Bazas

This town is easy to drive past, and off the typical tourist map, as there are no trains or public transportation to take you here from Bordeaux. Which is probably how everyone locally would like it to stay…a historical gem in the countryside. It’s location, just on the outskirts of Graves and before heading into the stark Landes was why it was once considered the last bit of civilization.

Walking into town is most idealic on Rue Fondespan, with it’s cobbled street and small businesses. This opens into the large Place de la Cathedrale, with Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bazas (a UNESCO site) which was sadly vandalized during the Protestant reformation. The structure itself is still breathtaking and the small Jardin du Chapitre to the right is a lovely place to stroll and look over the valley below.

The town square is surrounded by arcaded buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Take a walk down any of the side streets to see wooden timbered facades, ornate stonework and secret courtyards. To see Bazas on a Saturday morning, filled with stalls of vegetable, meats and local product vendors is like stepping back into time. It has to be one of the most beautiful markets in the area.

The Bazas Tourist Office is incredibly helpful and offers weekly tours on the history of Bazas or the ancient city hospital Apothecary. These tours need to be booked in advance and are only offered in French at this time. Please fill out the form below for someone to translate the tours for free.

 

For a town of under 5,000 people, there are a large number of really wonderful places to eat and you’ll likely never have a bad meal. All will over the famous boeuf Bazadais, a large breed of cattle which are raised upwards of seven years, living on grass in large pastures before slaughter. There is the yearly Fete des Boeufs Gras which can draw 10,000 visitors into town to watch these cattle parade down the streets, with flower decorations and local dancers in historic costume.

Bazas also holds a wonderful animation for the Fete de Saint Jean in June and the Fete de la Palombe in the autumn for hunting season. The energy of the town and the pride the Bazadais have for their history is clearly evident.

 

GUIDE

SEE

Cathedral Saint Jean – There is a mass in French on Sundays at 1030am, but you are welcome to visit and walk around anytime as the church remains open. There are occasional concerts inside as well as the Secrets of Bazas Tour which is at 1030am on Tuesdays starting April 16th for 5 Euro. Check the Bazas Tourism Office for events www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com

Apothecary of Hospital de Bazas – Attached to the old hospital, built in the 18th century and in use until only 50 years ago, the Apothecary is one of the best preserved in France. While not open to the public on a general basis, there are tours offered through the Bazas Tourism Office at 1 Place de la Cathedral. Contact to inquire on dates and times. Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 25 84 / www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com

Antiques Shops – there are many all over town, but Saturday is the best day to stop by as they will all be open. The owners are fun to talk with and discuss items histories, and while prices are usually good compared to big cities, if something seems too much, you can try to negotiate pricing. Hours vary.

 

STAY

Airbnb offers great options in town starting around 40 Euro a night, including our home…so why not stay with us?

Domaine de Fompeyre – 10 minutes by foot from town square, up on a hill overlooking the town, is this classical hotel with a restaurant and pool. Parking on site. Prices are very reasonable, starting around 65 Euro a night. 1 Fompeyre – Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 98 00 / reservation@domaine-de-fompeyre.com / http://domaine-de-fompeyre.com/

 

RESTAURANTS

Most are only open for lunch during the week and offer great menus starting at 14 Euros, but all will over a nice cut of Bazadais beef! Best to book in advance for weekends or evenings.

Caro&Co – South African female chef and co-owner with her French husband, this couple have a fabulous restaurant using local and seasonal products from nearby farms and shops. Plates are beautiful and often have lots of colorful vegetables, not seen in many French restaurants! 38 Place de la Cathedral – Open daily for lunch, dinner on Friday and Saturday, closed Wednesday and Sunday – Phone +33 (0)5 56 65 24 58 / www.restaurantcaroandco.fr

Boeuf Pop! – Friendly meat-centric restaurant popular with locals. They have a great terrace onto the Cathedral Square for taking in the spring sunshine. Local Bazadias beef, sheep and pork with duck fat fries…also have an amazing burger with local cheese and caramelized onions! 30 Place de la Cathedral – Open for lunch Monday – Saturday and dinner Friday/Saturday – +33 (0)5 56 65 77 56 / https://www.facebook.com/Leboeufpop

Indigo – Chef owned restaurant serving unique dishes with local ingredients and a SE Asian twist. Great valued lunch menu at 14 Euro. Perfect for a date night. Also own Café Noosa on Cathedral Square, which has a light salad lunch menu and is a great place to grab a coffee or ‘gouter’ (sweek snack). 25 Rue Fondespan – Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday – Saturday – Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 25 52 / https://www.thefork.com/restaurant/indigo/44162

 

