Saturday, March 24, 2018

Burgundy sunshine

I've mentioned Dijon mustard and Burgundy wines -- red and white. But what else is this region known for? Certainly cassis -- that wonderful black currant liqueur that, when mixed with wine or champagne (or Cava if you've got frugal leanings like me), gives us the perfect aperitif (kir). Too, beef bourguignon. And escargots de bourguignon -- those pungent garlicy snails. And French onion soup! And cheese and saucisson, but then, most regions of France boast a remarkable local cheese and many claim they make the best saucisson ever, so I wouldn't say these are unique to Burgundy.

But apart from food and and wine and assuming you don't want a history lesson on Burgundy (just half a sentence: the first Burgundians are believed to have come here from Germanic lands, possibly from what is now Denmark, establishing the Kingdom of Burgundy in the fifth century), what else is famous about this region?

Architecture. And for a best viewing of it, you really should walk around Dijon.

And so I do just that.

It is a brilliant, sunny day. Spring is very late in Wisconsin and it is very late here, in northern Europe and so everyone is breathing a palpable sigh of relief: maybe this season will not forget to make an appearance after all. (Never mind that, looking ahead, things are expected to deteriorate again. But let's not get too wrapped up in prediction. For now - it's a beautiful day to be in Gevrey, Burgundy!)

(Sunrise out my window)


First comes breakfast. So much to choose from! Omelette? Yes, that would be lovely. Paul and Jolanta attend to it all, with the assistance of a young woman, who happens to also hail from Poland.



And now it's time for me to catch the bus to Dijon. It's a pleasant 40 minute ride, through the northern wine villages of Burgundy. I hop off in the city center and begin my walking tour. You'll follow along, right? It's a beautiful city!


I'm curious about the architecture here: I'm looking for the Burgundian polychrome roofs, made of colorful glazed tiles set in geometric patters. Yes, this one!


And timbered houses. Dijon was occupied during the second World War, but not heavily damaged and so many of the old buildings -- some dating to as early as the twelfth century -- are still there for you to admire.


It's a walkers' city. The heart of it is free of cars.


I'm somewhat in a hurry to catch the big Saturday morning market. I've heard many many good things about it. My own view? Yes, it's extensive and bountiful, but in many ways it is geared toward buyers not lookers. Apart from the grandness of the hall, the stalls are functional. Presentation matters less than quality of product. So, just one photo, to give you an idea.


Outside again. And there are plenty who, like me, just want to enjoy a walk in the sunshine! Lots of families, shoppers, older people, younger people. A merry-go-round!


Kids with parents, kids on scooters, kids on bikes... (in front of the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy -- primarily a 17th century building, though the old tower dates back to the 1450s..)


It's only 51F (11C), but we're all starved for the great outdoors! Time outside is precious! Who knows what tomorrow or the next day will bring!

I pause for a cup of tea. Sunglasses on, jacket unzipped.


And then I catch the bus home. You'll tell me I should have gone to the museums: there is great art, there are the mustards. And churches! Why did I not go inside?

Because. I just wanted to be out in that lovely and warm sunshine.

Later, I head for the vineyards.  I want a last look at how the clipping was accomplished (and then go home and clip our own vines). I want to check for buds. But mainly, I just want to take in that vast expanse of land, ribboned by vines, bordered by forests.

I do two walks actually. The first takes me up the hill just a bit, past the old wineries that line a narrow street here.


And from here, I plunge into the vineyards.


These are all likely to be grand cru -- the best of the best.  And the sun is warming them and soon there will be leaves and grapes and the skies are so very blue!


(Waiting to explode in new life...)


The second one is more ambitious. I start with vineyards to the south of Gevrey, walk up the hill and then I continue walking into the forest, switching from narrow path to a more solid road...


Then back to the path again...


I keep thinking that there will be a summit and that this will be my turning point, but the path and road run just short of the ridge line and after an hour of walking in this beautiful world of green quiet, punctuated only with the call of a bird, or the swish of a retreating animal (a skunk actually), I decide to return home.

On the way back, I zoom-call Ed and with my phone taking in the scene before me, we walk together all the way to the village, commenting on the forest, the vines, the village homes, as if indeed he was just a few feet behind me.


I veer off toward the lower village, taking it all in, even as the sun remains strong, and the skies -- blue jay blue!


And now I am back with the Two Goats (my guest house). I'm hungry! Jolanta quickly fixes me a late afternoon snack of cheeses and sausages, radishes and figs. With a glass of white burgundy, premier cru. I eat it in the company of women -- the guest living room is filled with paintings depicting them in various stages of repose. Sunglasses stay on for now. I thank them for a job well done today!


The sun is dipping now. The colors are intense.


It's time for dinner. I walk to the "other" town restaurant -- the Bistrot Lucien. The moon is high over the fields of grapes...


I leave all this outdoor beauty and step inside. Lucien is a lively place!

And there's a lesson in my dining here: in preparing for this trip, I listened to the opinion pieces. But honestly, though the reviewing populace favors Guy, I think maybe they're not right. Lucien is packed with locals. The food is not very different from last night's food, but it has greater aspirations in humbler settings. (Guy is more prim and so you expect the food to measure up to some prim standard.)


I write this not because I think any of you will ever come here and want advice on where to eat. There's a larger lesson to be learned, I think. In serving food, don't try too hard. Relax your surroundings. Your table wobbles? Great! Stuff a piece of newspaper underneath and give a hearty thump. Forgot to put the wine into the kir coctail? Oh well! None of this matters. You pay attention to your food, you do the very best you can and then you relax. That last bit, the relaxing -- it's as important as making sure the sauce doesn't curdle and the creme brulee is silky smooth.


I walk home humming to myself. And what then? Ah, if only I can tuck myself in early and go to sleep soon! If only...