We went to France for a couple of weeks - nothing booked except the ferry - which meant finding places to stay as we travelled. This wasn't as easy as we'd thought, lots of the hotels were closed for their own holidays, and lots of places were full of people who like us had waited for the kids to go back to school and had got there before us! It meant we had to move on more often than we'd planned and that every day was a driving day - and a pack/unpack day too for that matter. My favourite bit was the 3 nights nights we spent in St Emilion so that's what I'll start with.
We tried a couple of hotels with no luck then went to the Tourist Information Office for help. When we mentioned that it was my birthday and we were looking for somewhere nice to stay she suggested a little flat in one of the old buildings and rang the owner to arrange it. We didn't realise that she'd mentioned the special occasion to the owner, but when we arrived at the house he was waiting with a bottle of wine from his own vineyard for me. Not only was it my birthday, but it was a special weekend in the town too. Saturday was the Nuit de Patrimione, when all the buildings are open to visit for free, and special events happen - in St Emilion this meant a music festival with lots of different types of live music being performed in different spots all around the town. Unfortunately it was a horrible weather day and several of the performers couldn't do their thing in the venue assigned - heavy rain and electrical gismos just don't mix! The rain actually dried up by late evening but it was too late for some. Still wandering around the ancient cobbled streets finding oompah bands, swing bands, guitar and accordian players, clowns etc in unexpected places made for a fun evening. Sunday was also a special day as it was the launching of the grape-picking. The whole day saw processions and services in the old Church, and various other traditional events taking place. As the day went on those processing got less and less staid and serious - I think some were almost rolling down the hill after they'd been for lunch - I believe a lot of tasting of the vintage goes on......
It all ended with them climbing to the top of the castle where a speech was given over the tannoy and then grape shaped balloons were released.
Much Flag-waving, medieval costume, drummers and trumpeters at the head of the procession on Sunday
While they are all in Church, the musicians and other costumed leaders of the procession hang around outside and pose for photos.
Here's what it's all about!
St Emilion is fab, a fantastic place to spend a few days. It's a town on a hill, very old - home to the hermit Emilion who lived in a cave hewn out of the rocks. He became a Saint and the old Church was built bearing his name and again hewn out of the rocks - it's open to the public and worth a visit. Plenty of wine shops and caves to visit - over 30 growers in the town I think. There's the big "new" Church as well as the ancient one, plus the castle, and wonderful views over the town and the surrounding countryside from all over the place.
I took this photo looking back up to the town from among the vineyards that surround the hill St Emilion stands on; There's a wine "cave" now in the old convent buildings - but even that has been in there for over 100 years, some of the buildings are in ruins, this photo is of the Cordelier's Cloister which I loved. The wine people use it as a place for their wine tasting now.
This is one of the old gates into the city;This is the view we had when sitting at the breakfast bar of the flat we stayed in. I loved looking out over the red roofs and out to the countryside beyond. OK sometimes it was a very grey view, but somehow, when you've got a bit of space to lounge around in the weather doesn't matter! Our "landlord" brought us a delicious breakfast of fresh bread, croissants, pain au chocolate and other pastries every morning, there was juice, milk, jam etc in the fridge, plus tea and coffee supplied, and of course loads of cafes and restaurants within a couple of minutes stroll - wasn't too bad eh?:-)Next installment will probably be Chateaux and seaside so be warned!