Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
On Monday morning, there was no one to see us leave our B&B except the ghosts. We will miss our roomy apartment and even roomier old house. It will be a long time before we encounter something like "Vue du Château d'Excideuil".
The drive was one of the longest of GERT, over six hours, including charging. Our first stop was a Tesla top-up in an obscure hotel parking lot in Limoges. We are getting more skilled at finding these places and, so far, when we do, they are largely empty. Good for us.
After Limoges, Marianne's drive was hours of pleasant-but-boring Autoroute (French for Autobahn).We passed farms, small cities, nuclear power plants, and a few windmills.
For our mid-day recharge, we stopped at Aire du Bourbonnais, a busy toll road stop where the food offerings were not up to our expectations in France. Two bags of potato chips and left-overs from the trunk had to serve for lunch.
We selected Beaune for this three-day stop because we remembered it as a quaint old village, with plenty to do for a short stay. I selected the Mecure Centre hotel because it had Superchargers in the parking lot. Everything about the place was the opposite of Excideuil: easy charging, small and plain room, staff and other customers everywhere. No ghosts. Little charm, but it would do.
After check-in, we studied a town map for destinations inside the old city walls, in quaint and touristic Beaune. The main streets had plenty of tourists and tourist shops. A bit too Disneyesque for us, but it didn't take much of a turn to see the charming parts of town. We found ourselves snapping pictures of walls, streets, doors, and a church or two. This gave us more hope for our next two days.
Notre Dame church, the largest in Beaune, was built the 12th Century and onwards.
The elaborate carved doors carried their age particularly well.
Dinner was nondescript at the Mercure Centre. We need to search out better for the next two days.
I started this day writing the diary and enjoying a hotel breakfast buffet. It had been almost a month since we last started the day with a buffet, and I have to admit I missed the luxury. Room-prepared breakfasts had gotten stale, so to speak, even with periodic replenishment from bakeries, cheese stores, and supermarkets. I had to be careful to not want to try everything on offer.
The one tourist attraction that is mandatory in Beaune is the Hotel-Dieu-Hospices de Beaune. The charitable almshouse and hospital was founded in the early 16th Century and continues to provide medical care today, albeit not in the famous buildings we were visiting. Over the centuries, care advanced with the times.
The museum depicts care from a hundred or two hundred years ago, but tells a more complete story, almost as side notes in one room or another. Here's what we saw.
The inner courtyard. The roof visible to the outside is plain gray slate,
while that on the inside is colorful for patient enjoyment.
The main infirmary was where the poor were treated with a level of care unheard of at the time.
Other spaces were more elaborate, from a chapel,
to rooms for wealthy patients who had to pay for their care.
The kitchen fixed hundreds of meals daily,
with ingredients from the neighboring gardens that now hold flowers.
After seeing the hospice kitchen, we knew it was time for our search for a meal. The clerk at the Mercure had given a list of four or five places that she said offered more local, less tourist-centered, fare. That sounded good. The bad part was that some turned out to be closed on Tuesday, some closed for good, and one completely full. We ended up, outside the old town walls, at Le Belena, a white tablecloth place with space for us. Barely. The food was good, better than that in fact, so we ended our morning and early afternoon excursion in a positive mood. (For some reason, no food pictures turned out decent, but shiny glasses were a photographic fall-back.)
After resting a bit, we headed back into old Beaune, just to walk and see what we could. Here's the result:
A little art.
A little window shopping.
A walk on part of the town ramparts. Moat is now parking.
Streets and houses are small!
Wine merchants, the core of the local industry.
A Michelin Star restaurant.
We did not spring for the $200-a-plate dinners.
Scenes and sunset
With that, we trudged back to the hotel. I made 11,000 steps on the day, and Marianne 14,000. Phew.
The plan for Wednesday had been simple: nails in the morning and rain in the afternoon. A meal in between. As it turned out, the rain was not heavy enough to dissuade us hardy travelers.
After Marianne's nails appointment and some necessity-shopping for me, we visited the Beaune Museum of Fine Art. The permanent displays were closed, but a small exhibition of famous locals filled three or four rooms. There we learned about a painter or two (including Hippolyte Michaud, for our friend Ted back in Sonora) as well as the Chevrolet Brothers - THE Chevrolet brothers, who were partners in forming the namesake car company in early 20th Century Detroit, after emigrating from Beaune.
As a break from French food, we opted for an Italian place and ordered ravioli and lasagna - comfort food. It's interesting that we never tired of German or Italian food, but we have found ourselves looking forward to leaving French food behind. I'm not sure if it is the unfamiliar, or the complication of very restricted dining hours. Something just makes us not look forward to our next meal.
After pasta, we needed a walk and the Edmund Fallot mustard museum was a useful 15 minutes away. On our guided tour we learned more about mustard than we thought possible. Fallot is the last artesenal mustard maker in France, producing 2,000 tons per year - from the 96,000 tons total French mustard production. They still use granite stones for grinding local seeds before adding water, vinegar, and salt. Some variations use white wine in place of part of the vinegar and Fallot also makes a range of Dijon mustards flavored with natural ingredients from gingerbread to black currents.
After buying some Fallot jars to take home, we walked in a drizzle back to the Mercure. In not too long, we decided just sitting in a hotel room was no fun, so we put back on our coats and went for a walk to parts of Beaune we had not yet seen. We found ourselves in the northwest section, where several huge old homes serve as offices or head-quarters of famous local burgundy wine makers. In our non-alcohol days, it's a shame to miss all this, but we do what we can. Mustard will have to be all the Beaune tasting we get.
Getting back to the hotel earned us record levels of steps: 15,000 for me and 13,000 for Marianne. I have to admit this was a few thousand more than I could comfortably handle. This trip has not been particularly good for conditioning, but a few more days like this might help. If it doesn't kill me.
We move on tomorrow.
John and Marianne