The last two days have been jam packed, like all the others I guess. In the morning we left Avignon but visited the Pont du Guard before heading out of the city. This is a huge bridge and aqua duct, very famous and 2000 years old. CRAZY old that is. The neatest part of this relic is all the graffiti you can see etched into the stone. One guy named Guye Francois said I WAS HERE JUNE 1802. I got a real kick out of old school vandalism, even back in the day they wanted to put their mark on the world.
We then drove directly to Chateuneuf du Paps a small and very famous wine growing area. On our way we drove over the Rhone bridge and saw a movie being filmed which was neat. In the city we visited Le Musse du vin which was a walk through history of wine making in France as well as the local area. To our amazement there was a free wine tasting of five wines, I enjoy the free wine here. It became a free for all when some customers started to serve themselves at the tasting. We really need to start doing this in Niagara: self serve wine tasting is the way to go. I inquired with regards to why the bottles in the region are always a funny shape and the guide said it was their trademark and is supposed to be the shape of a wine bush; fun food fact.
Two hours north we arrived in Lyon. The third largest city in France and a huge dirty industrial city. However it is also the declared capital of gastronomy in France, the best restaurants are found here. We arrived at 3pm the worst possible time as it was a Monday and everything was closed. We really wanted to have a nice Lyonnaise lunch but time nipped us in the butt. We found a place open and sat down, we got the menu and at first glace realized it was going to be another horrible Arles deja vus. The menu was full of pigs trotters, entrails and chicken feet, not our style. We took the funicular up the mountain to see the brilliant church at the top and then to our amazement the hill top restaurant was actually open and ready for business. With a great view we looked over the city and enjoyed Croque Monsieur and a cold glass of Beaujolais. The city is full of bums who all have dogs for what we presumed acted as sufficient protection at night.
A short drive later we arrived in Beaune for the evening. We stayed at a great B and B called Le Parc and visited the best restaurant yet; Le Gormandie. Ah this food I can’t even put it into words. The interior was tall brown leather seats and benches and we sat right by the kitchen. The kitchen was awesome with an automatic glass door that made the sound those doors in Star Trek make. The kitchen was to our right and we could stare inside and watch all of the chefs and cooks working away like busy bees preparing our food.
Savory Honey Cruller Buns
3 poached eggs with beef gravy, pearl onions, bacon, mushrooms, crustini and Parmesan. Eggs for the first time in my life became incredibly versatile.
Beef Bourguignon with butter noodles. We were served both of these dishes in pots and plated our food on cute square plates.
Chocolate Petrioles with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate ganache.
This morning we woke up to a huge thunderstorm, sounded like someone had just pushed full oak barrels of wine down the stairs. We trudged out into the rain and made our way to the center ville to see Hospices de Beaune Hotel Dieu. A classic Burgundian building with mosaic rooftop. The museum described what life in a hospital after the 100 years war would have been like. Huge hallways in the HALL OF THE POOR were lined on each side with sick beds. The ceiling was decorated on all sides with pictorial biblical scenes. Most interestingly were the wooden beams across the ceiling carved into the shape of dragons. These represent the dragons of hell, and next to these are comical images of middle class people accompanied by animal heads symbolizing their respective failings. So basically on peoples death beds they were staring at the horrors of hell and forced to think about all the sins they had committed; excellent use of marketing. The highlight was in the chapel as the head of the hospital had a Polyptych commissioned to Flemish artist Roger van der Wyden called the Last Judgment. It is huge; beautiful; worth the trip to Beaune.
On the drive north to Paris we stopped in two little spots. The first was VERY LITTLE; called Flavigny and the city that the film Chocolat was filmed. The city is NOT at all a tourist destination, it is basically a farming village and the city center is smaller than my bedroom. We got a picture of the now deserted Juliette Banach Chocletier and finally visited a bon bon shop which was fascinating. The entire city smells of anise or fennel or licorice for those who have no clue what those other ones are. We had a great food find as we found out that Flaviny specializes in anise candies. They are about half the size of gobstoppers and pure hard candy. Drop one in your mouth and the strongest anise flavor of your life runs through your body.
Our final stop was at the very famous Abbey des Fontenay. This is a world heritage location and was built in the early 1000s. The site is surrounded by beautiful gardens, fountains, lakes and waterfalls. It is great to know you are walking where ancient monks used to live, all 200 of them. The site was purchased by the man who invented the hot air balloon and designed the French rail system, innovative and rich I assume. The family oddly enough actually still live on the premises. Approximately five of the buildings are not available on the tour as the family uses them as their residence. In the bookshop I found a great book on how to make liqueurs from scratch. As you all know it was the monks we have to thank for developing the great concoctions creme de menth and chambord.
We then drove to Paris, I was gitty with excitement. Here I am in Paris in my hotel lobby; we have a great location right by the Pompideu center the best modern art gallery in the world. Amy and I are dying to finally spend our money and get some fashionable threads and kicks.