CAS­TILLON: THE DOR­DOGNE IN THE GI­RONDE

Neigh­bou­ring St Emi­lion in the di­rec­tion of Ber­ge­rac, the Cas­tillon region be­longs to the wine-making ter­roir of Côtes-de-bor­deaux. It is stee­ped in his­to­ry, as hin­ted by the suf­fix in its full name, “Cas­tillon-la-ba­taille” (“Cas­tillon-the-bat­tle”).

Bordeaux Moments - - L'escapade / The Excursion -

A lit­tle out of the way, Cas­tillon is of­ten over­loo­ked by tou­rists who are in a hur­ry. It doesn’t have the hi­ghest of any­thing, nor the lar­gest, or in­deed any dis­tinc­tive spe­cia­li­ty, if we don’t in­clude its lo­ve­ly wine, but even that is so­mew­hat eclip­sed by the no­to­rie­ty of its neigh­bours’ in Saint-emi­lion. Among this sim­pli­ci­ty is some of the swee­test coun­try­side, with the ri­ver Dor­dogne at its epi­centre. Ups­tream, with a nice lit­tle ca­fé ter­race and a ca­noe and bike hire place, the port of Pes­sac-sur-dor­dogne is a good star­ting point for an ex­cur­sion. Staying on the left bank, the road climbs up to­wards the pla­teau- where you can al­ways make a de­tour to the An­glo-saxon Châ­teau Car­bon­neau and the pic­tu­resque vil­lages of Gen­sac and Pu­jols­be­fore re­joi­ning the shore at Flau­jagues and its small num­ber of char­ming houses. Still hea­ding downs­tream, an au­then­tic guin­guette (a tra­di­tio­nal open-air bar/res­tau­rant) pro­vides a mu­si­cal set­ting at the foot of the bridge which takes you to Cas­tillon. The small town is ty­pi­cal of its ter­ri­to­ry. There’s no spe­ci­fic sen­sa­tio­nal fea­ture that grabs you, but there is all the same a rich he­ri­tage en­ve­lo­ped in a sweet coun­try­side at­mos­phere of tran­qui­li­ty. En­joy a ba­roque church, a for­mer 18th cen­tu­ry hos­pi­tal that is now the town hall, a 13th cen­tu­ry door­way (the last re­mai­ning ves­tige of the town’s for­ti­fi­ca­tions), then the tour is fair­ly short before ar­ri­ving at the Mai­son du vin for their fine se­lec­tion of bot­tles and their va­ried pro­gramme for ex­plo­ring the ap­pel­la­tion (meet the wi­ne­ma­kers and taste their wines on Sa­tur­days, “crea­tive com­ple­ments” lunches, horse rides, bike rides, kayak trips or cha­teau tours fol­lo­wed by wine tas­tings). Take the road to the sta­dium and go in­to the bell-sha­ped tree-la­den pas­sage to Châ­teau Franc la Fleur. In ad­di­tion to the 1.5 hec­tares of or­ga­nic growth, the park contains half a do­zen luxu­rious gar­dens. In contrast to the town, on the hills 8 km to the east, there is ano­ther re­fuge whose au­ra across the cen­tu­ries and across bor­ders: la tour de Mon­taigne (or “Mon­taigne’s To­wer”). It was here that the 16th cen­tu­ry phi­lo­so­pher wrote most of his ‘Es­sais’ and

li­ved here day and night for the fi­nal two years of his life. Ano­ther 4 km away, other ar­chi­tec­tu­ral ele­ments from across the cen­tu­ries still sur­vive. On the site of Mont­ca­ret, the rem­nants of an aris­to­cra­tic Gal­lo-ro­man re­si­dence and its mo­saic ti­ling have been put on dis­play by the Centre des mo­nu­ments na­tio­naux. You can fi­nish your jour­ney at the dis­crete mo­nu­ment de­di­ca­ted to John Tal­bot, the lieu­te­nant ge­ne­ral of Guyenne (which be­lon­ged to En­gland at the time) who died du­ring the bat­tle that si­gna­led the de­fi­ni­tive end of the Hun­dred Years War and the re­turn of Aqui­taine to the French Crown. The in­fan­try and ca­val­ry can still be seen in com­bat to­day un­der a fu­ry of can­non­balls, stunts and spe­cial ef­fects du­ring a re­cons­truc­tion of the Bat­tle of Cas­tillon which, beyond the spec­ta­cu­lar wea­pons, al­so evokes the dai­ly life of this per­iod in a ligh­ter man­ner.

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