This is the lovely campsite Yelloh! St Emilion, close to St Emilion. We arrived two days before the site closed for the autumn; enough time to explore the village and navigate the lake on the pedalo’s and kayaks that visitors can use free of charge.
With Max on the Kayak. One of us has been swimming.
On the first day we cycled in, 2 miles up a steepish hill….St Emilion is on a limestone outcrop. We took the tourist train around the surrounding vineyards and stopped to visit the cellars and taste the ‘Grand Cru’ at Chateau Rochebelle, which owns the train.
Wine Caves at Chateau Rochebelle.
Apparently there are 200-300 km of caves and tunnels under the village and surrounding countryside, left over from limestone quarrying in the past and many now serving as cellars to store wine.
We were taken back to the village for ice cream and a leg powered tour.
St Emilion…referred to as a village by the locals but seems bigger than that…is in fact Planet Wine. Don’t forget to organise a mortgage if you want one of the older vintages. Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1928 is a snip at only 3800 euros per bottle.
The next day I took a tour of the subterranean chapels of the village. It starts here at the Place de l’Eglise Monolithe. First stop is the cave of St Emilion, the hermit who lived in it for 17 years in the 8th century or thereabouts, and whose followers built up the village. The cave has its own water supply, so quite convenient really.
Above his cave is a chapel, dating from over 1000 years ago. There are very old (12th century) Roman and Gothic murals, preserved by good fortune when the chapel was sold to a barrel maker after the French revolution and the soot from his furnace covered and protected the walls.
Next stop were the catacombs, only a few parking places carved out of the solid rock; you had to have been very good indeed to have been interred here.
Finally we came to the spectacular underground cathedral, dug out over 40-70 years from the limestone (we were told it is quicker and cheaper to dig out an underground cathedral than build an overground variety). No pictures possible but very impressive and worth a visit. The tour guide was very good (English speaking tour..2pm) and explained that the very ingenious drainage channels built as part of the original works to preserve the structure had subsequently been blocked by using them as an extension of the catacombs…..not in the original plan…and some of the massive stone pillars supporting the roof have had to be temporally braced..
The tower on the right is the bell tower built over the underground cathedral between the 12th and 16th centuries.
After handing over 1.50 euros at the Tourist Office I was lent a key to the Bell tower; 186 steps up and great views from the top. This is looking South, in the distance is the King’s tower, built in the 13th century, function unknown.
The Kings tower can also be climbed and gives some good views of the village from the South.
Looking out from one of the terraces.
This is a Tertre, one of the steep cobbled streets that traverse the village. High heels not advised.
19th Century Public Wash house, for washing your dirty laundry in public.
Remains of a 13th century Dominican convent, at the outskirts of the village, destroyed at the beginning of the hundred years war.
The Cordeliers Cloister, remains of a 14th century monastery, now home to a wine bar.
Gate and house of the Cadene
Pretty 16th century half timbered house and arch.
With Gargoyle, to watch over the street.
Cloisters of the old Collegiate Church. 12th to 15th Century. Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Roofs of St Emilion, from the King’s Tower.
Looking Back on the cycle ride returning to the Campsite, thunderstorm moving in over the Bell tower.