I was planning on being in Saint-Émilion earlier but the trains don't run as frequently on Sundays so I decided to explore Bordeaux. I had a few hours to kill and initially thought I would just walk, but it was almost 33°C, which doesn't sound hot but it is, so I rented a bike from Le vélo VCub, one of those self rental places. This ended up being a huge hassle involving eventually going to the office of public transportation for help, but this is all part of travel, things don't always go to plan.
Eventually I got a bike.
And I had the cutest picnic lunch ever so things were looking up.
I didn't have a plan but it is hard to avoid La basilique Saint-Michel with its 114 meter tall bell tower.
After returning my bike, which was a very smooth process unlike the initial rental, I was in Saint-Émilion, and immediately impressed. I wasn't sure what to expect. I am only here because the wine is world renown. I had no idea that soon after getting dropped off by the tuk tuk (I decided to spend the 3 euro to be taken up the hill since it was so hot) I would be walking among thousand year old ruins, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, this is Europe.
Grandes Murailles (the Great Wall) is the only evidence remaining of a 12th century Dominican monastery.
The town is named after Aemilianus who moved here in the 8th century trying to escape his fame as a monk who performs miracles. But people followed him here, and the town grew, in population and in wealth.
I don't agree with ABC.
During lunch, I sat with an Australian couple who was on a tour. They had mentioned that their tour group companions frustratingly say ABC when they walk into a church 'Another Bloody Church' but do not understand it. Every church is distinct.
Built in 1110, Bordeaux’s Archbishop Delegates lived in La collégiale Saint-Émilion to make sure that Saint-Émilion had a thriving religious life.
The tourist office is connected to the cloister behind the church.
For 13 euro I booked the monolithic church tour with the tourist office. Unfortunately you cannot take pictures inside so the one below comes from the Saint-Émilion office of tourism (I definitely intended to break the rules and take a picture but the opportunity never presented itself).
The entire church was carved out of the ground (mono-one, lithic-stone) in the 12th century. The church made money during the process, selling the stone as they went.
It is so impressive.
This is the church behind me, part of the reasons that the supports inside the church are needed is because of the limestone bell tower which was erected on top. Another factor is because limestone is porous and erodes with water (cenotes are made from limestone rock).
I decided to do something so touristy, I took a tourist train, which is just a vehicle that looks like a choo choo train. For 8.5 euro it was a way to get into the vineyards, and a winery (without making an appointment since they are all reservation only).
Chateau Rochebelle is a 5th generation winery. We were told this is rare as many wineries here are now owned by foreign investors. It can be difficult to keep the wineries in the family as the inheritance tax is based on the value of the winery, increasing in tax the more successful the winery is, so many families are forced to sell.
Chateau Rochebelle is considered a Grand Cru Classé. The classification for wine here is different from Bourgogne, even though the 'grand cru' term is used. Starting with the highest regarded wine; Premier Cru Classé A, Premier Cru Classé B, Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru. Chateau Rochebelle was recently redesignated as Grand Cru Classé, which they were very excited about. The classifications are not only based on the quality of wine but also on the quality of the winery, the reputation on the market, regulations followed, efforts in promotion, the soil quality, and more. There are only four chateaux (out of 800) that hold the Premier Cru Classé A title. All of these wines are red wines. If a winery wants to make white wine (regardless if it is made in Saint-Émilion) they will have to be under the classification of 'Bordeaux wine' which is a lower quality wine.
The monolithic wine cellars keep a constant cool temperature, so there is less evaporation inside the barrels.
I took a tuk tuk here and I missed the last one going to the train station. After the train ride came to an end I asked the driver which direction the train station was (one of the few things in French I can actually say). I really didn't want to wait the two hours until the next train. After a little conversing, and doubt that I had time, he told me to get in and we were racing to the train station. There was something funny about pushing the limits of this fake train, with the yellow lights flashing the fake smoke stack.