How lucky can you get to have a friend who lives near the fabled Cote D'Or wine region in France? On our second day in Dijon, our friend Nancy drove us south to the town of Beaune, right in the heart of wine country.
The center of the town is within the ramparts of the old medieval walls, and when we arrived on a Sunday, the open air market was just closing up. Fruits, vegetables and flowers were outside, and inside were butchers and charcuteries and stalls selling the wonderful Poulet de Bresse, the famous chickens of Burgundy.
Beaune is where serious wine connoisseurs can find the best wines of Burgundy, and serious looking shops were everywhere. We listened in as one American couple inquired about shipping wine to the US - the shop provides a per-bottle price that includes shipping, scaled to be more expensive the fewer bottles you buy. Even so, forty Euros per bottle for a case of 12 is a little rich for our blood. Our money-saving strategy is to drink the wine while we're in Burgundy!
In addition to wine, the main attraction in Beaune is the Hospices de Beaune - founded in 1443 as a charitable hospital for the poor. Nicolas Rollin, chancellor of Burgundy, and his wife Guigone de Salins can be thought of as the Bill and Melinda Gates of their day. They built the lavish hospital to serve the poor and sick, in a region ravaged by the Hundred Years War, famine and misery.
The building is magnificent, its steep and pinnacled roof and dormers tiled with the polychrome glazed tiles so characteristic of Burgundy.
|The Salle de Povres|
|Detail of the carved and painted ceiling|
|The beds in the Salle de Povres|
|Michael weighing souls|
Whew! Thus warned, we wandered off to a local bistro for lunch, then took a stroll on the ancient medieval ramparts.
We took the slow route back to Dijon, driving through vineyards and picturesque villages of Aloxe-Corton, Vosne Romanee and other famous appellations. This being Saturday, each village church was hosting a wedding, and we encountered at least five processions of cars, bedecked in ribbons, flowers, balloons and painted congratulations - what better antidote to banish troubling visions of hellfire?