Suddenly the sun-fired flatlands of Pomerol break into hills and send you tumbling into St-Émilion. This jewel of a town has old buildings of golden stone, ruined town walls, well-kept ramparts offering magical views, and a church hewn into a cliff. Sloping vineyards invade from all sides, and thousands of tourists invade down the middle, many thirsting for the red wine and macarons that bear the town's name. The medieval streets, delightfully cobbled (though often very steep), are filled with craft shops, bakeries, cafés, restaurants, and—of course—wine stores (St-Émilion reaches maturity earlier than other Bordeaux reds and is often better value for the money than Médoc or Graves). For the best export prices try Ets Martin (25 rue Guadet www.martinvins.com), or climb the stairs to the cremant (sparkling wine) specialist and its bar a bulles (bubbles bar) Les Cordaliers (www.lescordeliers.com), where you can buy a glass or bottle of Bordeaux’s bubbly to sip in a lovely courtyard beneath 13th-century cloister ruins. Note that the town's Office de Tourisme organizes tours of the pretty local vineyards, as well as assorted wine-theme classes and workshops. It also rents bikes (€15 per day) if you’d prefer to explore the surrounding area independently.
Looking back on eight decades on making travel history.More