11-14 November 1999
Quiet, quick departure - cafe noir on the way to airport via RER. Oops, supposed to have an RER ticket - under the turnstiles we go at CDG.
Rent the car - "Turbo, Gazoil" Fiat - yahoo! Navigation begins.
Following signs to Disneyland Paris, we escape the Parisian traffic magnet. Direction Lyon, to Thelun, past Fontainebleau - handsome. Using "N" roads where possible, "A" roads if necessary.
Pull off the road for ham, cheese, and butter sandwiches. Un bon vin blanc aussi. Perfect.
Easy trip toward Beaune for a turn north to Epernay-sous-Gevrey. On the way we choose a pilgrimage to Vezelay, the beautiful twelfth century basilica on a hill summit by a town of but 750. Cold, wet day seems right for this old place which has pure Romanesque features interspersed with pagan references and the hint of the beginnings of Gothic design. You can see relics from Mary Magdalen as well.
Tympanum Outside View Sanctuary Crypt
On down to the last exit before Beaune, up to D25, the small, humpbacked asphalt path to Epernay-sous-Gevrey. Three hundred years old, La Vielle Auberge, closed in the 1960s, bought and refurbished by an English couple, reopened in 1989.
Epernay-sous-Gevrey La Vielle Auberge Our Room
What a great change from busy, cramped Paris! The exposed beams in the upstairs room given us are exquisite - intricate lacing of wood to wood is phenomenal - seventy years after Plymouth Rock, eighty plus years before the American Revolution - fixed up plain and comfortable with skylights.
A church fifty yards away chimes the hour and once at the half hour. Now a nap - where to eat?
Up N74 toward Dijon - dark - looking for Gevrey-Chambertin and "Centre Ville" for a restaurant. Turn here, park there, dark, go back this way. Chez Guy Rotisserie - what a break! Others are just arriving when we enter.
Escargots from the region where it originated. Rotisserie ham, steak, creme broulle aux herbes. Gorgeous bottle of Burgundy. Just right, just right.
Back to Vielle Auberge. What a lovely day and evening stars are out.
Nice little breakfast of croissants, bread, jam, butter, coffee, and... orange juice!
Jane (co-owner) is an English woman who came to France at seventeen - tres gentille - with two daughters and an inn. Friendly, but busy.
The day is perfect at fifty degrees and sharp, bright sun. Twelve kilometer drive over to Dijon is easy, but achieving parking was just as silly as an American mall at Christmas. We finally selected a spot just outside the city center - a mall-like parking garage.
All the people are here today - one of three in the week when a morning market takes over four or five adjoining streets. Just in front of the thirteenth-century Eglise Notre Dame, the market begins. There is a lot of the usual street market fare, but the scene of so many people happily poring over so much merchandise on a glorious Friday is the best reason to be there.
The food is gorgeous, especially the vegetables locally grown. Everything appears clean and appetizing - makes us want to cook at home.
By noon, the market is over. We take a spin through Notre Dame and see the eleventh-century Black Virgin (called that because until 1964 she had all the years of accumulated crud and coloring on her face). All the relief sculpture on the tympanum has been chiseled away in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution.
Lunch was fair, but special at the Moulin Bleu - a giant gallette with ham and eggs, same hard cider, and cassis sorbet. Here we saw about ten Americans.
Stroll to Palais des Ducs of Burgundy - Musee des Beaux Arts. Some very interesting pieces, but for the most part, of local importance. The most outstanding pieces were brought there from Ypres in the years post-Revolution. These were intricately carved fourteenth-century tryptichs - beautiful booty from another part of France.
So tired - aching legs - get the wine and cheese and head back to the inn. The wine is delicious! There is such peace and quiet under the stars here... you can hear the wine breathe.
Beaune. Although guidebooks imply that this may be a tourist hub, the neat, old, clean town is completely captivating. The winding streets are well-kept; some trendy shops are along them; and the weekly market is underway - even more inviting than Dijon's.
This time some fois gras terrines caught our eyes. The man selling was about Wade's age and clearly believed Wade understood far more than he did. Yet his encouraging manner was such that Wade felt he understood so much. The items weren't that expensive and we paid a little less, but the buying experience was extra nice. (He said he had a friend who had flown over a really big natural park in the US - after awhile, the Everglades sounded right to him.)
Long window shopping walk for a place to eat - at least 12-15 to choose from. Finally Les Chevaliers - wonderful meal! White Burgundy, a beautiful wine. Escargot bourgignone, pork tenderloin with mushrooms, haricot-verts wrapped with bacon, potatoes gratinee and a warm cabbage dish - so filling - finish with creme caramel. Delicious.
On the way back to the inn for a break, we cross a small bridge over the railroad and see a couple in their sixties making their way slowly. Suddenly the tractor trailer in front of us catches their attention coming up behind them. The old man turns around and whoosh! - there goes his hat over the rail, right onto the tracks.
Now out to ride among the hills covered with vineyards - impossible to count the vintners we passed among all the villages and fields. Through Santenay, Le Rochepot, back through Beaune. Nuits Saint Georges is another jewel of a town. Into the Centre Ville we go - there's a wine bar - two lovely glasses of wine (Cote de Nuits and Vosne-Romanee). Pizza at Pizza Florentine. Back home satisfied and tired. Another day of perfect weather, absorbing the Cote D'Or effortlessly.
A tired start to a cloudy day opened up a cozy auto trip to Autun, home of the Cathedral St. Lazare. Slowly over country roads, west from Beaune, the car view is enjoyable. Past Chateau de Rochepot, over to the fine Chateau Sully, the eleventh-century church at Curgy - all is sheep and village and hills and valleys.
Autun was very quiet and Mass was over by noon. The old cathedral (eleventh century) has some restored and later pieces, but the tympanum and capitals are what bring admirers from all over the world. The tympanum was plastered over in the 1700s - due to some provocative statuary - and not picked clean until 1948, thus escaping Revolutionary vengeance. The capitals are intricate and easy to understand.
Back toward Beaune we followed a sign to Morlet Chateau, on a hill among active farm buildings, old and plain, but handsome.
Now to Meursault for wine - into the cave - tasting with the young female attendant who was pretty pleased with her English. One Volnay red (for our housesitter), one Meursault white, and a famous Auxey-Duresses red. To Gevrey-Chambertin for three reds and a white (two of these are Premier Cru to be savored at least two years from now).
The sun breaking through on us, we took the round-about circuit to the Abbey Les Citeaux, home of some of the oldest wine-making fellows (monks), who now make a great cheese - didn't go in - another notch in the site-seeing belt.