France 108 - St Emilion/Grand Cru/Yelloh villages end of season feeling/ purple grapes and yellow butterflies/singing in our own little boat

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Europe » France » Aquitaine » Saint-Emilion
September 25th 2016
Published: September 28th 2016
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It was good bye to Spain as we headed continually northwards. We had that real going home feeling. It has been a funny old holiday. Different in a way to any before. The fridge not working set the scene, the tyres needed replacing continued the rut and the water coming in the roof sealed the deal. We were feeling really fed up with ourselves . It has been a holiday of excellent weather . Hotter than we have had in five years of motorhoming. Hotter than many other holidays taken in gites or hotels abroad. We have travelled further than ever before . Some places have delighted us . Others have just been a little above ordinary. But then thats the beauty of travelling. Sometimes you enjoy something and want it to last forever and other times you are just glad to be back on the road again looking for the next adventure. OUr thoughts have gone to going home. We are looking forward to a long soak in hot soapy bath. I long for a fridge that is cold. When we do get home we will wish we were travelling again. Life is like that. Wanderlust kicks in about a week after we get home. We find ourselves looking at magazines and pondering where to go next.

So where did today find us? On the road to the the Dordogne. Again a stunningly soft beautiful department of France with its mellow sandstone houses and walls. A yellow that pervades everything before it. Before we arrived though we felt that Autumn was well and truly on its way. The trees had taken on a golden colour just like butterscotch. As they climbed the hillsides they turned redder. A river of rust ran down the hill as they turned from green. Hedgerows turning a wonderful shade of plum. The nights are darker now by 8.00. Campsites are shutting down. Our first choice was to be Camping Belle Aire. A small ACSI site near to the town of Creon. Within a bus route to Bordeaux it seemed a good option. We arrived and it was shut. A notice on the door of the shed like office stated that the patron would be back at 1.30. As it was 1.15 we parked up and watched a worker working on his tractor. We watched the English Range Rover driver coming in to the site. It was peaceful . Peaceful to the point of being dead. This always worries you at times when you need a cafe bar or a small shop. Madame Le patron did not arrive at the named time which gave me chance to look round the site. Bungalows were in the way and stopped me seeing the motorhome plots. There was a swimming pool . As I looked at it I realised the water was a rather muddy shade of brown and it had not seen a swimmer for some time. Teh sign on the gate stated abruptly Fermee - 1st September. All that heat. All that sun and the pool was closed. The shop looked much the same as did the cafe. This was not boding well. Madame turned up at 1.45 and sternly asked me what I wanted . She carried on two conversations - one with me and one with a guy who worked on the site. The site was open. The cafe was not. No she did not have a shop. We could get the bus but they ran only in the morning and there were only a handful a day. ACSI don't lie when they tell what amenities are on site they are just a little economical with the truth. I paid but thought the better of it and went back and demanded my money back. This took some while as she did not understand nor could she work out why I was disappointed with the site . In the end she ungraciously gave me our 17 euros back and we set off for another try . Camping Yelloh Village. On the face of it a big campground and really not our thing. How wrong can you be? We stayed three days .

The site is a little way out of St Emilion the heart of the wine region that bears its name. The chateaux producing the Grand Cru were everywhere. There was not an inch to spare that was not filled with the grapes hanging like purple chandeliers from the vines. We were welcomed in reception differently to the last site. We had been to another Yelloh site before so our details were on file. We were given plot 112 a huge plot surrounded by mature trees and conifer dividing hedges. A lake to one side of us with the noisiest ducks you could ever wish to come across. Boats could be hired, bicycles and there was a taxi service free of charge twice a day to the town. The restuarant was a delight and we were to eat there twice over the next few days. A small shop sold more or less anything you could wish for. Heaven was the only thought going through my head.

We set up and I got talking to our neighbours. A northern Irish couple who had arrived via Rosslare and Cherbourg. They were staying more days than us and were heading south towards Perpignan. The sun shone, we sat out , we could go for a coffee whenever we wanted to. The sanitaires were of top class quality with piping hot water and clean floors. In fact I couldnt find a thing wrong with the site as it lived up to its blurb of being a hotel in the plein air.

