St. Emilion Tour
Aug 19, 2015
|Wednesday, August 19th.
This was quite an organized destination campground. Twice a day they drove a van into town for anyone who needed a ride then picked them up to return at 2 and 6. This worked out well for us because the only other way to tour the town was to ride our bikes and that wasn’t going to happen. We felt our lives were in danger driving the camper van let alone a bike on these narrow, twisty, turning, hilly roads!!
The town of St-Emilion sits on a hill (Of course it does!) above vineyards renowned for producing full-bodied deeply coloured red wines. (Now, isn’t that a dream come true)
The St. Emilion vineyards owe their unique character to their exceptional geology, combined with a microclimate that is perfectly suited to cultivating vines, and the ancestral know how of its vine-growers-The Romans. The vineyards disappeared briefly when Emilion first appeared only to make a triumphant return.
In the 8th century Emilion, a Breton monk decided to withdraw from the world to ASCUMBAS, the old name for Saint-Emilion. Later joined by and assisted by some Benedictine disciples, he founded the first religious community that would some centuries later, become the medieval town of St. Emilion named after the saint.
Many religious communities settled over the centuries around the cult of Emilion: Benedictines, Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans and Ursuline nuns
As witnessed by the many monasteries, convents and churches still present in the region.
We read about communes, appellations, jurisdictions, and the jurade. Basically, we came to the decision that these were all names associated with standards, procedures, and protocols that the hundred or so wine growers in the area would adhere to in order to produce an exceptional product.
The driver let us off at the entrance of The Collegiate Church built between the 12th and 15th centuries. When we entered the church we were struck with its bleak austerity. The only adornment in the church were the stain glass windows, the beautifully carve pulpit and the organ. They stood out against the bleak, plain walls of the church. I felt this was a church built for prayer without all the pomp and grandeur we had previously seen.
We walked past the mysterious King’s Tower; the questions of why was it built and for whom are still unanswered. It towers over the city and from the top; acres upon acres of vines can be seen in all directions. Today, the hundred or so wine-growers wearing their traditional red robes climb to the top at least twice a year; for the Spring Festival in June and for the Harvest bans in September. It must be quite a sight.
Wandering this medieval city was quite a challenge. There wasn’t a flat street anywhere in fact the word “Tertre” is specific to St. Emilion and refers to the steep pedestrian cobblestone streets. Great!! There were 4 of these unique streets and we found everyone. The steepest one had a railing installed right down the middle; young and old were using it to either help them up the street or stabilize them while going down. Not for the faint of heart, I’ll tell you.
It was an interesting town to explore with its old buildings, walls, gates and treacherous streets. There were even vines growing in tiny fields and sheep grazing within the walls.
We were ready to head back when the driver picked us up at 2 pm.
That night we came to the conclusion that we had landed ourselves in a camping version of Club Med. Again, the noise continued until 11 pm.