2708.jpgLast Thursday, Michelle and I left the kids at home with my parents and went down to Cap Ferret for a night away.  My folks had been down there with some friends and loved the place.  They’d also eaten at a lovely restaurant in what looked like a very nice hotel, so they suggested that we try it.  Cap Ferret’s about 60km to the south west of Bordeaux, right at the end of the thin spit of land across the bay (or ‘Bassin’) from Arcachon.  It’s become quite trendy over the last decade or so, to the point that property prices are now astronomical.  It’s to Bordeaux what somewhere like Whitstable is to London, I guess.

We got down there at about noon so had a walk and lunch at a lovely little bistro, Le Central, before checking into our hotel, La Maison du Bassin.  It was as fantastic as my parents had described.  Very cool, very laid back and very comfortable.  We had a splendid room with a gorgeous terrace.  The weather wasn’t great so we decided on having a very lazy afternoon of reading, dozing and drinking a rather lovely bottle of red that we has smuggled into the hotel!  It was the ’99 Chateau Cap de Mourlin – A St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe – that had been gifted to us by a couple who had been staying in one of our gites a week or two ago.  It was absolutely fantastic…rich, buttery, fruity, utterly delicious.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and decided, given the location of Cap Ferret, to go completely seafood.  After a fish soup, I had local oysters while Michelle had tuna and we both followed these withpan-fired turbot.  The food was wonderful, and I chose a bottle of white Abeille de Fieuzal 2003, the second wine of Chateau de Fieuzal in the Pessac-Leognan, to go with it.  Really nice – subtle, a little oaked – but a great partner to the fish.  The wine list, though small, was very impressive.  In fact, it featured a vintage from all five Bordeaux first growths.  Neither of us could manage pudding.  In fact, we needed a walk along the beach to aid digestion…

The next morning dawned bright enough, but by breakfast it was hammering down.  Rather than stay in a damp Cap Ferret, we thought we’d take a chance on the weather inland being better and decided to drive across to the other side of Bordeaux and have lunch in St. Emilion, as neither of us had been there before. 

As you near the town, you start to see beautiful chateaux dotted across the hillside and, I have to say, I got quite excited!  Some roadworks caused us to take a longer route into the town, which allowed us to pass a number of well-known chateaux, including Pavie and La Gaffeliere.  I also spotted Ausone in ts unique position on the limestone steps to the south of the town.

Given it was outside the summer season, the town itself was quiet and we parked centrally and wandered down its steep, cobbled streets packed with wine shops with extremely tempting (though premuim-priced) displays.  It’s a beautiful, charming town and well worth a visit (though I can imagine it gets absolutely packed in the summer).  We got chatting to the owner of a local wine shop who – amongst other things – asked us if we knew where we were going for lunch.  A bit of local knowledge later we were wandering through a couple of tiny backstreets to a restaurant called L’Huitrier-Pie where we enjoyed a lovely lunch and half a bottle of Chateau Montlabert ’01 – A St. Emilion (obviously) Grand Cru.

We took a nice stroll around the town and I resolved that the new destination for the London to France cycle ride next year will be St. Emilion rather than Bordeaux…a much more fitting end to the adventure.  Plus, we came across the amazing-looking Hostellerie-de-Plaisance, which I think might be the ideal place to recover!

We left St. Emilion and headed north east towards home, passing through Pomerol on the way.  I don’t think it will be long before we return…

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