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Sauveterre-de-Guyenne - the commune and its surrounding area

Sauveterre-de-Guyenne is a small bastide town located in the heart of the “Entre-deux-Mers” region of South West France. Although some buildings in Sauveterre date back as far as the 10th century, I understand that the bastide towns in the Aquitaine (our region) were developed and reconstructed by the English, who owned the region at that time and England was the main market for the local wine, in the 13th Century to protect the local community of wine producers from French attacks. The “100 year War” was finally won by the French at Castillon La Bataille about 14 kms from Sauveterre and ended English supremacy in the area. This last battle is re-enacted every August at Castillon and is really impressive – starting around 10pm and ending with canons firing around midnight.

Sauveterre was developed with a grid plan on the standard square model around a central, arcaded, square. Originally the town was surrounded by walls which have long since been demolished, however the four gateways still stand to the North, South, East and West. The main square has been recently refurbished and has a busy market on Tuesday morning. Around the arcaded square there are 2 restaurants, a pharmacy, two “boulangeries” with home baked bread and cakes, the newspaper shop where children can spend hours choosing sticker books and sweets, the “Tabac” which still sells tobacco but has recently increased the level of fishing and shooting material on its shelves, the Post Office where the staff spend a lot of time chatting and it can take hours to buy a stamp, The Tourist Office run by the “Mairie” (Town Hall), a flower shop, a shoe shop, an optician with shop, and of course, many banks and hairdressers. It is very pleasant to wander the small streets, many still cobbled, and end up having a beer in the market square.

On leaving the town by the West gate you see the local “routier” hotel, bar and restaurant. It is always full of lorry drivers and locals who go for the beer, the company and of course the 5 course meal including wine for 11 Euros! On turning to the North from this gate you walk, or drive, about 150 metres up to the local Supermarket, SuperU, which like most supermarkets sells everything. We have watched it expand over the last 18 years with interest. The owner has recently bought a local Chateau a model of which is on view in the basement of the Tourist Office owing to its historic interest.

During the school year there is continuous activity in the town, from theatre and music recitals, Quines (Bingo) in the Town Hall, brocantes (High class jumble sales) twice a year under the arcades and many other activities. Once the school holidays start at the end of June the place changes. It is well worth looking at www.sauveterre-de-guyenne.com site to really find out what is going on in the town, but the main event is the “Fête des vins” which always happens on the last weekend of July. This is when you can taste wine from the entire region, eat local food and your children can ride the roundabouts and dodgem cars.

Nearby, at Monsegur, there is an annual, internationally renowned Jazz Festival on the first weekend of July and the town goes on the have night markets every Wednesday throughout the summer, when you can wander around tasting local food, listen to music and generally relax on a summer evening.

Sauveterre lies 15 kms south St. Emilion, 15 kms north of Sauternes and 55kms SE of Bordeaux (with the Medoc to the west of that city. The “Entre-deux-Mers” speciality is a white wine and although many local farmers have turned to production of red it is the white that really excels. Sauveterre has a cooperative on the edge of the town, as do most towns in the area, where you can take your plastic “bidon” and fill up by the litre, at very reasonable prices, using a system a bit like a petrol pump!

I understand that the name “Entre-deux-Mers” (translating as “Between Two Seas”) originates from the Middle Ages when the pilgrims heading to St Jaques de la Compostelle in northern Spain had to cross the two enormous rivers, the Dordogne 15 miles to the north of Sauveterre and the Garonne 15 miles to the south of Sauveterre. There are many abbeys, churches and villages that developed as stopping places for these pilgrims which have been beautifully restored and really are worth a visit. Castelmoron d’Albret is one of these villages. Built on a rock four kms from Sauveterre it is also the smallest commune in France. The abbey of St. Ferme is also very impressive and has a regular programme of outstanding concerts.

From Sauveterre it is possible to ride a bicycle along the old railway line, now a dedicated bike route and well surfaced, for 55kms through the vineyards in the undulating landscape all the way to Bordeaux. The old railway stations have either been restored as homes or turned into small cafés to refresh at along the route. Bicycles can be hired at the Tourist Office.

Within a radius of 10 miles there are many sporting facilities including tennis, riding, canoeing, swimming, and of course fishing and shooting when in season. There are many golf courses in the area, my favourite, being at Langon. It takes you on a lovely 18 hole walk through the pine forest on a course that is not at all easy (because of the trees) and it is not a “top of the range course” (for that you need to go to Chateau Vigiers) but the bird sounds and pine smells are exceptional!

One of my favourite days out is to go slightly further afield, about one and a half hours drive to the east, to the famous Lascaux caves. While there I try to fit in a trip to another cave, usually Rouffignac, but there are others, and one of the Troglodyte villages in the Périgord region. The same distance to the west are the Atlantic beaches with the Dune de Pyla (the largest sand dune in Europe) and of course the amazing oyster beds and restaurants of Cap Ferret.

And, of course, France is known for its food. There are good restaurants everywhere, it would take another report to deal with them!

During the Second World War the Vichy line separating occupied from “free” France passed between Sauveterre and St. Leger, when we first arrived in St Leger we heard many interesting stories from our neighbour concerning that period including an incident that is related in the book “The Blue Bicycle” by Régine Deforges. There are many monuments to resistance workers in the area and the Jean Moulin museum in Bordeaux is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the history of World War 2.

Written by Sarah Baggett - Owner of Property 4607 in Sauveterre de Guyenne, France

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Sauveterre de Guyenne Holiday Farmhouses & Gites (161)

 

Recent Reviews

Perfect stay

5 of 5
We had an absolutely wonderful stay - David and Sue were so welcoming and helpful, and the house is beautiful, has everything you could need and very comfortable. It's located very conveniently to two lovely villages with shops and bakeries - it's best to have a car, but we managed on bikes. Loved spending time by the pool and in the garden. A perfect stay.
  • Review Submitted: Nov 19, 2017
  • Date of Stay: Sep 2017

Lovely little place to relax and unwind

5 of 5
We had a wonderful week here, loved the location, the tower, the view and the village. Wonderful place to stay and explore the surrounding area, or wander along the river banks and through the vineyards.
  • Review Submitted: Oct 04, 2017
  • Date of Stay: Sep 2017