Destination Southwestern France:
Heaven Among the Vineyards
Story and photos by Tom Weber
of the highlights and there were many of my recent ten-day
sojourn around parts of southwestern France was to finally meet a fellow
blogger in the flesh.
Not only did my petite famille gather for a week
of joie de vivre, but our host during our entire get-together
was Stéphane Gabart, the effervescent, bon vivant behind
Heaven, a must-read blog for anyone who loves and craves
all-things French from cuisine, to design and fashion, to the
laid-back lifestyle that is uniquely southwestern France.
It was through Stéphane's blog that I found out
about his family-owned and operated B&B, the Château Saint
Jacques Calon, in Montagne,
just across the hill and around the bend from picture-postcard perfect
a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gironde department
of the Aquitaine region.
You can come for the scenery, and you should, but, by
all means, stay for the food and superlative wines. Thanks to Stéphane,
he provided us with au courant dining suggestions and every night,
and sometimes at midday, we experienced another layer of his personal
French Heaven via knife, fork and wine glass. Mon Dieu!
And for sightseeing, Stéphane was always "Jeannot-on-the-spot"
with great recommendations on where to go and what to see: small villages,
the nearby seacoast, open-air markets, wine tastings at some of the
world-famous châteaux, guided tours, etc.
In the end, his mobile phone got quite a workout, as
he always called ahead and booked our tours, wine tastings and restaurant
In addition, Stéphane's one heckuva cartographer,
as he would draw up maps every morning filled with minute details to
ensure that we did not get lost along the way. An in-car GPS doesn't
always get you where you want to go, but there was no "recalculating"
when following Stéphane's hand-drawn road maps.
The former estate home of an award-winning vineyard
that continues to produce the château's namesake wine, the property
was purchased separately by Stéphane's family some years ago.
The Gabarts may not own the vineyards, but guests can
take a leisurely stroll through the endless rows of merlot and cabernet
franc grapevines just beyond the property line up to the two well-preserved
windmills. From there you can see why Stéphane calls his blog
My French Heaven.
Our small party of five-and-a-half had the "run
of the house," as we occupied one wing of the château,
the side facing the deep blue, saltwater swimming pool surrounded by
a well-manicured garden. We enjoyed our daily petit dejeuner
(breakfast) poolside, as well as a few picnic lunches at midday and
our nightly aperitif before heading off for another dinner of
regional haute cuisine.
The Château Saint Jacques Calon was the perfect
base for our family reunion in the southwest of France. The rooms, with
their comfortable four-poster beds, were clean, bright and spacious.
And, the complimentary WIFI service made it easy for me to blog about
my days and nights in this photogenic corner of France, either inside
the air-conditioned room or outside around the pool.
For complete information on this tranquil B&B tucked
quietly away in the heart of one of France's most prestigious wine-producing
to their English-language website.
The Château Saint Jacques Calon Stéphane's
French Heaven, and now mine, too.
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