An Oasis 10 minutes from St Emilion


Just back from a glorious two weeks away and I thought I’d share a true find.

La TupinaWe drove, taking the great overnight Brittany Ferry crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo (a marvelous meal, a movie in one of four cinemas and a great and spacious Commadore Cabin), five hours to Bordeaux and then a very gentle three hour drive to San Sebastian for a bite of lunch then 10 days reading and relaxing by a pool in Spain and back the same way. Marvellous!!

As much as Bordeaux City as been reinvigorated over the last decade, and it’s really beautiful again now, driving in and out is a nightmare and really should never be attempted during rush hour (a bit of an unquantifiable time frame anywhere in France, let alone this cosmopolitan metropolis….but let’s just say 07.30 to 10.00 and 15.30 to 18.30).

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you do decide to holiday in the region it’s definitely worth venturing in and having a stroll down the quay and perhaps dining at the atmospheric La Tupina (top left), especially if you fancy nibbling on bits of animals you are not used to!

But Bordeaux city is not why you come here, it’s to get out in the vineyards and see the legendary properties. Taking the D2 from Bordeaux Periphique (Le Rocade) it will take you an hour and a half to mosey up through Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac to St Estephe (make sure you go as far as Calon Segur before you turn back, it’s worth it). The are numerous iconic views as you drive and I defy you not to stop and take a snap of the majestic spires of Ch. Palmer, the tree fringed driveway and spectacular frontage of Ch. Margaux, “La Tour” (below right), the Disneyesque Pichon Baron and rather more serious Pichon Lalande, the arch of Las Cases, the willows at Lafite and of course the elephants at Cos!

I’m sure if you stop and sample some of the estates en route it will get your gastric juices going and I’d probably forgo ch latourthe quay in Pauillac village, it’s a little sad. A great German friend and I were there a few years ago and as he stared out over the cafe au lait waters of the mighty Gironde he sighed wistfully and said “It’s such a shame zee U-boats got pushed out of here. We’d have had dis place jumping. Several hotels, a casino and lots of zee lap dancings”….I think I prefer it “a little sad”!

Now as much as the Medoc has the Grand Chateaux and hundreds of years of associated history, it’s gravel soil, low rise, undulating hills are not the prettiest places in Frances magnificent catalogue. However it’s when you hit the “right Bank”, where Cabernet Sauvignon doffs its cap to the mighty Merlot, that “Bordeaux” becomes a truly beautiful and inspiring place. St Emilion itself is glorious at anytime of the year and you can easily spend a day pottering about the ancient village that dates back beyond the Romans. Anyway, I digress. The reason for these extended thoughts are………If you ever fancy popping down for a long weekend or a relaxing two-week holiday to explore this glorious region, I have stumbled across a true oasis, Chateau Laroque. It’s a small private guest house run by the lovely Jane Brown. It’s got four double Rooms and a single finished to five star standards. It’s got an enormous pool and tennis court and Jane hires it by the room by the night, or as a home for anytime you fancy it – it’s very reasonably priced given how lovely it is. I swear there is no commission going on here but it’s rare you find such a pearl.

Tell Jane I sent you!