The Retirees go Abroad – Around Beaune

After a warm day yesterday we all expected to be wearing shorts for the boys and dresses for the girls. But it was not to be. Although sunny the wind had an icy edge. We started early and after taking in the town for an hour we went back to the apartment for some warm gear. During our walk around we found part of the old ramparts, an old wine press in the Musee des Beaux Arts and the smelliest cheese shop. However the walk gave us the inspiration to develop a plan of action. Firstly we would take the Visiotrain around the town, then go home for lunch and after lunch go to Borchard Aine& Fils Caves.


The train is a rubber tyred engine pulling 3 carriages each with a guided tour in a different language. The train runs from the Tourist Info Bureau at Place de la Halle, journeying through Beaune highlighting the town’s long past. Along the way we saw the Hotel Dieu Hospice once again, then the Collegiale Notre Dame and the towering Beffroi which sounds the time to the town every quarter hour. After a few minutes we passed the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) and then followed the old ramparts on the north side of the city. Before long we found ourselves on the outskirts of the town amongst the grape vines and we gradually joined the town again behind its walls via Parc de al Bourzaize. Then the journey got confusing as we travelled through the back lanes of the town.


The train trip finished around 12 noon. We walked back to our apartment and then onto our next visit at Borchard Aine and Fils. On the way there we passed the original town gate, another of the rampart defensive towers and the WW1 memorial for Beaune.

On arriving at Borchards we found that they were still having their midday siesta. This led to us horsing around with a photo board only to realise that the person in the corner of the yard having a ciggie was our tour guide for the cellars.

Once inside the tasting rooms, we introduced ourselves and found that we were the only party registered for the tour. The tour was intended to enliven our 5 senses to the enjoyment of wine. We started in the cellar for the white wines where our guide explained the difference between, regional, communal / village, premier cru, and grand cru wines. She then poured tastings for two chardonnay wines. Bourgogne only grows Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Gamay and Aligoté with the last two used in their regional and village wines only.

From there we walked through the stored bottles (many for a Japanese client so she said) to the cooperage display and a tasting of a young pinot. The next cellar was the tastes centre and our guide explained how the different tastes developed and why they developed those tastes. The last cellar we sampled an older pinot and used the touch bar to feel the different tastes developed in the mouth. As we ended the tasting we were presented with two bottles of pinot for our dinner that night. This was one of the most enjoyable and informative wine tastings we have had.

Even though it was late afternoon the twilight meant there was plenty of daylight left so we continued our walking in the town before going home for dinner and packing for tomorrow.

The Retirees go Abroad – On the road to Beaune

We all arose early and packed. Breakfast was an enjoyable basket of croissants and baguettes with a hot chocolate. Our plan was to visit the House of Taittinger Champagne which was on our way to Beaune. After arriving a little too early for the opening of the cave we strolled through the gardens until the visitors door opened. But we were to be denied. The tour was in French only with the English tour starting an hour later. That meant we would arrive in Beaune too late to do anything there so we politely suggested that we would visit another time and got on the road again.

As it turns out we did not arrive in Beaune until after 1.00pm. After parking the car we found a delightful café for lunch then searched out the tourist information bureau. The town is very old and much of it appears to be unchanged from centuries past. Parts of the old defensive walls remain around the town and it has many caves peddling the wines of Burgundy. But this day we were in search of the Hotel Dieu. The Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is a former charitable almshouse in Beaune, France. It was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, the Hôtel-Dieu, one of the finest examples of French fifteenth-century architecture, is now a museum.

The Hospices de Beaune consists of a pair of two-storied buildings arranged around a stone courtyard. The building are well-preserved and they contain half-timber galleries and ornate rooftops with dormer windows. The Hospices de Beaune received the first patient on 1 January 1452. Over the centuries, the hospital has radiated outwards, thanks to many donations – farms, property, woods, works of art and of course vineyards – were made to it, by grateful families and generous benefactors.

