The first day with Pascal and Isabelle was spent on the theme of wine. We started by going to the medieval town of St. Emilion. We walked around to get a feel for the town and then decided to get a nice lunch of pumpkin soup and veggies paired with a nice red wine from the area. Pascal, where was the wine from? Im terrible with remembering names!
After lunch we decided to go on the underground tour because in fact, under the city there are huge natural and man made galleries and caverns. Pictures were not permitted during the tour but anyhow it would have been too dark to get good ones. The first thing we saw was the place where St. Emilion lived, a little natural cavern close to the church in the picture below.
St Emilion worked for Earl of Vannes in Brittany in the mid 700's and the story goes that he used to steal bread from the Earl's kitchen and hide it in his coat to give to the poor. One day he was caught by the Earl. St. Emilion lied and said he was carrying wood in his coat, not bread, and when he opened his coat to prove it, there was indeed wood and not bread. Obviously he became very popular in town for this miracle, but he wasn't one for fame so he left the area and headed for southern France.
He reached St. Emilion (then called Ascumbas) and took refuge in a natural cave and lived there as a hermit. He founded the town of St. Emilion with some disciples and became the head hauncho pretty much and there you have it.
The monolithic church in St. Emilion. Monolithic - if you didnt know, comes from the Greek words mono and lithos - meaning one stone. This church was carved out of the limestone rock by Benedictine monks in the 11th century. The bell tower you see here was added later between the 12th and 15th century. The actual church is undergound.
This is the view from above. We were standing at the base of the church tower that's in the picture above.
This was actually inside another church that was a blend of Roman and Gothic architecture inside.
This one too.
After the tour of the St. Emilions cave, the catacombs (there were still a few bones!) and the giant underground church, we decided to get some of St. Emilions famous macarons and drink a bottle of bubbly wine (not Champagne...didn't come from that region, but tasted the same to me). The macarons looked exactly like this. You peeled them off the paper, kinda like dot candy, and then they basically melt in your mouth. Too good.
This tree was full of wine corks and apparently the tradition is to throw the cork up into the tree and I think its if stays up there you have good luck or something. I cheated.
Next we went to a vineyard. Pascal has been visiting this vineyard for ages, so we were warmly welcomed to their castle/house and they cheerily swapped news and played catch up. The vineyard is run by a father daughter team and it was the daughter who walked me around and explained the process of wine making and all the stuff that goes into it. Don't ask me to reproduce this talk - it was fairly complicated and Im not sure I 100% got it but it was cool to see. Then we tasted the wine.
This is their main wine label. The castle/house in the picture is where we went to do the wine tasting and see the wine cave.
This is their other wine that they they produce on a property close by. I preferred this one when we did the tasting.
Little growing wine trees.
Next we went to a modern vineyard - all steel and glass and did a wine tasting of 5 wines from Morocco. Isabelle and Pascal discovered cardamom. It was put out in shallow bowls for you to dip the cheese in and it was really good that way. Im used to the spice in Indian dishes and Chia and stuff like that but I had never had it with cheese and it was quite good!
I collapsed into bed that night. Stay tuned for day 2.