Summer Travels 2022 - Chapter 8 - My Birthday in Bordeaux

When we were originally planning a stop between Barcelona & Brittany, we were thinking of Pamplona (we had a great time there last time), or maybe as far as Saint-Goustan, where I thought it would be cool for the kids to see the Benjamin Franklin Wharf. This is where he landed in 1776 to ask France for help with the War of Independence - the kids are descendants of the Franklin family. However, Hubby had been there before, and he suggested we look for a vineyard to stay at in Bordeaux. He and our son are both really into wines. It might have been one of the best ideas he's ever had - it was brilliant!

The courtyard at Chateau de la Rivière

It was a scenic 8 hour drive back via the Pyrenees, and we arrived at the Chateau de la Rivière in Fronsac late afternoon. This is a working vineyard with just 4 bed & breakfast rooms, and it feels special from the moment you first discover the massive iron gates amongst the grape vines at the road. This is a classic, fairy-tale chateau dating to 1260, overlooking the vineyards, countryside, and the Dordogne River.

We had the keys to the chateau!!

We had a massive suite of gorgeous adjoining rooms (the Charlemagne Suite) for our first 2 nights, and on our 3rd night we moved to 2 other rooms (Violette-le-Duc & Alienor), so we got to experience almost every guest room in the chateau. Nathalie runs the the bed & breakfast, and was a great source of helpful information regarding recommending local restaurants, activities, booking us on the included cave tour/tasting, and served a beautiful breakfast on the balcony overlooking the courtyard every morning. We also had access to a small guest tea room with beverages and a refrigerator. Our rooms were perfectly clean, air-conditioned, and came with a complimentary half-bottle of the chateau's wine!

Entering the courtyard of the chateau...those views are amazing!

One of the best parts about this stay is that while there are wine tours during the day, the chateau is otherwise closed to the public, so in the mornings and evenings, we had the entire property to ourselves! It was so beautiful that I'm getting a bit emotional just remembering the feeling. Of course, there were actually another family or 2 staying at least 2 of the nights we stayed, but we only ran into them a couple of times...once at breakfast, and one of the afternoons by the pool for a little while. 

We had one of the best dinners of our trip down the road in Liborne, where Nathalie had recommended Le Bistrot Maritime, an excellent brasserie (in what looks likes it might have been a shipping container), right on the banks of the river! Scott & Julien shared the foie gras, I had a generous summer salad, and I remember Julien declaring the burger was the best he'd ever had. I'm sure there was dessert (I never skip dessert in France!) before we headed back to the chateau to wander the grounds as the sun set.  

Sunset from the chateau overlooking the vineyard

Beautiful sunsets every night!

The courtyard to ourselves to end the day

My 49th birthday started with that ridiculously lovely breakfast on the terrace with a view that had us feeling like royalty. Seriously, how amazing is it to wake up in a medieval castle on your birthday? We booked a wine tasting at a small, family owned vineyard Château Bernateau that we heard was really good, and it didn't disappoint. This organic vineyard has been in the same family for 11 generations!  We got a short tour of their process, the story of their family history and their vines, and then sat outside at a table under a tree and tried 3 of their wines. It was a really nice experience. No pressure to buy, just really relaxed. 

The view from our breakfast table

Sitting down to a lovely French breakfast

Wine tasting

We drove through the vines towards the absolutely scenic Saint-Émilion, to explore the area and get lunch at Le Comptoir des Arts. This UNESCO world heritage site is a medieval city with a 12th century monolithic (carved from a single stone) church - the largest in Europe. It was a beautiful day and I loved the architecture. I would go back in a heartbeat and spend more time there. Let me rephrase that. I WILL go back and spend more time there. Lunch on a terrace shaded by wisteria vines was perfect, and the tarte au citron there was amazing.


Architecture in Saint-Émilion

Tarte au citron? Oui svp!

Our table at Le Comptoir des Arts. We were the last ones to clear out after a leisurely lunch.

After lunch walk to admire more medieval architecture

The afternoon ended with a glorious family swim in the pool and some lounging, before getting dressed for dinner back to Liborne on the banks of the river. This time we went to the more casual La Ginguette, again eating outdoors, in a space that felt like it was a big party in someone's backyard. We ran into the other family staying at the chateau there too! Scott surprised me by having the server bring my dessert with a flaming sparkler for my birthday. We made it back to the chateau in time to watch the sun set (it sets pretty late there in the Summer) and to feel overwhelmingly grateful for all of it. 

We bought a pool floatie mattress early on our trip to use

The view from our table looking across the river

Cheers to turning 49 in France!

So lucky to spend family time with these two!

After breakfast the next morning we donned jackets and joined one of the underground cave tours (it's chilly underground) and tastings hosted by the Chateau. The Chateau has miles and miles of caves dug into the limestone under the vineyards and it was a really interesting tour. I've read books that tell stories of the French resistance during WWII using caves like these to hide people, munitions, and special vintages of wines, which I found fascinating. The tour ended with a jovial tasting - there were maybe 14 of us around the table. 

Waiting for Pauline to begin the cave tour

Miles of tunnels under the vineyard - so cool!

Charlotte and I opted to spend the afternoon relaxing at the pool while the boys went on a vineyard tour to Couvent des Jacobins. They said it was a great tour that included a tuktuk ride through the vines, and I think these were their favorites wines we'd tasted so far. 

It was a beautiful afternoon at the pool!

Who doesn't love a vineyard tour in a tuktuk?!

Dinner was a cold picnic of foods we had in the refrigerator on the grounds of the chateau and we watched the sunset again, which was magical. 

Spot for our picnic dinner and enjoying a glass of wine

Sunset over the vines

There's an art installation on the grounds

These life experiences are what it's all about. This is my why.

This was another fantastic stop on our Friendship tour, and after our last beautiful breakfast we bid farewell to Nathalie. I know we all loved it here, and surprisingly I wasn't at all disappointed that we didn't show the kids the city of Bordeaux. I remember I whispered to Scott that I would love to stay again and wouldn't it be magical to see one of our kids get married here one day? I guess I had weddings on my mind as it was finally time to head to Brittany, to attend Antonin & Capucine's wedding!