jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 36 [6 Mar 09] – Bordeaux

Posted in Bordeaux by jn82 on March 7, 2009

The day started out with a not very interesting guided walking tour of the city. Yes Bordeaux is a beautiful city with very historical stone buildings, but it just did not seem interesting as the other cities we have visited so far. Perhaps it is because most of the buildings were either destroyed or pulled down during the French revolution.

Token cathedral nave (Notre Dame).

Marche Des Grands Hommes, site of an old market, now retail building.

Anyway, the highlight of the day was in the afternoon, when we went to Château Lynch-Bages, a winery in the Pauillac appellation of Bordeaux. No trip to Bordeaux can be complete or even considered a trip to Bordeaux without an excursion to one of the world’s most famous wine growing regions. Many would say that the small appellation of Pauillac is home to the best (and most expensive) wines in the world, as it boasts of the most famous châteaus such as Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Mouton Rothschild. After a one and a half hour bus ride which cost 9.40€ each way, we arrived at Château Lynch-Bages. Though this château was only rated in the Cinquièmes Crus (fifth level) of the 1855 Grands Crus Classés, it is considered by many in the industry to produce Troisièmes Crus (second level) Grands Crus Classés wine in recent times.

Outside Château Lynch-Bages.

Our guide was a very knowledgable young man which brought us around Château Lynch-Bages’ wine production areas, and we were told and saw how wine was harvested, fermented and aged at Château Lynch-Bages. Very interesting tour indeed, and unlike many of the Australian wineries that I have visited previously which only provided wine tasting and nothing more.

Steel fermentation vats.

Oak barrels where the aging occurs.

At the end of the tour, we were given three wines to taste. The first was from the second (and lower) label of the winery, Chateau Haut-Bages Averous. The second was from wine from a different area of Bordeaux Saint-Estèphe (but owned by the same owner of Château Lynch-Bages), Chateau Les Ormes de Pez. The third, and flagship wine of the chateau, holder of the 1855 Cinquièmes Crus Grands Crus Classés, was Château Lynch-Bages, named after the winery. All three were fantastic wines with different characters which we enjoyed very much.

Wines.


On the way back on the bus, we met a Chinese girl from Shanghai who had studied wine making at the Masters level at the University of Bordeaux, and was now working in Asian marketing for a 1855 Cinquièmes Crus Grands Crus Classés winery in Médoc. How interesting!

Link to all of today’s pictures here.

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Day 35 [5 Mar 09] – Bordeaux

Posted in Bordeaux by jn82 on March 5, 2009

Took a two hour TGV ride to Bordeaux from Toulouse this morning which was pretty uneventful. This time we were in a “Club 4” seat which is two people facing another two people with a large table area in-between. This is ideal for four people traveling together, but not two as you have to face one other person for the whole journey, whether it be your travel mate or a stranger. Also, the leg room in this seating configuration is much less than a normal first class train seat.

Upon reaching Bordeaux, we realised it was totally different from Toulouse. Even after accounting for the fact that we were staying in a very dodgy area in Toulouse, the people (and places) in Bordeaux seemed to be much classier and refined than those in Toulouse. Everything was much cleaner! All the people in the streets seemed to be very well dressed in their branded clothes and pointed shoes, walking around without a care in the world, unlike in Toulouse when we were wondering when we would get mugged.

At the Bordeaux tourist information office, we signed ourselves up for a walking tour of the old city tomorrow morning, and for a wine and cheese tasting class later in the evening today. Pity that we would not be around here on Saturday as that was the next scheduled tour to Médoc and St. Emilion, two of the best well known Bordeaux wine growing areas. There was not that much in terms of sightseeing within the city itself which interested us as they were mostly art museums, so we just went to a cathedral and a tower beside it this afternoon prior to the wine and cheese thing.

The first stop was to Cathédrale Saint-André, a UNESCO world heritage site. Most of the cathedral was built in the 13th-14th century, with certain parts built as early as the 10th century.

Outside of Cathédrale Saint-André.

Inside Cathédrale Saint-André.


Following this, we headed next door to Tour Pey-Berland, originally intended to be built as a bell tower for the Cathédrale Saint-André to protect the building from the vibrations of the bells. Not super interesting, but the view of Bordeaux after walking some 283 steps up a very narrow spiral staircase is pretty good.

Tour Pey-Berland.

View.


And of course, it won’t be France without some protest in the streets or a strike, in this case a protest about hospital funding or something.

After the tower, we went for our wine and cheese tasting! Pretty interesting as we were given information abount the Bordeaux wine growing regions as well as the grape varieties used. One interesting fact is that it is illegal to use any forms of artifical irregation techniques for the grape vines in the Bordeaux region, and the grape vines only source of water is naturally from underground water sources. After testing two wines, we were given some cured meats to eat, as well as given the chance to go and pick as much cheese as we want from an underground cheese cellar with what I estimate to be close to 70 varieties of cheese. It was pretty weird being in a small room with nothing but cheese and the power to go and cut and eat as much as you wanted from the various blocks of cheese. Now cheese does not really excite me, but I know Mom and Gail would have loved this opportunity, so I picked and tried many on their behalf.

The source of cheese.

The bluest and smelliest of them all.


My self-serve cheese platter.

My cheese plate and glass of Château Plantier Rose Cru Bourgeois Saint-Estephe from the Médoc region of Bordeaux.


By about two-thirds way through I was feeling pretty sick, but I trudged on to finish the cheese. This was really a cheese overkill experience, so much so that I did not have dinner tonight because of the cheese, nor am I having any form of cheese for at least a month. This was not the usual situation where I tried to get my money’s worth, but I was genuinely interested to try the many various cheeses, since when in Rome…

Picture of the day:

Super intellectual profession…wonder what that is to the French? Definately nothing to do with banking.


Link to all of today’s pictures here.