It’s Tuesday in downtown Beaune, which is pronounced like an Inspector Clouseau version of ‘bone’.
EB has gone for a massage and acupuncture for a cracked rib (long story, but I didn’t do it, I swear).
And I have two hours to shop, sans bloke. Sounds like a plan.
This is not something I do well at the best of times, even if I do want to take a bag full of cute French stuff back for my family.
It’s drizzly weather, and just hitting midday.
Shopping? Mais non. The two-hour lunch break has begun. The shops have closed, but the cafés are buzzing. Merde.
Time to visit the local Salon de thé and watch the world go by.
So there I am, drinking verte de menthe (peppermint tea) and eating végétarien quiche, in the company of a cute taupe poodle – who may be a stray or just a con-artist.
We both sneak a look around, before I feed him the bits of jambon (ham) from my quiche. The French have an interesting interpretation of vegetarian, I’ve discovered.
Suddenly he scoots away, as two German tourists loom above me. Okay, the German tourist thing isn’t immediately apparent.
There are empty tables all around us, but it seems mine is in the preferred location.
Pardon. You want to sit…here? Ah, oui, bien sur, feel free. Move my bags? Par de problème. Pile your stuff in front of me? Pourquoi pas.
I sit, half-listening, to their vigorous conversation of which monument to visit next. The other part of me debates our cultural differences – or perhaps the fact that I resent feeling awkward. It’s all so un-Zen.
Tiring of my out-of-body experience, I stand up. Au revoir, they say. Au revoir, I reply. Smiling.
And the heavens open.
So do the shops. France is full of tiny miracles…
Fast-forward to dinner in a delightful back-street restaurant. EB and I sit down, trying not to make too much noise in this monastically-silent place.
You can hear a pin drop. Or, at least, my umbrella.
We peruse the menu, whispering interpretations to each other. It seems that quite a few other tourists have found their way here. Some are busily consulting their French phrasebook.
The waitress arrives at our table and grunts out avez-vous choisi?
Quel est vollaille fermière à la crème d’èspoisses? I ask (with abysmal pronunciation, I admit).
CHICKEN, she pretty-much shouts, shattering the silence. Now you can hear a pin drop.
EB and I burst out laughing, which is clearly not the appropriate response.
The food is some of the best I’ve had in France, but the frosty waitress is just too much hard work. C’est la vie.
That was yesterday. Today, we reach a milestone in our French adventure, swapping la voiture for le vèlo.
We are a little sad, but looking forward to a few days cycling through Burgundy (remind me I said this when my croissant-butt is in agony tomorrow…)
The first part of our cycling trip is rather mild. Dining at the Abbaye de Maizières.
It’s a little hard to find the entrance, until we see some people opening what appears to be a window, at waist-level, in the stone wall.
We follow them through and down some stone stairs into the most amazing ancient cave (cellar), with its low dramatically-buttressed ceilings, coated in centuries of mould.
Monks used to store their wine barrels here and make the wine in the adjacent room. No wonder this place has good energy.
Praying leads to wine-tasting, apparently.
We are greeted by the delightful host who treats us like royalty, even with our vaguely outdoor-recreation couture.
The food is great, the wine is superb, and the friendly service is refreshing.
And we have to admit, it’s not a bad way to begin a cycling adventure…
Perhaps the sun will shine on us tomorrow, after all?