You’d be hard pressed to enter any wine shop in the world and not find a selection from Bordeaux. Wine production in the Bordeaux region accounts for 14.5 billion euro ($20 billion USD) of revenue for the region annually. That’s more than the entire GDP of many of the world’s poorest or smallest nations. Saint Emilion is a UNESCO World Heritage Sites and also makes for an excellent day trip from Bordeaux.
Train from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion
If you don’t rent a car it’s not a problem. It’s a 35km train ride from Gare St. Jean train station in Bordeaux to Gare de Saint Émilion. The journey takes about 40 minutes each way and costs 18 euro ($25 USD) round trip. The train ride is comfortable and you’ll be privy to some excellent views of vineyards and chateaus, especially as you get closer to Saint Emilion.
Be Sure to Validate Your TGV Ticket
Be certain to validate each leg of your journey as French TGV train tickets are valid for 2 months and must be stamped from one of the yellow ticket machines on the station platform. We were actually unaware of this and when the train conductor came to check tickets she made us aware and cut us a huge break by not fining us. It’s lucky we didn’t get a conductor who was having a bad day, otherwise, we would have received a hefty fine. If you forget to validate your train ticket it is your responsibility to seek out a train conductor and inform them, don’t let them come to you first.
Arriving at Gare de Saint Emilion
Once you arrive at Saint Emilion’s small train station, you’ll need to walk about 1km past picturesque vineyards into town. Saint Emilion is one of France’s most beautiful towns. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to how well preserved the exteriors of the old buildings are. The interiors are a different story, housing an abundance of chic wine shops, trendy restaurants, sweet shops and gift shops. Saint Emilion is very touristy, but somehow still feels authentic. After a few hours strolling through this magnificent town, Bell and I both fell in love with it and declared it one of our favorite European towns.
Rent a Bicycle
We had planned to rent a bicycle and cycle through the lush vineyards of the region to several of the towns neighboring chateaus. But with July temperatures that day reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), we chose not to labor and possibly argue for the rest of the day and scrapped that plan. Along with lower prices, fall and spring are better times to visit this region because you’re less likely to be bogged down with heat and can partake in more activities. Scorching temperatures also mean you probably won’t be in the mood to drink what Bordeaux is most famous for- red wine. Though fortunately the Bordeaux area also produces enjoyable white wines which Bell doubly appreciated as she’s unfortunately allergic to the tannins in red wine.
Stay Hydrated in Summer
The wine overflows in Saint Emilion, but amazingly not bottled water in shops. We had to pass through several shops before finally being able to purchase some cold water. Be sure to have some water if you arrive by train as there wasn’t anyplace to buy it near the train station. To cool off we also enjoyed some wonderful sorbet from one of several ice cream vendors. If you like tart flavors, we highly recommend getting a scoop of passion fruit as it was pretty much the best sorbet we’ve ever eaten.
Wear Good Walking Shoes in Saint Emilion
Saint Emilion has a rather steep climb on tricky cobblestone streets so be sure to wear good walking shoes! When you reach the top of town you’ll be rewarding with a stunning panoramic view of nearby wineries and the town below. It’s a view you will never forget and one of the many scenic things in life where the pictures don’t do it justice.
For just 6.50 euro ($8.50 USD) you can take a short tram ride around some wineries and the tours lasts around 30 minutes. This is especially a good idea if members of your party aren’t able or willing to rent bicycles.
Dining in Saint Emilion
We highly recommend having wine and dinner in the main square as it’s one of the most beautiful settings we’ve ever dined in. And the prices are fantastic considering you could pay the same money to eat pub food in Dublin. The Amelia Canta restaurant rests in a stunning setting with a great view of the Monolithic Church of St. Emilion. There’s a few other neighboring restaurants in the square, so have a look at the menus to see which canard (duck) dish you’d like to indulge in. For vegetarians, there is unfortunately no soy foie gras options.
Eating here reminded us of the opening of The Way, about hiking the Camino de Santiago, which begins in France. Saint Emilion is a great day trip from Bordeaux!
Where to Stay in Bordeaux and Saint Emilion?
Families especially will find the best value in short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here and receive $40 credit off your first stay! It’s great to have a fridge to store delicious French cheeses and other goodies too. Be sure to book apartments with consistently good reviews.
Consider booking a hotel in advance that offers free cancellation. That way if your plans change, you can cancel without penalty.
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