Cave bears and Bordeaux

Early July we caught a flight down to Bordeaux to have some good times among the vines with Jase’s parents.

A guesthouse in a vineyard

We stayed in a rural area a couple of hours east of Bordeaux near the Dordogne Valley. The Dordogne Valley is well known for prehistoric cave paintings, regal chateaus, and wine (this is France, of course!). Our accommodation was an old farmhouse on a small family run vineyard.

Our view across the vines in the evening.
Our view across the vines in the evening.

Every morning we woke up early and walked through the grapes to the local boulangerie where we picked up a fresh baguette and croissants for breakfast. Delicious!

The home of wine

Bordeaux is of course very famous for its wine. We visited Saint-Émilion, a scenic town in the middle of one of the wine areas.

While in Saint-Émilion ,we hopped aboard a small train to tour around the area. We stopped off at one of the vineyards where we tasted a grand total of one glass of wine and were shown the underground cellars where they age their wine.

The train we caught around the vineyards.
The train we caught around the vineyards.
The bottles of wine stored in the caves.
The bottles of wine stored in the caves.
The view from Saint-Émilion.
The view from Saint-Émilion.

We were a little disappointed with the vineyards around Bordeaux. We had expected that we’d be able to do as we do in New Zealand and hire a bike and cycle between the vineyards while sampling multiple wines. However, the cost of hiring a bike was excessively expensive, and vineyard visitation was almost always by reservation only. This was a bit of a letdown.

Being foodies, before leaving Saint-Émilion, we of course needed to try the local sweet treat: the canelé. It was firmer than we were expecting, despite appearing like a wobbly jelly. It also had an unusual flavour. From looks alone, it appeared as if the dessert might have a solid cake-like flavour, however the rum—and what tasted like almond—component was quite noticeable!

Kimmie with a canelé in Saint-Émilion.
Kimmie with a canelé in Saint-Émilion.

Prehistoric cave paintings

One morning, Jase’s parents drove us to Grotte de Rouffignac: a huge fascinating cave with a lot of history.

Originally, the cave was used by cave bears, and you could see huge scratch marks on the walls from their claws. The bears hibernated in the cave, and you could also see huge rounded nests in the ground where they slept. Fortunately, the bears vacated the cave thousands of years before humans discovered it.

There were many impressive cave paintings and carvings in the cave, which we were shown while travelling along on a small train. In prehistoric times, humans crawled over a kilometer into the cave to draw pictures on the ceiling. It was amazing to think that they ventured so far into the pitch black cave system to create their artwork. Their paintings were very elaborate with lots of detailed drawings of woolly mammoths, horses, and goats among other things.

If you get a chance to visit this cave, it is well worth the effort to get there! We visited another cave in the centre of Domme that was full of stalactites and stalagmites, but it was in poorer condition, having been tainted by humans, and therefore wasn’t as impressive.

The entrance to the cave. No photography was allowed inside.
The entrance to the cave. No photography was allowed inside.

Fortifications of the Dordogne

During our stay we visited a number of historic settlements around the Dordogne Valley. The valley was very peaceful, dotted with picturesque villages and huge chateaus rising up among the trees. It was very hot when we visited and climbing up the steep often-cobblestone pathways was hard work!

The Dordogne River.
The Dordogne River.
Below Beynac castle.
Below Beynac castle.
The view from Château de Beynac.
The view from Château de Beynac.

We also manged to visit La Roque St. Christophe, which was an amazing town built into the side of a cliff. Sadly it was invaded and torn down a few centuries ago to prevent people from using it. It would have been fascinating if the structures were still visible.

The remains of La Roque St. Christophe.
The remains of La Roque St. Christophe.
How the people in La Roque St. Christophe lived.
How the people in La Roque St. Christophe lived.

While we were in the area we stopped off at a delicious creperie where we have some marvelous savoury crepes for lunch.

A savoury cheese and beef crepe.
A savoury cheese and beef crepe.

Taking home a souvenir

We indulged in a lot of wine, bread, cheese, and butter while in Bordeaux. When it was time to go home we still had lots of cheese left over. Instead of wasting it we decided to take it home with us to London! Jase took a bag full of stinky French camembert in his carry on luggage. When we arrived home it absolutely stank out our fridge until Jase ate it all: he had a week to do so before our new flatmate arrived!

We enjoyed our holiday in France. It was relaxing and sunny. Next time we would try and fit in some outdoor activities such as hiking or kayaking to balance out all that butter and cheese!

Jase and Kimmie