Bordeaux and Surrounds

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September 29th 2010
Published: October 1st 2010
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The last time I saw Francoise and Raymond was in Fiji approximately two years ago. Kathy, Sue and Stephen had spent time with them before arriving in Carcassonne for the birthday bash and had told me about the fabulous time that they had. Now, it is my turn.....

Tuesday, 14 September, 2010

I'm on the bus from Tarragona; it arrives at Gare St Jean in Bordeax approximately two hours late. Luckily for me I managed a sleep along the way, however I am ready for a refreshing shower. Raymond greets me and takes me to his house, I shower, and we have lunch. Francoise is a nurse and a carpenter, and herself and Raymond have been working on renovating a house on the property, this is where I stay. The main house is against the cliff and there are caves behind the house and in the cliff; the caves are not natural, but were the result of stone masons cutting blocks for buildings in Bordeaux.

Later in the day, Francoise drives me into Bordeaux for a walking tour of the city, interspersed with a few beers and a visit to Raymond's office..

Wednesday, 15 September, 2010

Both, Raymond and Francoise are not working today, so we drive through the Bordeaux countryside and stop at Abbey Sauve Majeure, but a 7 Euro entry fee seems a little steep for an abbey, and we carry on to our main destination, St Emillion

This is a bit of a pilgrimage for me, I've drank St Emillion wines over the years and am generally impressed, however this is no “testimonial” as I'm happy with most wines as long as they don't taste like vinegar. The town is full, and wine shops and caves dominate the streets. Prices vary from 8 Euro to 10K a bottle; the latter is definitely out of my league and my Ryan Air weight allowance. So, I settle for a beer and just soak-up the ambiance of the town.

On our way back to Cansac( excuse me if I have the spelling wrong) we try and visit Chateau Malrome, the estate of Toulouse Latrec's mother and the place where he died in the presence of his parents and cousin in 1901. Unfortunately, we are unable to visit, so I take a few snaps for Caroline.

Thursday, 16 September, 2010

Raymond has again taken the day off, and its a rainy one to boot. This doesn't deter us and we head to the Dordogne.

The medieval town of Sarlat is in the Dordogne Valley and has cobbled streets and stone houses so close together that supposedly you can shake hands across the street , however I don't see this unless you have very long arms. The houses back to the 12th thru 16th centuries, yes, its old, but then again, you can't turn a corner in France without being in an old village or town. On the hill behind the cathedral is Lanterne des Morts or Lantern of the Dead, an ancient tomb shaped like a bullet, where the region’s early nobility and monied citizens had the honor of being buried. I really enjoyed Sarlat, and before leaving I made a point of buying a tin of Foie Gras which is a specialty and delicacy of the Dordogne.

Cave art is also a biggie in these parts. Caroline and I had visited Font de Gaume in 2000, so I turned down Francoise's offer to go see the fake Lascaux. It seems that when dignitaries such as the French Premier, Sarkozy, come
Raymond with DeathRaymond with DeathRaymond with Death

This is the statue that we attempted to move.
to the Dordogne, they get see the original Lascaux caverns and not the fake ones.

Hundreds of bastide villages dot the landscape of southwest France. These self-defending walled villages seem to be on every hilltop, although Francoise tells me that they are not just confined to hilltops. We drive up the hill to Domme through the 13th-century arched Tower Gate to the central market place. The tourist train is still running; how, I hate these things that belong in Disneyland and not in French Villages. Anyway, it's time for a leisurely stroll through a village of stone houses that all seem to have window boxes of colorful flowers. The day is rainy and overcast, however Domme provides the perfect vantage point to view the Dordogne River Valley.

The valley is dominated by fortresses such as Beynac, but it's time for a beer, and we don't really want treck up that hill. Instead we head a little way from Beynac to La Roque-Gageac which can only be described as the Mesa Verde of the Dordogne. There are cliff dwellings that date from a thousand years ago and have been incorporated into present day houses . The town seems to blend into the cliff that towers above the Dordogne river.

