A French excellence called Saint-Émilion
I was very curious to see where the wine was born that made the city of Bordeaux famous all over the world and I could not miss the small town of Saint-Émilion. A little jewel set among the vineyards! It is easily accessible by train from Bordeaux station. As soon as I stepped out of the train I found myself in total nature. And it is not just a metaphor. The Saint Emilion station is really in the middle of the countryside. No sidewalks to get off, but only bare ground. The best way to get to the center is on foot so you can enjoy a pleasant walk through the vineyards.
The small village is included in the list of World Heritage sites and preserves a monolithic church and another Romanesque church. But what is most striking is that it seems to have stopped in time. Around there are many wineries where you can taste excellent wine. Having some time available there are also tours organized in the various vineyards of the area. It is true that the country is very touristy, but this certainly did not lose its old charm. In fact I found a lot of peace and tranquility.
However, Saint-Émilion located in the region of Aquitaine is ideal if you love small squares gathered around bars, the ocher color of the low and well-tended houses, exploding flower boxes, cobblestone streets, sun-warmed landscapes and historic vineyards green all around. If all this is part of what you like to discover, then you have found your paradise.
Founded by the Breton monk Emilion who took refuge here in hermitage, (recommended the visit to the cave where he lived for 17 years), the town is known for its historic wine production, with two A.O.C. (appellation d’origine controlee), the Saint-Émilion and the Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. I do not use the adjective “historical” without a reason considering that the area is part of the district of Bordeaux but that the Romans already considered it a fertile valley for viticulture. The 5400 hectares of vineyards distinguish the peculiarities of the land (due to sand, gravel, rocky fragments, silt, clay) that guarantee the exceptional variety and goodness of grapes that you can taste in one of 103 chateaux open to the public during one of the food and wine tours organized by the Tourist Board.
The expression “chateaux” derives from the castles built in a dominant position on the vineyards owned by local overloads and that today allow really exciting experiences for your taste buds. In this regard, I strongly suggest a visit to Les Cordeliers, a former Franciscan convent converted into a cellar, where the precious Crémant de Bordeaux bottles are housed. In the adjacent garden, you can have a delicious aperitif.
Saint-Emilion Monolithic Church
Travelers today, however, remain enchanted by the mix of typically French atmospheres and testimonies that evoke the past British domination. Saint-Émilion offers interesting historical and religious itineraries since, starting from the 11th century, churches, monasteries and places of welcome for pilgrims on their way to the nearby Santiago de Compostela have been built in the village and surrounding area. A visit to the monolithic Church is highly recommended, a superb testimony of the local devotion to its founder, dating back to the twelfth century.
Legend has it that, at the death of Emilion, the small Christian community that had gathered around him thanks to the miracles of which he was the protagonist, began to dig the catacombs and a church just near the cave where the hermit lived. The monolithic church is the only one of its kind in Europe and is known throughout the world as a place of pilgrimage for many faithful. The bell tower stands 53 meters high: if you have the breath to climb 187 steps, you can enjoy a spectacular 360° view of the surrounding vineyards. Obviously it is a point of reference for everyone, residents and tourists as well.
If you want to discover all the secrets of this unique village, take part in one of the underground tours organized by the Tourist Board. For 45 minutes you can stroll through history, listening to legends and curiosities as well as visiting truly exceptional monuments: the church, the catacombs, the cave of the hermit, the Chapel of the Trinity (a chapel with polychrome frescoes). On this tour, you can join the one in the Vasellame underground museum where you can admire 20 centuries of Aquitaine ceramics history as well as works by contemporary artists. Complete your walk with a visit to the cloister of the collegiate church that houses the tombs of the former cardinals. The gem: if you love macaroons, in the city you will find for sale a variety whose recipe seems to date back to 1620 and attributed to the Ursuline nuns. Enjoy your meal!
Where to stay
Nestled in the tranquil bay of Arcachon, on the edge of the shore and backing onto lush pine forests, you will find the luxury Villa La Tosca. Built in 1903 in the Arcachon Architectural style, Villa La Tosca is a beautiful hotel decorated with acute attention to even the finest details. The Villa itself is a mix of sumptuous and restored features. The elegant design of Villa La Tosca is inspired by local architecture with Italian influences and envelops guests in an atmosphere of tranquil luxury. Villa La Tosca is a home from home, where guests can relax by the open fire with a glass of vintage red from the hotel wine cellar, or browse the shelves of the wood-panelled library. Unwind amidst the lush landscape and fountains and take a refreshing dip in the natural spring waters of the hotel swimming pool. In summer, guests are invited to dine on the hotel terrace and admire spectacular sea views and sunsets. The eight guest rooms boast bright, airy interiors with splashes of rich colours and stylish wooden furniture, creating a warm, inviting ambiance. All the well-appointed luxury rooms each come with an en-suite bathroom and are individually designed to complement the surroundings and make the most of the sea and forest views.