A bit more than a week has been enough to make Vieux Boucau my home base. It needs a slight push to leave the lazy beach routine behind and move on to new destinations.
After a final view over “my” surfing beach, Hector takes a turn and off we go direction St. Émilion. Around noon, he gently slides into the most central parking slot at the heart of the fortified medieval town. Having ignored the “Payant” sign, I will make the local authorities my new pen pal and look forward to written information about the exact location of our perfect parking place.
All along I knew Saint Émilion for Grand Cru wines of the expensive kind and thought that it might be a nice spot to drop by. In no way did I expect this stunning beauty: old stone houses straggle down the steep south-hanging slope of a low hill, with the green froth of the vines crawling over its walls. Roses grow in many corners and small courtyards are to be discovered when walking around and settle down in one of the inviting restaurants, cafés and bars.
The monolith church is another peculiarity: simple and huge, the entire structure was hacked out of the rock. For those that consider the guided tour of 1 hour being too time-consuming, l’office de tourisme offers a charming alternative. For 1,50 EUR I receive the key to the spire on top of the church. After climbing up hundreds or dozens of stairs, I am rewarded with a fantastic 360° panorama view.
I thought I come here for some wine, but first I spend hours admiring the town itself: old houses with classy wine shops, art galleries and some decent but luxurious hotels. There is not a single building that disturbs the special flair.
If you want to learn a bit about what France and its wine / food culture is about: here it is. People come together at the bars and cafés, they sit and drink and talk and laugh. Even though you will see quite some tourists, on second glance you will find the origins being there as well.
The French “Savoir Vivre” comes along easily: I buy the best “Macarons” ever at Les Caprices d’Amélie, drink a coffee at the glossing hideaway of L’Absolu and end up slightly overstrained with the enormous choice of wine shops.
Having my own travel agenda, I leave St. Émilion behind and drive 15 km through the most attractive wine region until I reach the Domaine de Grand Homme at Blasimon.
I really love staying overnight at a vineyard: the local dog and the vintner give me a warm welcome and Hector settles down between the swimming pool (yes, they offer their pool to guests!!) and the grape-vines. After a swim and dinner in the setting sun, I take a look around and chat with the other campers. No wonder that this time I am not alone, the place is surely tempting: the swimming pool surrounded by vine and forest, the walking trails through prospering nature and last but not least the wine tasting – what else do you need?
The Domaine de Grand Homme offers places to camper vans, guest rooms Chambres d’hôtes and (seasonally) dinner – check out the possibilities on www.domainedegrandhomme.com
Hector is accompanied by a Dutch and a French camping car, both inhabited by a dog plus two persons. Around sunset, we all come together with the winegrowers and taste our ways through the white “Entre deux mers”, the rosé and the rouge “St. Émilion”. It turns out to be an enjoyable evening with a mixture of hosts and guests, different nations and languages, travelling stories and oenophile information. I like these unforeseen gatherings when you get little insights into the life of strangers that become friends for common hours.
The next morning starts with coffee and wine with the latter being packed in cartons, destination “home” for future occasions. Again, I found a wonderful place to be, but it is time to move on: in only a few hours Linda will arrive at Bordeaux airport and will join me for the next 9 days.
Although I am not aware of it yet, I will most probably come back to southwest of France any other year – and then I will spend more time at St. Émilion with even more wine tasting, architectural highlights of the monolith church and pastel coloured macarons.
Saint Émilion really got me…
Monolith church, spire, 360° wine, thousands of old stones