I have just returned from an impromptu weekend retreat in the French countryside. Myself along with 3 foreign girls packed into a coupé early Saturday morning with no plans aside from a hotel reservation at a 17th century manor home. We were bound for the medieval village of Rocamadour, located in Central France’s Dordogne region. Craving some fresh air and rural greenery, we chose Rocamadour for its promise of great walking trails and stellar cliff side views…our guide books did not steer us wrong.
Skirting around hillside roads, we finally arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon. Autumn scented air and a front yard of lush vineyards welcomed us as we were escorted around the property and to our room. The charming cottage was still and serene, an interesting comparison to the bustling city of Bordeaux which we came from.
Needing some nourishment before beginning our hikes, the girls and I made a picnic of baguette, local goat cheese, and cured ham while overlooking arguably the best view of the city.
The trails began at the valley floor, which was only accessible through the Grand Escalier, 216 steps linking the Château to the sanctuaries to the boutiques and restaurants below. The walk down the successive levels was just a warm-up for our 3 hour hike lying ahead.
Following an unclear trail map, my Finnish friend and I took the “shorter” of the two trails which began with a thirty minute incline up the hillside. Panting and flushed, we took in the untouched landscape. Although it’s approaching November, I could have sworn we were in the middle of August. The sun was warm and shone delicately through the foliage above. I’ve forgotten how much I missed this.
Our descend from the hills began right before sunset, just enough time to find a café in town to enjoy a post-hike glass of wine. I sipped on a glass of 2012 Merlot from the Cahors AOC accompanied by a Nutella crepe. The hard work was so worth it!
The following day we said goodbye to the beautiful village of Rocamadour and set out for Cahors wine country, the birthplace of Malbec wine. Ribboned with red and orange vineyards, Cahors is a sight to see and unfortunately poorly known. I can definitely say the world is missing out!
As it was a Sunday in France, I was sure we would not find a winery that was open for tastings. Driving along, an open sign for Château Lagrezette shined like a beacon to us and hope was restored. My friends and I set up a mini picnic of fruit and cheese among the sea of vines.
We entered the gated château to be greeted by a man with a puzzled face. In French, he questioned why we were there. Apparently the winery was in fact closed…oops. Perhaps from the decency in his heart or perhaps he was just bored in his boutique, we’ll never know, but he decided to give the 4 of us a private tour of the cellar. Completely unexpected, we walked around for half an hour learning about the history of French Malbec. I did not realize that Cahors is the only red-wine appellation in Southwestern France that does not grow Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. The region dares to be different and their wines certainly show it.
Before we knew it, it was 6:00 p.m. and we had to get on our way back to reality in Bordeaux. It was fun, even if just for a weekend, to vacation like the French in the historical village of Rocamadour and to drink like noblemen in 15th century châteaux. Another fantastic trip for the books filled with new friendships, outdoor adventures, and of course wine!