Once we had finished all the paperwork for the purchase of Romy, and had assured the dealership owner that the money was in transit, we set out to the south in search of a bit more sunshine and warmth than we were finding in northern Germany. In one day of driving we were in the lovely little country of Luxembourg, where we had so often driven when we lived in Brussels back in the ’90s. We spent the night, did some serious grocery shopping in the morning, then headed south again, finishing the day in the wonderful town of Beaune,France between Dijon and Lyon and in the very heart of the burgundy wine country.
The campground we stayed in was named, in French of course, the Hundred Vineyard Campground, and that is exactly what surrounds Beaune. There are vineyards in every direction and the wines are some of the best burgundies in the world. The town itself is surrounded by medieval ramparts, the streets are narrow and mostly cobblestoned with lovely little restaurants and wine bars everywhere and many residences dating from at least the Renaissance.
And like so much of Belgium, there seemed to be an abundance of lingerie shops lingering on most city blocks as well.
Its most famous structure is the Hotel-Dieu de Beaune, founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, and his wife as a refuge and hospital for the sick. It is a rather huge structure with a courtyard
and many rooms for the treatment of the ill, including this most central one where patients each had a cubicle of sorts and were attended by nuns dedicated to their care.
It continued to be a hospice or hospital until the 1940s when it was finally turned into the museum it is today. Its most famous feature is its ceramic tile roof, amazingly patterned and bright and multicolored in the sunlight. Bonnie remembered it vividly from her visit here in the late ’80s.
Beaune is also famous for its Saturday market, one which a Santa Fe friend said was the best she had ever seen. It spreads across the central square
and includes everything edible imaginable, from wonderful organic vegatables
to amazing cheeses which we just couldn’t leave alone.
An additional part of the market is in the large hall which in the third week of November, serves as the site of the annual wine charity auction for the benefit of the hospices, which are themselves important vineyard owners.
And that brings us to what Beaune and the Burgundy region which surrounds it are all about–wine! There is a lovely drive through the low hills which define this region, called the Route des Gran Crus which winds to both the north and south of the town itself. It is lined with vineyards, each beckoning to us to come in and try some of their wines. We did do a bit of this, and will tell you about two of them.
Chateau de Pommard is the longest continuously farmed vineyard in the region and its wine is sold only on the site of the chateau itself. it was owned and run for years by Jean Laplanche, a famous follower and reviser of Freud, and still produces excellent wine even though owned now by a Silicon Valley investor, of all people.
It includes as well a beautiful courtyard and art gallery, currently showing Salvador Dali
and some very large wine barrels with rather seductive paintings as adornment.
The other vineyard we would like to show you is Chateau du Clos de Vougeot.
It is the home of the Chevaliers du Tastevin, a worldwide society of wine affectionados of which the chief of North America for a number of years was our beloved back fence neighbor in Santa Fe. The Tastevin was founded in about 1933 after a scourge killed most of the vines in this region as a way of reviving interest in burgundy wine. It meets here at this chateau every year, drawing 600 members for dinner in the great hall which used to be the cellar of the vineyard itself.
The chateau is a magnificent structure with a lovely large courtyard
and a wonderful old structure which still contains the old vats and presses long used to turn grapes into wine.
We loved the way the chateau seems to float in a sea of vines as in the picture at the top of this entry, and the various surfaces of the buildings themselves after so many centuries of varied uses. And while we missed the harvest, the fields themselves were beautiful bathed in their fall colors and bright sunlight.