A July 1989 trip
to Bordeaux by MichaelJM
Quote: This was a holiday to one of our favourite districts in France. Fine wine, good food, superb views and a dip into France's history.
The area abounds with fields of vines, there are some superb vistas and of course there are no shortage of chateaux for tasting! À votre santé!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 14, 2006
Attraction | "Chateau de Roquetaillade"
The gardens were great to explore and many a child was enjoying a mock battle with the backdrop of the fort as a reminder to their own reality. Whilst exploring the grounds we checked out the small "family chapel", St Michael’s, built on the estate back in the late 1300s and the 12th century dovecote, still fulfilling its original intention.
But the sumptuous interior is the real eye catcher in this building. We took advantage of the local guide who led us through the exciting and elaborate Le-Duc rooms. An impressive white stoned staircase was added and then the designer set about painting every millimetre of space on the wall with an extensive mural. The classy dining room with its geometric carpet and an extraordinarily dominant archway leading the eyes to a less than impressive fireplace and a mass of wood panelling offset by a light green background absolutely smothered in foliage and some delightful bird life. A simple chandelier hangs from a supreme regency striped ceiling.
The Rose bedroom stands out in my memory. Once again a dominant arch leads to a magnificently luxurious sleeping area with a raised bed protected by a suspended canopy. The ceiling’s geometric pattern is central to the room’s design and leads the eye to an unadorned white fireplace set in an overly ornate carved and brightly painted canopy. At the top of the canopy three art nouveau angels oversee the bed and the large attached lounge. No room was left alone and although the then owner ran out of cash Le-Duc still left the chateau looking great. His star room was intended to be the Great Hall but although still grand it’s incomplete. However, the chateau still has a small watercolour "artist’s impression" of how things would have been. What a nice bit of history!
There are "secret" passages to explore, hidden rooms and a multitude of incredibly sculptured fireplaces. Masterpieces in their own right. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the unique Chateau de Roquetaillade
Château de Roquetaillade
05 56 76 14 16
Bergerac is a greedy town and occupies both sides of the Dordogne, but in all honesty I would recommend that you spend your time in the northern sector. The town’s port is mainly used for pleasure trips and from here you can take a ride down the Dordogne on a replica of a traditional Dordogne vessel, where you’re sure to see a plethora of birds including kingfishers, cormorants and heron. This is basically a fairly laid back affair and on a glorious summer’s day it’s to be recommended.
There are a variety of museums in the town including the politically incorrect "musee du tabac" and the "Musee du vin". They both give fascinating insights into their chosen addiction and woven through the exhibits are some great stories and pictures of France’s history.
We "met" Cyrano de Bergerac in the Place de la Myrpe. This snooty statue epitomises the character by the writer Edmond Rostand and the thirty- year-old sculpture dominates the square is an unassuming manner. The stone and half-timbered cottages form a perfect backdrop to the static form, but of course these have been here for generations and they positively exude history. Talking of history Bergerac’s cloisters Are superb and in my view a must see. The galleried cloisters were built in the reign of Louis the XIII by a Franciscan order and it will of no surprise that within the design they ensured there was space for their "home produced wine". The vaulted cellars, on the south side of the cloisters are now an important venue for the committees that endorse the quality of wine. I guess the monks would be happy to know that the tradition continues!
Bergerac, a pleasant town to mooch around, has some really pretty and well-restored town squares many lined with shops and, of course, street cafés. We, by good fortune, had visited on a Wednesday—the day (alongside Saturday) of a huge market in the "halle" spilling over into the square next to the Notre Dame. We were virtually having to fight the crowds (a mix of locals and tourist) as we checked out the craft stalls and local produce. What a great atmosphere.
Notre Dame isn’t the most awe-inspiring cathedral that we’ve visited but there are two impressive oil paintings, depicting the shepherds and the wise men at the birth of Jesus, attributed to one of Leonardo de Vinci’s pupils. Just imagine having an apprentice with that talent!
