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King Charles III winds up his France state visit in Bordeaux to focus on the climate and sip wine

BORDEAUX, France (AP) — After pageantry and politics in Paris, King Charles III concluded his three-day state visit to France with a trip down south to Bordeaux on Friday to focus on a more personal passion: the environment.

As the skies cleared following a morning downpour, Charles and Queen Camilla helped plant a loquat leaf oak tree, known for adaptability to a changeable climate, in the garden of Bordeaux City Hall. Locals waved French and British flags, and some shouted “God Save The King,” as the royal couple greeted well-wishers.

French firefighters who helped fight wildfires in the Bordeaux region last year showed the U.K. monarch maps and photos of the devastation, and helped guide him around an experimental forest designed to monitor the impact of climate on urban woodlands.

Charles and Camilla wrapped up their sojourn in France with a tour of the Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte winery, known for its sustainable approach to wine-making. Owners Florence and Daniel Cathiard — and their pet llama — greeted the royal couple and guided them through the vineyard, before clinking glasses in farewell.

Severe drought last year forced Bordeaux's earliest-ever harvest, and the region — which depends heavily on wine exports — has long been working to adapt to climate change. Some are pruning vines in a different way or finding new watering techniques.

Friday’s events marked the third and final day of a state visit aimed at shoring up the alliance between Britain and France after years of disputes related to Brexit, migration and other issues. Charles’ warm words toward France were met with a standing ovation in the Senate and even cheers of “Long Live the King!”, an uncommon phrase in a country that beheaded its last monarchs.

After flying in to Bordeaux from Paris, the king and queen briefly switched to more environmentally friendly public transport, riding a pioneering electric tram.

The royal couple waved and smiled at crowds filming with their phones along the tram route to Bordeaux's main square, where they took the stage at a fair celebrating British and French businesses. Charles tasted a whisky made with barley from the king’s Highgrove estate and a glass of St. Ferdinand Source Lussac-Saint Emilion local wine, as well as being presented with some cheese.

The surrounding Aquitaine region — an English possession in the Middle Ages that English and French royalty fought over for centuries — is home to a large British community today.

Charles and Camilla also joined a reception on a royal navy frigate docked in Bordeaux to celebrate military ties between the countries.

In an address to the French Senate on Thursday, Charles praised France and the United Kingdom’s “indispensable relationship” and its capacity to meet the world’s challenges, including Russia’s war in Ukraine and climate change. He called for a new ‘’entente for sustainability.''

He also spoke about his concern for the climate in his toast at an opulent state dinner in the Palace of Versailles on Wednesday evening.

The king’s comments came after U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced he was watering down some of Britain’s climate commitments, including pushing back a ban on new gas and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035.

For decades, Charles has been one of Britain’s most prominent environmental voices, blasting the ills of pollution and speaking out for the need to restore biodiversity. But the U.K. royal family long ago ceded political power to elected leaders. And now that he is king, he is expected to stay out of government policy in accordance with the traditions of the U.K. constitutional monarchy.

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Angela Charlton in Paris, and Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless in London, contributed to this report.

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Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/king-charles-iii

Alex Turnbull, The Associated Press