations, different wine classifications and appellations, and lots of vocabulary associated with French wine. We were very lucky and had the same wonderful guide for both tours, Brigitte. We were taught how to taste, which made a real difference when we tasted two vintages of the same wine at Chateau de Myrat (a 2014 Sauterne and a 2011), and at Chateau Laniote (a 2016 and 2015 St. Emilion Grand Cru). While Brett and I are both still very much novices, we both feel we can approach French wine now without any fear. We can read a French wine bottle and understand what everything on the label means.
The wine tours also gave us a chance to view the beautiful countryside outside of Bordeaux, both to the south and the east, and tour the charming village of St. Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All three of the chateau we visited were fascinating as well – not just for the wines but for their history and the culture behind them. We learned that many of the chateau in the south are still owned by nobility, and many of them continue to be royalists! Chateau Laniote has been owned by the same family since 1821, with ownership passed down through the women of the family.
Tomorrow will be a very full, busy day of travel for us, and I’ve got my fingers crossed on both hands, as well as my toes on both feet that it goes well. We will begin in the morning with the 20-minute walk to the tram station along with our suitcases and backpacks, then take a tram to the Bordeaux train station where we will catch a shuttle bus out to the airport. Our flight to Bologna leaves in the early afternoon. When we arrive in Bologna we’ll catch a bus over to the train station where we’ll buy tickets and catch a train to Florence, a 35-minute or so ride. Finally, a taxi will take us from the station in Florence over to our apartment (hopefully with a taxi driver who knows more than our driver did here in Bordeaux!). Brett and I have joked that all we need is a ship and a donkey and we will have covered every mode of transportation in a day!
Au revoir, France, and merci – we have had an absolutely wonderful time!