Day 4: Pauillac-Carcassonne, Part 1. (Have I mentioned I'm long winded?)
Breakfast the next morning was the expected croissants, bread, jam, and yogurt. Later on Hubby and I discussed how it must be easier to run a B&B in France than in America since you aren’t expected to do a full, cooked breakfast.
We also grilled Dany for information. She said the fort we saw was one of three that used to protect the estuary. They were positioned so their cannon fire could cover the entire waterway.
She took the cost of the tolls in stride and said the highways were the best and fastest way to travel. She also said what we should have done was determine areas we wanted to see, then find a central location from which we could do day trips. Then move our base as needed. We were thinking, “Where were you in March when we were planning?”
It was all very interesting and informative. Then we went to pay her with our newly reactivated credit card. She said, “Oh, I kept meaning to tell you…my machine isn’t working. Do you have cash?”
I’m sure the sound of our jaws hitting the floor was audible. So Hubby turned to me and said, “I’m going to leave you here as a hostage and go find money.” I told him he could take the card and his passport into the bank and get a cash advance, which would suck since cash advances have higher APRs. But desperate times and all that. I hadn’t called the ATM card the night before, since we wanted dinner, and by morning they were closed because it was around 6 am EDT. However, when Hubby got to the bank he decided to try his ATM card, just for grins, and it worked. We were back in business.
I would have to say Wednesday was the best day of the trip. Our finances were sorted out and we had a nice relaxing day.
We were on the Medoc peninsula so we started out by heading north up the D2, aka Rue du Medoc, to see the wineries.
Wineries in France aren’t like the ones in Napa or Long Island. You can’t just zig-zag up the road, dropping in for a wine tasting. In France you need an appointment and get an hour long tour that includes the vineyards and cellars. We didn’t do any because we didn’t have time for all that. Also, how many in-depth discussions of vines and cellars can you hear in one day? Besides, we know a lot of that stuff already from our trips in the US.
Hubby’s theory is that in California and Long Island each vintner produces multiple wines. They’ll have a white or two along with a few reds. So there is something to taste. But in France they usually do one wine, and they do it well.However, this means there isn’t really anything to taste. "Here’s our one wine, thanks for stopping by."
This made the area seem not tourist friendly to us. Welcome to Wine Country, now go home. To add insult to injury, we frequently saw signs which translated to "Wine tastings. Open" and a directional arrow. The best we could figure out is they were pointing the way to the chateaus for people who had appointments. For us, they were just a big tease. We had to let go our preconceived notions of what a trip to wine country should entail and just enjoy the scenery.
There Is a Way
What you have to look for are Maison du Vin (which translates to House of Wine or something), or a Cave. They are both, as far as I could tell, basically wine stores. But since they carry wines from multiple vendors they have enough variety to taste. Hubby and I said to ourselves, “We’ll come to France, set up a tasting co-op and revolutionize the French wine country! We’ll be rich!”
We swung north to Saint-Estephe where we found a cathedral and a Maison du Vin. Hubby was able to taste a few wines and bought a bottle. I bought a tea towel that shows the wine appellations in France.
We headed back south, taking pictures of the grape vines and beautiful chateaus, and worked our way back to Pauillac. We found the tourist office, where we bought some cookies and a jar of flavored black tea.
Continuing south, we went through St. Julien, were we found a tasting room!
(not pictured. I don't remember which Chateau this is, but it has a British flag as well as a French one. Hubby would know.)
One family has three different labels, so they’ve consolidated their brands in one roadside room. The young woman behind the counter was a little flustered. It appeared they had cheese and crackers as well and she was serving a family in the next room when we wandered in. But once she settled down she was very nice. Hubby got to try a few wines and bought another bottle. She practiced her English. He practiced his French. It was all very cordial.
Up north, on the way down from Paris, the country side was very open, rolling farmland. Like in the Plain States in the US. We saw lots of corn, a grain we thought was barley because it was too short to be wheat, and sunflowers. Fields of sunflowers all yellow and happy. I kept trying to get pictures of the sunflowers, but they always seemed to be facing away from me. The pictures I take never seem to convey the visual impact anyway. I suppose it would have helped if we had actually stopped the car and gotten out, but that would have been sensible.
In the south the land got a little more hilly. On the peninsula there were some gentle hills, but mostly flat, with lovely grape vines as far as the eye could see. We like grape vines since we don't get to see them much. The weather was also lovely. It was a bit warmer, but we drove around with the windows open and could smell the water. It was all very charming.
Just Feed Me
Then we made our way down to Margaux, where there was a restaurant Dany had recommended for lunch. However, as it was 2 pm, lunch was over. We were disappointed, but around the corner we found a brasserie that was still serving. Brasseries are like little bar, convenience store, cafe places and they seemed to have longer serving hours.
I decided I didn’t want anything heavy and ordered a salad with chicken, egg, and cheese. One thing that was very convenient for me was most of the restaurants had English translations, so it was easy for me to order. Hubby ordered a cheese burger and French fries, which he said was very good. Everywhere we went we ordered a bottle of Badoit, which is sparkling French mineral water. We like fizzy water.
By the time we finished eating it was around 3 pm. We were practically at Bordeaux so we went ahead and hopped on the A62 to get over to Carcassonne.
To be continued...