Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust
Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Reach New Heights in Saint-Émilion
Perched atop limestone cliffs overlooking vineyards, Saint-Émilion is a quintessential French village that beckons visitors to meander its medieval streets. As the spiritual home of Bordeaux winemaking, it offers enchanting views and delicious wines to savor.
Wandering the town’s steep cobblestone lanes, you’ll discover Romanesque churches, ruins, and cellars carved into the rock. For panoramic vistas, climb the 237 steps to the top of the Bell Tower on the Monolithic Church, a remarkable feat of Romanesque architecture. Gaze out at the patchwork of vineyards unfurling below. The tower also provides access to the catacombs, allowing you to delve into Saint-Émilion’s fascinating history.
Besides wine tasting, Saint-Émilion lures adventurers underground into its subterranean world of caves and quarries. At the Monolithic Church, you can join a guided tour of the catacombs and crypts. Or for a more extensive experience, book a tour of the Quarries of Saint-Émilion—once mined for building materials, now home to fascinating medieval carvings. As you descend into the damp darkness by lantern light, it’s easy to imagine you’re an intrepid medieval pilgrim. The largest underground church in Europe lies buried here as well.
Of course, no trip to Saint-Émilion is complete without visiting its vineyards. With over 800 wineries in the region, options abound. Smaller, family-owned chateaux offer personalized tastings and a glimpse into traditional winemaking. Or tour larger estates like Chateau Angelus in a small group. Wherever you go, prepare to sample luscious merlot and cabernet franc that this region is famed for.
Pair your wine tasting with a visit to La Terrasse Rouge, a casual bistro with a sprawling hillside terrace overlooking the Dordogne Valley. It’s a sublime spot to watch the sunset while sipping Bordeaux and sampling charcuterie, local cheeses, or their specialty foie gras. For fine dining, Gastronomia serves haute cuisine in an elegant setting within the medieval ramparts.
What else is in this post?
- Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Reach New Heights in Saint-Émilion
- Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Pedal through History in Libourne
- Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Savor Oysters in Arcachon
- Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Marvel at Dune du Pilat
- Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Wander Medieval Villages along the Dordogne River
Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Pedal through History in Libourne
If you love wine, history, and cycling, then a bike tour of Libourne is an absolute must. As the wine capital of northern Bordeaux, Libourne offers a delicious blend of stunning scenery, medieval allure, and acclaimed vineyards. By bike, you can experience it all up close and personal.
Gliding along quiet backroads at an unhurried pace, Libourne reveals its rich heritage around every bend. Founded in 1270, the town still retains vestiges of its medieval glory like ancient city gates and the Gothic church at its center. Feel the thrill of pedaling through the original entrance archways as if you were a pilgrim centuries ago. Gaze up in awe at 15th century castles that transport you to the days of knights and kings.
Of course, you can’t visit Libourne without touring some celebrated chateaux. Conveniently, many lie just off scenic bike paths awaiting your discovery. At Chateau de la Rivière, a family-run estate, the gracious owner will guide you through a private tasting of their biodynamic wines. Or for an elegant experience, cycle to Chateau Franc Mayne to sample Grand Cru wines amid 19th century splendor. Smaller, lesser known vineyards also dot the countryside offering charming tastings for a few euros.
Need to refuel? Ducking into a local patisserie, you can try canelés, small cakes that Libourne is famed for inventing. Or stop at a riverside café for classic French fare: buttery croissants, goat cheese salads, or steak frites. Accommodating hotels allow you to check in anytime after a day of wine tasting and sightseeing.
While the countryside seduces with its beauty, the city of Libourne beckons as well. Quaint 18th century buildings line narrow cobblestone streets that seem designed for wandering by bike. Pause to photograph the town hall and its double arched promenade reflected in the Dordogne River. Nearby parks offer shady respites to picnic after pedaling miles through the vines.
Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Savor Oysters in Arcachon
Renowned for its plump oysters and relaxed seaside ambiance, Arcachon offers a delicious detour from busy Bordeaux. This picturesque fishing village on the Arcachon Bay has been sustaining itself on oyster farming for over 700 years. Today it remains Europe’s oyster capital, producing over 7,000 tons per year. From boat tours of oyster farms to beachside raw bars, Arcachon celebrates its signature shellfish.
One of the best ways to experience Arcachon’s oyster culture is on a boat cruise through the bay’s pristine waters. Local companies like Bateliers Arcachonnais offer informative tours that bring you right to working oyster farms. As your captain expertly navigates past wooden stakes marking acres of submerged oyster beds, you’ll learn how oysters are cultivated in the bay’s optimal tidal conditions. You may even get to sample freshly harvested oysters, shucked right on board.
Back on land, Arcachon’s beaches bustle with vendors peddling oysters by the dozen. Grab a box and shuck away, sampling them “au naturel” with just a squeeze of lemon. For proper tables and tapas, oyster bars like Le Balandre and Chez Pierre dot the harbor. Slurp down fines de claires, special oysters finished for refinement in natural tidal ponds, paired with crisp white wine.
