Historia y vino en Saint Émilion
Named after a monk –Émilion, a sort of Robin Hood – this locality lies some 38 kilometres from Bordeaux, from which it can be reached by either car or train in about half an hour. By strolling through its steep, cobbled streets, the visitor becomes immersed in history… and wine. The aroma of Bacchus wafts through the whole town, located among vineyards planted with the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.
You can soak up most of its charms in a single day, but I assure you that you will want to stay there forever. Much of Saint-Émilion’s history lies buried in the earth, conjuring up a past full of Masonic societies and secret grottos swathed in an air of mystery, adding to the appeal of this World Heritage Site town.
A must-visit sight is the Monolithic Church, the largest of its kind in Europe. Carved out of a cliff, you cannot possibly imagine its sheer size from the outside. This architectural jewel also houses catacombs where the ancient nobles were buried. Guided tours are available in various languages and tickets can be purchased at the tourist office. They are well worth getting. The guided tour in Spanish always starts at 12 a.m.
If you are an enthusiast of underground worlds, you can also visit a number of wine cellars, notably the Chateau Cardinal Villemaurine, Clos des Menuts and Maison Galhaud, to name but a few. In all, there are over 100 châteaux where you can taste all kinds of wines with the DO Saint Émilion. A word of warning – during the tastings, remember to spit out the wine from time to time, to avoid it going to your head and having to regret something you did the day before.
Strolling Through the Town
The area surrounding the town offers picture postcard scenery and romantic walks. Strolling up and down the steep streets holding hands with your partner makes for what feels like an obstacle race over uneven cobblestones, as if it were a metaphor of love.
Your stroll will lead you to the Gate de La Cadène, an archway separating the upper part of the town, home to the wealthy classes, from the lower part, inhabited by the peasants.
In the Middle Ages, Saint-Émilion was defended by a fortified enclosure, the wall stretching some 1,500 metres. Access to the town was via six gates – the Porte Bourgeoise in the north, Porte Brunet in the east, Chanoines and Saint-Martin in the west, and Porte Bouqueyre or Bouquière and Sainte-Marie in the south. The Porte Brunet, which leads into the vineyards, is the only one which has been preserved virtually intact. It is well worth coming to this side of the town where all you can hear is the sound of bird song.
Another monument visible from most of the town is the King’s Tower. You can visit the top for €1.5 and soak up the views, which leave you speechless.
Macaroons For Afternoon Tea
Before Ladurée reinvented the formula, making them double and in various colours and flavours, macarons had long existed as a spongy almond biscuit with a great tradition in towns such as Saint-Émilion. In the 17th century, the Ursuline nuns in this locality were tasked with harvesting the almonds and using them in their pastries, which is how macaroons were created. They are still famous throughout the region. You can purchase them in two shops with a long-standing tradition in the town – Matthieu Mouliérac and Fabrique des Véritables Macarons. If you are really sweet-toothed and still require a further injection of sugar, try their canelés, small pastries typical of Bordeaux. The recipe was also developed by a monastic order, this time in the 16th century. Absolutely delicieux!
Brasseries, Foie Gras and Cheese For Dinner
There are numerous restaurants offering traditional cuisine, as well as brasseries, the ideal venues for having canard (duck) and entrecôte. If you fancy eating typical French cheeses, some foie gras and even some oysters while tasting a selection of wines, the restaurant L’Envers du Décor is the ideal spot. They have a small patio for warm summer evenings and their wine list is as long as a Cervantes novel. Let the waiter recommend what to order and abandon yourself to the aromas of Dionysius.
Discover the joie de vivre, book your Vueling to Bordeaux and have a good time!
Photos by Antonio Caballero
Darwin the Trendy Sustainable Side of Bordeaux
In 1996, Bordeaux decide to jack up and become a city of the 21st century. The ensuing project developed in several stages – the facades of the city’s Baroque buildings were cleaned (Bordeaux’s 18th-century heritage is exceptional), the docks along the Garonne river were reconditioned and a solar-powered tramway was built. The Bordelais are rightly proud of this sustainability initiative. This whole facelift led to the capital of Aquitania being chosen as the European Best Destination in 2015 with an all-time record score, ahead of the greats like Rome, Brussels, London and Berlin.
Apart from the aforementioned works, designed to modernise the city, Bordeaux has committed to sustainability. Among other things, three years ago this involved unveiling the Darwin Ecosysteme, an area around the Queyries quayside, although the project originally dates from 2005. This area, which stretches along the right bank of the Garonne, is sited over an erstwhile industrial zone. Cleaning it up and remodelling it took two years. The brain behind the project is Philippe Barre, an Bordeaux entrepreneur committed to sustainable development who did not hesitate to invest his own money in an ecosystem which combines energy efficiency, renewable energies, ecology and thrift. To this end, Darwin is managed by the Évolution Group, an incubator of companies devoted to sustainable development, funded through office space rentals and coworking, events organising and the support of private patrons and, to a lesser extent, public subsidies. The ultimate aim of this initiative is to elicit the responsible use of resources in order to check the advance of climate change.
At first glance Darwin looks like a half-derelict site, but it actually houses over a hundred companies, many of them start-ups, who are dedicated to sustainable development – a pre-condition for being allowed to set up here. This fosters a pleasant, ecological working environment for employees, able to reap the benefits of an ecosystem conducive to development and human growth. Also based here are around twenty Bordeaux associations involved in urban culture and ecology.
