Is a pilgrimage site for all wine-lovers from around the world. All those who know and appreciate wine pronounce the name Saint-Emilion with an almost religious devotion. They also know that a good wine does not begin in the cellars, but in the vineyard and there are many vineyards in Saint-Emilion. They must exist to supply the 82 wineries, of which four are Premier Grand Cru Classe A. It is impressive just by the name, right? We are talking about exceptional quality. To begin to understand the centuries-old relationship of the town and its surroundings, it is best to locate a point that allows us to admire all its beauty at a single glance. Let’s go there.
From the terrace of the Place du Clocher, we have before us a spectacular panorama. A “cultural landscape” that, since 1999, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first vineyards that were awarded with this qualification. Then came the slopes, houses and cellars of Champagne and the climates of Burgundy.
In addition to the balcony of the Place du Clocher, we find the old bell tower of the monolithic church that is just below us. At the tourist office behind the bell tower, they provide us with the key to go up (upon payment of 2 euros). The effort is considerable but the rewards are worth it!
But not only wine-lovers have more than enough reasons to visit Saint-Emilion. The “sweetholics” cannot miss their second Gourmet specialty: the macarons!!! These small cakes are the direct heirs of the sweets that the Ursuline sisters prepared in their convent back in 1620. The recipe has been passed down generation after generation. Its preparation only contains natural ingredients: sweet and bitter almonds (peeled by hands), egg whites and sugar. They couldn’t be healthier: gluten-free, lactose-free, color-free, and preservative-free. Unlike the sophisticated and colorful Parisian macarons, their authentic delicatessens are more modest in presentation but equal or even more delicious in taste.
Currently, there is only one totally artisan factory, Nadia Fermigier. They can be purchased in boxes of various sizes and although those with sweet tooth cannot wait to eat them as soon as they buy them, the best way to taste macarons is with coffee, wine, champagne (we are in France!) and even with fresh fruits or ice cream. The question is: will they last a long trip? The answer is yes. T
hey stay perfectly fresh for 15 days in the lower part of the fridge. Also, why not taste them in an authentic tea room? Well, right next to the store, and run by Nadia’s daughter, is the “Très Chic” Lounge, Le Parvis des Thès.
It opens from Friday to Sunday and from 2:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.Factory and store
9, Rue Guadet
Monday to Friday: 8:00 – 19:30Sunday: 9:00 – 19:30
TIME FOR SHOPPING…
Visiting Saint-Emilion and buying a couple of bottles is almost mandatory and there are plenty of establishments throughout the town. We will talk about them a little later as we now focus on those small shops, on those charming workshops that offer us other specialties with a strong local accent. Thus, we can experience in Achillea (5, Le Rivalon), a whole olfactory, visual and gustatory journey, through medicinal and aromatic plants, balsams, aromatic and massage candles.
The Saint-Emilion Tourism Boutique (Place des Crèneaux) offers us, in one place, a large selection of books, wine accessories, posters, groceries (related to wine of course!) and even a curiously, wooden postcards of emblematic places that can be sent by post! Finally, we come across Acase (Artisans Crèateurs de la Cour des Arts Saint-Emilion), a place for the exhibition and sale of art crafts.
In this boutique, 23 local artisans show their creations and where we will find jewelry, leather goods, ceramics, clothes, fabrics, etc. (2, Rue de la Grande Fontaine).
I WANT A PHOTO OVER THERE!
It is absolutely advisable to take the tourist route to discover the monuments of the medieval city through the walls, and, of course, the vineyards and their chateaux (castles), which are cataloged, as we know, as a World Heritage Site. The train will take us to the Chateau Rochebelle with its monolithic cellars from the 18thcentury.
Authentic photos guaranteed! As if that wasn’t enough, we have a tasting of wines (as the experts say) Grand Cru Classè. You can choose between a full visit of 1 hour and a half or just 35 minutes (without tasting). Ticket purchase by phone: +33 (0)5 57 51 30 71
THAT MONUMENT WHICH NOBODY WILL SHOW YOU
This is a city known for its wine which also overflows with water everywhere. Until the 19thcentury, there were many wells and springs and to facilitate domestic hygiene, it was decided to convert two fountains into laundries that can be admired. One of them, the Fountain of the King, was the laundry for the rich neighborhoods, located in the upper part of the city and the Fountain of the Place, intended for the washerwomen of the poor neighborhoods. The large wash house is located at the foot of the Tour du Roy (The King’s Tower) and the second on the Rue de la Petite Fontaine.
If we stop at any of them, we can imagine the animation that this town had since they were authentic meeting points of the women who did not only wash their clothes, but also rinsed them since they needed large amounts of water.
DARE TO LIVE IT
Yes, of course, we are going to climb the Torre del Rey, the last of the Romanesque towers that remain in the region. It has a height of 32 meters. There are 118 steps up to the panoramic terrace that, as you might imagine, provides us with some of the best views of the city, the walls and vineyards. 2 euros per person. Historians do not agree on the origin or function of the keep, since for some it was the French king, Louis VIII “The Lion”, who ordered its construction, for others it was the English king, Henry III Plantagenet, and for others, its function was as city council…
Currently, in addition to being a tourist attraction, the tower is still used by a highly respected local institution: the Jurade. This wine brotherhood, heir to the millenary Jurade, dissolved during the French Revolution, aims to promote the wines of Saint-Emilion and its 40 councilors meet at the top of the tower (dressed in their red suits and caps) to announces the new wines and their classification in June (and present the new members), and the proclamation of the beginning of the harvest in September.
