Note: this is a continuation of a story from a previous post. if you haven’t read Part 1, click here to do so.
Friday: Puisseguin — Libourne — Chancelade
After our indulgences of the day before, my friends and I were all pretty quiet and slow at the breakfast buffet of our hotel on Friday morning. We finished up mid-morning. The sky looked dark and ominous, but the cyclists gamely got on their bikes and set off. We planned to meet up at a small town on the way to Chancelade, where we had hotel and dinner reservations. We hoped that on the way we could find a cozy coffee shop, do some more wine tasting, and have a nice lunch.
The weather went from ominous to terrible, with cold rain driving down accompanied by a relentless wind. By the time we met up at a chilly coffee shop, we were all a bit crabby. The cyclists were soaked to the bone and looked completely miserable. At this point I was no longer envious of them. Instead, I was very, very happy I had my Renault rental car. We were frustrated by the lack of cozy cafes in town, but we weren’t quite ready for lunch.
After a lot of back and forth, we decided that the drivers would head to Château la Dominique, a nearby tasting room we found on Yelp. We would scout out a place to eat while we waited for the cyclists.
La Dominique has a restaurant as well as a tasting room—perfect! The five of us who had driven enjoyed a tasting while we waited for the cyclists to arrive.
The atmosphere at la Dominique is subdued and felt a teensy bit pretentious, but the wines were lovely. I ended up splurging on a 2010 Pomerol, a variety I had not tried before but which this area is known for.
The cyclists arrived, even colder than before and now hungry as well. Luckily, as soon as we walked into the restaurant, La Terrasse Rouge, we knew we were in the right place. A huge slab of meat sizzled on a grill in the open kitchen, and the smell of garlic and freshly baked bread wafted over us. After a hearty meal of steak frites, the whole group felt much happier (and warmer).
At this point, Alex and Adam had the brilliant idea that they could fit all five bikes into the back of my rental car so we could carpool in comfort to our hotel in Chancelade. I was skeptical, but Adam promised me that his powers of spatial deduction had never failed him before.
To my surprise, the guys were successful. We were all able to enjoy a comfy ride to Chancelade, and even stop at a tasting room down the road on the way.
Our second night was spent in L’Orangerie, which is a slightly sterile yet adequate (and budget-friendly) hotel next to the Château des Reynats. We ate dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Oison—a nice experience, though perhaps not quite as high as our expectations (is foam still a thing?). We felt exhausted from the long day but happy to be dry and warm, and hoping for better weather the next day so we could explore the charming city of Périgueux.
Saturday: Chancelade to Périgueux
Feeling sluggish after two straight days of wining and dining, I went for a run on Saturday morning. Running always lifts my spirits, and this was no exception.
By the time we made it to Périgueux, the sun was breaking through the clouds. We took advantage of the nice weather and sat outside at a cafe, where we indulged in some amazing foie gras.
Ok: I realize there is controversy over foie gras and concerns about the treatment of the ducks, but what can I say? My desire to experience it in France won over my guilt. From the first bite, I fell in love with the creamy, velvety richness, mixed with the sweet tang of jam and served with fresh bread. Now I see what the fuss is about.
Périgueux is a beautiful old town and we enjoyed strolling around, window shopping, and peeking into the cathedral. After a few short hours, we reluctantly got back in our cars to drive to Bordeaux, since we had to return the rental cars before checking in to yet another hotel and making our dinner reservation. It was at this point that I began to think maybe we’d bitten off a little too much with all of the checking-in, checking-out, and driving from city to city.
I won’t bore you with the details of driving to Bordeaux, returning the rental cars, and putting all of the bikes back together. In short, it all worked out. I was very grateful that my rental car agent didn’t question the (small) oil stain on the interior roof of the car.
My memories of our dinner at Brasserie Bordelais are a bit hazy, probably due to our consumption of a few more bottles of Pomerol and something called Chasse-Spleen, which we found extremely amusing (long story). We went to a bar afterward and had a few more drinks before I finally gave in to exhaustion and called it a night.
Sunday: Bordeaux, and (not quite) back to Copenhagen
I woke up Sunday to an incredible view: blue sky over the crumbling stone walls and tiled rooftops of Bordeaux. Ah, so this was the weather we were supposed to have during the trip!
My head was complaining from too much wine and not enough water the night before, so I struggled out of the hotel and down the street to Karl, an adorable cafe in a sunny square. Fortified by a croissant, yogurt, and a strong cup of coffee, I felt ready to explore the city.
The day was sunny and picture-perfect; the scenes were quintessentially French. I sat on the grass by the river and people-watched while the remnants of my hangover disappeared, and then we spent a few hours walking around Bordeaux and enjoying the sunshine.
We took a short stroll through the farmer’s market, marveling at the lush produce and huge pans of paella. We bought some strawberries and polished off a few dozen oysters and a bottle of white wine while sitting at a plastic table next to the oyster stand. Feeling spoiled and sated, we knew it was time for our trip to come to an end.
The six of us traveling back to Copenhagen had an unfortunate return journey. Our flight was canceled, and we had to stay overnight in an airport hotel airport without our luggage. At the time it was incredibly frustrating. But in writing this post nearly three months later, I’m struck by how much that part of the trip has faded from memory.
Instead, I’m still thinking fondly on the shared bottles of wine, incredible food, and lively company. These are the elements that make any trip great, despite rainy days, flat tires, canceled flights, or any of the other little (or big) annoyances that happen while traveling.
In summary: things I learned and a few tips
- If you’d like to do a similar long weekend in Bordeaux, I would recommend staying somewhere like the lovely Château Fleur de Roquesin St-Émilion and doing short day trips to the surrounding wineries. The hotel had bikes to rent, and there are plenty of amazing wineries nearby to choose from.
- Périgueux would also be a good base, especially during truffle season, but that’s in December and January so it’s not the best time for a cycle tour.
- Checking in and out of hotels is a long process, especially with a large group (ten people and a slow credit card payment system will test the patience of even the most laid-back person). It would have been a bit more relaxing to stay in one place. On the other hand, it’s cool to see different cities. So I would recommend to keep that tradeoff in mind, and allow extra time for logistics.
- When traveling in a big group, it’s important to bring patience and tolerance, and it’s ok to split off into smaller groups at times. Not everyone will want to do the same thing, and that’s fine. At the end of the day, a healthy sense of humor and a good glass of wine will help to forge bonds and smooth over any tensions that might have risen during the trip.
Originally published on Medium