Darwin features some unique spaces, such as a huge skatepark built using recycled materials, graffiti-decorated walls, the Magasin Général, the largest biological restaurant in France and a macrostore with organic products. Protecting the environment is an idea which is here starting to take its first few tentative steps, so it comes as no surprise that the projects evolving in this area are still on a modest scale, such as protecting bees, organic allotments and free-range chicken rearing. There is also a recycling station which supplies material to the coworking spaces. In the future, Darwin will be hosting fully sustainable social housing, making it the most ecological district in Bordeaux.
Fancy seeing this sustainable district for yourself? Check out your Vueling to Bordeaux here.
Text and images by Tus Destinos
Images by Sara Soulignac and S.Duboscqmore info
Cognac destilerías y mucho más
On its passage through Cognac and its surrounding area, the river Charente is privileged to flow through vineyards yielding white grapes that are made into one of France’s leading brandy DOs – cognac. This popular drink, which is produced by a double distillation of the wine in copper stills, is the area’s veritable driving force and one of the main attractions for whoever visits this destination in the Charente department. There are also other draws – apart from its well-known distilleries – that make this beautiful corner in the west of France well worth visiting. Ready to discover them?
Cognac is not only the brandy. Before or after embarking on a route of the distilleries where this liqueur is made – after which this beautiful city is named – you should make a point of strolling through the city itself and succumbing to its charms. Set on the right bank of the river Charente is the castle which witnessed the birth of King Francis I, an emblematic figure of the French Renaissance, one of whose iconic artists was Leonardo da Vinci. Once in the old town, known as Vieux Cognac, we recommend you wander through its back streets where you will be transported willy-nilly to a bygone era.
Cognac Distilleries Route
As we said, the most coveted product of the area is cognac, and the distilleries where it is made, one of its main tourist attractions. There you can see first-hand how this delicate liqueur is made and, needless to say, let yourself be carried away by its bouquet and flavour in whatever tasting sessions you attend. Prominent among the best known distilleries is Hennessy, Camus, Remy Martin, Martell and Otard, located in Cognac Castle. You are advised to first get genned up at the Cognac Tourist Office, where they will show you the available routes for visiting both the large wineries and the smaller, family businesses.
Sailing the River Charente
The river Charente, after which the department is named, is one of the area’s major landmarks. For centuries it has been navigable, the artery along which such goods as salt, paper and fabrics were transported, with Angoulême acting as one of its principal river ports. One of the various options for sailing down the river is La Dame Jeanne, a replica of a gabare, the flat-bottomed boat that conveyed goods along the river in former times.
Stopping Off At Angoulême
Comic devotees would inevitably associate the name of the capital of the Charente department with the festival dedicated to the ninth art which attracts a host of enthusiasts each year. Apart from this event, Angoulême has a medieval past which has endured the passage of time. Indeed, its streets are redolent with this medieval legacy and one standout landmark is its Romanesque Cathedral.
Fire up and discover this beautiful area and its stellar product – cognac. Book your Vueling to Bordeaux, located just over one and a half hours from Cognac
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
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Wine and Classical Music
Not for nothing is the small town of Saint-Émilion a veritable magnet for wine lovers. The surrounding farmland is blessed as one of the leading red wine producing areas in Bordeaux, along with the Médoc, Graves and Pomerol. Celebrated worldwide, each year it attracts wine connoisseurs, tourists and passers-by who roam from one chateau to the next in search of the best local wine. But, that is not the only reason they come here. They are also drawn by the magic enveloping this town of steep, narrow streets, Romanesque churches and picturesque ruins which, alongside the vineyards, make up an irresistibly charming ensemble. No wonder, then, that Saint-Émilion and its environs are listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
Saint-Émilion is named after the monk Émilion, who settled here in the 8th century and was credited with performing a number of miracles. The monks that were gradually drawn to the area were instrumental in getting the wine-marketing business off the ground, based on the vineyards which have been tended in Saint-Émilion since Roman times.
A must-visit destination for wine connoisseurs, the town features numerous landmarks well worth visiting. Its Monolithic Church is one of these. Carved out of a cliff from the 12th to the 15th century, its interior is surprisingly spacious and the complex is crowned with a lofty tower. Other highlights of Saint-Émilion include the Collegiate complex and the Cordeliers Cloister.
And, needless to say, there are always the chateaux, which can be visited as part of tours offered by the Saint-Émilion Tourist Office. But, why not strike out on a different kind of visit. Here’s how…
Les Grandes Heures de Saint-Émilion
When planning your visit to Saint-Émilion, we suggest you factor in one of the leading local festivals, Les Grandes Heures de Saint-Émilion. What makes this festival so special is that it is the only way to visit some of the region’s magnificent chateaux where this splendid, popular wine is made, in a unique, out-of-the-ordinary setting. The programme features classical music concerts accompanied by wine tasting sessions, endowing a visit to the wine cellar with a wholly different dimension. The festival opens in March and runs until December, when the last concert is held. This year, the first concert is scheduled to take place in the Château Fombrauge on 29 March.
The sites where you can enjoy this experience include the Château Soutard, Château de Pressac, Château Angélus, Château Cantenac, Château Fombrauge and Château Cheval Blanc, known for being one of the few producers whose wine is designated Premier grand cru classé A.But the programme is not limited to the wine cellars dotting the area; some of the concerts are also held at such emblematic sites as the Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion. Be sure to book your ticket in advance.
Book your Vueling to Bordeaux, which lies just 40 kilometres from Saint-Émilion, and get to know one of France’s leading wine-producing areas.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Image by Tim Snell