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    Guest Writer Louise Roddon - Driving in Bordeaux

    Welcome to our second guest blogger - Louise Roddon! As a freelance travel writer for many national newspapers and magazines, Louise has been to many corners of the globe. Here she tells us about her recent trip to Bordeaux.

    A blog on Bordeaux seems an odd one to write, given this bit of flat French countryside is all about sipping, sniffing and slurping wine and let's face it, alcohol and driving don't exactly mix! Still, you can ship the stuff back home, and besides, a true wine tasting connoisseur spits rather than swallows!

    I was actually sent here to write up a family holiday - a four-night stay at Chateau Rigaud, just outside of St Emilion. It's owned and run by an English couple, and OK, that may sound a bit 'coals to Newcastle', but actually what they provide is an authentic French experience, with all the tricky bits (language problems, snails, pigs trotters and tripe) removed.

    What makes this place different from a luxury hotel (and it is incredibly luxurious) is its house party concept. You can either join one of Rigaud's tailor-made family holidays, or an adults-only wine tasting break - described jokingly by the owner, Anna Barwell, as 'tuition where you swallow rather than spit'.

    Mind you, the boundaries blurred a bit during our stay. With children comfortably tucked up in bed, us parents gathered in the old chapel to hear a local wine expert talking about both Loire and Bordeaux wines. He let us into a few secrets too - that big names often mean unwarranted mark ups, so if you buy from a relatively unknown producer in St Emilion, you'll probably be tasting a similar quality to an established producer, but for far less euros. After all - it's more or less the same soil, isn't it?

    But don't diss the biggies - they are great for gauging quality. There's Chateau Franc Mayne just outside of St Emilion, where you can have a tour and a tasting of Grand Cru Classe wines (2005 was a brilliant year) for 6 euros - which saves the embarrassment of helping yourself to seconds from the 45 euro bottle they proffer!

    And of course, St Emilion itself is a stunningly pretty hillside town - well worth parking up and exploring. The place is a jewel of handsome limestone houses, open-fronted wine shops, pretty squares giving far-reaching views over the flat, vineyard studded countryside, and brilliant restaurants. How do these French stay so slim?

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