Kerry rushed off to meet our hosts and collect the keys for our 2nd floor apartment. When we caught up again unloading of the car and transporting the luggage into a very old building proved a challenge. The spiral stairs to the second floor were uneven in some places and difficult to climb with our suitcases. Inside the living space was delightful but the sleeping spaces were again challenging. Our bedroom was on the 3rd level up an even narrower set of stairs. This was a loft extension and the ceiling of the walkway to our bedroom was angled so that if I stood upright I would hit my shoulder as I walked along it. I have included a photo of our accommodation.

Unpacked and settled in we visited our local Carrefour Supermarket and in our ignorance bought a bottle of local cremant to have with our hamburgers for dinner.

The Retirees go Abroad – Reims

After a tiring day yesterday we thought we would concentrate on Reims and planned visits to Reims Cathedral, Museum du Tau, and the Basilica of St Remi. It turns out that Reims is not such a big place and it was easy to walk to most places. It also turns out that the Kings of France came to Reims to be invested and crowned at the Cathedral and the banqueting hall beside it – now the Museum du Tau.

The cathedral is a towering grand church. Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims and replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211 that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths.

Alongside the cathedral is the Palais Archi-Episcopal, now the Museum of Tau. The Palais was the palace of the Archbishop of Reims. It is associated with the kings of France, whose coronation was held in Notre-Dame de Reims. Most of the early building has disappeared: the oldest part remaining is the chapel, from 1207. The building was largely rebuilt between 1498 and 1509, and modified again between 1671 and 1710. It was damaged by a fire on 19 September 1914, and not repaired until after the Second World War.

The Palace was the residence of the kings of France before their coronation in Notre-Dame de Reims. The king was dressed for the coronation at the palace before proceeding to the cathedral; afterwards, a banquet was held at the palace. The first recorded coronation banquet was held at the palace in 990, and the most recent in 1825.

The palace now houses statuary and tapestries from the cathedral, together with reliquaries and other objects associated with the coronation of the French kings.

The Basilica of St Remi started life as the Abbey of Saint-Remi. Founded in the sixth century by the Bishop of Reims who converted Clovis, King of the Franks, to Christianity at Christmas in AD 496, after he defeated the Alamanni in the Battle of Tolbiac. Since 1099 it has conserved the relics of Saint Remi who died in 553AD. The present basilica was the abbey church; it was consecrated by Pope Leo IX in 1049. It houses many other “illustrious persons” in the crypt of St Remi. It was fabulous to stand in a building that had seen more than 1000 years of service and was still in use today.

We had a picnic lunch at a park near the Basilica and after the visit to the basilica we went to the hotel for a nanna nap. Upon arising David suggested we visit the War Rooms where the German nation surrendered and brought to an end the Second World War on May 8, 1945. The Museum of the Surrender of May 7, 1945 is a history museum founded by the city of Reims in 1985 to mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the first part of the acts of capitulation of Nazi Germany. A second signing took place the following day in Berlin, which ended the Second World War in the European theatre. It is located in part of the premises of the Franklin-Roosevelt High School in Reims

On the way to the museum we passed a roman gate still standing where once gallo-roman citizens passed into the city. After the museum, there was still plenty of sunlight so we walked over to a large nearby park and the monuments of remembrance.

We passed through the park into the city centre and soon found a place to stop for refreshment. The Ernest Hemingway Café took our fancy and we stopped in to catch our breath. After reviving ourselves we walked on through the city past the golden angel atop o tower and past the Kings Cross look alike fountain, past some clever graffiti and then to the Palais of Justice (here David and I had a close encounter with a very angry cat – hissing a scratching at us – we may have been a little inebriated as we shrugged and moved on). Time had passed quickly and we decided we wanted a simple pizza dinner. Veronica spotted the Domino Pizza rider on his scooter and hailed him down so we could find our way there. The poor fellow was so surprised to be hailed that he actually stopped but could not speak a word of English. Never the less we completed the quest and enjoyed our repast under the arches of Rome.

With significant indigestion we retired to bed as we were on the road again tomorrow.