Excursions from Bordeaux
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
There is freedom in having an entire month in one location; freedom to move at a slower pace and consider exploring nearby towns and cities. Enjoying this relaxed mindset, we took advantage of the opportunity to venture beyond Bordeaux.
Arcachon, just a short train ride to the west of Bordeaux, is a sweet town on the Atlantic Ocean with a quintessential seaside vibe. The streets and beachfront are lined with restaurants and plenty of seating that spills outdoors to take advantage of the sunshine.
A clothing and food market was set up in a plaza the Tuesday morning we arrived by train. There were booths selling plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as local cheeses and meats and crazy cute dresses. After touring the town and market, we decided catching a ferry across the bay to Cap Ferret was in order.
The tallest sand dune in Europe, the Dune of Pilat, is located in the Arcachon Bay Area, and even though we didn't make a special trip to the Dune of Pilat, we could still see it from the ferry. After disembarking the ferry at Cap Ferret, it was time to locate the bike shop. Having already done a little research on where to rent bikes, we used a map app to easily find the shop's location, rent a couple of e-bikes, and start exploring the area.
One of the great things about Cap Ferret is it offers several car-free trails for bicyclists that empty out into small villages along the bay, what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
While stopped on one of the trails, trying to make heads or tails of our paper map from the bike shop, we met a local cyclist who suggested we check out the Village Ostreicole de l'Herbe for lunch. We rode our bikes into Village Ostreicole de l'Herbe straight away and found the ideal spot to enjoy oysters and a view of the bay. The view included the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, boats anchored in the bay, and several places where sticks protruded out of the water indicating that oysters, little oysters, were tucked in beds there.
In the mood to celebrate our good fortunate of having found the perfect spot for lunch, I ordered champagne, except, not having read the menu correctly, I managed to order a jar of terrine de campagne. Terrine de campagne is French for country pate. C'est la vie!
St. Emilion, France
While in Bordeaux, of course we had to check out some of the top vineyards, thus our trips to St. Emilion. We went to this sweet town twice; the first time we caught a train from the Bordeaux train station; it's a quick forty minute ride. Even though we couldn't see the town itself when the train came to a stop for St. Emilion, we just followed other folks up a little road into town. It's a quick walk from the station.
St. Emilion was great to explore; we strolled around and up and down (it's a bit hilly), looking at shops and enjoying the architecture, then we found a funky spot to stop for some fresh cantaloupe, prosciutto and wine from the region.
For our second trip, we booked an e-bike tour through the Rustic Vines tour company and loved every minute of that tour. We started at the Rustic Vines shop in Bordeaux and rode to St. Emillion in a minivan. Then, after getting fitted for our bikes and donning helmets, we biked to different wineries for tours, snacks and copious samples of wine. The wineries are not always the same for each tour, but Chateau La Croizille and Chateau Cabet-Bon were two of the wineries we toured. It was a warm day with plenty of sunshine, making the landscape even more impressive. Touring the countryside with an e-bike had me feeling a bit like Harry Potter flying along on a broomstick at Hogwarts. Magical!
Sarlat-la-Canéda, France...don't miss this place!
After flipping through some travel books we found at our HomeAway apartment, something about Sarlat-la-Canéda was calling to us. When we found out it was a three hour train ride from Bordeaux, booking a hotel room made sense. So what was originally going to be a day trip became an overnight trip. Even though the train ride was long, now and then I could spot castles on the hillside, making for a really cool journey.
Once we arrived at the Sarlat-la-Canéda train stop and after a bit of a walk into town, we found our hotel-Saint Albert. Anxious to see the town, we dropped our luggage in the room and went in search of lunch.
The place we found was blasting American Blues and serving up some great authentic French cuisine. Boiled potatoes covered with funky melted cheese were taken to a whole new level . All of this potato goodness was surrounded with freshly sliced charcuiterie and washed down with a few glasses of white wine.
You should know that one of my favorite things to do when traveling is to somehow get on a boat. As luck would have it, there just happened to be a tour from Sarlat-la-Canéda to the medieval town of Domme that also included a ride on a wooden boat down the Dordogne River. Sweet!
We were blown away by the spectacular views of the Dordogne river valley and the quaint town of Domme. During the boat ride, we could see holes high up on the mountains where hundreds of years ago, people once to live. Also, of you've seen the movie, Chocolat, it is set in this area as well.
The Outdoor Market
The next day in Sarlat proved to be one of my favorite days ever. Since it was Saturday, there was a huge outdoor market filled with cheeses, produce, meats, candies and food stalls everywhere, plus clothes and oddities of all sorts. I picked out a lovely scarf at one of the booths. The woman at the booth was kind enough to show me how to wear the scarf and even kissed both Rick and me on the check. I think she really just wanted to kiss Rick.
While wondering through the market, we came across the Sarlat tourism office and, luckily, decided to stop in. Here we found a brochure for the Marqueyssac Gardens, which is somewhat close to Sarlat, and a flyer advertising a food festival that just happened to be going on that weekend. With this new information, we booked another night at the hotel.
The Marqueyssac Gardens
I don't think Ubers are a thing in Sarlat, so we caught a taxi to the Marqueyssac Gardens and had an absolute blast exploring the place. There is a cafe with outdoor seating as you enter the garden. We had lunch and a few glasses of wine there while looking out into the Dordogne Valley and watching peacocks walk in front of us on a stone wall.
The garden itself is massive with beautiful walks through shady areas. The walks open up onto vast vistas of the valley below. Shrubs are manicured into amazing shapes and, at times, I had the feeling I was Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Being in this garden was pure joy; in fact, Rick and I hugged each other and literally jumped up and down. It's that amazing.
Journées du goût et du la Gastronomie
Once we were back from the gardens, walking distance from our hotel we found a party going on in the village square. There were food stalls around the perimeter of the square, dining tables in the middle and live music filling the air. After checking out all the different dishes available, we decided to try the stuffed duck with peas and carrots, a serving of cassoulet, some potatoes fried in duck fat, a bowl of onion soup, a baguette and a bottle of the local wine-Bergerac.
Once sated and a bit over served, we joined other couples dancing to the music. We were clueless to what the songs were, but loving ever moment of it.
The next morning we returned to the same village square where most of the food stalls from the night before were still set up. In addition, some booths were selling local specialty foods. We picked up a can of duck confit for our son. Only later did I realize I had bought a can of duck gizzard confit. Rick and I then found a place on a stone wall by the road to wait for the highlight of the day-the sheep parade. So many sheep came clip-clopping down the road being guided by dogs. What a perfect way to end our visit to Sarlat-la-Canéda.