The morning we left home was only the second misty dawn with rain drops hanging on spiders’ webs draped on the bushes we had had in September. The incoming ferry was late arriving and watching all the arriving vehicles drive off, we noticed that there must have been a classic car event somewhere as several old cars appeared, even three 1930’s Rolls Royces similar to the one my father used to have. After a night on the boat we disembarked to endure lengthy security checks just before the sun rose in Caen.
The rest of the journey was easy but we did see long queues of lorries heading north on the N10 south of Angoulême. Foreign HGV drivers have been blocking roads as a protest against the high tolls on the autoroute. Drivers do not pay road tax for their vehicles in France so the tolls are the way money is raised to maintain the network. We arrived in time for a walk by the river near the local château where some sunflowers were still in flower. Many more are drying before harvesting. Persimmons and kiwi fruits are harvested after the first frost.
The village our friends live in is on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, one of the routes in France that converge at St Jean Pied de Port before the path continues on through Spain. There was a crucifix and a scallop shell (worn by pilgrims and a way marker for the trail) on one of the buildings.
Over the next few days we visited markets in Branne and Libourne where these lobsters awaited their fate in the fish market.
Libourne is attempting to control the urban pigeon population by building a dovecot on the riverside and when the pigeons nest there, the eggs are replaced with ceramic ones. The waterfront here is under renovation, due for completion in 2025. Inevitably visit to vineyards and wine buying took place at Château la Sablière and a local wine co-operative and an art and craft exhibition in St Émilion.
We visited Bordeaux in the evening for a dinner cruise along the Garonne. The meal was very enjoyable although it was the first time I have had avocado as a dessert.
Tomato plants were being grown in tubs along the waterfront and I assumed this was free food. A couple of days later while doing some shopping, these were being removed. Other walks were around Lac de la Cadie which is also used for watersports and fishing and around the 100 Years War battlefield and Talbot memorial in Castillon la Bataille. Summer re-enactments are held in July and August involving large numbers of people and horses.
The local grape harvest was underway. Much of it is mechanised but grapes for the better wines are still hand-picked. Château d’Yquem grapes are picked and examined six times before being declared suitable. All too soon it was time to leave on a wet, misty morning with the trees colouring for autumn. Again we were fortunately driving in the opposite direction to the heavy traffic and we did not have too many delays at the port before we were back on the ferry and on our way home. It was still misty when we got to Portsmouth but today we have some warm autumn sun at home to enjoy the colours and catch up on garden jobs.
Our friends had morning and evening commitments today. They dropped us off this morning at Saint-Macaire, a lovely medieval town. We spent over an hour pottering around the streets and lanes, visiting the church ‘Saint Sauveur’ and the adjacent remains of a former Benedictine abbey.
We found a cafe to top up our caffeine levels and a gallery with a small photographic exhibition.
We then walked to the Porte du Thuron and then back round to the market to meet up again.
After lunch we visited the Château de la Brède. The current building was constructed on the site of an earlier wooden structure and there have been various renovations over the centuries. Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, a writer and philosopher was born there in 1689. He lived there regularly all his life, although he also travelled, and wrote many of his books, including The Spirit of the Laws there. His descendants owned the chateau until 2004 when the last member died. It is now owned by a trust. Our guide told us that the family had had some financial problems and sold the library; other sources say it was donated to a library in Bordeaux. No photographs were allowed inside so the only ones I have are outdoors.
In the surrounding fields there was a herd of grey cattle and which breed they are remains a mystery.
On the way back, we stopped for a brief look in a secondhand bookshop in Beautiran. I could have spent all afternoon ferreting about in there. He also has postcards, prints and some music including vinyl.
The next essential purchase on the return journey to the house was some wine at Chateau Mellin.
We have not been there for 10 years: the last time was enroute from the Limousin to Lacanau Ocean on the coast. This time we had arranged to meet some friends at St Emilion. They had got delayed a little but after a welcome coffee (my caffeine levels were dropping) we wandered around the town before a very good lunch at which James tried the Duck Burger. I settled for the more traditional Magret de Canard. We then drove down to the Gironde before tasting and buying wine at Chateau La Sablière. The proprietor explained that there had not been enough sun this summer and that the grapes were still too acidic and not ready for picking. We saw several of the huge mechanical grape harvesters.
After a cup of tea and guided tour of their new home we had to head back to Arcachon for a light supper.