If you know me well, you know I love France.  This romantic and gorgeous country was the final destination on our European journey.  We began this trip by quickly stopping in San Sebastián to pick up half of our luggage load which we’d left a few weeks prior in order to comfortably manage our excursions to Barcelona, Madrid and Morocco.  After loading up the rental car and enjoying one last chance for pintxos we began our journey across France; our first stop was the southern city of Bordeaux.  We would have approximately six days to enjoy our last tastes of French cheese, wine, baguette, and decadent macaroons.  What better place to start than Bordeaux itself, the home of our favorite full-bodied red wines?


Bordeaux is home to France’s oldest and most iconic wine region.  We stayed in a small studio apartment on the edge of the Saint Pierre Quarter & Saint Michel Quarter, owned by a Californian ex-pat named Louis.  He was a great host who spent time making sure we were well acquainted with the city sites and gave us plenty of recommendations while we were in town, including a great antique flea market.  Louis is a retired attorney from Sacramento who married a French woman, and now enjoys a great life meeting and hosting people from all over the world.  After a good night’s sleep, we headed out on a walking tour of Bordeaux along the Garonne River.  We started at Porte Cailhau, which is a medieval city gate built in the 1490’s to honor the victory over the Italians.  Then we walked to the Place de la Bourse, also known as the Place Royale, built in the late 18th Century.  Our last stop before lunch was the Esplanade des Quinconces, which is where the antique flea market was being held.  There were rows and rows of vendors selling phenomenal French antiques at reasonable prices… unfortunately, with six months of travel ahead of us, we decided best to pass up the opportunity to shop for trinkets that we’d end up carrying along on our journey.  It was about the right time to have our first glass of wine, so we visited the Bar a Vin, which is part of Bordeaux’s local wine school, located in the center of Bordeaux.  We visited this same wine bar four years ago on our last visit to the city.  Mike enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux from the Medoc-Graves Region and I enjoyed a rare Bordeaux rose.  After a quick break, we headed out for the Christmas markets which are popular throughout Europe during this time of year.  They’re typically filled with lots of food and craft vendors.

Saint Émilion

Our next adventure took us 22 miles northeast to Saint Émilion, one of the principle red wine areas of Bordeaux.  In this area, they usually grow Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes, but we decided to tour one of the chateaus in the area that also grows Cabernet Sauvignon – Chateau Figeac.  To be honest, we didn’t plan our winery visits very well and this winery was the only one that could accommodate our last minute request for an English-speaking tour.  Chateau Figeac dates back to the 2nd Century and is located on the western border of Saint Emilion and Pomerol.  Their grapes are grown in a very unique sandy-gravel soil, which favor the ripening of the grapes and make their wines complex and full-bodied. (More information available on the Chateau Figeac website.)  Today the winery is run by the Manoncourt family which has managed it for the last 120 years.  After the informative tour we entered their gorgeous tasting room decorated with an original heirloom tapestry and red velvet covered furniture.  It set the perfect ambiance for tasting wine.  We had the pleasure of tasting their 2007 Chateau Figeac and their 2003 Chateau La Fleur Pourret.  Upon our exit, we admired the chateau’s defensive walls that were built in the Middle Ages.  Breathtaking!  Afterwards, we drove into Saint Emilion and visited their wine museum and shops.  We loved the magnificent scenery and sunset before heading back to Bordeaux to prepare for the next leg of our journey.

Chateau de Figeac

map image from Chateau Figeac