Sunday, June 6, 2010

Missing France

I am supposed to be in France this week, the Loire Valley, in fact, for the marriage of one of my dear friend Francoise's daughter. My flight left without me on Thursday, as I succumbed to familial pressure to manage a few crises, throw a dinner, and stay to help my parents. That's sort of the short story. I also have new merchandise arriving soon, and R wants me to go with him in September. It goes on and on; is it great to be needed???

Anne and Dan were married today in the XVthC Chateau Detilly, and let me tell you, I WISH I had been there; nothing is lovelier than a French wedding. Today is also the anniversary of D-day, of the Allied landings in Normandy, and Anne's French Grandfather was there, assisting the American troops.

I am really missing France this week, and looking forward to my rebooked trip in September. I thought it would be a good time to take you on a tour of our house, and tell you about the work we have done. Today I am going to give you a little background on the area, and tomorrow I will start with the house.

The story of how we got our house is a slightly longer one, that I won't tell now. It was completely serendipitous, however, and R and I plowed ourselves into the project. The house is in the town of Beaune, in Burgundy. This is about a 3 hour drive from Paris, or 2 hours by the high speed train "TGV" from Dijon, which is half an hour by car or train from Beaune. Our street seems rather non-descript, with cobblestones and shuttered windows:

The Saturday market is just around the corner, and it's the biggest market in the area; it's a fabulous show, and it's where we do the majority of of our weekly shopping; this gives you a better idea of the facades on the street than it does of the market, but it's a fairly large market, indoors and out:
It's ironic that in the U.S. we try to dress up our house, and make it look as attractive as possible from the street. So many want "curb appeal," to look good from the street. In France, especially outside of Paris, it's a little different. People hide their wealth if they have it, they are not into the display; behind many non-descript facades are some fantastically beautiful interiors and courtyards. Just opposite from us is the back side to an antiquaire. The front of the store has a small display window, and usually a nice pair of period chairs and a small fruitwood table in front of a green velvet folding screen. It does not look inviting. But if you dare venture inside and you are lucky enough to find Monsieur there, he will greet you warmly and will take you on a little tour, winding through a series of rooms on different floors and different levels and he will show you things that will make your eyes pop; from the 16th century onward, enormous rock crystal chandeliers, tapestries, furnitures and boiseries.... All that is hidden behind a rather bland exterior next to the back door to the cafe:
In the area, you will find several beautiful chateaux...this is Rochepot; the glazed geometric tiles are characteristic of Burgundy; they are so modern for being so old, aren't they?

and this is the Clos Vougeot, this is the old section where the Cistercian monks made wine pre-Revolution; it's about 15 minutes by car from the house, along the Route des Grands Crus:

If you take the TGV to the South, in two hours you are in Avignon, and you can see the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard: and the Roman amphitheatre in Arles; some of the best-preserved Roman buildings are in the South of France; the clear French air has been kind to the stone, though the amphitheatre was recently cleaned so it's very white here:
and the Papal Palace, where the Pope lived in the 14th C;

The colorful greeter at the door of the Palace is made to look like the Swiss Guard; it's a fantastic tour:
This is one of the reasons we liked Beaune, because the town itself is very nice, but we can get around the rest of France very easily. But back to Burgundy....

Burgundy is all about wine:

If you look at the map, it is a collection of the best-known wines (especially whites) in the world: Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet, Meursault, Pommard, Vogne Romanee, just to name a few.

There are many many places to taste, and you can end up with a row like this, having tasted them all in a cool and dark cellar of a domaine:
Or you can go to a more civilized place like this, where you can taste the wines of multiple producers; this is my nephew Dennis, last August:
Everywhere you go, you will see the vines, being carefully cultivated throughout the year:
Beaune is very cosmopolitan for a small town, because of the wine industry. A lot of people speak English, so that is nice for our guests, who usually don't speak French. The pace is active, but not hectic; people make time on the weekend to go to the large parc about 10 minutes walk from our house, where there is an enormous pond fed by a running stream and a carousel for the kids. Families love to pique-nique there on the weekends, when the weather is mild. There is a multi-level structure for the geese, ducks and swans who live in the pond, sorry these are just the duckies but the reflection of the trees gives you the sense of how verdant and calm it is:
And if you want a change of scenery, there are big cities like Dijon nearby, or even small towns like Nuits Saint Georges; this shot of Nuits is one everyone loves:
So that's a little background, now I will show you the house, floor by floor.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. You are a very devoted family member and business woman to have been able to give up your seat to "heaven on earth":)