We knew that the weather had to break sometime – and that time was on a Monday morning in Beaune.
I’d been looking forward to visiting this town – the wine capital of Burgundy in the Côte d’Or. Back in 1995, we did one of those Trafalgar tours on a bus through Europe – it’s Monday so we must be in Rome sort of thing. I remembered that we stopped here on the drive between Paris and Lyon – although I don’t recall much other than the gloriously coloured tiles on the roofs. This style – known as Burgundian tile – initially covered the great cathedrals of the 13th century, then the royal residences in the 14th century, and finally became available to the wealthy urban bourgeoisie of the 15th century.
On this rainy Monday morning, however, their brilliance was dulled. As was that of the town. Not only was it raining, but it was also Monday – so very little was open. Very little is open in France on a Monday.
We couldn’t visit Beaune without a wine tasting in one of the caves. For 10 euros we got one of these little silver tasting spoons and were pretty much left to our own devices down there, ie free pours.
I loved the bottle display showing the bottle sizes. A standard 750ml bottle is the second from the left. You can imagine just how big a Balthazar is…no? It holds 12 litres or 16 bottles. I also think I might name a dog in one of my books Balthazar. Just thinking aloud.
Marche aux Vins also housed an amazing art gallery. We marvelled over the three-dimensional hand-carved wooden sculptures and the massive cow, calf and bull – the Charolais of the region.
Mostly though, I loved where the plaster had peeled to reveal some of the frescoes beneath it.
Where we lunched…
At Le Cheval Blanc – the White Horse. It was a lunch that we still talk about.
We all chose the 2-course lunch menu – I can’t remember how much it was, but 17E rings a bell. Fiona had the oeufs en meurette – essentially eggs in a red wine sauce. It’s a Burgundian specialty that I want to try for myself at home. Grant and I chose the escargots (snails) which were fantabulous with plenty of garlic, parsley, butter sauce for mopping up afterwards. All three of us had the Boeuf Bourguignon – Beef Burgundy. When in Burgundy…
Hotel Dieu – Hospices de Beaune
If Grant is asked what the best place was that he visited on our trip to France, he says here. And not just because of the artwork and tapestries – which are magnificent – but what it represents.
Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Guigone de Salins, founded the Hotel Dieu, or hospital, in 1443 as a place where anyone – regardless of whether they were rich or poor – could come to be treated. In fact, this place was intended to be a “palace for the poor”. It was a concept way ahead of its time.
A self-guided tour took us through the Salles des Povres, with its sculpted and painted ceilings, the chapel, and through to the kitchen where meals were prepared. As an aside, those who could afford it paid more to eat white bread rather than rye. My personal fave, though, was the apothecary with its mortar and pestle and huge pots for mixing lotions and potions.
Hotel Dieu even has a vineyard, the product of which is still auctioned off for charity each November.
Before we left we bought some cheese and rillettes from this fabulous shop to graze on around the fire back at our cottage in Marigny-l’Église.