Around the town, between the Church of St Jacques (great stained glass windows) and Notre Dame, there are some interesting 14th century town houses and more grand properties—an array of architecture and fascinating façades.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 14, 2006
Although the town has a high reputation for its wine it should also be known for its underground church. The Eglise Monolithe is the largest underground church in France and it must have involved blood, sweat and tears as centuries of workers bludgeoned their way into the hillside. Initially the hermit, St Emilion carved his home into the rock back in the 8th century and in this small compact "residence" he had running water (a natural spring), a Chair (hewn out of the rock), and a bed (identified as the crudely formed ledge). Trinity Chapel was built, by Benedictine monks, in the 13th century as a sanctuary to celebrate the life of St Emilion. It is still possible to see parts of the original fresco, including a scene allegedly of St Emilion stooped in prayer. Personally my imagination let me down at the point that the tour guide (you can only view the church with a local guide) explained this to us.
The church itself is just incredible and this huge place of worship has three aisles, hefty square pillars, impressive vaulting and intriguing carving of angels and monsters around the altar. Apparently it was covered in murals in its early days but over the generations the damp conditions have made it virtually indistinguishable. Whilst her you will be shown the catacombs where three chambers, moulded out of the limestone rock, were initially used as a cemetery but later as an ossuary.
Next to the belfry are St Emilion’s cloisters. I just love to wander the cloisters, enjoy the calmness and enjoy the sense of history that accompanies them. Somehow they never seem to loose their mystic and I enjoy the smell and the tactileness of the limestone environment. I can almost hear the chants of those 14th-century monks!
If you're wondering what happened to all the rock dug out for the church then look no further than some of St Emilion's ancient houses. Many of the dwellings are seriously chunky structures with thick walls (cool in Summer and warm in Winter) with higgledy-piggledy roofs giving them a sense of real character.
There are plenty of cellars to call in and sample the local wine and the town has some great restaurants serving up local delicacies. You don't have to pay high prices to eat well in St Emilion. Just feel the atmosphere!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 16, 2006
Attraction | "Lascaux Caves"
So proud were the locals that they very quickly opened up their discovery to visitors who came in the thousands to view this primitive art gallery. Unfortunately this sounded the death knell of Lascaux, and visitors’ presence caused serious deterioration of the paintings, some of it irreversible. Finally in the early 60s the caves management committee decided to close this great cavern of masterpieces and open a replica for the public. Lascaux 2 was finally finshed 2 decades later, and now "modern hand-painted" copies attempt to give us a flavour of the splendid painstaking work of our primitive forefathers.
I’m sure that this must have been a labour of love, as it took 20 artists over 10 years to complete the cave paintings using the same resources that would have been available for the original work. The major difference, however, is that modern man had the advantages of electric lighting, whereas the original artists would have laboured under the poor flickering light of burning animal fat or a wood fire. Although this is a copy cave it is possible to get a good sense of the original, as the dimensions are "spot on." In the Hall of Bulls there are fine examples of a breed of extinct cattle painted on the ceiling, whilst in the painted gallery we saw deer, bison, and strangely shaped horses. Try to forget that this is a modern copy and just enjoy the artistry and appreciate of the skill that must have originally been involved and was no less a factor in the replica paintings. The Vezere valley is littered with prehistory and it only takes little imagination to see the caves, carved into the valley side, as bijoux residences of prehistoric man! Indeed towards Bugue there’s a small cave set up with characters from that early age with a good explanation in English about Neanderthal man’s presence in the valley.We visited the Grotte de Rouffignac, and although we enjoyed the experience (we clambered on board the tint train that took us along an ancient dried-up river bed to the cave’s entrance) the tour is only in French. We are not that fluent so missed a fair bit, but still managed to comprehend something about wild bears using the cave to sharpen their claws, and the fact that a 19th-century hermit etched religious graffiti on the cave’s surface (at least that’s what I think the guide said). Purchased post cards to help spot bison, ibox, wool rhinoceros, and giant mammoths.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 17, 2006
2 Km South of Montignac