Fortunately, the cat didn’t get the Pain Au Raisin as we breakfasted on patisseries in readiness for a day of cloudless skies. Heading north, we joined the beautifully surf aced cyclepath that took us to Creon for a café stop in the market square. Flat riding to Sauve-Maljeure Abbey to climb the tower and admire the intricate carvings littering the columns. Our favourite was St John the Baptist, looking as fresh as it was carved hundreds of years ago. Picnic munched it was through the client lanes to rejoin the cycle path west of Creon which took us to Latresne and an afternoon tea stop. Back to the chateau through Saint-Caprais-de-Bordeaux.
Chateau owners don’t build their houses in valleys, they love the views so it was downhill from the start as we set off to explore the backroads of Bordeaux wine country. The high spired church at Tabernec came and went as we climbed and descended the hills strewn with neat rows of vines. The settlements were small and the cafes non-existent but we were rewarded with far reaching views passing through Capian, Villanave a Rions before taking a break at Omet where the tiny settlement had laid on a tap shade and 2 clean public toilets, how great was that? A lovely descent took us to Cadillac. Complete with chateau, café and shops it should have been heaving, but this is France. A 2 hour lunchbreak in summer means desertion when a single bar was left to fend for itself as we all piled in. The last 20km back to the chateau were similarly undulating leaving the adults to prep for the communal BBQ whilst the children headed for the pool.
Bordeaux was recently voted Europe’s fourth friendliest cycling town/city so it would have been churlish not to have gone there by bike. The undulations to Latresne quickly gave way to a dedicated cyclepath along the river that was only spoilt by drawing pins scattered about and a local cyclist taking the time to warn us but not before taking out two bikes. Bordeaux itself was a delight and indeed the infrastructure for bikes was great and so were the chocolate patisseries. The mirror pool is a favourite. Brilliantly simply on the hour a large concrete area is filled with a few mm of water and reflects all around. As we paddled about admiring the views you couldn’t resist taking a few group pictures. Along the southern bank of the river was the return route passing renovated warehouses and crossing the impressive transporter bridge to get there. We met at Latresne and I purchased huge apricot tarts for the evening strapped to the rack with an old plastic container and zip ties. Back at the chateau we enjoyed a sheep roast grilled on site flavoured with couscous and accompanied by salads prepared by everyone.
Wednesday was a rest day for most but a few of us ventured to St Emillion, a tourist trap if ever there was one. A beautiful place but the traffic and parking charges, very un French. Instead we cycled to Libourne for a child free lunch. Mmmm a chateau holiday for adults, there’s a thought.
It was flatter on the other side of the river Garonne so it was to here that we headed. Past chateaus and less vineyards, we quickly reached La Brede where the cafes and patisseries lay in wait the girls joyfully photobombed the boys. Chateau de La Brede is a moated castle, full of turrets and a moat full of carp partial to baguette. Simon brewed up whilst we picnicked and enjoyed the crayfish in the small drainage canal behind the chateau. Returning the way we came gave time for the pool and share a communal meal amongst the cloisters in the garden
Our last days cycling took us east to Targon where the church was opened up for us and Kate and Ben proved that piano lessons were worth it as they played the organ. Picking up the cyclepath again, we ticked of the eastern section with the obligatory lunch stop at Espiet followed by ice cream at Creon, both at former stations. A final climb took us back to the chateau for one last dip in the pool and a ‘left over night, communal meal, amazing what’s left in those cupboards.
So another year gone, a return to Germany which for many may be a final time and for James our eldest who has done these for 13 years, this was the final one, so thanks for coming.