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YFA’s Travels – Europe 2010 (Part 5/?) by YFA

Wow so long since I posted. I blame starcraft. And work I guess – less free cycles to do the write ups, but here it is!

December 29, 2010
We checked out of Hotel du Simplon early in the morning and I started the drive towards Dijon, which is the captial city of the Burgundy region. But before that, we drove through the Beaujoulais wine region, which is a famous French wine region in the Rhone valley. We had no target wineries in mind and in fact, couldn’t find anything specific in the guidebook, so we literally randomly drove around aimlessly looking for signs for the winery (which proves rather challenging for a new stick shift driver, as I often have to make quick stops and starts). We ended up finally finding one winery (Armand Charvet) near Morgon that was open (many of them were close) to let us do wine tasting after 1.5 hours or so.
Beaujoulais Region vineyard
Armand Charvet's Tasting Room - which is the basement (wine cellar) to the owner's house

We then continued on our trip towards Beaune, which was a planned intermediary stop before Dijon. Beaune is a very classy small town in the Burgundy region that once upon a time was the capital of Burgundy. The downtown, historical part of Beaune was paved with cobblestone which adds to the classy feel. There were 2 primary attractions we wanted to see in Beaune – the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune and the Patriarche. We decided to visit the Patrairche first because we expect a fair amount of drinking and we wanted to give some time for the drivers to walk off the alcohol before continuing on.
Church at Beaune. There's a large crowd so we went to see what's going on - turns out they are waiting for mass to start :)

The Patriarche is a winery with a giant underground cellar that I suspect covers a major chunk of the historical center of Beaune. Only photos can describe the vast amount of wine stored underground here. Note the cellar is actually very dark with minimal lighting (to not ruin the wine) and it is all underground – I think it will make a perfect bomb shelter in the event of war :) .
Entry way with giant barrels - this is before we enter the underground!
Underground barrel storage
stacks and stacks of bottles of wine
Wine stored and sorted by year - all up for purchase
more underground storage in corners and crevices

At the end of the self guided wine caves tour, one of the tour guides gives us a brief introduction and history of the Burgundy wines. We then get to taste a wide variety of Burgundy wines (red and white) – the entire process is unique here because it is self-served (so you can pour as much as you want, but there’s 20+ kind of wines available). Obviously you can’t swallow all that wine, otherwise you won’t be able to walk out of the cellar in a straight line. They even had champagne available… we suspect it was not for tasting, but for cleaning your palette in between wines, so literally, we used champagne to rinse our mouths :) .
Why, I'll help myself to some wine, thx!

After the Patriarche, we went to the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, which is a former charitable almshouse with interesting decor. Unfortunately the weather was crummy and it was raining/foggy most of the time, so the outdoor photos didn’t turn out too well.
Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune
Unique rooftop patterns
How did I take one from the display case?!
Pretty decor
Even the ceiling is decorated with paintings
when the lights turn on...

After leaving Beaune, I drove to Dijon (yes I drove the entire day for Day 5), where we did our typical sightseeing of palace and churches (at this point they all seem to look the same and sound less and less interesting). Dijon seems a bit more historical and there is some uniqueness to it – for example, we saw a church with gargoyles along the exterior ledge. The wetness here worked to our advantage – it was very misty and the lighting turned out really nicely, with this… mystical feel to it.
Dijon in the mist
Palace
Church in the mist!
Nice elaborately decorated archway
Rows of gargoyles
After the rain... Dijon city square
Streets of Dijon with Christmas lights still up

Our Lonely Planet guidebook pointed out there’s some owl statue hidden in the town where people touch it for wisdom or good luck (or something along those lines) – so we set out to find this magical owl statue… except we walked all around the address it should be located at but couldn’t find it. And then we noticed there are numbered plaques and directional arrows with an owl symbol on them – so we started following these arrows which took us on some scenic tour around the city. We reached all the way up to 15 I think but got so hungry so we just gave up finding the owl at the end and went for dinner.
Owl No. 9, on the ground
Where does the wise owl lead?

We drove to the other side of town for dinner and I had my last try for beef (since Burgundy beef is supposed to be good) – and it tasted OK – but still not particularly special. So much for beef in France! They did serve some mash potatoes that had Dijon mustard in it (how sad, I think that’s all the city is famous for, its mustard) which was quite unique.

As an aside – when I tried to find street parking near the restaurant, the only spot I could find was cars parallel parked along this narrow street, where they had to park with half the car (2 wheels) on the curb – so I followed suit and did the same thing – it was incredibly challenging since I had to a) parallel park to my left; b) run the car up the curb, so need to have enough speed and momentum, without crashing into the car behind me; c) not stall the car with all the braking and turning :P but I did it! I’m now a true European driver… just don’t try this back home.

Anyhow, after dinner we went to our hotel (Campanile Dijon Centre – Campanile is a pretty big hotel chain in Europe) and crashed for the night, since we have a long day tomorrow – and when the trip went south for me!

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