For Love of Wine & Chateaux: Bordeaux Region Uncorked!

The next port on our Bordeaux river cruise is Libourne. Overshadowed by the lively city of Bordeaux and the super picturesque Saint-Émilion nearby, the town nonetheless has its own charms. It happened to be Armistice Day, a public holiday commemorating the end of World War I. Expecting a quiet day, we opted to wander around Libourne on our own.

Armistice Day commemoration ceremony at Jardin du Poilu in Libourne

Armistice Day commemoration ceremony at Jardin du Poilu.

We chanced upon the somber ceremony in front of the War Memorial. In honor of its war dead, French soldiers donned the sky-blue period uniforms of French infantrymen in the First World War.

Bunny rabbits at Libourne market

Take me home but don’t put me on the dinner menu, s’il vous plaît?!

The central square, Place Abel-Surchamp, was bustling with the Tuesday Market in full swing. I was surprised to see the bunny rabbits, as unlike Asia, I don’t recall animals being sold in the markets in France.

Chocolate sculptures store window

Incredibly edible works of art!

Georges Larnicol is famous for his beautiful creations in chocolate. From still life compositions to architectural landmarks, Maison Larnicol has something for everyone. The accomplished chocolatier also has a tempting selection of macaroons to round out his offerings should you be allergic to chocolate!

Porte Cadène is a Gothic portal inside Saint-Emilion’s gates

Porte Cadène is a Gothic portal inside Saint-Émilion’s gates.

After a nice lunch, we set off for Saint-Émilion as part of the cruise excursion. This gate is inside the village, so it’s thought to be used as access control to the wealthier upper town. Now wine shops line the streets and tourists stroll unchallenged throughout the town’s tertres – its notoriously steep cobbled lanes.

A Saint-Émilion wine shop listing its fine offerings at the door.

A Saint-Émilion wine shop listing its fine offerings at the door.

For the serious oenophiles, this is the place to be. Comptoir des Vignobles proffers fine vintages for as much as €6,432 for a bottle of Cheval 1945. Glad to know that 20% VAT has already been included…

Cloister of the Collegiate Church of Saint-Emilion. The local ocher limestone gives the buildings a warm glow.

Cloister of the Collegiate Church. The local ocher limestone gives the buildings a warm glow.

Dating to the 13th century, the Cloister is the geographic & spiritual hub for the monastery. A center of religious life till the French revolution, the Collegiate Church now serves as the parish church of the village.

Sunset on the banks of Libourne.

Sunset at Libourne.

Pretty sunset on the Dordogne river as we get ready to head for our next port.

Cadillac's imposing chateau viewed from outside the ramparts

On the right bank of the Garonne, the walled city of Cadillac was built to protect the trade routes of Bordeaux. Some of the old town ramparts still stand today.

Cadillac is just a short hop away. Its western entrance is guarded by the imposing Chateau Des Ducs D’Épernon. It was built on the top of a rocky spur in the early 17th century by the Duke of Epernon.

View of the Chateau's courtyard through its leaded glass window.

View of the castle’s courtyard through its leaded glass window.

Even without furniture, the Renaissance-style chateau’s ornate fireplaces, tapestries, decorated woodwork and portraits still showed vestiges of the opulence it once possessed. The chateau became a women’s prison and psychiatric hospital from 1820 to 1952, when the inhabitants looking through the window would see totally different realities.

Whimsical signage of a Cadillac barber shop.

Whimsical signage of a barber shop.

The village is not big, but the charming houses and stores still offer enough diversions in Cadillac.

Interior view of Saint Martin Church

Eglise Saint-Martin a stone’s throw from the chateau.

The ornate church of Saint Martin is crowned by a ribbed vault and features a striking altar screen depicting Christ’s crucifixion. Brightly colored banners hang festively from the walls.

Grapes with pourriture noble, noble rot.

Grapes with pourriture noble, noble rot.

Another highlight of our tour is a stop at the Chateau d’Arche in the village of Sauternes for a tasting of it’s fabled wines. We got to see the shriveled fungus-infected grapes up close & personal and left with a fresh appreciation for Sauternes.

Parting view of the countryside as we leave Sauternes.

Parting view of the countryside as we leave Sauternes.

To ensure the grapes used are infected by Botrytis cinerea, each Sauternes grape is picked by hand. It means a very, very long harvest looking at the acreage!

Sadly, this is also our last port of call before sailing back to Bordeaux. The final days of the cruise will be spent exploring the sights & culinary delights of La Belle Endormie. Stay tuned!

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