Undiscovered France

Hop a high-speed train to one of these après-Paris escapes


Why We Love It

It's Got a Vintage Vibe

Vintage as in red wine (vin rouge to the French) and history (it's a UNESCO World Heritage site). This gold-hued medieval village perched atop a hill offers sweeping views of some of Bordeaux's top vineyards, as well as an underground church, home to hermitic Christian monk Saint Emilian, whose 1,300-year-old meditation seat is now said to be a fertility chair. Sit if you dare.

How to Enjoy It

Go to Zee Head of Zee Class

During a wine-tasting course at L'Ecole du Vin, you'll sniff, swirl, and sip as you learn why Saint-Emilion's finest wines are made from grapes, mostly merlot, that suffer. (The vines are forced to struggle a bit as they root through gravelly clay into the limestone below.)

Know Les Châteaux

Saint-Emilion has 822 wine-producing châteaux, 89 of which welcome visitors. We recommend: hilltop Château Belair (one of just 14 ranked Premier Grand Cru Classé), sprawling Château de Ferrand (for a wine-and-brie picnic at the grottoes), pretty Château Cantin (for a friendly lesson in winemaking), and quiet Château Monlot (check out the honeymoon suite). For a breezy escape, have the Tourist Office set up a bike ride to Château Haut-Veyrac, where vintner Frédéric Claverie serves a lunch of paté, potatoes, and grilled duck breast—and several of his best wines.

Redefine Fine Dining

Our favorites: The melt-in-your-mouth fois gras lasagna at chef Philippe Etchebest's elegant dining room in Hostellerie de Plaisance; the roasted lamb shank with a sauce of dried fruits at L'Envers du Decor, washed down by proprietor François des Ligneris' Lunes de Miel (honeymoon) wine; and the mélange of local delicacies (pigeon, rabbit) at cozy Les Epicuriens.

Tour Bordeaux

A bit more bustling, this city's once-sooty limestone facades have been buffed squeaky clean. Stroll the historic districts (don't miss The Big Bell, Saint-André cathedral, and wine shop L'Intendant, with its 15,000 bottles) before enjoying a rooftop lunch at Café du Musée at CAPC (the Modern Art Museum). End your day at La Tupina and dig into delish southwestern gastronomie: grilled meats with a side of fries cooked in duck fat. (Health food, it's not.)

Where to Unwind

Château Grand Barrail

This 42-room luxury hotel in Saint-Emilion houses the region's only spa. Book one of the Round Rooms, in the turrets, for the most romantic stay. (Doubles from $285. 800-525-4800; grand-barrail.com)

Château Franc-Mayne

This welcoming 16th-century retreat with five guest rooms strikes a nice balance between upscale pampering and homey ambience. (Doubles from $172. 33-05-57-246-261; chateau-francmayne.com)

La Maison Bord'eaux

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