Whilst we spent most of the time chilling out and relaxing next to the lake and the pool, we did make a few day trips out to some of the surrounding towns and cities. Pretty much everywhere we wanted to travel was an hour away from L'Etang Vallier, whether we were heading to Brantome or Saintes and so on.
First up was a day trip to Saint Emilion for a wine tour. When I was writing Secrets of the River I got all my information on how wine was made from a book so I was really excited to see the process up close for myself. Saint Emilion is more than just another quaint French village; it is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is plenty to do besides the wine tours offered although the vineyards do make up a huge part of the town's surroundings.
We opted for the wine train tour otherwise known as 'Train Des Grands Vignobles A Saint-Emilion' This was a lovely little excursion on a small road train which takes you around the outskirts of Saint Emilion with stunning views over the vineyards and the town itself. There was pre-recorded commentary in both French and English which provided an insight into the different vineyards and their owners which I found quite intriguing.
This was followed by a stop off at Chateaux Rochebelle; we were taken down into the monolithic caves to see where the wine is stored and 'brewed' before being taken upstairs to the shop to take part in a wine tasting. I was a little disappointed that we were only given the one type of wine to taste as I think it would have been nice to compare but with the whole tour only costing €9 I can't really complain.
I was really at home amongst the vines. Obviously.
After we finished the tour we had a little wander around the cobbled streets; Saint Emilion is absolutely beautiful and you could easily spend the entire day just exploring the little alleys and passageways. Other attractions in the area include King's Tower, the Monolithic Church, the Cardinal Palace and the Market Halls although we didn't have time to explore these.
My wine tour buddies. We all really enjoyed the tour.
Our other main day trip was to Pons. We had passed through on our way to Saintes and took a risk in visiting as we weren't really sure what was there. We were pleasantly surprised. I got the impression that Pons is often overlooked in favour of nearby Cognac but it was a beautiful French town with some stunning buildings.
The kids in particular loved the fountain in front of the town hall. Luckily the weather was perfect for a quick splash.
I absolutely love just wandering almost aimlessly around and seeing what gems you can discover. I probably come across as incredibly nosy peering into people's gardens but the streets were so quiet and nobody called me out on it!
I don't know whether you could occupy yourself for a whole day in Pons but it was certainly a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours; there was a children's playground for the kids to burn off excess energy and it looked like there were a couple of walks which took you further afield. And, of course, there is nearby Cognac which looked like an excellent day trip as well.
That is pretty much it for our visit to France although I will be sharing a separate post about our time in Brantome and all that it has inspired for Secrets of the River book two! I will keep you posted.