What a beautiful place! This morning we went on a 20 kilometer ride through the wine country of St. Emilion. (The tourist office in St. Emilion has maps with recommended cycle routes in the area. You can find them Here) There were miles, after miles, after miles of grape vines. We are very lucky to be here right now. The small country roads, hardly wider than a bike path, are busy with work trucks hauling grapes to be processed. The fields are busy with harvesting equipment and in some fields, workers picking the grapes by hand. The air is fragrant with the smell of ripe grapes. At noon, all of the work stops abruptly and people race in their cars home for lunch or settle in a shaded spot in the vineyard to enjoy a picnic lunch.
One surprise along the route was the Grottes de Ferrand located on the grounds of the Chateau Ferrand just three kilometers south of Saint Emilion. It was the absolute highlight of the day. The itinerary for this trip is available from the tourist office or downloadable here) I was very curious about the history of this most unusual place and found a very informative review by travel photographer April Anderson on Trip Advisor about it here.
In the morning, as we were about to go riding, we struck up a conversation with a middle aged woman from Minneapolis who now lives on the French Mediterranean and works as a cycle guide out of St. Emilion for a few months a year. (Nice life!) She recommended the tour of the 15th century monolithic church which is a designated UNESCO site. A monolithic church, as I learned, is carved out of one stone rather than being built up out of stones. It is a cheaper and faster way to build, according to our guide. The stones removed when building the church were then sold as building material. It was this stone quarry rather than the wine industry that made St. Emilion a wealthy town in the 15th century.
We were not allowed to take pictures within the church as it is privately owned. Check it out on Wikipedia if you are interested. The photo above is an exterior view of the church taken at street level from the main square of St. Emilion. The windows you can see here are actually three or four stories high from the floor of the church though they appear at street level.
Another wonderful day!
Here are some other shots from along our route today.