August 8 Day 4 – Cadillac

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August 8 Day 4 – Cadillac

August 8, Wednesday Day 4 – Cadillac

This morning, venture into the Sauternes region for a tasting of the prestigious Château Guiraud dessert wines. Alternatively, cycle through the rolling vineyards of Sauternes to the Grand Cru Class estate of Château Myrat for a tasting.

After lunch an opportunity to wander around Cadillac before the Scenic Diamond manoeuvres for the Mascaret.


Dang!  At 7:00 am we missed the ‘The Five Tibetan Rites’ with our well being coach.  Oh well,  we managed to overcome our disappointment with the many selections at breakfast and got on the bus by 9:00 am to leave for our tour of the Château Guiraud, with wine tasting. Yum.  Driving through the region it seems like there are vines and Château’s everywhere – apparently the term ‘Château’ indicates a farm that grows grape vines and/or makes wine – who knew.  Vines have been grown in the region since the Romans occupied the area so it is not a surprise to see the castles (Château’s) and manor houses (Château’s)  built from the middle ages onward reflecting the century in which they were built.  Fortified towns like Cadillac also grew up along trade routes.  We were back on the Scenic Diamond for a light lunch (and cold beer) after which we went for a walk around medieval Cadillac before getting back in time for the ship to make its manoeuvre for the Mascaret.  The ship has to go to the middle of the river during the tidal wave so it doesn’t get banged around near shore.

We sailed for Bordeaux while at dinner – 7:00 pm – arriving around 11:30 pm.  After dinner we went to the lounge to enjoy a couple drinks and join in the Music quiz after which we enjoyed some live music with the Dany – the Scenic Musician of the cruise.

Mascaret:  a tidal bore that occurs along a coast where a river empties into an ocean or seaIt is a strong tide, a surge that pushes up the river, against the current.

Château Guiraud:  Known and loved for its Premier Grand Cru Sauternes, the Bordeaux estate, displays another side of the vineyards potential with their dry white wine.  Originally known as La Maison Noble du Bayle, the estate earned its name, and its fame, when it was owned by the Guiraud family in 1766. At the time of the 1855 Classification, the wines were sold under the name of Chateau Bayle.

The black label still in use today came from the the Guiraud family. The label, with its gold coat of arms logo, symbolizing their Protestant roots, is one of the oldest, original designs in the Bordeaux region and has essentially remained unchanged since it was originally designed.

Cadillac:  The fortified medieval town of Cadillac was founded in 1280 to serve as a river port for the castle of Benauges by the lord of the castle, Jean I de Grailly representing the King of England, Edward I. The remnants of Cadillac’s medieval fortifications built in 1315  still surround parts of this picturesque port town, 2 gates, 3 towers and almost the entire wall survives. The most important historic monument of the town is “Cadillac Castle” the stately Château des Ducs d’Épernon.

La Porte de la Mer (Sea Gate) was built starting in 1315.  It is the only tower remaining close to its original state. It has a crenelated terrace and  imposing machicolations, the openings in the floor between the corbels of a projecting parapet, through which missiles might be cast upon an enemy below, ensuring defense.  A drawbridge closed the gate until the beginning of the 18th century.

Le Carruet:  The partially restored military corridor between the medieval city wall and the town was built to allow movement of soldiers around the entire wall and access to the ramparts and to the archers.

Clock Tower:  Originally called Porte Vernihaut it was built in the beginning at the 14th century.  After the clock was installed in 1772 it became known as the Porte de l’Horloge.  To accommodate the clock works it was raised to 4 floors with a domed roof surmounted by a steeple.

City Hall:  Hotel de Ville, a wooden structure in the middle ages it was the location of weekly markets as it is today. It was rebuilt in stone in the 19th century.

Church Saint-Blaise and Saint-Martin:  founded in 1490 the church is attached to the north city wall and rebuilt between 1541 and 1544.  The bell tower was build in 1853.

Château des Ducs d’Épernon:  The castle was built between 1599 and 1610 by Jean-Louis Nogaret de la Valette (1554-1642) Duke of Epernon, who started his career as a favorite of King Henri III, but later became a powerful opposing figure to King Henri IV, who trying to diminish the duke’s power, encouraged him to build a Château, albeit magnificent, far from capital. (Far from Paris Epernon might have lived but this did not prevent him from indirectly participating in the assassination of Henri IV in 1610).

Built symmetrically around a central pavilion that houses the main staircase, the Cadillac castle is one of the first examples of the so called “à la française” architecture. Only the main building and the two adjoining lower wings remain from a building that once contained 60 rooms.

Set in the center of the town, the château was once an epitome of early 17th-century aristocratic living.  Captured and looted during the French Revolution, it was abandoned by the descendants of the Epernon family and transformed into a penitentiary for women between 1818 and 1890, where conditions were particularly harsh.  As prison it became notorious for the high mortality rates and harsh living conditions.  In the dormitories the remarkable French-style fireplaces  were used for toilets not  heating.   When it closed at the end of the 19th C it became a remand centre for delinquent girls aged nine to fifteen years. Conditions became even worse, the girls generally mistreated. Lock and key became the norm. The famous ‘chicken cages’ were installed, and girls were locked in their cages at night.  In 1928, following a riot from the girls, a fire destroyed part of the building. This provided an opportunity to modernize the centre. After fifty years the remand centre finally closed in 1952.

The Château’s ceremonial flower garden with a grotto and malices was turned into the prison’s kitchen garden in the 19th C.  It has since been turned into a French formal garden and is now a municipal park.

Today the Château is a historic monument open to the public.

Views on the way to Château Guiraud:

Château Guiraud and surroundings:


We arrived back in Bordeaux later that night:

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