Now that restrictions have started to wane and normality is starting to return to Europe, I took the opportunity to take my new car out on the road and drive down to the friend’s place in Burgundy. I’ve been familiarising myself with the local towns and places around me here in Normandy and have become quite used to the flat landscape, deep lush greens of the forests, and the many shades of yellow and green of the patchwork fields and orchards. To me, this is my France that I have grown to adore over the last few months, especially during le confinement. Safe to say, a change of scenery was indeed needed.
European road trips are a totally different beast to North American road trips. The roads are narrower and tend to not understand what a straight line looks like, and the drivers are a mix of well under the speed limit and the speed limit was just a target to beat. Being in the middle of the Normandy countryside, it takes around an hour in any direction to get to a highway, so until then you are stuck on one-lane roads that seemed to have been laid by a drunken paver. Once you find the motorway/highway it is often a toll road, which in this case is not a bad thing as the roads are phenomenally looked after, the service stations and aires are maintained and every 5 kilometers or so and, the road covers certain breakdowns and assistance.
Anyway back to the grand road trip to Burgundy. As soon as I left the Parisienne ring road onto the A6 towards Lyon, the landscape drastically changed from the usual Normandy countryside I have become acquainted with. Rolling hills of sunflowers and windfarms flew by, entangled with luscious green fields, it is easy to see why the A6 is known as the sun highway. Turning off the highway towards Beaune, the landscape again changed, the sunflowers being replaced with the stripey fields of vineyards, encompassing grand buildings. I had reached Burgundy.
I am fortunate to have friends all over the world, and one of my good friends that I run 42.5 degrees blog with, his parents own a beautiful Chambre D’Hote, Douceur de Vivre in Dennevy. And this is where I stayed for the time I spent down in champagne country.
If you have never had the pleasure of coming down to this part of France in the summer then you are sorely missing out. I was lucky to go on a couple of french exchanges a little bit more south than Beaune during high school, but never as an individual with freedom to do whatever I pleased. My trip mainly consisted on catching up and helping out with the grand opening of Bright Star Brewery (post coming soon) But the rest I got to explore the local area.
Beaune is a beautiful medieval town surrounded by fields upon fields of vineyards. The town is most famous for it’s Hôtel-Dieu (Hospices de Beaune), for being one of the first medieval hospitals, as well as holding an annual wine auction. Unfortunately, due to the regulations in place for Covid-19 and the high amount of tourist traffic on my day visiting the town, I did not get to see the Hôtel-Dieu in all it’s splendour. I did however get to see some other sites.
First stop was the Museum of Fine Art, a small art museum tucked away in a corner of the town. The Museum is mainly dedicated to the Flemish school of art from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as holding a exhibition celebrating a famous local art photographer. The art gallery itself is very well set out with brightly contrasting walls to the paintings in display. The price of entrance is decent, with option to buy a joint entrance ticket for the wine museum, which is what we did of course.
Being a bright, hot summers day, the town was teeming with European tourists. This meant we had to book a time slot to visit the wine museum, which turned out perfect as it gave us time to look round the shops and stop for a spot of lunch.Resteraunts border the central square, meaning there is a plethora of lunch options, we however, left the square and found a resteraunt that tickled all our fancies.
After our quick bite to eat, we decided to visit the Basillica to kill some time before our mueseum appointment. The Basillica of Our Lady is a 13th and 15th century building, that in itself is a work of art. In it’s interior it hosts medieval artwork and tapestries, definitely worth a visit. The exterior wooden doors date back the the 12th century, a pretty impressive feat in itself. The foundations of the Basillica date further back to the Roman control of the area, something evident in the architecture around Beaune. For example in the area with the art museum, you can see some grave stones and tombs that were excavated in building.
The wine museum was fantastic. It had more than I was expecting within the building. It goes over the history of wine in the area, from the ancient greeks, the romans, the medieval period, to of course modern day wine in Burgundy. There is also an interesting breakdown in why the wine in this region is special, going over the geography, the geology of the ground and all the science behind the grape growing and the bubble climate that surrounds the hills in Bourgogne. It doesn’t end there as it goes into traditional wine making, the tools and techniques and the culture that surrounds vineyards. I didn’t think I would be so interested in this type of wine history, being plesantly surprised.
The next adventure I had was to the sleepy local village of Couches. Getting there was an adventure in itself as the roads quickly changed from two lanes to barely one lane, winding up and down and round fields and through thickets of trees. I was recommended to go to Couches as there was a newly opened artist exhibition. Being interested in art, being a designer, how could I say no? The village itself is gorgeous. Being the stereotypical southern French archetecture, with off white walls, shutters and draped with flowers and green, the village is a delight to see.
The exhibition itself is by the fabulous Elaine M. Goodwin, Mosaic artist extrordinaire. Entitled He/She, the gallery in a former notaire’s office displays these works perfectly. The work seems to explore forms and shapes that can be considered he/she with natural lines and vibrant colours. Elaine has exhibitions in various places in France, that I would love to have the chance to visit!
Thats all for this week’s adventure update! Thank you for your continued support and reading and let me know where I should go next!
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