While passing through Bordeaux this summer, we decided to take a detour through St Emilion, one of the most prolific wine producing regions in France. I had always wanted to visit this UNESCO protected town. People who had been here spoke about it as being a romantic, stunningly beautiful place, with picturesque buildings, delicious food and of course wine tasting… Those people didn’t have a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Really, we should have visited pre-kids, but decided to go anyway because who knew, when and if we would get the opportunity again.
We booked a small, modest, ground floor apartment on a little street off the main thoroughfare. It was basic, but Saint- Emilion is quite expensive and at €120.00 per night, it was already exceeding our budget. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and had the rest of the day and the following day to explore and enjoy the town.
We started by taking a stroll. We put our one -year-old in her buggy and our 3-year-old walked. Little did we realise, but Saint- Emilion is covered in cobble stones and the streets are very uneven. It was a real struggle in the searing heat to push the buggy around, so we decided to take a break and have a cool drink on a hill overlooking the town. We were pretty impressed with the view. The old narrow streets gave way to the vineyards in the distance and as we sipped our glasses of red wine we thought – this was a good idea.
Eating out with the kids
It was soon time to eat and we found a gorgeous little restaurant with a garden in the back. We asked for an outdoor table and as we were the first there, we didn’t feel the usual stress and panic of having two very loud and unpredictable children with us. No sooner had we ordered than the place started to fill up – with couples. Each pair gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes and held hands across their candle lit tables. The sun was setting, and the ambience was perfect and then it started. Our daughter was getting tired and cranky and started pulling things off the table. Our son followed suit. The two of them started shouting and generally causing a ruckus. The courting couples all glanced at us intermittently. None of them offered a reassuring smile and the tense ball in my stomach grew bigger. We gobbled down our meal and headed back to the apartment, convinced the morning would be better.
Wine tasting experience
I woke to my one-year-old’s shrieks the following morning at 6 am and rather than wake everyone up, I took her for a walk. I strapped her in the baby carrier and walked to the convent on top of the hill overlooking the town. We watched the sun rise while chatting. The convent had a vineyard and there wasn’t a soul in sight, so we walked up and down through the vines examining the grapes. After that we went to get my husband and son and had a lovely breakfast of croissants, egg and coffee in the main square. We noticed other couples had kids and started to relax a bit more. After breakfast, we went to the tourist office and asked about family friendly vineyards and wine tasting. The woman there told us that there were tours and gave us directions. The tour operator told us they could offer us private wine tasting on a family friendly vineyard where the kids would be entertained.
We thought – FANTASTIC, so off we went in a little electric car. As soon as we got to the vineyard our guide said there had been a mistake and we would have to join a tour. There was nothing family friendly about this tour. The group of sophisticates looked at us strangely, as we joined them, and my son started pulling at the grapes. Soon we were taken on a tour of the wine cellars and it was clear that we would not be able to stay, as our kid’s general behaviour was just not appropriate. We headed back to our electric car, dejected and feeling foolish. Our guide was so sweet though and she took us on a lovely tour around all the vineyards instead which the kids loved and taught us all about grapes and wine.
Back in town
When we got back to Saint- Emilion we sat down in the square and had a lovely glass of wine and the kids were pretty happy being entertained by a waiter.That night we went back to the square as it seemed to be where all the families ended up and we all gave each other knowing glances which seemed to say, “we shouldn’t have come here”. It was lovely to see the area and town but really, we were just there to see what could have been. Such holidays should be preserved for those who can enjoy them and for those who can freely partake in the exquisite restaurants, wine tours and shops. We won’t be stopping there again for at least 16 years, but it is a very lovely place.