INT. TRAVEL ARCHIVE:
677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial
Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain
paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district.
Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of
legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's
East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures,
cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical
getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho
Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's
most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor
joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on
the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac
in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy
peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning
and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawaks Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink
of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield
goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ its
summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings
long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present
as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush
rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval
diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
Seeking the past in China's megacity
Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatias phoenix
The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
World heritage site
Land of hope
Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
Suzhou and Hangzhou
The river mild
Top of the world
Memo from the Lower Mekong
Call of the wild
Mad about Madurai
Through the grapevine
Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac in southwest
of vines lead the visitor to Monbazillac's front door.|
come from all over the world to taste the country fare, truffles and foie gras
of the Dordogne region of southwest France. They also come for a look at some
of the thousand or so magnificent chateaus. These fairy-tale homes, however, are
not without their problems. In order to pay for the maintenance and running costs
of these large and drafty buildings, an increasing number of château owners,
in exchange for a small admission fee, have opened their homes to the public.
Many are now museums or venues for famous gardens, restaurants and country clubs.
are also strongly associated with wine production and viticulture. One of the
Dordogne's most elegant ancestral homes, and the source of one of its finest
wines, is the Château Monbazillac. Located 5 kilometers south of the well-known
town of Bergerac, the château was built in 1550 and is described by James
Bentley in The Penguin Guide to the Dordogne as "Just the kind of château
you would make as a child's model."
Almost 450 years after its completion, the château remains
almost totally unchanged. Its unique and original architecture remains just as
it was intended, mixing the design of a medieval fortress or castle with the charm
of a Renaissance palace. Inhabited until 1960 by the Lords of Bergerac, members
of France's small Protestant aristocracy, the château still houses
a Protestant museum. Today, it belongs to the Wine Co-operative of Monbazillac,
which hails from a long line of winemakers dating the monks who owned these gently
sloping hillsides back to the 11th century.
of Monbazzilac's white grapes are allowed to rot to give the wine a special matured
While the red wines of nearby Bergerac, such
as the first-rate Pecharmant and the very decent Cotes-du-Buzet and Cotes du Marmandais,
bear a remarkable family resemblance to the Bordeaux right bank wines like Blaye
and Bourg, the sweet white dessert wines of Cotes de Saussignac and Monbazillac
are enclaves of viticulture well worth special attention.
2,700 hectares of land surround the Château Monbazillac in a lush landscape
south of the river Dordogne with grapevines now covering 22 hectares of the limestone
soil. Most of the vines here are planted on the steep, north-facing slopes where
the climate is similar to that of the Midi. A special method of vinification is
practiced on the estate, giving Monbazillac wines their special character.
autumn mists and damp infect the grapes with a fungus that causes some of them
to release water and then shrivel and decay. The noble rot, or la pourriture noble
as the French call it, explains Monbazillac's well-matured flavor and its
distinctive golden color that deepens with age.
Château Montbazillac's famous restaurant which is found in the château
The taste, and its scent of wild flowers, is
improved by leaving the wine to age in new oak barrels. Exceptionally good Monbazillacs,
like those produced in 1989 and 1990, can be kept for up to 30 years. This is
a wine always served extremely chilled. Drunk either as an aperitif or alongside
pâté de foie gras or a liver terrine, it is also enjoyed with sorbet
and ice cream or poured into half a melon along with slices of walnut and a touch
of Angostura bitters. The château restaurant, described in guidebooks as
one of France's "temples of gastronomy," is an excellent
place to sample Monbazillac wines with some of the region's best local
Visitors usually enter the main château
building first, inspecting its fine halls, salons and towers, before descending
to its superb cellar. Here, hundreds of bottles are carefully classified according
to their vintage year. The cellar also houses a small museum with a number of
traditional instruments and tools used in the cultivation of vines. Visitors usually
walk to the reception area at the entrance to the château where they can
sample as many types of Monbazillac as they wish.
of 20-30 year old Monbazillac can be seen in the château's cellar|
better to try one of the local dry wines first for comparison, before tasting
the sweet wine we produce here," Monsieur Philip Richard, one of the managers
at the nearby Cave de Monbazillac, advised me. The showroom, which is just 2km
from the château, was established in 1940 so that visitors could sample
and purchase wines, as well as shop there for some of the regional foods which
are an ideal complement for this wine.
The French say that wine does
not travel well. Although superb wines can be bought almost anywhere in the world
now, there is some truth in this belief. To sample Monbazillac at its finest,
wine lovers will surely want to visit this noble château for themselves.
Monbazillac lies in the southwest region
of France known as Perigord. The village is easily accessed from either Bordeaux
or, even closer, Bergerac. There are daily flights or rail connections to both
these cities from Paris and other major French cities.
Where to Stay:
There are few places to stay in the small town itself, though the Hotel
Relais de la Diligence is recommended. Nearby Bergerac has more choice. Its Tourist
Office (Tel: 53.57.03.11) at 97 Rue Neuve d'Argenson can be contacted for
information on accommodation in the region.
Château Monbazillac is open every day of the year. English guides are available
in July and August. The village of Monbazillac has a lively patronal festival
on the first Sunday of August, a chance to sample countless wines at stalls and
tents set up for the event. July and August are the busiest times to visit as
Europeans take their vacations at this time. The spring months and September are
Photo credit: Stephen Mansfield