Do you like wine? France? Beautiful countryside and vineyard vistas? Nice people? Wine? (Oh, hang on, I already said that … ) Cheese? Delicious food? Oui? Then you need to get to the beautiful Burgundy region of France stat, or Bourgogne as the Frenchies call it. I had the pleasure of visiting last week when my BFF was in town, and I’m head over heels in love with it and already dreaming about my next trip. (Pics below the words of this post for your viewing pleasure.)
If you’re going, I recommend staying at Chez Marie in Beaune because they’re some of the loveliest, nicest hosts I’ve ever met. Unless you have euros to burn, I also recommend blowing off the 300-euro (for a half day!) wine tour where you’ll be stuck inside a van in favor of biking the 20-kilometer La Voie des Vignes through some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll ever see. Every inch of this trail will take your breath away—this from an ex* San Francisco girl whose backyard was Napa Valley for twelve years. (It kind of hurts to refer to myself as SF’s “ex” but that’s what I am right now.) Go to a (free) wine tasting in Beaune before you do the ride and learn the basics, then you can enjoy the amazing scenery and stop whenever and wherever strikes your fancy.
There are a few things you should know before you start the ride from Beaune to Santenay:
1. Bring plenty of water and snacks. The villages along the way specialize in wine tastings, café food, and salty, runny, stinky, delicious cheese – not exactly what you need to hydrate on a hot bike ride.
2. The wine route isn’t necessarily the quickest point from village to village; it’s the most scenic. Know that going in as it will become important if you find yourself in a #4 sort of situation. (Below.)
3. You can take a train back at the end of the day (bikes are permitted in the first car) but- this is important – the train is from Chagny, not Santenay. The map says there’s a train station in Santenay, which is true, but it doesn’t pick up passengers, so you have to go to Chagny. And there’s no scenic trail to Chagny. Or maybe there is, but we didn’t find it. We took the route for cars, which is very busy and super dangerous, especially for people who may or may not have done a few wine tastings thinking that they were only going to be riding on untrafficked small lanes. (We would never dream of doing that, of course.)
4. The day of your ride, check to see what time the sun goes down, because it goes down quickly. And if you find yourself on that busy road looking for the Chagny train station, you may or may not have to ride into a neighboring village, find a very kind elderly couple eating dinner on their front porch at dusk, tell them your situation using your finest French manners and vocabulary, then have the elderly man escort you on his bike to the edge of town. Where you’ll then have to ask no less than 11 other people for directions to the train station to make the last train to Beaune. (8:48 pm). WHEW! Glad that didn’t happen to us!
Don’t waste your time in Dijon. (Sorry, mustard lovers.) Maybe it was because we’d just driven through more French countryside and had lunch on top of a mountain overlooking an idyllic valley, but Dijon looked a little like I imagine, say, Akron, Ohio might’ve looked on a gray, rainy day back in 1974. Not scenic.
And when you get to Beaune, go to the bar where you hear Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra, and Barry White blasting and you see the five men behind the bar getting stoned and belting out the word to every song as if their life depended on it. Do that for sure. Because it’s really fun.
(Yes, there are lot of pictures. But this is my blog and that’s how it goes. It takes you about 30 seconds to click through all of them, or this handy gallery allows you to pick and choose which ones you see. They’re just pictures. Don’t be afraid.)