Our first night meal was in the company of a huge family of Fischers from Germany. We ate cheese omlettes and pizza followed by apple ice cream with calvados. The calvados brought a tear as it hit the back of my throat. But what a lovely dessert. It reminded me of a few days ago when I ordered a cidre in San Sebastian and the young lady took the bottle and lifted it above her head. She held the glass low and poured a small amount into my glass from a great height. I thought she had given it to me to taste to see if I liked it .But now that was it a quarter of a glass of rough cidre that burned the throat and the rest thrown away due to the sediment in the bottom. We slept well. There are not many here but then the campsite is shutting on Monday. The staff then have two weeks to clear up and lock up for the winter. The site sleeps and re-opens in April 2017. What a shame.

The next morning we caught the shuttle bus or electric car to go up town. What a surprise . What a lovely place. We had a hint of it when we arrived . A camper stop not in our book but looked full. Bustling and busy. A medieval abbey wall stuck in the middle of nowhere. Holding nothing up and nothing holding it up. The campsite gave us a minute map that needed a magnifying glass to read but it boasted that St Emilion had 12 monuments to visit. We had four hours to kill before the shuttle bus picked us up. It all felt like an I Spy game I spy with my little eye something beginning with C. Church Monument 1 The Collegiate Church with its pretty cloisters. It was Gothic thank heavens very much to our taste outside. Simple inside, white walls, high lofty ceilings , some stained glass , a pretty functional font and altarpiece and a few very nice frescoes on the walls. It had been barely Baroqued. In a corner a simple service was going on. The singers sang without any music simple tunes that drifted upwards and chanting of what sounded like the Lords Prayer to the untrained ear in French. They looked like a group of Boy Scouts all wearing the traditional uniform with old fashioned hat that Baden Powell would still have recognised. In the cloisters a market was running . Music filled the air and a disembodied voice told us it was the weekend of the medieval market tradesman. Painters, jewellers , costume makers all had stalls with goods to sell. It made a fantastic atmosphere.

Across the way Monument 2 - the belltower which you could climb and have a birds eye view of the town. Tall , leggy and gangly it looked lovely its its setting opposite the church. We walked the narrow streets which were filled with tiny cafes and restaurants, high class hotels and wine shops selling the best wine the region could offer. We stopped for a coffee and people watched. Americans admiring the architecture, the mellow yellow of the buildings and the red roof of each building. A hotelier came out and stopped with his guests . Proudly he announced "St Emilion - in front of you".

Monument 3 was the market hall and 4 the Cordeliers Cloisters now turned into a wine distributor. Past Paddy O'Flynnes establishment where you could sample wine and speak to them in Irish. Monument 5 was in a tiny square jam packed with restuarants We stopped at one for lunch - a crepe with citron. They were in the shadow of the monolythic church which was sadly closed. Its belltower closed to visitors too,

On we walked up and up and around the ramparts that protected the town. To Monument 6 - the Porte Brunett a huge gateway protecting the entrance to the town. It was lovely and quiet out there away from the crowds.

Monument 7 the Tour de Roy. That one opened at 11 and within a few minutes of opening was full of people like ants climbing to the top. We did miss the Ursuline Convent and the washhouses and the other gatehouse The Cadene. We saw the Great Wall again on our way home.

We had a choice sit around for an hour and a half or walk home. We chose to walk. It was uphill for a good distance and it was hard going in the midday sun. The temperatures are still up in the 30's. With the sun beating down on us we walked partway on the road with silly french drivers rushing past us hooting their horns. Partly on the grass next to the vines which were covered with plum coloured bunches hanging down waiting to be picked. Large houses lined the way. Ditches that in Spring are probably full of water but now dry as dry can be. Just the sign of bullrushes and pale mauve Wild Mint hinting a certain amount of dampness remains. Pretty small yellow daisy like flowers were covered with Yellow Brimstone butterflies and in and out fluttered pale blue tiny butterflies.

"How lucky we are that surrounded by all this joy. We sing in our own little boat". Kabir


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