No, vineyards do not stretch as far as the eye can see in North Carolina, but there are a lot of similarities between these two places I’ve lived that made Gironde feel like home immediately.
Colonial History between Bordeaux and the South
Bordeaux in essence is a colonial city. So much of its Roman and Medieval architecture has disappeared over the centuries to make room for renovations and modernization. What you are looking at when you walk around Bordeaux (and much of Nouvelle Aquitaine) is a city that grew thanks to its wine production, the Atlantic slave trade, and it’s colonies. It allowed Bordeaux in the 18th century to completely redesign itself with large, bright, limestone buildings and wide boulevards. Shipping captains erected impressive homes along the Garonne River waterfront. It was the second largest port in France during this period as well. In many ways and for these reasons it reminds me of Charleston, South Carolina.
Tobacco in North Carolina and Gironde
Henry IV was the first King to bring tobacco over from the New World and he enjoyed smoking it in one of the family homes in Prechac, Chateau Cazeneuve. There are long, angular wooden barns that dot the SE Gironde countryside, remnets of a time past when tobacco was produced here. By the 1980s the production had all but stopped, but you can still find some near Bergerac in smaller prodcutions and even a hand rolled cigar factory. There is a tobacco museum to visit, Bergerac Tobacco Museum – ERIH, and
Sandy Beaches and Pines in NC and Gironde
In addition, the Atlantic coast (as well as inland) is covered in pine trees, much like the Atlantic coast in North Carolina. Most of the pine forest was hand planted in the 1850’s by Napoleon III to ‘sanitize’ the otherwise swampy land and to bring industry. Large white sand beaches with powerful waves blanket the coastline in Gironde meeting much more frigid water than we find in NC. The height of summer sees temperatures nearing 34 Celcius / 100 Fahrenheit with the ocean at around 21 Celsius / 70 Fahrenheit. Quite a difference from the bath waters I enjoy near Bald Head!
Caviar and Truffles in North Carolina and Aquitaine
While sturgeon do not live abundantly in the rivers of Gironde anymore, we do produce caviar locally in farms, much like in North Carolina. Nouvelle Aquitaine is the largest producer in France and North Carolina is the second largest producer in the USA (after California). The luxury food market doesn’t stop there. North Carolina also home to truffle farms – Burwell Farms being ‘one of the most productive in the world’! Specifically, bianchetto truffles which grow on pine tree roots. In Langon, only 20 minutes from my home in Bazas, France, is the largest truffle tree producer in Western Europe. Black Perigord truffles grow nearby in small quantities but of course are plentiful in the nearby Dordogne.
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