The old part of the city in Beaune follows an increasingly familiar yet always beautiful formula of medieval walls and ramparts around the narrow mostly cobbled streets, a couple of well preserved old churches in the middle, stone and brick buildings with shops on the ground level and apartments on the upper levels. We are staying in a hotel that's about a 10 minute walk outside of the old town so it is convenient to walk in each day. Everywhere you look in Beaune, there are cellars, caves and shops selling wine and offering tastings
. Since we are more interested in tasting the wine than buying a lot of it, we went to a place called "March au Vins" which is a large cellar that sells wines. For a flat fee of 10 Euro a person, you get a small tasting cup and you can go down into the cellars and try 15 of the different wines they have open that day, no pressure to buy any bottles! The cellars at March au Vins are great and even though it was quite dark down there, we managed to get a few pictures that give an idea of what it looks like. There are little nooks and crannies all over the cellar that have locked gates protecting the vintage bottles of wine aging on the shelves. The main space in the cellar has barrels with candles on them, acting as little tables and each barrel has a bottle of wine on it with a shelf of the same wine beside the barrel. You just walk around, taste and move on through the cellar to the next barrel. There was only one problem though... It turns out that we do not like Burgundy wines. Out of the 15 wines we tasted, there was only one that we would have considered drinking a glass of. We have heard that French wines are always intended to be served with food and we did try a glass of another Burgundy wine the next day with our lunch that tasted better but overall, Burgundy wines are not even close to our favorite.
Throughout our trip, we have been taking time here and there to just sit and read. Because we can't carry a lot of books with us, we need to keep looking for used book stores that have English books in them. Robin is getting close to the end of her current book so we were on the look out for another book store. We had stopped into a clothing store and while Robin was trying on some clothes, I asked the sales lady if there were any book stores in the area. She gave me a funny look and said "box, you are looking for a box?" I repeated "BOOK" and added "to READ" thinking that would help
. Well I got the strangest look ever after I said that. I knew that she spoke English as I had heard her talking in English earlier so I repeated "book" and mimed opening up a book and flipping through pages. That helped and she said "OH, a BOOK, you are looking for a Library!" I explained that I wanted to buy a book and she gave me directions to a book store. A moment later she walked up to me and asked me where we were from. I told her Canada and she explained that she had trouble understanding my accent and that she had thought I was asking for a box and then thought I wanted a box of WEED. She started to laugh and explained that she was going to tell me that cigarettes were OK in France but weed was illegal. We both got a good laugh out of that one.
We decided that while we were in France we should try a couple more foods that are specialties of the region. Robin and I split an order of escargot which were very good and I ordered the beef tartare. I knew what beef tartare was before I ordered it and there was this voice in the back of my head that kept saying "Hey man, there is something wrong with raw ground beef mixed with a raw egg," but I figured that since it was on the menu at just about every place we have been, it must be safe and I have heard that it is very good. The plate came out and it had a nice salad, an order of fries (and no, they don't call them "French Fries" here) and the largest mountain of raw ground beef I have ever seen on a plate
. It looked like it could have made a meatloaf for a family of four! I cautiously dug in to the beef and tried a fork full. It actually tasted pretty good and was not as disturbing as I thought it might be but by the time I was half way through it, I was ready to stop eating it. I wonder if it would have been rude to ask them to take the tartare and form it into a couple of patties, grill it, cover it with cheese and put it in a bun with some lettuce, onion and tomato? I think it would have made the best burger ever!!
We have been trying for the last week to find a farm in the area to work on in exchange for a place to stay and food. We e-mailed a number of people who have posted requests for help on their farms and have not had much luck with replies until yesterday. We got a reply back from a couple that own a farm in the area of Vaux la Douce and they are working on expanding their garden, constructing some more buildings and taking care of their herd of cattle. We are going to spend a week with them helping out wherever we can and then after that the plan is to head to Munich and have a beer.
Continuing on our journey towards the North in France and following on the heels of our great day trip to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, it only made sense to visit the Burgundy region of France next. Burgundy is one of the famous wine regions of France, and the center of wine production for the Burgundy region is in a town called Beaune.