Ilise and I are wine people (we know a little, collect a bit, love to sip and serve it to friends) and this is definitely wine country, a mecca for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay lovers. Everything revolves around the wine and the industries that support it. Perfectly fine with us, although we did try a few non-wine related activities just to prove we could and met with mixed success. More on that during the detailed travelogue after the jump.
Before going any further I’ll suggest you take a moment to pour yourself a lovely glass of wine – doesn’t have to be French, but my advice is … drink it if you’ve got it.
Also, please enjoy this Spotify playlist created by Jena Priebe in homage to the French countryside.
Day 1: Took the train from Paris to Dijon, got a rental car and drove to Beaune. Getting around without a car is perfectly do-able but you’ll be dependent on bus/train times and making connections. Having the car made it easy for us to get back to Orly for our flight home without sacrificing too much time in transit. After a few false starts due to highway signage that matched neither Google Maps nor the GPS, we finally arrived in Beaune to find an ancient and historic town that is now the capital of this important wine region, population @ 22,000. It’s a highly walkable walled city encircled by a ring road (ask us how many laps around it took to find the #@!% B&B).
- Legalities – French police are alert for and strict with drivers under the influence, and the tiny sips from even a few tasting rooms can add up pretty quickly;
- Logistics – Even with a map and GPS some of the vineyards and wineries can be hard to find, and many of the smaller ones require advance reservations which the guide will make for you;
- Local knowledge & wine expertise – A good guide will identify your likes, dislikes and general knowledge of wine, then recommend an itinerary of sites to visit. If you have specific requests, or if you like to plan your own tour, that can usually be accommodated as well.
Next up was Le Moutardarie. Another culinary specialty of this region is Dijon mustard so we thought, cool, let’s take a break from wine for a minute and check out this bi-lingual tour of the active mustard factory + museum + tasting room. Imma give you the bottom line first – Skip the tour and head straight for the gift shop with its large display of flavored mustards to sample.
The tour guide was a native French speaker who narrated the displays with paragraphs of amusing anecdotes in French, then turned to us with a dour 2-sentence translation into English. Also, due to super-strong vinegar fumes wafting from the factory floor we spent most of the tour with stinging eyes and tear-stained faces. We paid money for this opportunity? It was fun to taste a wide range of mustards at the tour's end though – gingerbread flavored mustard was a little too weird for me, but the one with black currant was a nice surprise.
Eventually we made it home and quickly fell back into our everyday routines. Work demands came rushing back and that stress-free vacation glow faded away in no time. But every so often we remember to slow down, look at the photos, tell remember-when stories, sip a little wine and savor the memories of our dream vacation in France.
It might be time to start planning ahead for the next big adventure. What’s your dream vacation destination? Tell all in the comments.