The weather was less-than-ideal when we arrived in Saint-Emilion. But there were so many silver linings to our wonderful visit to this charming town that by the time we returned to our Airbnb in Bordeaux city centre that evening with my new leather flats completely waterlogged and ruined, all I could think about was the epic dinner we'd just experienced.
But let me start from the beginning.
After a terrific and informative tour and tasting at Chateau Cantenac (which, confession: I'd booked from my phone in bed the night before), we headed into Saint-Emilion itself and browsed several wine shops before finding one that sold John's precious Chateau D'Yquem "Ygrec" 2014. I made him buy it even though the price was slightly ridiculous (like, over €150 ridiculous) because I was so sick of hearing him pine after it like a lovesick puppy every day of our vacation. So, now he's just waiting for the right time to bust it out of the tissue paper (indeed, when we got home, I overheard him saying to the bottle, "It's okay now, you're home safe" as we were unpacking. WTF?!).
Because it was raining so hard, we couldn't really enjoy the outdoors too much, which was a shame, because the views of the vineyards were stunning and the cherry blossoms were out in full force.
By the time 7 p.m. rolled around for our dinner reservation at Hostellerie de Plaisance (also booked from the comfort of
I always get nervous when I'm in charge of booking something - like a restaurant or a hotel. That's why I try to avoid doing it if at all possible and leaving it up to John. I can't bear to be responsible for a disappointing meal or stay. Anyone else with me on this?
But our dinner at Hostellerie de Plaisance was exquisite; so much so, that it very nearly brought me to tears. I don't know if it was a reaction to the wines the sommelier had selected or because of the headiness of a 3-course meal turned 9 (there was the amuse bouche, the pre-starter, then the starter, then the main course, inexplicably a second main course, the pre-dessert, the dessert, the petit fours) or the fact that they wheeled out a glinting trolley of herbs in pots after dinner and asked me to select something for my hot drink before inviting me back to the bar for chocolates - I don't know. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.
I couldn't hide my excitement as each plate was presented to us - since we had ordered the Menu "du Moment", we had no idea what to expect. It was all in the hands of the chef. Later, back in the bar, we were given a beautiful print-out of the menu on thick, heavy cardstock to take home as a souvenir, plus a choice of caramels, chocolates or nougat to go.
There were probably four other couples dining in the hotel restaurant that evening - all in their mid-60s, I'd say. I watched as they accepted the food with restrained, almost pinched expressions, not conveying any emotion except for a emphasized, "Trés bien, trés bien," when prompted by the staff.
But, in my typical American fashion, I couldn't hide my joy. I asked the sommelier for the names of the wines, which I loved, and when asked how we were enjoying our meal, I'm pretty sure I said something like, "This is the best meal I've ever had in my life." And meant it.
So, if you ever find yourself in Saint-Emilion, preferably on a warm summer's day, go to the Hostellerie de Plaisance. Head to the bar earlier than your reservation time. Ask the sommelier for his recommendation and sit outside on the verandah watching the sun set over the vineyards, sipping your glass of red or white.
That's what I'd like to do next.