As someone who totally enjoys wine but wants to learn more, going to Bordeaux, France during harvest time would be a master class, and a trip there has been on my travel wish list for a long time. Tasting wine from titles such as Cadillac, Graves, Cotes de Blaye, and Entre-Deux-Mers was this solo traveler’s dream, and lounging around a castle didn’t look too bad either. I booked a trip for the end of summer and started researching the best tours to explore the vineyards and beyond as I planned.
As someone with social anxiety, I have never been keen on large groups, especially when trying to experience a destination. When I started looking for tours, I found that most of them required large group viewings on buses, and many private tours were over my budget. I felt stuck, but when I was on the verge of giving up, I encountered Alexandre and Retro Tour Bordeaux.
According to Airbnb, the $208 tour would consist of the cyclist and me driving through Saint-Émilion, including Bordeaux and the medieval city, in a sidecar, stopping at different castles along the way. With an excellent five-star rating on Airbnb, I was hoping it would be an excellent alternative to seeing Bordeaux by bus.
Alexandre picked me up at the Renaissance Bordeaux Hotel, inspired by brutalist architecture in Bacalan’s Old Docks district. The bright red, vintage-inspired 1940s-style motorcycle gleamed in the sun and the sidecar was just as gorgeous, with no windshield and a comfortable seat. I put on a speedster helmet and we drove away.
We drove over four hours from Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion, first on the main highway and then on one-way gravel and dirt roads. We passed through vineyards, stopping at some to steal a few vines. We took a quick look at major wine producers such as Château Bélair-Monange, known as the main wine producer in Saint-Émilion until the 20th century, and stopped long enough to get a good view of the property. Our first real pit stop was the town of Saint-Émilion. The medieval city was full of travelers (and even megabuses, some of which I’m happy to avoid). We parked our car near the Eglise Monolithe de Saint-Émilion, explored the area and walked the little cobbled paths, visiting quaint wine shops and open-air restaurants.