Cycling day today. It's been great weather (cool breezes, sunny/cloudy by turns) and the lure of the bike finally got the better of us. Not the greatest bikes at the hire shop, but good for randonnais-ing. We set off at a reasonable hour with maps and lunch gear on a south-westerly trajectory down towards Santenay.
My plan had been to head to Saint-Romain, tucked up under the cliffs of the Morvan just along from Meursault. However this was thought to be too strenuous for the others in the group, so we motored up with a bottle of champagne - real champagne - the evening before. It was a last trip in our little car before it was due back at the depot. Sitting a-top the grey cliffs overlooking the village below and the plains beyond with the setting sun at your back is beyond description. You just have to get yourself there.
The ride out of Beaune takes you round the ring road and suddenly dashing off to the right along the Bouze river and out into the wineries. The ancient vines were being subject to one of many haircuts of the year, some weed-destroying ploughing and some bug-annihilating spraying. Big tall tractors that accommodate the passage of vines underneath them work their way along the rows, make awkward turns at the end and repeat the process once again.
The well-marked path meanders through the wine villages - Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and finally Santenay. Lots of cyclists riding in both directions all seeming to be having such fun, but not giving much away in response to our "Bon jour-ing". It seems that while a bonjour is expected when one enters a shop, it is received with something approaching astonishment when directed at fellow travellers. A nod from the males in the group is about all that one can expect. There are exceptions of course, but these are mostly folk (one can only assume) from the New World.
The route cleverly avoids hills of any great magnitude, though I think that Ally would dispute this claim. But never mind, there is only one side of a hill a cyclist needs to worry about and after a grunt to the top there is always the glide down in which to make a recovery in time for the nexty.
Lunch was taken in a park (aire) in the hamlet of Chassagne-Montrachet. Cheese from the Beaune market (more expensive than we would have liked, but yummy all the same), jambon, fresh bread and a little cake each from an earlier village. The girls scoffed theirs, but I caringly offered each of them a bite of mine. But enough of my generosity of spirit, let's get on with the story ...
Santenay marked the official end of the ride, but we hurtled through and past the town, headed for the Canal Centre that lies a few km to the south, and stretching the length of the country. While tempted to travel its length, we decide on a short skitch along the tow-path in one direction, returning to our joining point and thence on to the Chagney rail station and back in the train to Beaune.
The day was far from over, because next stop was a "free" wine tasting in a cute little cellar recommended by the bike hire chaps; a cosy relationship, but a most fruitful one for us. The tasting of wine is a most serious process, it turns out. None of this rushing through the whites, hurtling through the reds and plunging into the fortifieds (as one tends to do in Australia). While the order remained the same, Monsieur e Madam guided us carefully through their offerings, encouraging us along the way to WRITE down our impressions as we went (yes, WRITE! - pens and paper provided). Much discussion amongst the 8 of us at table (5 Australians, two French and a French Canadian) followed each blind tasting, following which the identity (and price) of each wine was revealed. The main thesis of the operation was predicated on the belief that wine tasting is SUCH an individual process that no 'expert' could presume his/her opinion on any other. No argument from me there. My preference is for the hearty Shiraz of the Great North-east of Victoria, or at least Bordeaux if pushed ...
The inverted commas around "free" (above) are explained by Dear Jude and Ally's purchases of FAR too much wine, given the tiny quantity permitted through customs in Australia. Never mind, you can all come over, stay in the apartment ands scoff the lot! Come on, I DARE you!
An adventure-packed day, to be sure. I' m off to hit the sack. Ally heads off home tomorrow and she and DJ will go to Paris on the train for the last says of the sales. I, in the meanwhile have a list on the fridge to get to and some heavy TDF to watch on the TV.
See you soon!