|Caneles de Bordeaux at Restaurant Le Saint-James
These, my friends, are caneles and they became my addiction in Bordeaux.
Well, when you start quaffing wines at 11am each day, you need a little something to keep you on the straight and narrow. So these little gooey, vanilla-y, custardy cake things became a daily necessity.
|Vineyards outside Saint Emilion
I was surprised by how beautiful Bordeaux is - since the grand classical and neoclassical facades were polished up to a gleaming white, it has the beguiling beauty of Paris with lots of great shopping and restaurants to boot.
However, we stayed near Saint Emilion - which is a stunning little village full of wine shops, cafes and a maze of stone buildings nestled among the golden vines of the Bordeaux grapes. I highly recommend it as your base.
Our fabulous new B&B, Carre Vigne, in Saint-Hippolyte (just a few minutes drive from Saint Emilion - www.carrevigne.com) was a spacious and stylish home away from home, established as a separate quarters at the back of the welcoming house of the gorgeous Emmanuelle and Bruno.
|Our gorgeous room at Carre Vigne
Emmanuelle is the greatest host. Such a warm and welcoming person, she takes a genuine interest in your travels and, partly owing to her job with the local tourist office, can offer fabulous restaurant tips - we loved all of them. Bruno works at the local Maison du Vin in Saint Emilion, so you need look no further for winery tips either.
Emmanuelle delivers a fresh continental breakfast to your room each morning (or take it on your own little private decking overlooking the vines in summer). The room is smartly furnished, with all the comforts you could want, including comfy beds, crisp linens, flat screen TV, free WiFi, coffee machine and a lovely modern bathroom with a large shower and big shower head.
|Fine dining at Restaurant Le Saint-James - the lamb
|I love the canale shaped sugar cubes
For something more casual and rustic in St Emilion itself, we had a ball at L'Envers Du Decor, a terrific little wine bar, where you can sample lots of local wines by the glass or the bottle at very reasonable prices, while feasting on some excellent plates of lamb or steak.
Steak at L'Envers Du Decor
Definitely venture into Bordeaux for some of the most gorgeous chocolate shops and delis I've ever seen, some great shopping, and loads of good restaurants.
|2 of my favourite things combined - chocolate shoes
A chocolate an macaron palate
|Bordeaux is filled with lots of great cafes and restaurants
We also loved the wine tasting at Max Bordeaux in Bordeaux, where you can pay $20 or more for a tasting card which you slot into dispensing machines to sample wines from all parts of the region including tastes of some of the most expensive grand crus.
|Tasting at Max ___
For $10, we were taken on an excellent tour of Chateau Figeac just outside St Emilon, and given a taste of the 2006 Grand Cru at the end.
|In the cellar
For exquisite food (albeit in modest surrounds), Auberge Saint Jean is surely on its way to a Michelin Star. Sit overlooking the river in Blaignac, a short drive from Saint Emilion, and enjoy 3 creative courses for 38 euro or the 5 course degustation for 48 euros. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera but check out the website for some great food snaps. Very nice (if slightly less memorable) fare can also be had at Le Clos de Roy, near Saint-Emilion.
|Chicken at Le Clos de Roy, near Saint Emilion
|Duck with cherries at Le Clos de Roy, near St Emilion
As a day trip, I also recommend a drive to the pretty Sauternes region where you can taste the good stuff in all its sticky, golden glory. The Cognac and Armagnac regions are also nearby.
It may have taken me a while to blog about it, but our stay at Carre Vigne and the Bordeaux region would have to be one of the best parts of our trip. The area is stunning, the wine is tremendous and the food was some of the best of our travels. If you live in London, or find yourself heading to France, do all you can to pay this area a visit. Since I'm now in Australia, I'll have to make do with my holiday snaps for the time being...
Where to stay: