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7th May, 2017


From the entrance of the Gironde to our berth just outside Bordeaux was 67 miles and we had to go ‘up river’ with the tide, consequently the pilot boarded, by helicopter, at 11 pm on the 5th. Eventually we berthed around five, a long night for some, but we had two days alongside to recover.

There was some need to catch up on rest, however we joined a tour in the afternoon that went off to the Médoc region north of Bordeaux. Passing acres of vineyards we eventually stopped to take a look through the gates of the magnificent Château Margaux and, as if by magic they opened, but only to allow a service vehicle to leave, regrettably my influence did not run to the minor miracle of obtaining admission to this hallowed ground.

We continued to the vineyard of Château Lanessan where the process of grape to wine was explained, at some length, giving the group a sufficient appetite for the wine tasting. It was an interesting afternoon, but the tour the next day was to prove even more fascinating.

Château de La Roquetaillade is south of Bordeaux within the Sauternes region and was built in sandstone back in the 11th century as a defensive castle with a massive central keep. The Viscounts de Baritault du Carpia have been the owners for the last 600 years and the present owner is an English lady who married the Viscount many years ago.

We believe it was she who came out of the serious looking doors, holding a bunch of very large keys, in order to give us the ‘show round’. The nearby chapel was first, but then we returned to venture into this ‘National Monument’, it was like stepping back a few hundred years. This was no commercialised tourist ‘trap’, but a lived in home. Well, at least some of the rooms, the ones we did not see, which I hoped were a little warmer than the rooms we did.

The castle had been restored in the 1800s and was probably due for another dose as the cold and damp had affected many of the walls. One of the big rooms showed signs of initial renovation, financial assistance being given by the French government.  We were advised to come back in eight years if we wanted to see the finished result. Other rooms had some lovely antique furniture and the belongings of other occupants long since passed. It felt very special, being taken around the family ‘home’.

Of course there was a wine tasting and it was most pleasant.  Two bottles of semi dry white, castle on the label, will be making their way to Cornwall soon, a reminder for a pleasant summer evening.

Captain Philip Rentell

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