I’m back today with more about our cycling adventure through Bordeaux. Last week, I covered the first few days – including the city of Bordeaux and our overnight in Saint Macaire. Today we’re getting back on the bike and heading toward Sainte-Gemme. You can see all my France vacation recaps here.
Day 3 – Saint Macaire to Sainte-Gemme
I knew that today was going to be tough when I saw 3 rated climbs on the route map. No time wasted, we started the climbing immediately after leaving the city with a climb up and out of the surrounding vineyards. Although this was the shortest distance planned for the week, it also had the most elevation gain of any single day. The rolling hills covering most of the route made for a gorgeous ride, with nothing but vineyards, countryside, and tiny French towns along the way.
With no towns of any size along the way, we were warned to bring a picnic for food this day. I brought Quest Bars for our snack, knowing that it wouldn’t take us all day to cover the planned mileage. We found the perfect spot for a break at a seventh century castle just off the route. The craziest part is that these types of places were everywhere!
After our break, we got back on the road and enjoying more climbing and I appreciated all the squats I have been doing this year. In the past, I was never much of a climber on the bike (descending is another story), but I’m much stronger on climbs these days. While not an easy route, it was still a lot of fun and we felt great when we finally tackled the final climb leading up to our home for the next 2 days — La Gaboria.
La Gaboria is not in an actual city (as the rest of our accommodations were), but in the countryside near Sainte-Gemme. We were the only guests for the first night and enjoyed having this lovely home to ourselves. Our room was on the main floor, opening out to a courtyard through french doors and a large window opening to a garden in the back. We kept the doors and windows open during our stay to let the breeze sweep through the room. I loved the room so much, I plan to decorate our master bedroom very similarly.
The only downside to this location was getting back on our bikes to find food for lunch. The town of Monsiguer was just 3km by bike and we arrived just before the last cafes closed for the afternoon. Typically lunch is over by 1:30 in these towns, which can leave you hungry if you don’t time it right.
After lunch, we picked up fruit & cheese from a small grocery and headed back to La Gaboria for a relaxing afternoon. We chose a bottle of sparkling wine from our stash to enjoy with our purchase and had a little picnic by the pool overlooking vineyards and sunflower fields.
Not only is this location idyllic, but the food is spectacular! As the only guests, we had a private dinner served by the owners on the patio. The amuse bouche was served with a homemade aperitiv, followed by a three-course meal and a bottle of local wine. Every course was creative and delicious. A perfect way to end the day and we were feeling completely spoiled heading to bed that evening.
Day 4 – Loop Around Sainte-Gemme
One thing I learned about French breakfast is that it’s all about the carbs. Unless you’re at a hotel that caters to tourists, you should expect carbs and coffee to be the menu. For breakfast we had homemade french toast and the biggest cup of espresso I have had. Delicious, but I did miss my morning eggs.
We decided to scrap the planned cycling route for the day and asked for a recommendation for a local winery we could visit instead. Emily (one of the owners) made an appointment for us at the same as the wine they served the evening before, just 10km down the road. We hopped on our bikes to make our appointment, arriving just as the winemaker’s wife came to meet us. She gave us a private tour of their organic production and barrel room, before allowing us to taste many of their wines.
We learned about some of the labeling practices in France, that made it much easier to interpret the label. For example, Eleve en Fut de Chene on the label explains that the wine has been barrel aged for at least 12 months. Looking at the top of the bottle, Recolant on the cap tells you it’s made by and independent winemaker (instead of a collective). We used both of these during the rest of our trip. We picked up 3 more bottles here and Kirk carried them in his bag again.
After our winery visit and a stop in town for another late lunch, we spent the rest of the day relaxing! We lounged by the pool, took a quick dip in the cold water, read books, explored the property (and the sunflower fields), and enjoyed drinks by the pool. This was the most relaxing two days of the trip and perfectly timed. I’m not usually good at slowing down and just relaxing, but the location made it easy. We both agreed that having a few days during the trip where you didn’t have to ride made the trip even better.
Dinner was another fantastic meal, although this time we had company as another couple (with the same tour company) arrived during the day (they were a day behind us on the tour). It was fun to have company this evening, although I’m glad we had one night to ourselves.
This was my favorite “hotel” of our time in France and I hope to be back in the future for another (longer) visit. From the beautiful rooms, to the infinity pool, to delicious meals, to wonderful hosts – it covers everything that I look for and in the perfect setting. I highly recommend adding La Gaboria to your itinerary if you’re planning a trip to France.
Next up – we’re heading to Saint Emilion. But you’ll have to wait until next week for that one….