Karen and I have each heard innumerable stories from family and friends about Belgium and Paris but Bordeaux was new to us, our family and friends so we didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, the tragic bombings in Belgium the day after we left it cast a pall over Europe but we were amazed by the resiliency of the European people. It brings to mind how the US recovered from the 911 attacks 15 years ago. Clearly, we hadn’t expected to see these types of events but it gave us a different perspective on the region and its people. It was a view we’d rather not have seen but we’ll remember the news, the looks on the faces and the mood of our friends, both new and old, for the rest of our lives. But enough with the philosophical thoughts..
Damn it! Last day of the cruise. This sucks. The weather echoed my mood because it was rainy and cold. Most of the cruise guests were doing walking trips in the town of Bordeaux but Chef Todd and Winemaker Anna had managed to finagle tastings at two of the classified wineries in Medoc, Chateau Kirwan and Chateau Lynch-Bage. The classification system of wineries goes back to 1855 where the well known wineries were rated into five different classes.
We arrived at our next destination, Libourne on Tuesday midmorning for our first day in the region and the 2nd appellation that I was really anticipating, St. Emilion, the land where Merlot rules as opposed to Medoc where Cabernet Sauvignon is king. Merlot thrives in the alluvial clay and silty soils of St. Emilion creating wines that a more restrained due to Merlot’s softer structure. If there is a more beautiful medieval city on earth than that the village of St. Emilion, we haven’t seen it yet.
Blaye is not as known for its wine but it is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its centuries old fortress. Like much of old Europe, it’s built upon layers of history. The 17th century fortress was built upon a 14th century fortress that was partially destroyed during the 100 years war with England. It in turn, was built upon a fortress and basilica dating from before Charlemagne, sometime in the late 7th to early 8th century. Before that, it was a Roman town.
Happy Easter everybody. Granted, it’s probably not Easter when you’re reading this because I published it a couple of days late so unless you get lucky and read it next year on Easter, just ignore this bit. I mentioned it because as we walked out in the morning, the cruise company, AMA Waterways had put small Easter baskets outside of each guest room. Nice touch. I’m not a big chocolate fan but Karen was already predatorily eyeing my chocolate bunny with such fervor, I actually felt sorry for the little rodent…pretty pathetic when you think about it.
We arrived in Bordeaux without much fuss and boarded the ship about 3:30. The tour operator had everything coordinated perfectly. A quick check-in process and we soon had a drink in our hands. 6:00PM commenced the dreaded emergency drill. You just haven’t lived until you’ve been through one of these on a cruise ship with 5,000 vacationers, all grousing that they have to stand in the hot sun without a drink. But wait…it gets better. You receive instructions in 17 foreign languages, several of which haven’t actually been spoken in 3,500 years, all on the subtleties of how to buckle a life vest. Receiving the same instructions, this time while sitting in a lounge with only a hundred other cruisers with a glass of Champagne in your hand was much more agreeable.