More traveling. Today we are on our way to Beaune in Burgandy. Our trip to wine country. To get there we have to get to Paris, at one station. Then travel all the way acros town to the station that takes us to Burgandy. We may have to wait in Dijon for 2 hours before we get to Beaune. Bummer.
The train to Paris ran like a rocket. On time and fast. The trip from St. Lazare to de Lyon took only one metro hop and a RER, about 30 miutes. Pretty efficient. In deLyon we decide to straighten out our train tickets. You see, we had forgotten to buy our train ticket back to Paris from Beaune. Major mistake we both over looked. Anyhow we get a major scare when the ticket clerk had gotten us round trip tickets, giving us an extra ticket and only a couple of minutes to fix this mistake, and he speaks very little english. It worked out, he even got us cheaper tickets and gave us some money back.
Currently we are on the train to Dijon across from us is an infant, pretty young. He cannot speak yet. Anyhow he is getting into everything and crying. Being a major pill. He keeps flipping the tray tables back and forth. I have half a mind to let the tray table fall on his hands, just once. Nice thing for a soon to be father to think. Note to self, be more tolerant.
We got lucky in Dijon. We were supposed to catch the next train to Beaune, two hours later. But we got in on time and sneaked onto a train for Beaune leaving only ten minutes later. We arrived in Beaune early and weather is only slightly bad. As we walked into town it cleared, turning into a beautiful day. The town is great, full of wine and medieval buidlings. The hotel we checked into is right near the center. We are hungry so we popped into a bar (because it was the only place still serving food) and had a lovely meal of salad and omelettes.
After the late lunch we booked our wine tour for the next day and went into the Hotel Dieu. It isn't a hotel, rather a hospice. It was built in medieval times to help those with the plague and the soldiers who were injured in the 100 years war. The place was built to provide hope and courage to the ill since medicine sure wasn't going to help. So the hospice is beautiful with marvelous multicolored roofs and beautiful, clever wood carved ceilings and walls. There is a marvelous painting of judgement day, and some inspiring tapestries. We paid 12USD to get in and it was worth it. The gift store was awesome too. We bought all sorts of stuff here. The hospice is still open, at least another building now houses it out of town. All of it is payed for with a grant of vineyards given over 500 years ago.
The wine is sold all over town as mostly table wine but they have finer vintages too.
The dinner tonight was probably the worst food of the trip. Finding veggie meals in this town is a trick. We ate at the french equivalent of a bad american coffee shop. The waitress had big, dyed hair and too much makeup. The food was greasy and barely veggie. Jo had french fries for dinner, I had poached eggs (with bacon). I did my best to pick around the bacon. We ate quickly and left even faster. Went back to the hotel and crashed.
Woke up refreshed and happy that we will not be traveling today. The bed royally sucked last night so I am starting to get homesick for our bed. Jo is ready to go home too, 3 weeks is really a long time to travel when you are pregnant with a broken wrist. Still have a few days left.
Breakfast was bread and coffee. I am convinced that a hearty breakfast is a uniquely american thing. No one from Scandinavia to France gives it much thought. Few restaurants are even open and those that are serve the same bread and coffee. Speaking of the french and wanting to go home is a little unfair. We have been treated fantastically throughout our whole time here. They are really efficient and seem to really want to do a quality job. It is a truly pleasant country and it has been my favorite country on the trip. The language barrier is difficult. I have so much more respect for the French guys at work who have to deal with us english speakers everyday. They are exceptions to the rule. Many french people know english but they are intent on speaking french. They often understand you but respond in french and would like to try french first if you can. So we try, but we know only a handful of words and the pronounciation is frustrating. We have suffered through it and the french are determined to help so we cannot complain, only comment.
As we walk the two blocks to the center of town we happen on an open air market. We missed the one in Paris Sacha told me about so we decided to take this oppurtunity. We practically buy the place out. We get all sorts of junk. Doubling our total load. But it is going to be worth it. We shop for the rest of the morning and go back to the hotel for a pee break. The idea of a public toilet has not yet struck most of europe. I am convinced this is because liquid consumption is not a big thing here, a glass of water gets them through the whole day it seems. Americans usually drink constantly and so have to have more bathrooms.
We buy a picnic lunch and enjoy a beautiful tiny park near the center of town. While we were there we were approached by a group of Dutch girls all on a scavenger hunt as part of a school trip to Beaune. They were very nice but we couldn't help them.
After lunch it was time for our guided tour of the local vineyards. In California you see the wineries, in france where the process of wine is almost completely regulated down to every step the grape growing is the thing to see. The tour happened to be given by one of the employees of the hotel we were staying at. We didn't know if we wanted to do another tour after normandie so we felt good when we saw this guy running the show. He was nice at breakfast and knew english well. Bruno is his name and he was fantastic. He obviously grew up in the area, he knew it well and was a pleasant speaker. He gave the tour in both english and french giving us the best of Cote d'Or vineyards. I relearned a lot of stuff that I had forgotten since my wine class in college. Like how Burgundy is only threee grapes Pinot Noir, Chardonney and Gamay. The wine is never blended and the quality is entirely determined by where the grape grows, not by the process or the vintner like in Bordeaux or California. The quality can be determined by the specific location of the wine written on the label. Say for instance you are buying a wine from the region of Burgogne (Burgundy), well the grapes could have come from all over and the wine is more like a table wine. It gets more specific from there down to the vineyard which has been designated Grand Cru by the board which oversees wine making in France. We finished the tour in a local winery. Our tasting was of a chardonney which even Jo liked (she typically dislikes white wine) and a very smokey pinot noir which I did not like much. THe rpices were fantastic so we wanted to buy but Bruno did not know how to ship the wine so we held off. He promised to send us in the right direction in town tomorrow. We were satisfied with that and got back in the van to go back to town. That tour rocked. We are now 1 and 1.
Back in town we spent a good hour or so looking for a restaurant that served some sort of vegetarian plate, we struck gold at the TI who booked us a reservation at a nearby place. The vegetarian plate was the plat du jour. We had two hours to burn before our dinner we had a hard time because Beaune likes to roll up the sidewalks at about 6pm. We found an awesome book store. Almost everything was in french (boing) but just browsing was fun. They had a bottle opener for a measly 250USD. A little excessive. Looking at all the doo-dads makes me want to go home and dig a wine cellar and start collecting.
The meal was fanstastic, meatless and the service was awesome. We told the waiter as often as we could how good the food was and how pleased we were with the service. After dinner we did our usual night activity, sleeping. We are actually ready to begin our traveling tomorrow which will put us home.