Saint-Emilion | France

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The amazing view from the balcony

And last but not least, the 3rd part of this amazing trip to Southwest France, Saint-Emilion! As I told you at the previous post, we visited Bordeaux for 1 day and the second day we decided to go to this beautiful village to learn a little more about wine.

Saint-Emilion is a super well preserved traditional French village with all the fairy tale memories you may have. As if Bell and Gaston from the Beauty and the Beast was living here..! And as if this wasn’t enough, it’s a large area of vineyards, a whole appellation of wine, very famous for those who know. Extra treat, the jaw dropping chateau that every vineyard has and had me hanging from the car window while arriving and making “aaahh” sounds all the way! It was a total dream…

So, already from Athens I had make a reservation to a chateau near to the village that had a guided tour in English and because of that our reservation was at 2 o’clock splitting our day at two. So we had to have lunch just by arriving and after the chateau tour we’d return at the village to continue our visit.

When we arrived the weather was beautiful, sunny and cheerful (though at the end of the day not so much…), so we walked around a little bit before lunch. The only thorn at the fairy tale situation was the very touristic site that was, at least when we went. G for example couldn’t overtake it while I didn’t care much. We didn’t have the proper time though to explore it because of the schedule.

So by arriving at 12 o’clock we had to have lunch very early for our habits but that’s how French people do it! I’ve done a mini research from before and we went directly to the “L’envers du decor” a very nice restaurant with a picturesque yard. We weren’t very hungry but tried with pleasure 2 plates of their regional cuisine. I tried pigeon for the first time but I must say I wasn’t crazy about it. The wine was excellent though, both of our choices!

After the chateau tour we returned to the village to see more about it, we walked through the streets and admired everything around! Thankfully you can’t miss the most amazing view of the village at a central street balcony. It’s the 1st photo of the post, where you can see the square, the rest of the village and the vineyards as long as you can see. The weather this time was pretty gloomy but we were lucky not to have rain at this point, that’s why the half of the photos are sunny and the others quite dull.

Saint-Emilion is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a Cultural Landscape, a historical landscape that remained intact but which is still carrying on its activity. So beautiful in the medieval architecture monuments and houses as long with the large vineyards and wineries around it. It has a history of wine production since its early days, many centuries ago.

The chateau we visited was Chateau Corbin, with a beautiful house that the owner lives there and the winery on the same property. It was an unmissable experience even though the rain burst out as we were there. No problem, we’ll stay here drinking wine until it stops!

We learnt a lot about their production and the works of a winery that was very very interesting, I definitely recommend it! One interesting info: they plant roses at the beginning of every series of the vineyard because that used to protect the grapes from diseases – the bugs attacked the roses first – but now they do it mostly for beauty reasons and I couldn’t agree more with them!

Another interesting info about this chateau is that from generation to generation is run by women, without planning it. Women power rules!

I don’t know why but our group was full of old people, and then to the village we continued to be surrounded by them..as also at the airplane going to France we had pink and white little heads all around! What on earth, is it an “old people” thing to do, the wine taisting travels, and I didn’t know? Go explore it!

So, we and our young friends end up to a beautiful tasting room with wooden ceiling and stone paved floor and a huge painting hanging on the wall to taste the wines we’ve learnt so far, bought one bottle for back home and left happy with a lot of red alcohol on our veins!

Returning to Toulouse the same afternoon wasn’t the easiest thing to do after a day dedicated to wine…but apparently we didn’t think much when organizing the trip. I definitely recommend to spend the night close to the area, to see more things, enjoy the most of it and don’t get extremely tired on the way back, as we did.

In total, it was an amazing 6 days trip that I enjoyed a lot!! I could definitely stay 1 week more, expanding all these fantastic experiences! 🙂

If you want to see more about my trip to Toulouse and Bordeaux you can check here and here!

Bordeaux | France

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Miroir d’Eau, Bordeaux

As I told you at the previous post here, we went for vacations to Southwest France with G, at Toulouse, where my sister lives. We wanted though to have as many experiences as possible so we took the opportunity to go for a small trip around and see other places too. Our trip theme was the wine exploration (it was..it became..no difference!) so we decided to go to Bordeaux and St.Emilion!

Actually it’s very easy to go from Toulouse to Bordeaux (2,5 hours highway) but I did the stupidity and didn’t deactivate the gps option “avoid tolls”, so we had a nice 4 hours roadtrip through the villages!! I wouldn’t recommend it though because we arrive at Bordeaux pretty exhausted… However, after we arrived, we’ve settled in the hotel etc. checked the map and our sortie started immediately!

