Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rising to Saint-Émilion Vineyards and Gare Saint Jean Jaux

Lolly gagging as usual, we headed off to breakfast at 10:30 a.m. too late for a breakfast reservation and too early for lunch.  We walked town square and ended up at the Christmas Booths along the park.  We ate a lovely ham and onion sandwich on a baguette and it was wonderful and warm.  Followed by Chocolate Chaud (hot choc) and the Morgan had Vin Chaud (hot apple and orange in wine with spices).  Bellies full, we strolled the water line and found the mirror of the City.  It is a place on the park where the water is kept very shallow and reflects off the original brokerages of the town.  The town centers around the river which brings in cargo and takes out wine.  It is a very important part of their history.  After waiting for the food to digest and buying Morgan's friend a Christmas present, we head to the tourist bureau.  Most tours are controlled by the bureau.  There are a few exceptions, but very few.

We sit at the station waiting and looking to see who is going with us.  There are two groups: twenty English speaking (this includes others who do not speak French, but whose English is limited as well) and 10 French speaking.  This makes the tour interesting for on the bus, the guide gets to do it twice. She is obviously French and the English is not her favorite part. I can tell you from my limited French, she did not deliver the same information.  For example, she included the price of wines in some circumstances for the French, but not the English.  Curious.  Our arrival at the Chateau in Saint E'million was greeted by hectres and hectres of vines.  They are planted in very straight rows and range from fifty years old to three years.  They are very reminiscent of the corn fields of Indiana.  But also in a sad way, if you have seen a national veteran cemetery, from a distance it made me think of the ones I have seen.

Back to the vineyards.  The skies were blue and cooperative, but up in the hills, the winds are stronger and whoosh will make you cold all through.

The vines up close look like they are sleeping in the cold.

The young tour guide, who is an employee of the Chateau is a young Asian person with a British accent and fluent Chinese.  She was very professional and very scientific about her presentation.  My only comment was that with such a large group, it was very hard to hear her at times.  But she was most gracious about repeating.

Once inside the vat room, we learned how the grapes are washed and turned and then poured into the vats

The vats are emptied into barrels and the barrels are turned and refilled every two weeks.  It is a very precise set up.

The tasting was chaotic with people struggling to get glasses and then return for another.  It is definitely not a professional tasting.  More of a tourist gets a little extra for the buck kind of tasting.  The ceiling was lined with empty bottles that was very eclectic.

For me the fun part (aside from learning about Chateau life), is the mix on the bus.  There was one Asian guy who spoke little English but flashed peace signs and went into the Dame bathroom even when asked not to.  There was a very American white guy with a huge gut wearing a dirty sweatshirt and pants and a cast on one foot.  He was quite loud.  Then there was a group of French women in their sixties who brought lunch to eat with their wine.  And last was a group of eight or so American college kids from Northern Illinois.  One guy was from Texas and he asked, "where y'all from?"  Made my heart jump a little.  Morgan ended up talking with them as they had a lot more in common.

I am pretty sure that Morgan's favorite part was the purchasing of the macaroons (almond cookies that are full of chocolate) and eating them as she walked.  The ham sandwich had long faded for her.  The tour ended with us back at the station.  We caught the metro to Gare Saint Jean Jaques as we needed to have train reservations for the trip to Paris.  The trains were very full.  After leaving the metro, we ended up getting lost yet again (this would not happen if we had wi-fi), eating Thai food and coming back to pack.  Out the door at 7:30 a.m.  back to Paris, only one more day to be here.....

p.s. Someone commented on Morgan's hat (and the way she chooses to wear it).  Her Father told her she looks Swedish, I didn't think so.  She says it gives her street cred with the hostel crew.  She has other adorable hats, so for the record, this is her choice, her head and we will love her anyway!