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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 (73)

Recent Reviews

Fabulous house, fabulous location and such a warm welcome from David & Sue. Thank you!

5 of 5
We really could not fault our stay. David and Sue met us on arrival, showed us the house, answered all our questions and left us a wonderful gift of goodies. Their suggestions as to what to do were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed our first Saturday night at Gensac for the Bastille day celebrations and fireworks. The house provides plenty of space, a lovely salt water pool and really super bedrooms which are very tastefully done and spacious. It is well set up for al fresco dining. There are three barbecue options and a well equipped kitchen. The garden is lovely and private and there are vines right next door. There are also two chickens that appear every evening for a ceremonial strut around the garden! Very tame and quiet. Plus the farmer over the way has a herd of rather splendid goats (with bells) he walks out to pasture in the morning and then back in the evening. The location is ideal, being comfortably rural and yes close enough to the towns and Dordogne attractions such as St Emillion and Bergerac. Sue arranged a tour of a local organic vineyard which really was excellent. A must even if you are not that interested in wine. We took bikes with us and headed out each morning with our two young children. The roads were lovely and quiet and we enjoyed a different circular route out from the house each day. The local village has a very well stocked Intermarche which saves the need to go to Saint de Foy for the large Leclerc. There is also a Spar in Gensac which stocks a very good wine selection. So much so that we got carried away! Overall a very special week and made even more so by David and Sue. Many thanks! We would absolutely recommend the house as a place to holiday.
  • Review Submitted: Aug 08, 2018
  • Date of Stay: Jul 2018

Most delightful Kiwi cottage

4 of 5
Very delightful cottage, tastefully furnished, wonderful big bed and bedroom with aircon. Beautiful location, very quiet amonst the vineyards. Great pool in a wonderful quiet corner with a good outside kitchen and furniture. Some good restaurants nearby, we particularly liked l,Ardoise. Some supermarkets in the area, a nice small Carrefour near Vélines. We would most definitely recommend this property to other holiday makers. The owners, Caspian and Lulu are very helpful and charming. We will be back!
  • Review Submitted: Aug 08, 2018
  • Date of Stay: Jun 2018