BUY

Lamigeon – Pate and canned goods store in Bazas which has been making local products for nearly 80 years. You can find all sorts – wild boar, deer, fois gras and classic pate de campagne. If you are traveling back into the USA, I have made it through with canned products from there with no problem. Unique, reasonably priced gifts to give to family and friends, or to bring as a thank you for staying with someone! Open Wednesday-Saturday, from 10am-1230pm and 3pm-7pm – Phone +33 (0)5 56 65 58 49 / alainlamigeon@orange.fr / www.lamigeon.fr/

Bazas Food and Farm Tour

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  • 10am Visit fois gras farm to learn how fois gras is made and taste products
  • 11am Bazas tour of city and learn the history of this UNESCO cathedral village
  • 1230pm Stop by butcher who will show us the famous Bazadais beef cuts
  • 1pm Lunch of Bazadais beef cooked by chef and owner of local restaurant
  • 3pm Visit goat cheese farm

 

 

 

Boucherie Bazas Tbone,entrecote and rumpstakeTour, with translator and guide starts at 100 Euro per person (two person minimum) and includes all visiting fees, tasting fees, and a lunch of Bazadais beef with dessert and one glass of graves wine. Tours offered on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

Please be sure to advise of any food allergies or aversions at least one week in advance.

Can also include chauffeured car with pick up from nearby train station in Langon, please contact us for pricing.

Please bring comfortable clothing and closed toe shoes (preferably ones you don’t mind getting a little dirty)

Feel free to ask questions and have fun! These are small farms and this is the livelihood for these farmers / butchers / chefs and their families and they are happy to share their passions with you!

This tour will happen, rain or shine, so please dress for the occasion 😊

 

Bazas Food and Farm Tour

• 10am Visit fois gras farm to learn how fois gras is made and taste products • 11am Bazas tour of city and learn the history of this UNESCO cathedral village • 1230pm Stop by butcher and meet butcher who will show us the famous Bazadais beef cuts • 1pm Lunch of Bazadais beef cooked by chef and owner of local restaurant • 3pm Visit goat cheese farm

€100.00

 

 

Water to Cool Off During the Gironde Summer

 

If the end of June is any indicator, this summer is going to be a hot one! Here are some of our favorite places to swim during these sweltering days (click name for maps and links in articles for more information) Lather on the sunblock before heading out! :

Arcachon – About 45 minutes from Bordeaux, although traffic in high season and on weekends can double that. Parking happens to be free on Wednesdays, but it’s a great place to go any day of the week. Arrive early in the day (Place de Verdun is a quick and easy walk to the many beaches). Bring your beach umbrella and pack a picnic, or have lunch at any number of the restaurants in town. Most restaurants do not have the best hot meals, but a fresh seafood platter with local oysters and shrimp will certainly hit the spot! Dogs are not allowed so best to leave them at home.

Bazas – Should you find yourself in the SE of Gironde, this charming town with UNESCO protected cathedral, arcaded town square and many wonderful chef-owned restaurants specializing in regional cuisine with local products, is well worth a visit. Plus, the newly opened public pool with its large water slide is a hit with the kids! There are also two kiddie pools, one for the under three and one with waist-high water for older kids. Two euro fee for adults and kids under five are free. Hours in July and August are 1100-1300 / 1500-1900 with closure on Sunday. Small snack bar with drinks and ice cream, lockers require a one euro coin.

BiscarrosseLow lying lake water that is only up to your knees, which is great for small children as you don’t need to worry about waves and tides. This area is popular with families and has areas for your furry friends as well. Pack a picnic and be prepared to look for parking in high season, but at least it’s free! There are water sports and there is plenty of camping available nearby and hotels.

Cap Ferret – only a 30-minute ferry ride from Arcachon (although you can access from the North by car) you will want to rent or bring a bicycle with you to get to the quietest beaches. Off season is great and you can almost have the whole beach to yourself outside of July and August. There are infinite oyster shacks to have a lunch with a view of the Bassin. Ferries hours may vary, so be sure to check, but generally are on the hour from Arcachon, and on the half hour back (with a pause between 1200-1400). No need to book ferries in advance as you should find places even at the height of the season. Tickets are 15 euro round trip and leave from the Jetee Thieres in Arcachon.

Casteljeloux – Famous for its spas and thermal water, this town just outside of Gironde in Lot-et-Garonne has the Lac de Clarens, a man-made lake. With sandy shores to build sand castles, boat rentals, golfing and a casino (!). Not a lot of shade, so you’ll want to bring an umbrella but there is a restaurant and you can picnic. Outside of season, it is free, however, during July-August, there is a fee of 2.50 for adults.

