I moved to Paris with the idea that I would travel as much as I could to “get it out of my system.” The problem I've found with that theory is for each place I go, three more get added to the wish list.
Take Dijon. Michael and I went on a weekend trip there in August 2012 and have been wanting to revisit Bourgogne ever since. Like anywhere in France, it can be characterized by delicious food, as well as pretty towns and plenty of vineyards.
All it took for us to plan a return trip was confirmation that Michael’s sister was coming to visit. She was hoping to go on a weekend trip that included a vineyard tour, and that was all we needed to go on. This time we would travel just south of Dijon, to Beaune. And unlike last time when we took a train to and from Paris, we rented a car to be able to explore more.
Saturday morning we got up early, made the three-hour trek from Paris in one shot, and arrived in time to catch the Saturday morning market in center of Beaune. (If you haven’t caught on yet, I love visiting local markets. My purchase this time was a bottle of fig vinegar.)
After lunch and a short walk around town, we were ready to accomplish one of the goals of the trip: doing a wine tasting at a vineyard.
I would have loved to be able to schedule a tour and tasting at an independent vineyard but the timing just didn't work out this time. All of the family-run vineyards who did respond to our emails were busy at wine salons and such - otherwise I really wanted to visit this fun family!
We ended up instead at the classy Château de Meursault, which is a good choice for those with a car who want the flexibility to just show up sans appointment for a tasting. Bordeaux gets a lot of recognition for its wines, but Bourgogne is another well known and respected region. And Château de Meursault is highly regarded as a premier winery.
At 18 euros/person, we were granted entrance for a self-guided tour. We walked around the art gallery upstairs before making our way down to the cellars.
Down in the cellars, we got to walk through pathways lined with wine bottles - over 700,000 bottles can be stored down here, not including the barrels of wine. We walked through caves dating as far back as the 12th century and on!
At the end we were able to taste six wines, three reds and three whites (and we were actually directed to try the reds first, to my surprise). Each pour came from bottles that were being sold for 30-some euros upwards. We ended with a white that won as the world's best chardonnay for 2013! And as someone who exclusively drinks reds, even Dawn gave approval.
Although we didn't get a formal tour of the vineyards and walk through the wine-making process as I thought we would (and not to mention the tour prices were significantly more expensive than Bordeaux), the visit was unlike any I have done. And the opportunity to taste so many good wines was another perk.
(Side note for travelers: If you are looking for other vineyards to drop in for a visit, Château de Pommard is also highly regarded, although it is even more expensive to visit than Château de Meursault at 21 euros/person. And without a car, Bouchard Aîné & Fils is walking distance from Beaune’s city center.)
Then it was time to prepare for the evening’s events. We missed an important birthday of Dawn’s in March and had planned a fun soirée to celebrate it belatedly in France.
We started with wine at a cute wine bar, Les Mille et Une Vignes. It was a fun local hangout on a Saturday evening where we drank some wine by the glass at very reasonable prices.
Then we made our way to the restaurant Caveau des Arches. Continuing off of Dawn’s vineyard request, it only seemed natural to dine underground in a beautiful vaulted cellar from the 17th century. The evening was full of introductions to the food and drink scene of Burgundy. We started with kirs, an aperitif of the region made with white wine and crème de cassis (a blackcurrant liqueur).
Then came some escargot, and followed by my favorite plat of the region: beef bourgogne. And it goes without saying there was more wine from Bourgogne to round out the experience.
The rest of Dawn’s French birthday bash can be left to the imagination. It included happening upon a French “club” in Beaune which proved to be an amusing discovery to end the night.
Sunday morning was my pick of activities - I wanted to see the famous sight of the town, L'Hôtel-Dieu, before leaving (and after eating a pastry). So many pictures of Beaune feature the vibrant tiles of the roof of this building. Although you can get a small glimpse of it from outside, you really need to enter into the inner courtyard to see it properly.
From there we listened to the included audioguides which took us on a tour of the building. L'Hôtel-Dieu was a hospital established in 1443 and was functioning as such until 1971.
Also featured is famous Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden's "The Last Judgement." This alter was commissioned for L'Hôtel-Dieu and certainly is its most valuable treasure.
After that, it was time to start heading back to Paris. But with the freedom of our rental car, that didn't mean the adventure stopped there. Join me Friday for more on that!
PLAN YOUR VISIT:
61 Rue de Lorraine, 21200 Beaune, France
Closed Sunday and Monday, Open Tuesday-Saturday from 11:00am-2:00am
10 Boulevard de Perpreuil, 21200 Beaune, France
Closed Sunday and Monday
Reservations recommended - can make a request on the website
Rue de l'Hôtel Dieu, 21200 Beaune, France
Open daily - Hours for 2014: March 22-November 16: 9:00am-6:00pm / November 17-Decmber 31: 9:00am-11:30am, 2:00pm-5:30pm
Admission: €7.00 adults / €5.50 students / €3.00 youth ages 10-18 (prices as of April 2014)
Rue des Gravières, 21200 Montagny-lès-Beaune, France
A good, clean hotel if you have a car (not more than a 10-minute drive from Beaune)
Place de la Halle
Get there before 12:30pm! Every Saturday morning
Rue du Moulin Foulot, 21190 Meursault, France
High season: 9:30am-6:30pm / Low season: 9:30am-12pm, 2:00pm-6:00pm
€18/person for a self-guided tour, followed by a wine tasting