Bordeaux is a beautiful city, even more beautiful than you expect. It’s so imposing with all these great old buildings, so well preserved, the architecture is totally grandiose! Of course we stayed mostly at the old city center because we only had 1 day but from what I saw in general it would be very cool to live there. The city is famous of course for the wine culture and the latest years for the gastronomic field with so many great restaurants to explore! It’s very vivid full of pretty little shops, bistros, cafes and young people everywhere. The truth is that you should spend more time if you have the possibility but even like this it was totally worth it.

Of course there is a river again, our beloved Garonne, protagonist of the city, creating 2 parts that both have interest. We stayed at the less famous side but we crossed the beautiful bridge Pont de Pierre to go to the other side every time. There are so many things to see there that even if you won’t have any plans you’ll be like “ahhhh” all the time. And so many we didn’t see, like the Cite du Vin a new museum about wine that must be very very interesting.

Walking down the riverfront you get to know the grandest face of Bordeaux, the stunning Place de la Bourse  with the Miroir d’Eau (water mirror) that impressed me a lot. Also, you pass by the Puerta de Cailhau, an old gate of the city that stands proudly to welcome you. Beautiful from both sides.

Miroir d’Eau is an urban area that, as an architect, I found it very cool and clever. It’s a square with a fountain that people can actually interact with it. A large surface that pours and spray water, creating, when still, a mirror that reflects the buildings in front of it! Also, people can walk over it, cooling themselves on hot days or just lay down by the sides. I have to say that passing through the water is very fun, you should definitely try it!

And of course it’s great for photos, probably the most photographed place in Bordeaux, especially by night! Unfortunately, when we went at night the water was almost drained so you can only believe what I say. I tell you the truth and it was absolutely incredible! (you should check it on google)

Walking on the inner city you keep seeing great buildings like the Cathedral of St. Andre with the huge-separated belfry and the amazing organ on the inside. The funny thing is that Bordeaux was full of such buildings and everyday life was just happening among them, like “ah, I’m waiting for the tram here in front of this Cathedral to go to work, the usual..”

The day we visited the city a street festival for celebrating nature, or something like that, was being held in several public spaces and it was very festive and joyful. We passed by a square where they had a small concert, people was eating and drinking wine at the cafes around and it was full of life! What I loved the most was this casual but buzzy atmosphere and light spirit of people that were enjoying their drink and food outside, so many small cafes-bistros, cute, pretty and simple.

In such a cafe we spent some time to drink a glass of wine and rest a little (so many hours walking…). We were lucky to find Cheverus cafe, because it was exactly what we needed, quintessential retro interior that I fell in love with, where we tasted the most delicious tapas I’ve ever eaten (ok, I was super hungry also but it was really good!).
Now is the time to learn that my second favorite taste after croissants+coffee for breakfast is fine tapas+wine for anytime. In general I’m such a glutton you can make me happy with just food,  so imagine my fulfillment at this trip!

After the small pause with wine to fill our batteries we continued our walk around the city. Unfortunately the stores close early in the afternoon so we didn’t have the chance to go for any shopping or maybe the universe protected us I don’t know… But of course when we found a pastry shop with a vitrine full of macarons we stepped inside to taste some of them (5-6 were the minimum to have a proper opinion…). This made our walk even more interesting as you understand!

However, walking all day at Bordeaux while eating macarons makes you super thirsty… and because of the closed stores G. almost had a crazy episode but thankfully there are a lot of street water fountains so that people can drink freely water. And something like that saved the day..!

We closed this day at Mama Shelter for drinks and dinner, where I’ve made a reservation days before because I wanted so badly to see it. Designed by Philippe Starck, its a funny space, very popular and vivid. The food wasn’t exceptional but very good even so, the cocktails super, and in general it was totally worth it to catch the city’s vibe.

We walk our way to the hotel to see the city by night, passed one more time from the Mirroir d’Eau (full of people even at midnight) and crossed the lighted bridge Pont de Pierre for the last time…and almost passed out at our beds! Goodnight Bordeaux!

