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Visiting Gironde, East of Bordeaux

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Aug 25th, 2013, 12:45 AM
  #1
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Visiting Gironde, East of Bordeaux

Hello everyone! In mid-late September my family of three, which includes two 11-year olds, is staying in a gite about 36 km east of Bordeaux. It's between Creon and Branne, 17 km South of Saint-Émilion.

I've been looking on the Internet, on Michelin maps, and various guidebooks, but I'd love to hear your suggestions on things to do, places to eat, thing to avoid, etc. in the area (nearby or farther afield, but understand that we are visiting Sarlat a bit after we leave here). There's not a lot of information available on this part of the Gironde compared to what I see about other places -- I get the impression not a lot of American visitors go to the area. We're especially interested in medieval and historical things around there, and we enjoy nature as well as unusual things, too. A little shopping doesn't hurt, either!

Our reason for visiting is somewhat unusual. Before he passed away the other year, my husband stumbled upon this region of France when he realized his (our) rather uncommon surname appears on a few things in the local area, from back when Eleanor of Aquitaine was about. That connection, to an ancient link we know precious little about, is the impetus for this adventure. In that sense we didn't choose it so much as it chose us . We're not beating that aspect of it to death, but it's an endearing, personal connection to an otherwise foreign place... something special dad discovered for his girls. So we're going to check it out. Omg.

The gite and accompanying Chateau where we're staying are in a vineyard, and I think we'll be there when the harvest starts up. We're renting a car during our stay. We don't have a lot planned for our week there as of yet because I want us to have time to settle in and get a sense of the area. Yes, I know a week (8 days) isn't much, but it's what we have, and even that is a gift .

Btw I've been trying to learn some French in preparation for this, but to be honest my skills are rather poor (and my pointy head keeps trying to default to what I barely remember from college Spanish classes [a looong time ago]). Though in my 40s this is my first trip overseas. Just so you know.

I recently posted a message about our stop in Amboise on the way down from Paris, and am very happy with and thankful for the information I've received from that. I'm hoping to glean some helpful insights from your collective conscious again. Please speak plainly but gently; you're party to our dreams here .

What do you suggest? Thank you!
NutWithACamera is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2013, 01:01 AM
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This might be within driving range of your gite:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...th/4929964503/

or these: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...th/5975736689/

All photos are geo-tagged so that they can be found on a map.
Michael is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2013, 03:11 AM
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We had friends who lived nearby in Baron, just northeast of Creon and we would visit them about a week at a time. We enjoy the area very much.

Besides Bordeaux, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do, depending on how much driving you want to do.

This sight might help you: w.francethisway.com/places/a/creon-gironde.php
klondike is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2013, 11:04 AM
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oops! see if this link works better:
http://www.francethisway.com/regions/gironde.php
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Aug 25th, 2013, 11:08 AM
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Hi again, NutWithACamera.

I wish I could help you out more with this area, but though I pass through it often and have spent time around Castillon-la-Bataille (including going to the re-enactment of the Bataille de Castillon, which is simply incredible), I'm usually just on my way somewhere else. I did spend a couple of nights in a château in Ruch, in the midst of a family-owned vineyard, which was lovely. But all in all, it's not a wildly popular area for tourists, most of whom are headed for St-Emilion or the Périgord or Bordeaux and the coastal areas. Nonetheless, I'm sure you'll find much to do, but you'll likely have to do some driving.

Mostly I wanted to chime in on the Aliénor d'Aquitaine connection. Years ago, I did several months' worth of genealogical research at the Library of Congress and elsewhere and traced my heritage (also very unusual last name) directly back to Alíenor, and then subsequently used online resources to verify it. Somehow, it just seemed right, as I recall feeling so strongly the first time I set foot in Aquitaine feeling that I had "come home."

Perhaps we're related!
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Sep 21st, 2013, 06:23 PM
  #6
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I'm at the Chateau in the Gironde right now. Had to take an internet hiatus when home, travel, homeschooling (for a little bit), packing etc. all collided. It wasn't the thought of my family being distant relations of StCirq that scared me off

This place we're staying is just exactly what you dream about finding. Large enough to make a statement, but not shout it. Not palacial, but it has two moats, a stone bridge over them, roses, and many other flowers greeting you as you come up the gravel drive through the vineyard. Tall wooden gated at the end of the bridge that open to a courtyard with old stone walkways, lawn, vines, and more flowers. A lovely owner/hostess who greets you at the gate and shows you around your place even thought it's about 9:30 p.m. (because your car rental got all messed up and you ended up taking an expensive taxi ride out to the country).

After bring an Ethernet cord, we used Google Translate to communicate. She not only offered to call a cab when I was ready to get a car, she insisted on taking our stranded, foodless selves to the supermarket with her the next morning in the meantime. The roses on the table by the door are real and from her garden, as are the fresh tomatoes and parsley on a plate in the kitchen.

Now, as for what to do in the Gironde: as Madam was driving us to the market our first morning here, we noticed a few posters in a nearby village about a harvest fait. We went today, an had the time of our lives.

(Pardon my spelling errors please) The village is Sauve Majeur, where the remnants of a significant abbey stand. We got our rental car yesterday (FINALLY), and after hunting down a poster and staring at it a while, we still had no idea where to go or when or what to expect. After driving around a bit we pulled into the parking lot at the foot of the abbey and asked about the fait. Turns out it was going to take place there later that day, and she was one of the organizers (all of this was found out using charades and my pitiful French).

We missed the cutting of the grapes off in the Entre-deux-Mers fields, but hung out with the donkey that was giving little kids rides until two tractors filled with kids and grapes showed up. On of my daughters joined them and we walked up to the abbey for the ritual first pressing of the grapes.

Into a wooden barrel went boxes and boxes of grapes, which strong men covered with an array of wooden covers before affixing a long crank that several kids took turns pushing around and around. A large pan of juice was eventually produced and taken to a nearby table, where volunteers began pouring it in cups for everyone. Kids around the press started to play on the grassy hill at the foot of the abbey and wander around waiting for juice and a biscuit.

The juice is like nothing I've ever tasted. Very sweet and tangy, rich and light all at the same time. And slightly warm from the sun. Luscious.

I'd guess there were about 150 people there, and we were the only visitors present. I spoke to several people, all very kind, and learned that this was something they did to teach the children about their heritage, to keep those things alive. Before long a couple of musicians arrived with guitar and violin, and the little children (and some adults, too) danced and played music games. A fairly large open structure of timber and tile roof provided shade and was already set up for the evenings event of meal and wine tasting.

Tonight's events were something my daughters will never forget. We were recognized and greeted by the people we met that afternoon. We sat at long tables with a few hundred locals and ate the best sausage we'd ever had with beans, cheese, and fruit. A glass for wine and 5 tickets to fill it, one for each of the vineyards present, was 3 euros (that and our three meals came to 20 euros total) (no way I could use all those wine tickets!).

A large 'marching band' kind of band not only played but surrounded the center tables when they did, playing requests that had young and old singing and clapping along. One fellow told me this is a very popular way of celebrating, very 'south west'. A group of young people they met earlier that day joined my daughters nearby, and they spent over an hour laughing, talking and playing with locals their age.

Eventually names, email addresses and bisses were exchanged, and we went back home to 'our' chateau.

If you can manage to Forrest-Gump your way into it like we did, THIS is what you visiting the Gironde, in Entre-Deux-Mers.
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Sep 21st, 2013, 06:46 PM
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All sounds very familiar, and heart-warming, having had many such experiences in several parts of France. You're very lucky. I love those town/village/neighborhood get-togethers with copious food and wine and conviviality!
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