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St Emilion - Worth a Stopover?

Old May 23rd, 2009, 06:44 PM
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St Emilion - Worth a Stopover?

We're a family of 4, including 2 boys aged 5 and 8. After a weeklong stay in Ile de Re, we're taking the train for a weeklong stay in Sarlat. We'll connect to our Sarlat train from Bordeaux or Libourne; my question is: should we break up our train journey with a one-night stopover in St Emilion (or somewhere else?).

For me, the pros: prevent an almost full day of train travel and hopefully see/experience something unique and beautiful along the way.

The cons: hassles (esp. with kids!) of checking in/out of another hotel and transport to/from train station, and probably most importantly, using precious time in a place that isn't as "worthy," however one defines it. (It would mean one less day in the Sarlat area or Paris.)

Another alternative would be to get off at Bordeaux for a 2 or 4 hour layover, which should be enough time to get to city center. However, that gets us into Sarlat a bit later than I would want.

If there's something along that train route that we should absolutely not miss, by all means let me know and we'll get off the train to do it!! If it helps, after Dordogne, we'll be off to Paris, then a few weeks in England.

Thanks in advice for your suggestions.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 09:05 PM
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I'de stop in St Emilion. It's an intersetng city - although much of it is devoted to wine. I would not advise to spend only 2 hr in Bordeaux. The train station is not in the tourist center of town. Also, if that 2-4 hrs in Bordeaux includes the 2 hr lunch period - lots of shops will be closed. If you are making this trip through Bordeaux on a Sunday - most stuff (except museums) will be closed then too.

I would try to avoid spending the entire day on trains. Where will you pick up a car??? For flexibility - have you considered driving to the Dordogne from the Isle de Re.

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Old May 23rd, 2009, 09:35 PM
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We stayed in St. Emillon about 10 years ago and it was such a wonderful experience. We stayed at a hotel that overlooked the wineyards. I believe we stayed at the Chateau Grand Barrail because nothing else was available and we didn't have any reservations (we hadn't planned to stay in St. Emillon but my daughters fell in love with the town).
I would love to go back there again - we thought it was a magical town.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 01:04 AM
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The train from La Rochelle to Sarlat takes just 6:08 - that's not exactly almost a full day.

Driving by car would take just 4 hours - with many interesting spots on the way (e.g. Perigueux) - so this might be an option, also cost-wise.

Regarding St. Emilion: The town certainly is picturesque, but if you stay a weeklong at the Dordogne, you will see a lot of towns which are even more picturesque. Around St. Emilion, you find hundreds of wineries, but visiting them would require a car or booking a tour (which might not fit into your schedule). And I am not sure if wine tastings will be that interesting for your boys.

In any case, what you should do: Visit one of those spectacular caves - my personal favourite is Peche Merle, but there are many others (Lascaux is not open for visitors, just a replica which is not half as good as walking through a real cave - I think of your boys).
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Old May 24th, 2009, 01:36 AM
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If you opt for the train ride, this might be an option for a stop:

You will have to change trains in Poitiers, so you can visit this beautiful town: Lots of churches, medieval houses, several historical museums and a science museum (I think of the boys). The train station is right in the center of the city.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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I'm not a big fan of St-Emilion, but I surely wouldn't bypass it, either. Just don't buy wine there unless you are a real connoisseur - you can for the most part get the same stuff in the local supermarket for half the price. The monolithic church there is a wonder.

Why not rent a car in La Rochelle and drive? And if you must take the train, why Sarlat and not Périgueux or Brive as a destination?

I wouldn't stop for two hours n Bordeaux. As Stu mentions, the train station is in a dubious part of town, and to get out of it and see anything worthwhile in Bordeaux would take too much time.

As for Lascaux, I always wonder about folks who say "it's just a replica." It's an AMAZING replica, and always gives me goosebumps, not only because it feels like being in a "real" cave but because of the technology and engineering that were engaged to replicate it. And Peche-Merle is not even in the Dordogne. You have a whole host of caves, chromatic and not, to visit right in the Dordogne, including Combarelles, Font-de-Gaume, Bara-Bahau, Rouffignac, and others, and then there are all the other prehistoric sites like Cap Blanc, Village Troglodytique de la Madeleine, Roque-St-Christophe, etc.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 10:43 PM
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Boy, am I glad I asked!

(Stu-hoped you'd chime in...you sent me your very helpful Dordogne report last week.)

Both DH and I aren't fond of driving, so I had planned train travel, then rent a car in Sarlat for 4 days. It comes out to roughly the same $$ for train + 4 day car rental vs 1-week car rental w/o accounting for gas expense. Having flexibility would be priceless, of course, so perhaps we'll rent for the whole week after all.

Based on your advice, hope you don't mind if I re-configure my question to:

Which driving route from La Rochelle to Sarlat should we take to allow for pleasant rest stops while still getting to Sarlat in good time? (The more I read about Dordogne, the more anxious I am to get there ASAP.)

I've seen Saintes-Cognac-Angouleme-Perigueux recommended in another post. Google maps shows a more southern route: A10 to A89 near Libourne-Perigueux.

We are not wine connoisseurs, so would not be interested in winery tours. Something offbeat or truly unique to the town/region is esp. interesting to us.

Thanks to you all--Stu, nana, trav59 and StCirq--for your suggestions.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 11:58 PM
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We were in in St Emilion on Saturday just gone and even this early in the season, it's starting to get very busy. It is of course primarily a wine town, which is why we went. If wine does not interest you, then although it is picturesque, you wouldn't feel the diversion necessary.

Libourne is a town.

Cognac is well worth a visit, great town and lots to do. Take a Cognac house tour(Hennessy, Otard etc.) even if you don't drink, it's fascinating. Try Jarnac as well, great little place and the Courvoisier distillery.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 02:31 AM
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The route Cognac-Angouleme-Perigueux will take about 45 min. more time (although shorter). Some parts are scenic. You can bypass Angouleme, but you have to drive through Perigueux (giving you the chance to visit the cathedral which is really unusal).

The A10/A89 route gives you the opportunity to stop in St. Emilion. What is unique? Certainly the subterranean caves. Otherwise it is a typical medieval city with cloisters, church, ruined castle and a picturesque location on a bluff above the surrounding vineyards.

See for yourself:

http://www.saint-emilion-tourisme.com
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Old May 25th, 2009, 08:07 AM
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If you can route yourself through/around Limoges, you could stop at Oradour-sur-Glane on the way - well, well, worth the detour. Once you're settled in the Dordogne you can always make a trip to Périgueux. It has a marvelous Saturday market and a trip to the cathedral and old town is terrific.
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