After about a 3 hour journey from Vichy with a breakfast stop along the way, we arrived in Beaune around midday to be greeted warmly by our hostess Mathilde. She not only showed us to our room which is basic but very “roomy” and very homely but also was keen to extol the virtues of her lovely Beaune.
We set off for Pommard, only about 3 kms out of town and visited the Chateau de Pommard. A very exclusive, working winery - Their wine is only sold at the Chateau. As we had to wait about 40 minutes for the tour in English, we were treated to a Picasso exhibition prior to our tour. We were given the history of the Chateau de Pommard which is 300 years old but since new ownership in 2003 a fantastic restoration has taken place. They grow all their own grapes and harvesting started today! They employ 50 pickers who will work over the next 8 weeks to pick all the grapes by hand in their 91 hectare vineyard. Having had a small amount of experience at this we know that day after day this would be back breaking work and the “pickers” were all ages. We were taken down to the cellars which is naturally cool with an 80% humidity all year round. They are confident that the year’s harvest will be fantastic as all conditions were great and they expect to sell all their wine from 2009 before it is even bottled. They do ship overseas but at 58€ a bottle of 2006 vintage, we won’t be sending any home for friends/ bosses!!
After the tour we were cheeky enough to have our picnic lunch in the garden area before going for a drive to Chassagne- Montrachet There were grape vines everywhere and pickers in full flight along the way. Some crops are picked by machine but there was plenty of evidence of hand picking that we were able to see.
Hotel-Dieu – Hospices de Beaune. What an amazing place this was and full of history – a charity Hospital for the poor. In the wake of the hundred years war, three quarters of the town’s population had no supplies. The hospice was founded by the Chancellor Nicolas Rolin and his wife Guigone de Salins. They endowed it with an annual income (a saltworks) and its own resources (vines) and engaged a large number of artists in its decoration.
Surprisingly it was built in 1443 and has multi coloured roof tiles which were thought to have originated in central Europe. The hospital wards are still set up with beds either side down the length of the room. The Hotel-Dieu operated as a hospital until 1971. Until 1985, the kitchen continued to function with modern equipment feeding the residents of the retirement home. It has now been restored to the early 20th century style. The Saint Louis room is home to many magnificent tapestries – on one side the story of the Parable of the Prodigal Son and on the other the story of Jacob.
The Hospices run 61 hectares of vineyards inherited over the centuries and each year since 1859 have organized the most famous wine auction in the world, held in November.
As is common in France most of the shops close at 12 or 12.30pm and reopen around 2-2.30pm. We did manage to find a baguette, a park bench and enjoyed our yummy lunch of ham & cheese with dried fruit to follow.
We decided to stay another day in Beaune and today went to Fallon Mustard factory, the only working mustard factory in France. The weather is perfect and we are having a marvelous time.
Some of the places we have stayed in do not have any coffee making facilities, so on our third day we bought a travel kettle and it has been fantastic. We have our thermnos adn cups so no problems with our hot drinks. We haev made all of ouor bookings on booking.com and have 3 criteria. Under 100 euros a night, free car parking and free Wi Fi. So far we've managed all three adn although we have Wi Fi here it is not fantastic in the room. To paste this blog, I have the computer perched on the window sill!
There is no doubt that with a longer stay, the roads become more familiar and we are less reliant on Suzie. In fact we didn’t even take her this morning.
Back on the road tomorrow and headed for Reims for three nights!
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