Château Pape Clément - "History & Wine"

Château Pape Clément is located just outside the city of Bordeaux and is the oldest planted vineyard in the region (planted in 1300). Like most old vineyards in France, its origins trace back to the Church. The chateau gets its name from the archbishop Bertrand de Goth... whose papal name was Clement V.

Everything at Château Pape Clément is still done the old fashioned way... no fancy steel vats, de-stemming machines, or computerized systems. It's all done by hand and is controlled by experienced wine makers. Each year the wine is blended and crafted differently depending on the harvest. It's remarkable to taste the differences of each season.

Château Pape Clément has some of the tastiest (and expensive) wines I've ever tried!

Saint-Émilion - "Wine & History"

Prior to my last trip to France, Saint-Émilion was just a label that I saw on wine bottles. I knew that good red wines came from this region (especially Merlot), but didn't know anything about the history of the area or it's cultural significance. Romans had started planting vineyards in Saint-Émilion during the second century... and the town is named after a hermit monk Émilion who had carved his home into a rock (it was the monks that came after him that started commercial wine production).

Saint-Émilion is also classified as a "world heritage site" by UNESCO. The town is situated on a limestone plateau... and many buildings are made out of this stone. One of the most unique buildings I saw was a giant church that was built by carving into the limestone and is completely underground. The grayish/white buildings make for a very stark contrast between the lush green vineyards that surround the town. I climbed to the top of the bell tower in town and snapped a few pictures. It's a ridiculously beautiful area.

Paris in Color

There is a French proverb that goes "Il faut manger pour vivre, et non pas vivre pour manger"... it means "Eat to live, don't live to eat." However, in France, the eating is just as good as the living. My diet in Paris consisted of four meals per day... breakfast at a boulangerie, lunch at a cafe (with a carafe of wine), late afternoon light dinner at a riverside cafe (with a glass or two of wine), and late night 3-4 course dinner at a proper restaurant (with more wine). I'm surprised I didn't gain more weight while there, but I guess the massive amount of walking helped to burn the calories.

These four photos are a representation of my trip to France... beautiful gardens and blue sky, cafes, ancient buildings, vineyards for as far as the eye can see, and picnics by the river. It was a great trip... although, it didn't start out so smoothly.

The reason I went to France was for a good friend's wedding at Île d'Oléron (island on the west coast about 2 hours northwest of Bordeaux). The wedding was amazing. The ceremony took place on top of a Citadelle in Oléron and had a ridiculous French tasting menu for dinner (with great wine). The party lasted until 5 in the morning. However, my luggage (with my new custom tailored suit and Italian dress shoes) did not arrive... and I had nothing to wear except what I had been in for the last 30+ hours. I looked and felt like a mess. Luckily, a new friend let me borrow a nice button down shirt and tie for the wedding (thanks Stephen!)... and it all kind of worked out.

The main lessons I learned are:
1. Do not connect through London Heathrow (3rd time my luggage has gotten delayed there).
2. If it is absolutely necessary to connect through London Heathrow, do not check luggage.
3. London Heathrow has an annoying security/transfer system (need the "fast pass").
4. Try to avoid London Heathrow at all costs (unless your final destination is London).

More photos from this trip to come later....