Friday, 17 September, 2010

Today, Raymond is working, so Francoise and I head towards the town of Arcachon on the other side of the basin from the up-market enclave of Cape Ferat. We're on the Atlantic Coast, first, we stop at one of the Oyster huts on the bottom of the basin for lunch (1 doz Oysters, Bread, Pate and a glass of White Wine). How good was that? I stop for a photo with “Dennis and Sue” in front of the casino at Arcachon and then Francoise and I walk our lunch off.

Dune du Pylat: now, this is a very large sand hill opposite Cape Ferat I trudge up the fiberglass stairs behind Francois and am met with the most amazing view of Cape Ferat and also the forest which runs all the way to the sand dune. A number of para gliders are working the winds that come in from the Atlantic ocean. It seems that the dune is taking over the forest at the rate of about 6cm a year.

Saturday, 18 September, 2010

It's market day in Cadillac, and I'm hoping to see “Baba Cool”, hippies that often sell soap and jewelry at the markets. I'm running low on soap and think that this will be a perfect opportunity to buy more. No luck, so we opt to go around the Duke de Epernon's Chateau which had been converted to a womens prison in the 1800's. It is being restored, hopefully to it's former glory.

After this we visit a number of medieval castle ruins (Budos and Villandreaut) before finally arriving at Chateau Cazanauve. The Chateau has been in the hands of the same family (Sabran-Ponteves) since the 1500's and dates back to the 1200's. It was once the home of King Henry IV and his wife Queen Margot. Now, I think that this is the same French King Henry IV that was in Nerac (See Locaboat Blog) and nick-named the “Rabbit” by our friend Jean-Clement. Anyway, Cazanauve. is a must-see if you are ever in the area., I manage to sneak a few photo's, inside the chateau, but an American is not so lucky, and is told “no photography”.

I must mention our magnificent meal prepared by Francoise, of all types of shellfish, followed by maigret de canard. Francoise tells me she is not a good cook, however all the meals that I had with Francoise and Raymond were all worthy of note!!

Sunday, 19 September, 2010

It's Sunday and time for a rest, so I lounge around the pool for the day before we head into Bordeaux for an evening tour of the city. We have dinner in a restaurant before driving through around the city when it is all lit-up.

Monday, 20 September, 2010

More relaxing today, all of this travel is hard work, so I sit by the pool and read my book. When Francoise arrives home, we hang out for a while and then take a walk through the grape vines to the river Garronne. Shortly after we get back, Raymond appears with his brother Yves, they have been busy clearing out their fathers house and had to pour 200+ bottles of bad wine down a rat-hole (pissed rats!!). What's more, they arrive back with around 12 crates of good wine. After putting the wines in the cave, it's time to attempt to move a statue that Raymond has stored in the garage; its about 8ft tall and very heavy. We are going to attempt to take it to one of the caves, however even though there are four of us, we only get about half way and it finds a home close to the swimming pool. It will have to wait until next time....

Tuesday, 21 September, 2010
I work on the blog during the morning and finally publish. In the afternoon, Francoise, Yves and myself visit a small chateau and are shown around by the owner, who is a historian. It's all French to me, but I pick up the occasional word and also Francoise and Yves explain things to me. The present owner's grandfather was a Free Mason and the chateau has a an old Masonic Temple in a small room.

In the evening, we have another wonderful meal and drink nice wine. Thank-you Francoise and Raymond for a most enjoyable visit and wonderful hospitality.

Additional photos below
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29th September 2010

Happy happy!
Lucky you Kevin with the weather and the food; I've just spent 3 days in the Lake District rugged up against the cold and the rain. The different ale tastings were fun as well as trying 3 or 4 different whiskys. Keep the blog going it's great fun to read where you are and how you're enjoying everything!
29th September 2010

Lautrec chateau
Thanks for that. I didn't realize that chateau was so far north, and west. It's amazing to think of distances travelled in those days by carriage. Too bad you couldn't go in. That would have been a treat for me....
29th September 2010

U lucky so and so. See you in January?

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