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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

France - 7 May, 2004

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Beaune (Hotel Alesia) N4701.345' E00450.329' 210 meters .
Tour Beaune old town . . . .
Drive in surrounding countryside . . . .
-  Volnay . . .  
-  Meursault . . . .
Finish Beaune (Hotel Le Home) N4701.345' E00450.329' 210 meters 85 km

Total (BMW 330CiC)

1,113 km

Total (other):

455 km

Total:

1,548 km

 

Weather: In the morning partly cloudy, cool and windy.  In the afternoon, occasional sun and warm.  Cool in the evening.

 

 

We have a bit of a sleep-in this morning and do not get going until 10:30 AM.  We head back into the old city and are able to quickly find a good parking place.  After putting our coins in the parking meter, we go for a wander around the old city.  We wander through the windy streets and soon come upon a cafe where we stop for brunch - coffee and pastries.

 

It is then time to do some serious sightseeing - so far on this trip we have been taking a pretty laid-back approach to seeing the sights.  Our first stop is at the Collegiale Notre-Dame - the city's cathedral.  While the exterior facade is not as dramatic as yesterday, the interior is very impressive.  We wander around the cathedral, taking in the soaring roof, stained glass and many prayer niches.

 

In the back, behind the alter, they have a series of impressive tapestries on display.  We take some time to admire them.  Then we decide to head back to the front of the church down the opposite side and exit back out onto the streets.

 

Our next stop is at the Hotel-Dieu - an amazing place.  Back in 1443, Nicolas Rolin, Duke of Burgundy, following the Hundred Years War, decided to build a "palace for the poor", where they could find shelter, supplies and medical care.  It has been preserved in many ways unchanged from the Middle Ages and countless sick were taken in from it's founding to the 20th century.  Today it is open to the public as a fine example of medieval architecture.  Only in 1971 were it's medical activities transferred to a modern hospital.

 

The self-guided tour takes us around almost all of the rooms on the ground floor.  We start off in the courtyard the Court of Honor, getting a chance to admire the multi-colored tiles that cover the roof on the interior side (the exterior side was much plainer so as to not give the impression of great wealth).

 

The first room that we enter is one of the most impressive - it is the Great Hall of the Poor that is 50 meters long and is lined on each side by a row of red canopied beds in which the sick too refuge.  The center of the room held tables where the occupants would go to take there meals.

 

The ceiling beams are adorned with with outrageous and comical faces of the Beaune middle class citizens.  At the other end of the hall is the chapel, where services were held.  The two rooms are separated with a partition which would allow the sick to participate in the services from their beds.

 

The next room - The Saint Anne Room - is not open to the public, but it was reserved for "noble souls".  Next is the Saint Hugues room, another room that was used for the sick.  It was also filled with beds.  The Saint Nicholas Room was used to separate the unwell from the frail and dying.  After Louis XIV visited in 1658, he gave 500 pounds for arrangements to separate the women from the men.  It shocked him too much to see them mixed.

 

The kitchen has been restored to its condition in the 19th century.  The huge Gothic fireplace has a steel spit that is automatically turned by a small "robot".  This room is followed by the Pharmacy, that is filled with all kinds of strange herbs, oils, pills and concoctions - such as woodlice powder, eyes of crayfish, vomit nuts powder, etc.  Who knows what they really are and whether or not they worked!!

 

Some of the highlights of the tour are in the Saint Louis Room, used as a wine fermenting room, where there are numerous tapestries and Gothic chests.  They are fantastic works of art.  And then there is the 15th century polyptych, which was originally kept above the altar in the Chapel.  It is an awesome work and we spent some time taking in all the details of the depiction of the Last Judgement.

 

After our sightseeing for the morning, we decide to retire to the Le Parisien Cafe and have a bite to eat and a drink  After our light refreshment, it is time to take a drive in the countryside and maybe visit a few wineries.  We also will look at a number of alternative hotels to see if they are worth staying at.  We first head up north and pass through the small villages of Aloxe Corton and Savigny les Beaune.  They are pleasant little towns, but none of the hotels are worth paying the price they are asking for the quality of rooms they have to offer.

 

Then next we turn back down south and head to Pommard.  We pass through Pommard as we missed the sign telling us where to turn to visit one of the vineyards - we will come back.  We drive on to Volnay, which is up on the side of one of the hills.  We stop at the public car park which has excellent views over the surrounding countryside and then wander through some of the narrow streets.  In the end, we decide to try out some of the wines at cave Christophe Vandoisey.  He has a few interesting wines, so we pick up a couple of bottles.

 

We had been recommended to try out the wines of a house called Michelot.  Well, we are told that there are three such brands in the region, so we go in search of the one in Meursault.  We make our way to the village itself and after a few false turns, find our way to the tourist information office.  They are able to point us in the right direction, but their directions were a bit misleading, so we had to return for clarification.  In the end, we found the winery.  And what an experience it turns out to be.

 

The owner, Domaine Michelot turns out to be very friendly and hospitable.  He takes us down into the cellar and, after a tour of the cellars and all the wine stored there, gives the two of us a full blown tasting tutorial and session.  As he does not speak English, it is a tortured process as Jacqui does her best to understand and translate what he has to say.  He takes us through the way to hold the glass, examine the color, take in the bouquet through our nose and then to fill our mouths with a bit of the wine.  But we are not too swallow.  We have to hold it in our mouth and then several times slurp in air and agitate the wine in our mouth.  And then it is time to spit it out - right on the floor.  This is getting to be fun.  And he is very generous - he takes out pretty much all the varieties he has and gives us a chance to taste them. And rather than throw it all away on the floor, we sneak a few tastes and swallows.  He is very talkative and by the end of the one and a half hour tasting session, we have covered just about all possible topics.  In the end, we buy a couple of bottles of wine - he takes only cash, and we are a bit short.  What to do.

 

It is now almost 7 PM, so we head back to town.  For tonight, we decide to stay at a charming little hotel called Hotel Le Home.  We check-in for the night and drop off our bags.  Then it is time for dinner, so we head back into the old town once again.  We decide to have dinner at a restaurant on the main square called Le Gourmardin.  It is a small, charming place with good food, but the service is so, so slow.  It takes us well over two hours for dinner, with lengthy waits between courses.  The one useful thing is that they have a guidebook on France, which we look at to determine our next stop - the Loire Valley.

 

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