Hostens – Close to Louchat and Le Barp, Lac de Lamothe is another man-made lake with paddle boat rentals, hiking trails, camping and a snack bar with panini, ice creams and drinks. Lots of shade from the pine trees on the outer edge, but bring your umbrella if you want to be closer to the water. Free entrance and parking with space for dogs offseason.

Lac d’Espiet is an old quarry with beautiful, clear water about 20 minutes from Saint Emilion. They also have a lakeside restaurant, water sports, and kids water recreation area. There is sand on the shore, but some parts are a bit rocky in the water so water shoes might be nicer to those with delicate feet. Some shade is available from the nearby pines and there isn’t too much space to set up an umbrella. Adults are five euro entrance, kids under 3 free. Parking is free, but you are not allowed to bring a picnic (I have seen people kicked out for bringing food in, however…). Dogs are not welcome on bathing beaches.

 

 

 

Saint Emilion

SAINT EMILION

As an American, one of the best-known wines in the Bordeaux region are the reds of Saint Emilion. Honestly, once you are in the Bordeaux region it seems funny that we should be so aware of these reds, seeing they are generally from small, family-owned vineyards and produced in minute quantities compared to those of Medoc (for example). The drive is easy and beautiful from Bordeaux and it’s worth arriving by car so that you can take advantage of the visits available at the many chateaus nearby.

There are times of year one might wish to avoid visiting, say the month of January when everything is closed…or the height of tourist season in July and August when the town is swarming. However, even in the month of February when restaurants and cavists are only just reopening, you will find plenty to see and do without crowds.

Saint Emilion is a stunning village with the UNESCO heritage denotation, which feeds its notoriety. It is small, easy to walk around in a day (without heels) and charming. The winding, cobbled streets, only add to the allure. Once named Ausonius, the name changed to Saint Emilion after the saint decided to call it home for a good portion of his life. If there is one tour you should take, outside of the vineyards, it’s the monolithic church tour which takes about an hour and costs 9 euro. You will learn a great deal of history, architecture, and folklore.

What is tricky about most wines in the Bordeaux region is that they vary in taste from house to house, based on differential grape blends, materials used during aging, and the very unique distinction of terroir (environmental factors such as soil and climate). Around Saint Emilion you find lots of gravel, sand, limestone, and clay which can add different mineral or earthiness to the grapes.  Merlot is the main grape variety, but you will see the subtle richness this grape gives to local wines versus the typical Australian or American wine.

If you can, take a hotel and enjoy tasting the many wines and discussing the viniculture with the shopkeepers. Many shops are owned by a certain chateau and are great at promoting their wines, but are equally keen on helping you discover your own favorite. My recent visit brought me to Australian cavist Craig Stanford of Bordeaux Classique who introduced us to the 2012 Tour de Seme from Chateau Milens. This was a great example of what I find to be the perfect, classic, light and red-fruity wine from the Saint Emilion AOC.

Besides wine, Saint Emilion is also famous for their light, airy macaron cookies (not to be confused with the Bordelaise macaron which is the classic, colorful ‘sandwich’ filled with jams or creams). The local version is generally sold attached to a piece of paper, with the original recipe from the 17th century being used at Macarons Ferlion. You can read more about the history of the Saint Emilion macaron on the Eat Live Write Travel Blog.

Restaurants can be a little hard; worrying about bad food might be on the back of your mind. In general, the food will be good, no matter where you eat. Many of the finer (Michelin) restaurants will require a deposit to avoid no-shows. If you have allergies or aversions, please let the restaurants know in advance. Feel free to contact me for recommendations.

GUIDE

VISIT

Monolitic Church – impressive crypts, chapel and early Christian church built into the limestone with a visit to the hermitage of Saint Emilion. One hour, only in French (save for the summer tours) but they do offer a paper handout in English to help you through the visit – http://www.saint-emilion-tourisme.com/uk/3-what-to-do/20-underground/438-underground-saint-emilion.html – Hours vary; buy your tickets at the Saint Emilion tourist office who can also give you a list of the chateau open that day for visits.

Bordeaux Classique Wine Shop – filled with Bordeaux wines of all budgets, and other French wines. Friendly, English speaking cavists, worldwide shipping and degustations available – http://www.bordeaux-classique.com/ – Open 9am – 8pm every day – 15, rue de la Porte Bouqueyre – Phone +33 (0)5 57 74 49 49 or email bordeauxclassique@bordeauxclassique.com

 Macarons Ferlion – small confectionery selling ‘the original’ Saint Emilion macarons – http://www.macarons-saint-emilion.fr/Accueil.html  – Open (hours vary slightly by season) every day from 8am – 730pm – Phone +33 (0)5 57 24 72 33 and email contact@macarons-saint-emilion.com