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Blog, Bordeaux, France

Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

August 15, 2015

Saint-Emilion sits proudly on a hill, surrounded by never-ending vineyards and chateaux.  This blonde stoned beauty is possibly Bordeaux’s most famous town, and we found while the surrounding countryside was largely devoid of people and cars, it seemed Saint-Emilion was where everyone was concentrated.  Yes, it is touristy, full, noisy – but perhaps only really in and around the main square. And the car parks. If you wander off down a cobbled side street, or climb some stairs up the hill suddenly you find yourself alone.  And you can observe this beautiful town in peace and quiet.


Saint-Emilion is prime wine country, so you can expect a huge amount of wine shops. On every street, round every turn, there will be a wine shop. Or somewhere to do wine tasting.  So that’s definitely something you should do. Whether you are buying or drinking, there is a huge amount of choice – from the Grand Crus to the Grand Cru Classé.  Other than that wander up to the watch tower for sublime views of the town and its surroundings. Or take a look at some of its simple but charming churches.



Hostellerie de la Plaisance is Saint-Emilion’s Relais & Chateaux hotel. The place to stay (rooms from about £300) but it also hides the most stunning terrace with heavenly views.  While very centrally located, just above the main square next to the church, it feels worlds apart from the heaving square below. If you can afford it, have lunch here. If not, have a ‘café au lait’ (or a glass of wine) and enjoy the views in relative peace. The service, coffee and complimentary chocolate biscuits are phenomenal.

Hostellerie de la Plaisance, St EmilionHostellerie de la Plaisance, St Emilion

As the town is so touristy, avoid most of the restaurants close to the square. Prices are high and the food tends to be OK (this is France after all), but you can certainly do better.  Instead, wander a little further to Les Delices de Roy. It’s quieter here and the food (and prices) is good.  But if you really want a bargain, and something a little more authentic, drive 9 minutes down the road to the river side town of Branne. While the town itself is nothing special, Cafe de Cuisine is worth the journey. You’re not really here for the setting – views from its shaded terrace are of a metal bridge over the Dordogne river and a road – but the food is simple and delicious.  Classic French food, and 17 Euros for a three course menu scrawled on a blackboard. The service is brisk but friendly and we noticed lots of French here too.  We had a chicken pate to start, followed by a light and zesty cod and cold cauliflower salad. The puddings may have been the best of all – my chocolate gateaux was everything you’d expect from a French pudding, and Rob’s lime panacotta with red fruit couli was delicious.  Add a glass of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru for 5 Euros and you’re sorted.

Cafe Cuisine, BranneCafe Cuisine, BranneCafe Cuisine, Branne

Otherwise L’Atelier de Candale at Chateau de Candale (2km from Saint-Emilion) is also meant to be delicious, and very peaceful.  They have a lunch menu for €15.

For more tips of the Bordeaux region, check out A weekend in the Medoc.

All photos mine, mostly from my Instagram.

Blog, Bordeaux, France

A weekend in the Medoc, Bordeaux

August 14, 2015

Known to produce some of the finest wines in the world, the wine region of the Medoc in Bordeaux is one top vineyard and stately chateau after another.  It is here where you’ll find some of the world’s most prestiges wine villages, such as Pauillac, Margaux and Saint-Julien.  The chateaux we past – such as Chateau Lafitte and Latour – produce some of the most expensive wines in the world.

This is the perfect place for a wine-filled weekend break.  Combine a day of sightseeing in the city of Bordeaux (blog to follow soon), with a couple of days in the peaceful green Medoc countryside.  Less than an hour north from Bordeaux airport, I was taken aback by how many beautiful chateaux and vineyard we drove past.  Flights to Bordeaux are affordable if booked in advance (our BA flights booked in February were £100) and there are numerous chateaux you can stay at, as well as plenty of fantastic restaurants to try.   A wine and foodie heaven.


CHATEAU ORMES DE PEZ, in the hamlet of Pez, is a complete delight.   It is a little quiet haven; grand and beautiful while homely and warm at the same time. Owned by the Cazes family, who also own the Relais & Chateaux Cordeillan Bages and one of Bordeaux’s top vineyards Lynch Bages, this idyllic five bedroom chateau truly represents what the French do so well.

Ormes de Pez, BordeauxOrmes de Pez, BordeauxBeautiful, intricate wall paper cover the well-sized bedrooms, the beds – all white crisp sheets and marshmallow duvets – ensure you have the best sleep, large French windows let in plenty of light and allow views of the local vineyard and the garden. Charming Gilles – the concierge/chef/general manager all in one, is welcoming and helpful – recommending where to eat in the area and booking wine tasting for us. During the afternoon he conjures up amazing cakes in the kitchen, smells of which waft through the chateau.

Ormes de Pez, BordeauxOrmes de Pez, BordeauxThe hotel’s black and white bushy tailed cat is constantly doing the rounds – enjoying human contact enough to follow us around, even joining us for breakfast, but making it quite clear he is not there to be cuddled or picked up.  The garden is huge, with pear trees and romantic benches scattered around. The pool is tucked away in a sunny corner behind a hedge, where we relax in the sun and read our books.  Breakfast is served until 11, with fresh breads and croissants, Giles’ cakes and buttery scrambled eggs.  Grab a table outside on the terrace and have the most languid breakfast in the cool morning sun.  This is a place to forget your busy life and just enjoy the best of France.  Rooms from £90 per night.

Ormes de Pez, Bordeaux

Ormes de Pez, BordeauxOrmes de Pez, Bordeaux


Grab one of the bikes at Ormes de Pez and cycle from vineyard to vineyard (the countryside is relatively flat), admiring the 17th and 18th Century chateaux as you wiz by.  A stay at either Ormes de Pez or Cordeillan Bages allows you a complimentary visit to the Lynch Bages vineyard, with wine tasting of course. Definitely take them up on that offer, our guide was theatrical and extremely knowledgeable and tasting the Lynch Bages wine (the 2007 in our case) is not something quickly forgotten.  The village of Bages is also very picturesque.  Or for those super fit and active, there is the Medoc Marathon through the vineyards – a stunning region to run those 26.5 miles!

Lynch Bages



Ormes de Pez is just a B&B so venture out to the riverside town of Pauillac for lunch or dinner.  If you want something super close, the Chateau Pomys offers dinner on their terrace. The food is very French, the portions large and opt for their three course menu for 30 Euros. The food is far from Michelin starred but their chocolate gateaux was absolutely delicious.  Or, for better food, drive a little further to the village of St Julien, for simple but excellent home cooking at Chez Meme.

Chateau Pomys, Bordeaux


Chez Meme, St Julien


For a real blow out meal, the two Michelin star Cordeillan Bages is where you have to be.  Possibly the most refined and wonderful lunch I have ever had.  A blog about this hotel & restaurant will follow.

Chateau Bordeillan-Bages, Bordeaux

Cordeillan-Bages, Bordeaux

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