Perfect ending to Burgundy adventure

I’m not leaving til tomorrow but given that it will be Bastille day, I probably won’t be going visiting before my long drive south. I have decided to break up the trip back and have booked a hotel en route. But as it’s the French equivalent of Motel 6 (Ibis), I doubt there will be anything to show.

Today I found the perfect little country restaurant, in the nearby town of Volnay. It exemplifies, I think, what most of us imagine France to be and so rarely is.

The tables were soon filled with French families

And for those of you insisting on food photos, I warn you that it is beige. Poulet de Bresse in à cream sauce with potatoes, 2 glasses of Meursault and a lovely cassis sorbet for dessert.

Beige but delicious

I don’t know when my next trip will be but I will keep you posted. À bientôt.

Glazed Tiles

Glazed, multicolored tiles in a diamond shape are one of the foremost symbols of Burgundian vernacular architecture. The Cistercian monks began manufacturing these distinctive tiles in the 11th century.

The best known and preserved example is found at Les Hospices de Beaune, which I finally got around to visiting today. I also made a trip to the château de Santenay in order to see another example of this style.

Les Hospices de Beaune
No, I didn’t take this picture
Château de Fontenay. Unfortunately the tasting room was closed

From the tourist office: the Hospices de Beaune is one of France’s most prestigious historic monuments. Its flamboyant Gothic architecture, its polychrome roofs and a renowned vineyard make this museum one of Burgundy’s gems. Begun in 1443, it was created for the poor and the sick. Under the hull-shaped arches of the poor room, the sick were welcomed in, and in the kitchen with its huge Gothic chimneys, meals were prepared.

The beds in the room for the poor. Note that masks were mandatory and the number of visitors limited.
Tapestry of Jacob. He looks like he is wearing a mask, but I think it’s a beard.

The Beaune altarpiece by Roger van der Weyden “The Last Judgment”
no, I didn’t take this one either.
My photo (1)
My photo (2)

Meursault

Today was a white wine day. I followed the voie de vignes (the wine route) to Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault. I don’t want to bore you with a disquisition on wine, but I find it fascinating that two towns, no more than 2km apart, using the same grape (Chardonnay) produce such different wines. Of course, even within a single appellation, there are significant differences due to terroir (called “saisons” here in Burgundy) and winemaking choices. The Puligny-Montrachet I had was mineral-y, tasting of calcium and iron. The Meursault was described to me as “buttery”, which is exactly the word. Equally good, equally expensive, totally unlike.

I have been asked to show the landscape, which means taking a picture from the car. It is largely flat (lots of bikers) and wall-to-wall vineyards. Unlike Provence, there is very little color, except for the enamel-tiled roofs that are a Burgundy signature. You will see them again when I finally go to the Hospices de Beaune.

This is City Hall in Meursault, made famous, apparently, in a well-known French film from the 60s called La Grande Vadrouille. The tiles were added in the 1870s to the remains of a rebuilt 12th century fort
The main square in Meursault with its gothic spire.

I’ve also been asked to show pictures of the food, but like the landscape it has little color. Local specialties include jambon persillé (a sort of pâte of ham and parsley—brown), boeuf bourguignon (brown), escargots (brown), frogs legs (brown) and so forth. Much pleasanter to eat than to look at, though I refuse to eat reptiles, so no frogs legs for me.

My lunch menu
The wine list by the bottle

I had 2 glasses, rather than a bottle and never knew that Meursault also comes in red. I was not impressed. You’ll note that the prices are no bargains. I had hoped to find some local, little-known wines at a good price to bring back with me. But the Burgundies served in he restaurants are mostly from top producers and the prices in the caves are no different than in the wine shops in Nice.

Forgive my longer than usual blather. I have not spoken to anyone other than wait staff for the last 4 days and they are not chatty. Usually when I travel with Ellie, people talk to me but that has not been my experience here. Not that I’m complaining. The weather is absolutely perfect for me and for the wine (80s during the day, 60s at night). The wine, the food, the swims, the afternoon naps—it is heaven.

Nuits Saint Georges

I’ve decided to visit a famous wine town each day. Today there was a weekly market in Nuits St. Georges, so that was my first field trip.

The new normal

Unlike the wine areas in the Médoc, the wine towns of Burgundy are real places. Nuits St. Georges had a lively town center.

For Michael, here is the menu from my very good lunch in Beaune.

I had the chicken liver patė with Banyuls (a white wine from the southwest) and the grilled hangar steak with potatoes in a shallot cream. And dessert. And 2 glasses of wine.
The wine list. I had the Macon and the Sautenay.

Ellie, naturally enjoyed it as well. Then we came home and took a nap.

Swimming in Burgundy

Not the wine, the province. Which is landlocked and nowhere near the sea.

Yesterday I drove for 9 hours on the autoroute to get to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. I came for the wine, but much to my delight, the house I have exchanged for is magnificent, with a perfect pool. So my two greatest delights combined: drinking wine and swimming.

All I did today was go into Beaune for lunch. Sorry my photos aren’t better, but I will make up for it later in the week.

The famous Hospices de Beaune, seen from an alleyway. I promise to visit inside and post photos.

Lavender

Yesterday we went in search of the famed lavender fields of Haute Provence, since this is the height of the season. The roads are usually swarmed with tourist busses, which were happily absent. I took rotten pictures (below) but downloaded a few better ones to give you a sense of the vast carpets of purple covering the countryside.

As is always the case when I rent a car, the trip was not problem-free. The route was supposed to take 2 hours each way but what with getting lost and sinuous country roads, each leg took more than 3.

Happily, my friend Franceska had come down from Nice on Tuesday and helped with the driving. Another, local friend, Elisabeth, joined us as we made our way to the lavender capital of France, Valensole.

The town itself, perched on a hill, is quite lovely. We stopped in the charming town center to eat lavender ice cream.

On the way we passed an enormous lake, St. Croix, with turquoise water.

I took this photo and the color is accurate.

My photos:

As a side note, a friend asked about mask wearing in France. We stopped along the way up at a McDonald’s where a greeter made sure we were masked and used hand sanitizer. The bathrooms were spotless. You ordered at a computer and then someone brought your meal out to the terrace.

On the way back, we stopped at a rest stop on the autoroute. The sign on the door said masks were “strongly recommended” but no one inside was masked. The bathroom was filthy. Happily the incidence of virus here is quite low, so no one seems particularly concerned. We all carry days-old surgical masks with us for those times when it is required and tear them off as soon as we can. This seems to be the new normal.