Seafood reigns supreme at most restaurants in town. Chez Garcia serves heaping platters of Arcachon oysters alongside whole grilled fish, mussels, and shrimp. Or for fine dining, La Guignette seduces with elegantly plated fruits de mer. Don’t miss their oyster gratinées, baked with spinach and cheese. Sidewalk cafés like Le Côte d’Argent also offer oysters, though their people-watching perches may seduce you into just some moules frites and a carafe of rosé.
Oyster fanatics can even stay in an oyster-themed hotel. Le Métropolitain incorporates maritime décor with creative oyster dishes at its restaurant. Weekly themed tastings celebrate oysters from around France. Or indulge in an Ostronomy treatment at their Guerlain spa incorporating powered oyster shells.
Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Marvel at Dune du Pilat
Rising over 300 feet tall, the Dune du Pilat is a natural wonder that dazzles all who visit. As the tallest sand dune in Europe, it towers majestically over the forests and beaches of the Arcachon Bay, inviting adventurers to clamber up its shifting slopes. Marvel at the views, play in the sand, and embrace the wild beauty of this magical place.
The sight of the enormous dune is breathtaking, its sandy crest cutting a striking silhouette against the sky. As you trek up the steep face, it's easy to see why Dune du Pilat inspires such awe. The climb tests your stamina but reaching the top is exhilarating. Spread before you lies a panorama of surf, sand and sea, with views of the Landes forest stretching to the horizon. The vastness of it all makes you feel wonderfully small and insignificant.
While the views tempt you to linger, the lure of the sand beckons you to play. Many visitors can't resist taking a running leap down the dune, half sinking into the soft sand in a glorious freefall. Just lying back and rolling down the slope evokes carefree childhood nostalgia. This is a place to regress and have fun.
Later, stroll along the pretty trails skirting the dune's base. Pass through shady groves of pine trees and emerge onto stretches of pristine beach with surf gently lapping. The contrast between the dune's desert landscape and the verdant forests around it is striking. At the Plage Sud side, beach clubs like La Corniche offer cold drinks and lounge chairs when you're ready for a break.
As the most famous dune in France, Dune du Pilat attracts hordes of visitors, especially in summer. Avoid crowds by going early morning or late afternoon. The dune's allure changes throughout the day, taking on warm hues at sunset. Off season also promises fewer people and cooler climes for climbing. Whenever you go, prepare for traffic by taking the shuttle bus from La Teste-de-Buch or cycling from Arcachon.
While Pilat's scale amazes, remember to tread lightly and preserve the fragile ecosystem. Stick to marked paths to avoid further erosion. Take your trash when you leave and don't remove sand or plants. We all share responsibility for protecting this special place.
Beyond Bordeaux: 6 Epic Day Trips to Satisfy Your Wanderlust - Wander Medieval Villages along the Dordogne River
Winding past limestone cliffs and rolling vineyards, the Dordogne River casts a timeless spell on all who follow its sinuous course. Dotting its banks are a string of beguiling medieval villages that transport travelers back to the Middle Ages. Wandering cobbled lanes, exploring feudal castles, and lingering over rustic local cuisine, a journey along the Dordogne feels like a voyage through history. For an authentic taste of la France Profonde, the “deep France” beloved by locals, a road trip through these picturesque river hamlets is a must.
One of the most enchanting villages is La Roque-Gageac, ranked among the “Most Beautiful Villages of France.” Honey-colored houses huddle beneath massive cliffs with exotic gardens clinging to the rockface. Narrow lanes thread past wisteria-draped dwellings, while tiny cafés overlook the shimmering river. Nearby, the fairytale Château de Marqueyssac perches above manicured boxwood gardens, offering breathtaking views of the valley. Or head to Domme, dubbed the “Acropolis of Périgord” for its hilltop location and Renaissance facades. Ramble along the fortified ramparts and dip into dark caves once used to grow exotic mushrooms.
For a Medieval immersion, visit the hilltop citadel of Castelnaud, renowned for its impressive collection of Medieval warfare equipment. Tour massive siege engines like trebuchets and mangonels, perfectly preserved from the Hundred Years’ War. Costumed reenactors demonstrate swordplay in the courtyard and even offer basic lessons for aspiring knights. The view overlooking the Dordogne valley is astonishing as well. Nearby Beynac stuns with a massive fortress dating to the 12th century that protected the region from invasion. Walk the parapets and prowl dungeons for a vivid glimpse of feudal life.
Foodies will delight in the Dordogne’s hearty country cooking, often best sampled in tiny village bistros. Cassoulet, a rich bean and meat stew, appears frequently, along with duck confit, foie gras, and walnuts adding decadent flavor. Local wines like Bergerac pair perfectly with these rib-sticking dishes. Stop for wood-fired pizza at the adorable La Petite Reine in Beynac, Try innovative Southwestern fare at Le Vieil Pressoir in Daglan, housed in a converted olive press. Wherever you dine along the Dordogne, you’re sure to fall under the gastronomic spell that draws culinary pilgrims to this corner of France.