Saint Vincent de Pertignas, France: It started last night: I couldn’t decide where I wanted to cycle today. A night’s sleep didn’t provide any clarity. This morning, over yet another baguette with cheese and ham, I felt bored with the routines which have developed over nearly three weeks of cycling.
I started cycling this morning not knowing where I was going, or even where I wanted to go. It took me just a few minutes to get out of Langon, and once confronted with a choice of country roads, I followed my curiosity and my nose to a chateau associated with Toulouse Lautrec. I meandered, aimlessly cycling across the rolling hills of the Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, which is nestled between the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers. I zig-zagged past more vineyards and past a solitary windmill perched on a bluff, still undecided.
After a couple of hours in this directionless funk I spotted a sign pointing to a town which I had considered spending the night. So again I changed course, heading down another series of country roads, through small but uninteresting towns. After meandering over 60 km, eventually I made it to the petite village of Saint-Vincent-de-Portignas which has an under-rated chateau restaurant-hotel. Finally, by default, I had a decision.
The Chateau Isabeau de Naujan dates from the late 13th century. It’s technically not a chateau but a fortified manor that was renovated in the 15th century and a few times since. I arrived at 12:45pm and I was the only guest around. Madame, whom I had to hunt down on the property, informed me check-in time is 3pm. After a brief stand-off she agreed to let me check in early but insisted the kitchen is ferme. I would have to cycle to the nearby town of Rauzan for lunch.
So off to Rauzan I went for a superb three course lunch at the only restaurant in town. I also decided that to break the routine of cycling I need to break some rules. So I had a demi-carafe of wine as I leisurely savored the creative dishes of the menu du jour. Finally I feel like I’m in France.
After lunch I cycled to the nearby Roquefort winery only to find out they’re closed on weekdays. So I returned to the Chateau Isabeau de Naujan and met the guy who handles all the marketing/sales for the winery. He was conducting a private tasting for an important Asian buyer on the heels of the Bordeaux wine market which took place earlier this week. He offered me a glass of sparkling wine and says he visits Hong Kong often as the China market booms.
Tonight I had dinner at the chateau, sampling their delicious top-of-the line red over another three-course meal. Dinner consisted of a “gateau riviera to both salmons, cool and smoked, in a mousseline lemony sauce” as a starter. The main was a “parmentier of duck confit, emulsion of marscarpone, in the basil” followed by a cheese plate. Today’s two meals have been the finest yet on this cycling adventure. I don’t want to eat like this every day – my waistline can’t take it – but it’s great to enjoy a fine meal or two in Bordeaux for a change of pace.
I have cycled in a northeasterly direction since Lisbon. Tomorrow that changes as I head due east along the Dordogne river valley. This is prime cycling territory, with much to see and absorb, so for the next several days I will cycle at a slower speed before again accelerating to Geneva and beyond.
Day 20 (Thursday, June 24): Langon – Saint Vincent de Pertignas, France
Day 20 distance: 63.71 km
Day 19 ascent: 335 m
Terrain: rolling hills
Weather: sunny with clouds
Distance: 1,529.65 km
Climbing: 9,967 meters
Rest days: 4
Police interactions: 1