You can check the rest of this amazing trip to Southwest France here (Toulouse) and here (Saint-Emilion)! 🙂

Toulouse | France

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riverbank of Garonne, Toulouse

I don’t know about you but I love France! I went to a francophone school so we can say that french culture is in my DNA now, and that’s why I get very enthusiastic when I have the chance to awaken this part of my brain. Toulouse is a beautiful city at the southwest France, the 4th largest city in the country but not a touristic destination which adds at her charm. My sister lives there with her boyfriend so we decided with G. to visit them at the end of May and explore this part of France as possible. And it was marvelous!

Toulouse is a quiet yet full of life city, with the river Garonne (it runs through the southwest France and northern Spain) make her even more beautiful. People have a quality life there, you can tell by just walking at the streets, see them using the public spaces, sitting at the banks of the river, using the bicycle a lot and having fun at the cutest little cafe-bars. It was raining some of the days but it didn’t stop us from exploring. They call her the red city because of the red stones at the building facades all over and in combination with the greenery create a nice scenery. The perfect scenery to have a quality time for vacation, drinking wine and eating french delicacies!

So, our first acquaintance with the city was my sisters house. She lives with her boyfriend at a small but very sweet apartment. From the photo group above you can see her kitchen only because all the rest of the house was covered with our luggage. We spent 1 night there, then we left for a 2 days trip to Bordeaux and St.Emilion (I will dedicate another post about them) and returned to Toulouse where we stayed at a beautiful airbnb apartment at the city center, old house with wooden floors, 3m high windows and totally downtown.

My favorite part of the first days was the breakfast we had at T’s apartment, with real treasures from the neighborhood’s bakery. You should know that i absolutely love french croissant with my coffee!!! I think if I was living there I would make this bakery super rich. Croissants, pain au chocolat, cinnamon rolls and of course fresh baguette with french cheeses etc. Really, I couldn’t ask for more.

Strolling around the city you can see a bunch of beautiful places, of course there is a carousel at a square, and when you feel tired you can sit for a beer or a glass of wine at lovely cafes.

Unfortunately I didn’t took any photos from the coolest restaurant we went, Chez Navarre, with classic occitan cuisine, with a serving system to remember. There were large tables full of starters from which you can choose whatever you want. When you feel ready you serve yourself from a table with few main dishes (we were lucky that they had duck that day) and at the end you go to another table with the sweets and cheeses. The interior of the restaurant was very authentic, an old building with wooden structure and bricks creating an imposing atmosphere. The only problem was that because of this free serving system you could eat until you die as we almost did…

The center of Toulouse is quite small so you can move by walking as you pass through nice buildings and squares. The days that the weather was good we walked a lot and we had the chance to get used with the city easily. There are old, beautiful buildings everywhere!

We weren’t so much interested for museums etc and we were more free on Sunday&Monday that they were all closed. So the only sightseeing we visited was the church of St.Jacobin, southern gothic style, constructed entirely of brick.

One of the highlights of our visit in Toulouse was the market of V.Hugo. It’s a pity that in Greece we don’t have such places where you can buy fresh products and also taste in the same area their delicacies, drink a quick glass of wine and really enjoy your shopping time. As you can guess we did all these (well, almost)!

It was amazing how many delicatessen products were gathered there. Separated the meet market from the fish market, the unnumerable cheeses, foie gras, magret, sausages etc. However, the best part was when we sat for fresh oysters and shrimps with wine at 11 o’clock! It was delicious, the best way to start your day in vacations! It closes at 13.00 though so you should go early if you want to have time.

G was late and missed that part with the oysters so when he came at the market we sat for a quick glass of wine at the shops on the groundfloor and afterwards we went at the 1st floor where there are restaurants to have lunch. All cooked with products of the market downstairs of course. There is a lot of people so maybe you should go early there too, but we were lucky and found a place. We tasted foie gras and other parts of duck, fish tartar among others and finish our gourmet lunch in happiness!

After this amazing morning-lunch we went to the Grand Rond park to have some leisure time. We played a Finnish game, named mölkky that kept us busy for a long time. It was super fun and I was the worst player of the 4, even though I did had a victory!

This park is next to another park, creating a large green area perfect for Sundays, where there are free chickens and other domestic animals. So strange…imagine laying on the grass, reading a book and see a chicken passing by…

In general, we had a really great time, we spoke in french, we enjoyed so much the food and the wines, we tasted so many french appellations and learn a bit more about wine, we went for shopping in vintage stores that I love (G. found a geek source of retro arcade games and comic book stores that made him craaazy) and so much more. We enjoyed the city in general, and I must say that Toulouse is definitely worth visiting!

You can check also the rest of this amazing trip to Southwest France, to Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, where we explored more the wine culture!