Carlo and Margarita Zezza send the following report from Libourne France, where Carlo notes that "We can hope for more certainty >about travel restrictions a year from now, and lodging near Libourne is abundant because it is a tourist destination. Although famous wine chateaux are in the Libournais area, Libourne itself is unknown in North America.
Margarita and I were kindly invited to row at Libourne, the site of next year's World Masters regatta. After Silverskiff in Turin we went with our singles to see the place and sightsee in southwest France. For rowers who are thinking about going next year, this offers some information and our recommendation to go. It is a good place for a regatta.
Click here to go to 'lac des Dagueys' in Google Maps to see the layout. Much used for French elite regattas, the lake is a purpose-built eight-lane 2k racecourse with a basin near the finish line. Plenty of ground around the basin can support a big regatta. We had light crosswinds and sunny weather in November; September is reported as generally similar. Club members are friendly, Xavier Buffo, the club's president, took good care of us, and we enjoyed rowing there.
Libourne is a commercial center about 40 minutes from the city of Bordeaux. The Libournais district includes towns renowned for their Grand Cru wines, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac, etc. The rolling terrain covered with vine rows is pleasantly scenic, and the town of Saint Emilion is a tourist destination top-rated for its medieval architecture and winding streets.
Bed and breakfast lodging abounds in the area. We used Google Maps to locate a B&B 15 minutes by country road from the lake. Exit 10 of the French A89 toll road is only two minutes from the launch site. Exit 11 (Coutras) is 7 minutes east at the 80mph speed limit and might be closer in time than lodging nearer in distance. For overseas visitors a rental car will be necessary for all but the hardiest bikers.
The area is famous for good food, and we found two restaurants close by the launch area; we ate at one, the Grand Café du Lac, and skipped Buffalo Grill. No monks remain at the Cordelier Cloister in Saint Emilion, but the staff prepared a delicious picnic lunch for us to enjoy in the garden. Although big-name wines are no bargain, the local standard for wine is high, and restaurants offer excellent wine from small vineyards at very fair prices. Food shopping in supermarkets is no different from home, except that some stores only take orders online and don't allow inside access. They are identified as "Drive," and visitors need to shop elsewhere.
Bordeaux is the second city of France after Paris. We were disappointed to find its landmark water mirror dry and lacking a reflection. The city's riverfront buildings are impressive, but it's far short of Paris for things to see and do, and Paris is only 2 hours away by TGV, the French high-speed train. The TGV is an experience in itself; countryside whizzes silently past the windows at 200mph. An hour east of Libourne by car, the Perigord region is rich in gorges, medieval towns, castles and forts, remainders from centuries of conflict including a hundred-year war between the English and French. Perigord's history goes back 17,000 years to the wall paintings in the Lascaux caves. For anyone with a couple of days to spend, there is a lot to see.
Bordeaux Water Mirror, photo by Fabrizio Sciami
We are looking forward to going back next September. It will be great if many from North America choose to go for a regatta like the good old days, pre-Covid.