This week, the Palsson family travels to a new part of France, gaining real understanding of the culture, rich history, wine, and people.
After a lovely time in the Loire Valley, we drive south to Bordeaux.
On the way, we stop at a great Aquarium in La Rochelle. It’s important to make these detours when we know it will provide massive entertainment for the kids.
From La Rochelle, we drive south and catch a ferry boat across to a peninsula and drive down to Bordeaux. We’re actually staying a little west of town. It’s relaxed, less expensive, and makes it easy to drive different places in the region. Our Airbnb here is new construction and really nice. The backyard space has ample patio furniture, and the washer and dryer are new and huge! The ability to do laundry is key on a family trip.
We spend a day up in the Medoc region, north of the town of Bordeaux. The Medoc region is incredibly impressive, with huge chateaux sitting on large wine estates. The drive is beautiful, and the people are lovely.
Chateau Lanessan. Medoc. Book ahead. Many tours offered, including one of the horse stables that we take. It’s very interesting, but the kids don’t find it as interesting as I hope. The wine tasting is wonderful, and the tasting room has a corner for the kids to play. I’m very impressed, and we get to taste without much interruption.
Le Bontemps. Medoc. This is an unassuming bistro in the center of a tiny town. The menu is on a chalkboard, which I love. The food is delicious, and the kids actually eat a ton.
Chateau Lamothe-Bergeron. Medoc. While over 150 years old, this chateau looks new due to many restorations. It is very nice, so of course my son decides it’s time to bear down and poop in his diaper in the middle of the swanky living room. Always perfect timing. The tour here is very innovative. We taste different grapes, which the kids enjoy. The tour continues into the cellar, in the dark, which the kids do not enjoy. But when it’s time for tasting, the children are welcomed into a special alcove with coloring pages. While they are entertained, we enjoy a truly educational tasting, including comparing a wine from different years.
Beach Day at Cap Ferret (not to be confused with Cap Ferrat in the French Riviera). About an hour west of Bordeaux. Lunch of fresh fish and amazing mussels at Chez Hortense. My daughter is obsessed with mussels and eats the majority. We walk along the water to a beach with super fine sand. It’s tucked away and peaceful.
Bordeaux Waterfront. Even on a Sunday, when everything else closes, this place is abuzz with stalls selling everything from fresh oysters, to be enjoyed right there standing up, macarons, fish, bread, jam, cheese….everything you could imagine. We enjoy crepes, rotisserie chicken and duck for lunch. There’s a cute little playground nearby as well.
Cite du Vins. Bordeaux. This is a wine museum which opened in 2016. It’s innovative and beautiful, but expensive at 20 Euros per person. Children 6 years and up also have to pay. While the exhibits are interesting and interactive, it was largely lost on my 2 year old, who was pretty much miserable the entire time. Maybe plan this one during a nap time? Our tickets permit access to the Belvedere (fancy word for lookout), where we each get a glass of local wine. We continue to be blown away by the wine from this region.
Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery and Cellar. Bordeaux. This place has state-of-the-art wine tasting with machines dispensing top quality wines from all regions of Bordeaux at the desired quantity. You put money on a card, place the card in the machine and select the quantity of pour of your desired wine. The machine automatically pours. The kids think this is amazing! It’s the most excited I’ve seen them about wine tasting, for sure. We think it’s a bit gimmicky, but we try it nonetheless. We taste some great wines (They should be amazing at these prices!) I’m not sure I’d recommend this place to everyone. But it is an experience.
Miroir des Quais. Bordeuax. This amazing shallow fountain that is refreshed every 11 minutes or so when it mists and then fills again to a about 5 centimeters of water made for a playful experience. The kids can’t get their shoes off fast enough. I’m quickly in after them. It feels nice to have cool water on your feet on a hot day like this. Oly is the happiest I’ve seen him….maybe ever.
After seeing a young girl laying on her tummy in only her diaper, Oly gives me an expectant look. “Of course you can take your clothes off too,” I say, and more fun and mayhem ensue. We stay for over an hour. This is a must for a summer visit to Bordeaux.
St. Emilion, just east of Bordeaux, requires a day trip. We feel as though we’ve stepped back in time when we visit this special town of light sandstone and surrounding vineyards. While the town is small, there is significant topography. In fact, it would be difficult to visit if you have mobility issues. So obviously, strollers are a bad idea. We eat some amazing food here, though I regret I don’t have the name for you. As we walk around, we discover a medieval keep. We climb stairs up to a enjoy a spectacular view of the city. There’s also an old monastery in town where they’ve been making sparkling wine for centuries, but we don’t have a chance to visit it. I hope you get to go, and let me know how it is!
After long days of wine tasting or site seeing, it feels good to return to a house. This place is super comfortable and clean, which makes for the perfect welcome after a long day. Some evenings I make pasta and salad. And a cheese plate, of course. We also take time to enjoy Rose on the patio and play cards with the kids. Family time looks very much the same for us, no matter where we are. These small comforts make the long trip feel like home.
General Tips: Remember most things are closed on Sundays! I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it turns out to be consistent across France. And be prepared to pay a significant amount in tolls if you are driving around France. It seems like we are either on a cute little farm road or on a painfully expensive toll road.
Next stop: Toulouse, then Spain!
Hope you’re having wonderful adventures with your family this Summer!