Last time I shared that I would be on an adventure and I gave these two pictures as clues:
What could these mean?
Well, no big surprise – part one of the adventure involved wine tasting.
In Bordeaux! More on that in a minute.
Part two of the adventure, symbolized by the scallop shell, had us hiking the Camino of St. James, a pilgrimage trail through France and Spain. Truly a once in a lifetime experience, the Camino needs its very own post so I will share that story soon.
But first, beautiful, fabulous Bordeaux.
Our group of 7 hired a private guide, Claude, who came highly recommended. We corresponded with him for months and months and were giddy with excitement, anticipating our tour of Bordeaux.
Peter and I were the first to arrive at the Bordeaux airport. We grabbed our bags then started looking around for Claude.
We looked and looked, but no Claude.
Instead we saw an adorable French woman holding a sign with our name on it. She introduced herself as Claude’s wife, Ghislaine (GG for short).
It seems that Claude had undergone emergency surgery a few days earlier and would not be able to join us. Claude and GG didn’t let us know before our arrival because they didn’t want us to be alarmed.
The trip would go on just as planned but GG would be our guide instead of Claude. GG’s brother, Jean Pierre (JP for short), would be our driver.
We are a pretty intrepid group (plus, at that point we really didn’t have a back up plan) so we just went with the flow and let GG and JP lead the way.
And we had the time of our lives.
Following the spectacular itinerary set up by GG and Claude, we were pampered and delighted at every corner.
Have you ever been on a trip during which you feel totally cared for, like you don’t have to think about a single detail?
That was this trip.
For starters, we stayed in this gorgeous place, the Château de La Rivière.
We had the place all to ourselves, occupying 4 of the 6 rooms in the chateau. The innkeeper, Natalie, provided us with a delicious breakfast every morning
and a fabulous multi-course dinner on our last evening. These appetizers were as yummy as they are beautiful.
Each morning GG and JP would arrive to whisk us off for the day’s adventure.
We enjoyed tours and wine tasting at chateau after chateau, including:
Château Pape Clément which was named after its most famous resident, Pope Clement V. It is one of the oldest vineyards in Bordeaux – first planted in 1252.
Château Carbonnieux which also dates back to the 13th century.
Our very own Thomas Jefferson visited Château Carbonnieux during his wine tasting trip through Bordeaux in 1786. According to his diary, he was a fan of the wines produced by the Benedictine Monks who owned the vineyard at that time.
These same clever and enterprising monks produced an almost clear white wine that they marketed as “mineral water” to sell in places that prohibited or heavily taxed alcohol. The story goes that a Turkish prince at the time said, “I don’t know why the French bother making wine when their mineral water tastes so good.”
We visited Château Troplong Mondot in the Saint-Émilion appellation.
And traveled by ferry across the Gironde to visit Château Lynch-Bages where we had the opportunity to see the team at work.
We took a tour of the wine cellars at the Château de La Rivière at which we were staying.
There are over 7 acres of cellars under the Château. During World War II, Jewish families and members of the French Resistance hid in these cellars while Germans lived in the chateau above, oblivious to the existence of the caves below.
We toured the picturesque town of Saint-Émilion, including the world’s largest monolithic church, a gigantic structure “built” by digging out the side of a cliff.
After our time in Bordeaux, GG and JP drove us to Lugo, Spain where the Bordeaux 7 would meet up with the rest of the Camino group.
Along the way to Lugo we stopped at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes where we attended Mass (in French), collected holy water and lit candles.
The next day, we stopped at the Sanctuary of Loyola in Spain, the home of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We visited the gorgeous Basilica, attended Mass (in Spanish) in the Conversion Chapel and toured exhibits chronicling the life of St. Ignatius and the history of the Jesuits.
Finally, we were on the road to Lugo and saw the first sign of next part of our adventure: The Camino de Santiago. Stay tuned for that story…
I have to be honest, I had a tough time writing this post. It has taken me weeks and weeks to get it done.
Not only was the volume of photos to show and stories to tell overwhelming, but, more importantly, I had no idea how to put into words the sheer magic of this part of our trip. It’s impossible.
And it was all thanks to JP, Claude and GG.
JP is a Frenchman right out of central casting. Handsome, charming and a bit mischievous. He kept us in stitches the whole time, even though he doesn’t speak a bit of English. As a lifelong resident of Bordeaux, JP knew all the shortcuts, history and secrets of the place. As a former vineyard owner, he knew everything about wine making in the region. He even gave us a couple of bottles of his wine from his personal cellar. We will never forget him!
One of the truly unexpected treats of our time in Bordeaux was when we stopped for a short visit with Claude as he recuperated from surgery. We were thrilled by the opportunity to meet him in person.
And then there’s Ghislaine, GG.
This amazing gal took such exceptional care of us. She made sure we got the most out of every single experience and every single moment.
GG indulged our collective sweet tooth with frequent stops at boulangeries along the way, brought us to the most fabulous French wine shops, kept us well supplied with treats, showed us places that only the locals know about and made sure that we immersed ourselves in the food and wine of her beloved homeland. She is an angel, for sure.
Absolutely nothing was impossible for this team.
And they blessed our group with memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanks for stopping by,
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