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Saturday
Jun142014

The Long Way Up - Part II

The second part of our Spain to the Netherlands road trip took us across the wine region of France and into Belgium. Our first destination in France was outside of Bordeaux where we stopped off for the day at the idyllic World Heritage town of Saint-Émilion. The Romans planted vineyards here in the 2nd century and today Saint-Émilion is one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux. With it's fascinating Romanesque churches, cobbled steets with wine tasting rooms and ancient ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets, this charming village is a slice of heaven.

Arriving in the beautiful historic town of Saint-Émilion.

One of the many delicious coffee shops in Saint-Émilion.

Maricela and Seba enjoying the beautiful cobble stoned streets.

Views looking over the town... thanks to Andres for balancing up on a high wall to get this shot!

The ruins of a Dominican convent surrounded by vineyards greet you at one of the main entrances. This huge wall with the remains of three vaults was abandoned after the 100 Years War around 1,200.

Ancient ruins, church and homes near one of the entrances to the town.

Restaurants, coffee shops and wine tasting rooms on the way down to the King's Tower.

The stunning Collegiate Cloisters of Saint-Émilion were built shortly after Saint Emilion died in 767 and in the 14th century it was rebuild and expanded. Here you can see the beautiful and peaceful inner courtyard with its arcades.

A panoramic view of the plaza and the beautifully intact 13th century Castel Daou Rey (King's Tower), used like a stronghold community until the end of the 16th, then the town hall until the 17th century.

Winding back streets and shuttered windows leading out of the town.

Views of Castel Daou Rey through the steep cobbled back streets.

View of the Monolith Church steeple from a coffee shop we stopped at before heading on to the campsite.

Cooking dinner for the night at one of the many campgrounds we stayed at during the trip.

Later in the day we also stopped off at Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, located in the tiny town of Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire valley. The 16th century picturesque château is set on an island in the middle of the Indre river and considered one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture.

The gorgeous quaint town of Azay-le-Rideau leading to the gates of the château.

Views of the stunning 16th century Château d'Azay-le-Rideau and moat.

Our next port of call was the city of Auxerre which has a fascinating history dating back to the 1st century AD when it was a Gallo-Roman centre, later becoming the seat of a bishop and a provincial capital of the Roman Empire. Up until recently, Auxerre was one of the most prosperous cities in the country, I wish we could have spent a little more time exploring this gem of a town.

The Clock Tower, located in the Old Town.

Cathedral of St. Étienne (11th–16th centuries) built in Gothic style, renowned for its three doorways with remarkable bas-reliefs.

View of the old town and cathedral on the Yonne River.

Another quick stop off took us to the quaint village of Chablis which gives its name to one of the most famous French white wines.

The local church and views of the world famous Chardonnay grape fields.

Driving the VW campervan through the village of Chablis.

Andres timed the day of our road trip perfectly visiting amazing Epernay, the heart of the Champagne region, for Mother's Day (in this part of Europe). Located in the centre of the vast Champagne wine-region, the town of Epernay is considered to be Champagne's Capital. We stopped off to see the large Classical and Renaissance-style private mansions by walking along the Avenue de Champagne which today house prestigious Champagne Houses. Beneath these houses are over 100km of underground passages, reserved solely for storing Champagne!

The Champagne house of the world renowned Dom Perignon.

Walking along the Avenue de Champagne on Mother's Day.

Walking past the spectacular gated houses of Moët & Chandon Champagne.

The famous Avenue de Champagne.

A view of the vineyards from the campervan driving out of Epernay.

Our last stop before driving home was to the famous French city of Reims. Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France in the Cathedral of Reims.

The fascinating history of Reims Cathedral.

Words can't express the unbelievable feeling of incredible history as you walk the aisles of this Cathedral. Goose bumps were an understatement...

Visible shrapnel damage from the First World War.

The Royal Palace of Reims and Louis XV statue.

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