Tag Archives: Burgundy

Off piste – from Cluny to Tournus

Copyright: Louise Ralph

“Ooo, a castle,” said the goldfish

Day 4 and a local tells us: “Vous êtes chanceux. Il fait beau”. You’re lucky. It’s good weather.

Apparently it’s usually much colder this time of year.

Vraisment? Rain threatens all day and the clouds don’t part for an instant.

The wind is bitter, but a welcome friend when it’s at our backs going up those pesky hills.

There are lots of them today – especially when we peddle up 3km, only to find we’ve gone the wrong way.

Gotta love those vague directions…

Then EB’s gears throw a tanty, and we stop to fix them. Tick, tick, tick…

We glance at a chateau, but we’re way behind time.

Clearly, the bike-hire peeps don’t think lights are important, so we’re cycling on major thoroughfares under gray skies. Not for the feint-hearted.

But, in the end, what’s not to like?

This is our last day in France, and we’re pedalling through vineyards and gorgeous little villages that are mostly deserted. It’s Sunday, after all.

As we crest the final hill, we are (again) gobsmacked at the view. Okay, my open mouth is actually gasping for air, but let’s not labour the point.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Then it’s top gear and down the hill to Tournus – the last stop before we jump on one of those super-fast trains tomorrow.

The last four days of our trip will be spent in Singapore, before we are back to reality.

But for now, there’s that incredible view from our hotel window. And the obligatory five-course dinner…

Ah oui, je t’aime France.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

A room with a view…

The big chill – from St Boil to Cluny

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Day 3 dawns. Almost. Autumn’s chilly fingers extend across the landscape and smart people stay indoors, cranking up the central heating.

Cream-coloured beef cattle huddle in frost-powdered fields, watching with characteristic bovine disinterest as two crazy, blue-lipped cyclists pass by.

It doesn’t take much convincing to take a detour for a guided tour through the Chateau de Cormatin, a magnificently restored castle in Bourg.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Afterwards, we stop for a quick bite in the town, disturbing the grumpy old woman taking a ciggy-break behind the bar. She serves us with nicotine-stained fingers and a bad attitude.

We don’t hang around long – which is probably the intention.

As we begin the second half our our journey, the sun bursts through the hazy clouds. It’s one o’clock.

Who let the dogs out…?

We’re happy to arrive in Cluny, to stretch our legs, give our butts a rest…and gape at the lion-esque dogs that are out in force.

There’s a Leonberger club meet here this weekend and they are everywhere.

Yes, even at dinner in our posh hotel restaurant.

And it’s not like you can sneak these pooches through the door in your handbag.

I’m wishing they’d been here in time to share the first course of our ‘gastronomique toure de Bourgogne’. I’ve decided to live dangerously (for a vegetarian)…

In the candlelight, the dish looks harmless enough. Like something coated in neopolitan sauce. EB could have mentioned that shaved beef is actually raw beef – except he wouldn’t get the last laugh.

But in the absence of a Leonberger dinner companion, he has to eat mine so we don’t offend the chef. Ha! Who’s laughing now?

Raw victuals aside, the meal and the service are superb. Flawless presentation is one of the many things the French do so well.

So impressive. Which will be us tomorrow, cycling the last and longest chilly, hilly stage of our trip… Now, where’s that nurofen?

à demain

Along the voie verte…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Day 1: We’re up before the sun today. Not a huge feat in France, I’ll admit. The sun only makes a rather lackluster appearance sometime around eight o’clock.

We soon leave Beaune behind, as we peddle along the Vélor Route through mist-shrouded vineyards and villages.

Every village smells of freshly-crushed pinot grapes and the wine caves are awash with the post-pressing cleanup.

Copyright: Louise RalphTractors are being tucked away and even the horses, which are still used in the vineyards today, get a break from their hard labour.

This pair (pictured below) wait for their owner to pick up his baguette…

It’s impossible to capture the sensational landscape we cycle through, so I give up on the photography thing and revel in the pure bliss of it.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…on the baguette run

Then we hit the hills – those deadly endless slopes that rise slowly but surely, along with the burning in my thighs…

EB is riding rings around me. Literally.

We finally arrive in Chassay-la-Camp, and find our delightfully-retro hotel…and there are those pampered pooches again.

Guests are allowed to keep their dogs in their rooms – and bring them to the dining room.

One lady had her pug-faced dog with her for dinner and breakfast. And yes, dogs and their owners do look the same.

I desperately wanted to take a photo, but I was scared she might bite me. The lady, not the dog.

Day 2: We spend a lot of time trying to decipher directions, and even more time stopping for wine tasting and having a very long lunch in Mercurey.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The long lunch wasn’t really our intention.

But, at the suggestion of the lovely wine-tasting guy, we soon found ourselves (in our bike duds) having a delicious silver-service, five-course lunch at the Hôtellerie du Val d’Or across the road.

For just €22 each! Incroyable…

I won’t go into the gruesome details of the remaining 40 or so kilometres we had yet to cycle (with our overfed bellies). Or the hills.

Let’s just say, I was seriously considering mainlining nurofen about 15 km into it…

Are we ready for Day 3? Bien sur.

But right now, we’re crashing. Bon nuit.

Unravelling the plot(s) in Bourgogne

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Strolling through Beaune.                  While I still can.

We’ve arrived in Bourgogne (Burgundy to the un-French amongst us) to stay for a few days in the beautiful and relaxing city of Beaune.

And yes, we’re taking advantage of a little kick-back time before we head off on the last bit of our France trip – five days cycling through the region’s vineyards and villages.

Inevitably, kick-back involves some ‘Aussies in the Mist’ moments, up on the highest point EB can find.

He likes views, apparently.

Bien sur, we also take some time out to unravel the mysteries of the fascinating Côte d’Or wine region.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Misty heights of Bout de Monde

This takes losing the plot to new levels. We discover that the only grapes grown in the Côte d’Or are pinot noir and chardonnay. That’s not so hard.

It also explains why there are no grape types mentioned on the labels. Instead, the plot of origin, its classification, then the winemaker are featured.

Now it gets more complicated. Much more.

The region is divided into plots, either owned or leased by various winegrowers. There are no houses to be seen amongst the vineyards…

Instead, the vignerons live and make their wine in the villages, and have cellar doors there.

The result is sweeping vineyards stretching up the hillsides and into the valleys, punctuated by picturesque stone villages.

Copyright: Louise RalphVineyard plots are classified into regional, village, premier cru and grand cru – all based on the plot’s microclimate and orientation to the sun, and the mosaic of limestone and soil.

You can get a reasonable wine for €10, while grand cru could set you back €2000 a bottle.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, some vignerons with marketing-smarts came up with the idea of renaming villages to include their best wine label. This explains the many double-barrel (no pun intended) village names, like Nuit-St-Georges or Chambolle-Musigny. So romantic. So French.

Back to the plot. The surprising thing is that one plot will produce a particular taste in the wine while, just two metres away across the track, another plot will produce an entirely different flavour.

This is part of the adventure of Burgundy wines and something the locals embrace with particular pride.

Wine here isn’t a beverage, it’s an artform – and learning by doing isn’t a bad way to pass the time.