As we moved from the level, Ohio like, unremarkable winter landscape of Chartres, we were greeted by rolling fields and vineyards lying fallow as we neared Bordeaux.  We had risen early  to get a jumpstart on the six hour drive to the renowned wine region.  We stopped for lunch in Poitiers, a university town, and fortunately the site of the Saturday farmers market in the square in front of city hall (Hotel d’ Ville).

Our lodging was a wing of an ancient limestone farmhouse, nicely converted, Ikea style. But the space and comfort suited us. Our lodging was one of a small enclaves of houses and vintners, ancient stone buildings surrounded by vineyards, literally to the edge of the buildings. With the next door Chateau Croix Beausejour already buttoned up, we prevailed upon our host for a bottle of wine to purchase. She fortunately had one from the “neighbor” to get us though, as we were weary travelers. The wine was magnificent. (10 Euros) And the cheeses, and meat pie purchased at Poitiers made for a comforting dinner.

Exploring the area revealed that coming off season means not much action and a lot of my French language skills required. The first highlight of the venue was the Sunday farmer’s market in nearby Libourne (600 years of continuous operation), where we provisioned enticing cheeses, meats, a roast chicken, veggies, pears, tangerines (with the leaves still on), a dark cherry tart, and oysters. Oh, the oysters. Looking for a libation after our spree, we found this terrific scene at a corner spot  where local  market-goers were drinking local wine, standing around, laughing, eating, and basically having  a great time day-drinking. Parfait!  So, while John saved a spot, two strangers chatted with me in French and bought me a glass of wine while I was standing there. The French, as nice as Canadians.  But here’s the thing.  Presently, these other two women sat next to us and ordered a bottle of white Bordeaux, and then revealed this large vat of shucked oysters. I am talking a trough of slimly happiness in shells. So, realizing that anything from the market was fair to bring in and eat, I quickly ran back to the sweet young oyster couple, and she shucked 18 beauties. Slurp. 9 euro. I gave them 20 and they thought I was nuts, or a saint. I explained that in NYC these would be 65 dollars US, no gratuity included. What a day.

On  to the vineyards.

First and foremost, Bordeaux is known for its wine. It is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world, but we found that we could drink great fine wines for 10 Euros per half liter. And drink it we did. Despite the small villages being largely shuttered due to February, we made a few random stops at some of the chateaus along the road and found a few to be unofficially opened. One particular tasting was at Chateau Côtes de Bonde, where we had an impromptu tasting with a vintner who we later learned was quite famous. We loaded the car with some fine bottles to enjoy on the remaining weeks of the trip. This exercise was repeated once more at the vineyard that was literally adjacent to the drive  of our flat.

One day we ventured into the renowned Saint Emilion, ground zero in Bordeaux wine country. A hair-raising experience ensued, which was the first of several in other villages. I will add here that Tia and John warned us about the narrow roads and the perils of having a too -big SUV. But             knowing that we would be using our car as a moving storage unit for four months of travel, we leased a Citroen C-5 hybrid, about the size of an Audi Q5.  So, we followed the signs as best we could on a one way approach to the city center and found ourselves wedged between 2 stone walls with maybe 2 inches of space on each side. We had to maneuver back for me to get out of the car to coach John through the narrow passage. It was like threading a needle. No exaggeration. I will add here that John is doing 100% of the driving. He likes to drive, and I hate it. He drives well, and I am notoriously distracted. His skills served us well in later chapters, like driving the Amalfi Coast. Getting through that narrow portion of road in Saint Emilion was the first of many medals he would earn.

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux

Heidi and Johns Travel Blog - Bordeaux