Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009 Beaune France
We stayed at the Hostel yesterday until after five o’clock and then pulled our luggage the few blocks to Termini Train Station for our overnight train to France. We’d decided to go with the four person couchette, we were guaranteed the bottom bunks and that the cabin was reserved for only women. Two young girls joined us; the first one in Rome was Italian and now living in Paris, the other got on in Florence and she was French and returning home. Our train was scheduled to go all the way to Bercy Station in Paris but our journey ended in Dijon.
In the couchette coaches, you have a porter who collects the tickets and passports when you get on the train; at the French boarder they don’t have to wake you up for customs. We left Rome just before seven pm and arrived in Florence about ten o’clock. There we picked up our fourth person and then we made our beds and everyone went to sleep right away. We actually made up the middle bunks as they had a bit more head room between the bunks. The porter woke us up about six am and by seven o’clock we were at the station in Dijon France.
We had to wait until eight am for the car rental place to open and although we were originally scheduled for ten o’clock they processed our paperwork and soon we were on the road headed south towards our Formule One Hotel just south of Beaune. We have a two door Ford, manual transmission, with a small trunk just big enough for our two suitcases. We decided to take the local roads instead of the autoroute and enjoyed going around the tall tractors that were moving from one vineyard to another as Vintors are very busy in their fields right now with springtime upon us.
Arrived in Beaune before noon and skirted through the edge of town and on to the south to locate our hotel. We dropped our luggage, got back into the car and headed into the center of Beaune where we parked on the street (free!!!!) and walked a few blocks to the center where we toured the Hospices de Beaune, now the Musee de L’Hotel-Dieu. The original building dates back to the fifteenth century and was actually used as a hospital until 1971. Today it is a Museum and has been staged for visitors as it was originally. The mannequins of nuns added some realism to the displays and many of the original Altar pieces and other works of art are still on display as well as many of the medieval medical instruments. Note the word “hospice” in the name; it was a place for people to die, especially the very poor.
Walking back to the car we saw Jim’s favorite French Restaurant here in Beaune, very tiny and only French spoken. We also saw the hotel where Jim and I stayed twice on trips. Back to the hotel, good practice as we only got turned around once this time; we turned on our computers and found out that there is a wi-fi service available but we have to pay for it by the hour. It’s not connected to the hotel but a service throughout France called “Orange” and we will be able to use it many different places. But, it’s not free…it’s four and half euros per hour; so we’ll be rather cautions on how and when we use it.
We each signed up for an hour and then realized we couldn’t get the passwords without some access. So, back into Beaune we went and at the Visitors Center we were able to sign on to the Internet and get into our gmail accounts where we found the codes. Now we’re back at the hotel and happy campers; expensive but we’re definitely hooked on the Internet and especially wi-fi service.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 Exploring Burgundy
We left about nine thirty and headed south from Beaune on the route towards Autun that winds through the “Route des Grands Crus”. Workers were in nearly all of the vineyards making repairs and pruning the vines within the stone walls that mark the boundaries of each field. There were occasional villages that were full of ancient stone buildings where they live and have their caves for the precious wines. A village that the wine connoisseurs might recognize was Pommard.
Our destination was the Chateau de la Roche Pot in the village of La Rochepot. Originally build in the fifteenth century by the Pot brothers, very famous in France; it was destroyed like most other castles after the French Revolution. In the late nineteenth century Madam Carnot purchased the property for her son and he spent the next twenty five years restoring it to its original fifteenth century condition. One exception was the kitchen that was updated to nineteenth century amenities because his family lived in the finished castle. The well in the courtyard has an emergency escape route about twenty five feet down that goes into some of the limestone caves that run throughout the region and are used for caves to age and store the wine because of their constant temperatures. This particular castle was built on top of a rock with a drawbridge entry; they never lost a battle to the enemy according to history; but just in case they had their escape route by way of the well.
This very Burgundian castle rises above the trees and is easily seen from the village. Many of the turrets and roofs are of the multicolored glazed tiles that are so prevalent in Burgundy. Tiny but a treasure to visit; the tour of the chateau was in French but we were given an English translation to read as we walked from room to room as a group.
We spent the afternoon in Beaune where we enjoyed the Wednesday Market and shops in the Center. We walked the village finding many Artist Studios, as well as the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Beaune. It is a beautiful church and the altar was still decorated with flowers for Easter. Another surprise for us is the multitude of flowers that have been freshly planted throughout the towns. We hadn’t expected it to be so warm here or finding all of the flowers. We’ve truly experience spring at its best as we’ve traveled from the southern part of Europe northward. The trees are in bloom and the ends of the gnarled vines have begun to show green sprouts; life begins again!
At two thirty the Petit Train began its route and so we signed up for the forty five minute trip. Mostly around the town but with English explanations, we saw a few new things and also spent about five minutes in a vineyard near the edge of town. We enjoyed the ride and also the company of a very nice American couple sitting behind us from Texas. They are on a whirlwind two week tour and envied our three month leisurely tour that we are enjoying.
Soon we were back at the hotel and another day has come to a close. Tomorrow is another challenge.
Thursday, April 16, 2009 The Lady A on a rainy day
Woke up to overcast skies but decided to go on our serendipity trip anyway. Mary had agreed to drive about forty miles east with me to see the hotel on a barge called the “Lady A”. We’d stayed on this boat for three nights back in 2000 along with Bonnie and Terry; now old friends of ours and also my sister Mary and her husband. They live part of the year in St. Petersburg Florida, so we’ve seen them while visiting my sisters in Florida as well as at their home in the north over the past ten years.
We got on the A6 and headed east towards Paris. The rain started coming down shortly after we left and continued most of the day. But we did get to see the Lady A and also drove though the hilltop town that surrounds the Chateau Chateauneuf that sits above the nearby Burgundy Canal. We had a bit of a jaunt when we got on the wrong roads a few times but managed to get ourselves turned around and headed back to Beaune, arriving back at the Hostel before noon.
Our intention had been to go straight to the Laundromat but decided to wait to see if the rain lets up before going there this afternoon.
Tomorrow we head north to Chaumont for one night and then to Reims.