It is Tuesday morning and after a sound night’s sleep after the long drive, the “old git” and the “old gal” were raring to go on the Tour de Vineyards and Beaches of the Medoc region of Bordeaux in southern France – bedecked out in their new multi-lingual dayglo yellow cycling tops!
But there was a slight problem – it had started to rain heavily during breakfast at our hotel, the famous Hotel de France et d’Angleterre on the Gironde river estuary in Pauillac.
Now you know that we don’t really like getting too wet so the “old gal” persuaded the “old git” to delay departure after checking the hour-by-hour weather forecast.
An hour and a bit flashed past as the dynamic duo found a cheese and wine shop just two doors down from the hotel! The “old gal” – who is a connoisseur of both – thought she had died and gone to heaven!
Let’s just say that some supplies were purchased for our first picnic – and safely packed away in my shiny new cool bag, complete with detachable freezer blocks. Very cool!
Bang on cue, as predicted by the weather forecast, the skies cleared and it was time for the Grand Depart!
Today’s schedule describes the route for the day as “cycling a circular loop through the vineyards of the Medoc – home to some of the most famous wines in the world and their châteaux.” Oh well – all right then, if you insist!
The “old git” – in his questionable wisdom – had decided that we would start with the “long” 39 mile route option, instead of the shorter 23 mile loop .. in his words “just to get some miles under our belt.”
The destination – according to our self-guide “bible” of directions – was the grand early 18th century Chateau Margaux, world-renowned for its vintage wine. And the route for the next six days was described as being “flat” so the “old gal” was in particularly high spirits!
So off we whizzed and I was in my element as we left Pauillac and almost immediately turned into the well surfaced and maintained tracks which criss-cross the vineyards of the area.
Within minutes we were literally within touching distance of the vines which were groaning with black grapes as the annual harvest was about to begin within days. And we had clocked up our first castle as we took in the architecture of Chateau Talbot.
The Medoc wine road is known as the “Route des Chateaux” and is located in magnificent countryside between the Girdone estuary and the Landes forest and offered “Team Tandem Ecosse” some wonderful views of the vines.
It was all going too well really … and so it turned out! We got “lost” within the first hour. Although the “bible” offers details of every turn and direction, we remembered from last year’s trip to Burgundy that it can, at times, be more than a little confusing.
And so it proved! A combination of directions involving a 5-road crossing in the middle of the vineyards and complicated directions at the next t-junction had the “old git” totally confused. And for the next half hour or so we explored a particular stretch of road through a vineyard at least four times. In his defence I will say there are worst placed in the world to get lost!
Meanwhile the “old gal” – who is in charge of map reading as the maps and “bible” hang on the back of the “old git” – was saying she knew the way! If only the “old git” had listened! Guess what – yes she was right! And even worse, the “old git” had to admit that she was correct all along!
That was the first of several “discussions” my dynamic duo had about directions over the week – but it was all part of the fun (or so it says on my bit of paper!) So back on the correct path we passed several other fabulous châteaux – including Le Moulin de la Rose and Beychevelle – as we cycled through the vineyards.
We were cycling along good style, enjoying the warm sunshine, when there was another incident of note. Avoiding a pot hole, the bike wobbled and the “old git’s” sunglasses fell off the elastic webbing on the bag at the front and fell to the ground. No problem, except there was a horrible crunching noise as my back wheel went directly over them rendering them useless!
Best to admit the “old git” wasn’t in the best of humour at this point so we cycled on for the next few kilometres in silence till the views got the better of him and we were all back in unison again!
And as it says on the “Team Tandem Ecosse” t-shirts – it’s always better when we’re together!
After passing the village of Lemarque – and clocking up some more miles we were soon at our destination of the sensational Chateau Margaux. The route interestingly took us all round the estate to see the famous vineyard at close quarters.
On the edge of the estate there is a Mademoiselle de Margaux shop – which offers wine and chocolate tasting – so with their arms twisted up their back (not!) the “old git” and the “old gal” disappeared inside.
The lady of the chateau has launched her own range of vine-shaped chocolate sticks in interesting combination flavours, like mango and sichuan pepper, alongside a range of chocolate covered cherry liqueurs.
The dynamic duo manfully tasted the complete range – along with a few sips of the chateau’s wine – before making some purchases of a couple of boxes of the chocolates for Christmas treats!
Time for lunch – the first picnic of the tour! The picnics have become something of an institution on these trips and the first certainly didn’t disappoint. The menu included some cured ham, a couple of delicious cheeses, freshly picked grapes, a baguette, and (of course) the obligatory bottle of a Medoc red wine which was highly recommended by the wine shop from earlier.
And it was all polished off in the car park of Chateau Margaux – at the very heart of the aristocracy of Bordeaux wine-making! Classy!
The chateau was founded in the 1400s, with the current structure built in 1804. Traditional techniques are still used here – with the harvesting of the grapes done by hand to discard any overripe or unripe grapes. After the fermentation, the wine stays in oak barrels for two years and eventually produces a rich wine which is perfect to compliment lamb, veal,poultry and game.
After the picnic, time for a lovely double espresso in a newly opened coffee shop where the “old gal” invested in a new waiter’s friend-style bottle opener for the picnic bag! She is obviously planning for the days ahead!
With the skies getting cloudy again, it was time to head back the 30 km to Pauillac and the “old git” decided to wind up the speed! I must say I was impressed with the dynamic duo’s fitness (well I suppose it was the first day after all!)
We even managed to clock a top speed of just over 40 km/hr – admittedly on a downhill stretch, and in what seemed like no time we were back in Pauillac.
The “old git” checked my on-board computer and revealed that we had covered 64 km with an average speed for the day (while cycling) of 17 km/hr.
The “old gal” decided a small celebration was in order and the “old git” was dispatched next door to the wine shop to collect a nicely chilled bottle of the local Cremant de Bordeaux. the cork was soon popped as my dynamic duo reflected on a successful first day.
And the best thing was that – I am delighted to report – there were no mechanical incidents which shows there is still lots of life left in this “old lady” of a classic tandem.
After a quick inspection from the “old gal” in her role as “Chief Engineer” I was locked up safely for the night. The dynamic duo headed out for a meal in the town. The “old git” had chosen a tapas bar (as you do when in France) which was run by a Uruguayan!
The starter of mixed tapas was tasty but the “old gal” then selected a “chivito” – a culinary treat in Montevideo – which turned out to be a weird combination of a bit of chewy steak, served with bacon, eggs and cheese. The “old gal” was heard to say it was awful and hoped it would be the worst meal of the tour. French cuisine from now on was going to be the order of the day!
A quick walk out to the marina ended the first day – before it was time for serious zzzzs.