Surely the most famous member of the brotherhood is the singer Sting, who was invited for his good work in the production of organic wines in his winery in Tuscany.
483A, Rue du Chateau du Roy
WHAT NOBODY WILL TELL YOU ABOUT THIS UNMISSABLE MONUMENT
The richness of the “Terrior” of Saint-Emilion is defined by the symbiosis of four natural elements:
1. Four soil stages: limestone, clayey-calcareous, gravel and sandy.
2. Temperate continental microclimate without sudden changes in temperature between summer and winter and well-distributed rainfall throughout the year.
3. Three varieties of grape. Merlot (majority), Cabernet Franc, for its great aroma and Cabernet Sauvignon for its powerful tannins.
4. The unique knowledge of its winemakers who created a unique classification in the world as it is reviewed every 10 years to push and encourage winemakers to excellence.
As a curiosity, note that one of the most famous French wines in the world, the Chateau Cheval Blanc, with the highest Parker score (100/100), has an approximate price of 850 euros… Wine shops, authentic temples dedicated to this sumptuous wine, invade the city that breathes wine through all its pores.
It can (and almost should) be tasted in the “caves”. They are cellars dug under the calcareous soil where the wine is always kept at a constant temperature of about 13 degrees, protected from sunlight and vibrations. Going down to those caves deserves a view as it takes little time. We recommend “le Clot des Menuts” located at 2, Place du Chapitre et des Jacobins.
TIME TO WONDER
Our tour begins at the last remaining half-timbered house in Saint-Emilion, located Rue de la Cadène. It forms an architectural complex with the Casa de la Comandancia, on Guadet Street, both being joined by a raised arch. The downhill street is a candidate for Instagram. It takes us to a small square, Des Halles, where the old covered cereal market was located. Under the staircase there is a wooden door that gave access to the dungeons where those convicted by justice were locked up. Later, and due to its central location, it was used for public meetings by the local administration.
We arrive at the Place du Marchè (Market Square) where we see the monolithic church. It is without a doubt the most impressive monument in the city and we are especially attracted by its almost unique character throughout Europe which is 38 meters long and 12 meters high. Its name comes from the fact that it was built from a single block of stone in the 12thcentury! In this absolutely recommended visit (no photos can be taken), the guides talk about its construction and many details and curiosities of this monolithic church, considered the largest in Europe. Reservations are made at the Tourist Office (Places des Creèneaux). Back in the square, we find the Hermitage of the Saint to the left of the church which served as a sanctuary to Saint-Emilion.
A Breton monk, famous for his miracles, who spent the last years of his life in this hermitage (formerly just a grotto) where his relics were preserved before mysteriously disappearing. The legend says that the chair where the saint used to pray and meditate has a second use: “Chair to Fertility.” So, all the women who want to get pregnant just have to sit in that chair and pray to the saint to be able to beget within a year. Apparently, many women from all over the world go, sit on it and send birth announcements to the Tourist Office which keeps a meticulous record of the “Emilion Babies”, as they are affectionately called.
To the right of the church is the most picturesque street which is the Rue du Tertre. Its name refers to its irregular, sloping and very slippery pavement. The balustrade located in the center of the street helps pedestrians to hold on and thus avoid slipping. Quite a test of dexterity. There are four steep streets in the old town. Its cobblestones come from England. The English ships ballasted their cellars with these songs and then filled them with the prestigious Saint-Emilion wine. After being abandoned on the banks of the Dordogne River, they were later used to pave the village.
It is essential to wear comfortable shoes with non-slip soles and leave your high-heels for other occasions. If we continue along the Rue de la Petite Fontaine, we will pass through the washhouses and arrive finally at the foot of the Tour du Roy.
A BREAK…. AND WATCH LIFE GO BY
Well, it’s time to rest, and nothing better than having a wine, right? But we propose a special wine: “Crèmant de Bourdeaux”. It is a sparkling wine that is made in Les Cordeliers. As we are not in the Champagne region, it cannot be called that, although its production method is the traditional “champagnoise”. Where are we going to taste the wine and give ourselves a break? Well, nothing more and nothing less than next to the cloister of an old Franciscan convent dating from the 14thcentury which had a church, cloister, garden, cellar, patio and main building. Since 2005, it is a historic monument.
The Franciscans were known in medieval France as “Cordeliers”, for the ropes they used as a belts. The church gives access to the cellars excavated in limestone rock at a depth of 17 meters. They can, and should, be visited to combine a historical journey and learn how this special wine is made.
Once the visit is over, nothing better than trying one of the wines along with salty sweets and / or macarons. Also, there is the fun option of visiting the wineries in a fun electric Tuk-tuk.
2 bis, Rue de la porte Brunet
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