Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Tuesday 29th September and Wed 30th– starting the trip home

Happy Birthday Mum!

(no photos today as the wifi here is terrible!)

Today we ‘point the nose’ in the direction of home. Our BnB in Collias has a rather Spanish hacienda feel about it and the woman who runs the place has put out a lovely spread out for our breakfast. We feel we have really completed our touring and so we are happy to take our time over breakfast.

When we leave we try to go to the local town of Uzes. We don’t have a lot of time, and it is very busy and finding a car park close to the old town ends up being too difficult. So we drive around the old city twice and briefly admire the old town built of stone…maybe next time!
Then we direct Gertie (the GPS) to lead us back up the motorway to Valence. We drive through some more Cote de Rhone vineyards until we hit the motorway, where we plant the foot. The speed limit is 130km here! It takes us about 2 hours in total, til we are back in Valence where we drop off our hire car. While the initial stages of driving were a bit ‘exciting’, in the end we got the hang of it and were glad we had the flexibility of being able to go wherever we wanted to.

An hour’s train trip and we are back in Lyon. We have an hour or so to fill in before we head back out to our friend’s place and there is a shopping centre nearby, so we leave our big bags in storage at the station and then do a spot of shopping (the first for the trip…well done!).

It is then time to catch the metro out to the suburbs where Mouna, Lina and Noa come past and pick us up and we head back to their house about 30mins away. Anthony is away in Madrid, but luckily Mouna speaks pretty good English and we have a bit of fun communicating with the kids! They have been kind to offer us a bed for our last night in Lyon.

Mouna prepares another wonderful meal even thought it is a ‘quick mid-week’ dinner. Bruschetta to start, pasta and salad and the best tiramisu I have tasted (I learn her secret so I can try and replicate at home). And while Mouna prepares dinner, Lina (who is just 11 years), decides that she wants to cook muffins for our breakfast and so without any bother just whips up a batch!  We have a great night chatting and looking at photos. Noa, who is 7, keeps us entertained communicating to us via guestures..he is very funny.

Wednesday 30th

We are up early to say Goodbye to Lina and Noa before they head off to school. We have another lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, chocolate muffins (the French love their chocolate…so civilized!) More chatting and then Mouna kindly drives us all the way to the central station. This family has been just so kind and helpful. We are now trying to ensure that they come to Australia at some stage so we can repay the hospitality. Anthony rang us every couple of nights to check that everything was ok and kept telling us to ring him if we had any problems!

We do a final bit of shopping before heading to the station to pick up our bags and get on the train to take us to Mulhouse. This town is in France but very close to the border with Switzerland. We were going to have the last night in Zurich but it was ridiculously expensive. So instead we are staying at a cheap hotel in Mulhouse and will then catch the train early tomorrow morning to Zurich to fly out just after lunch.

We arrive in Mulhouse about 4pm and it does not take too long to realise this is not one of those 'beautiful' French towns. It is alright though and so we still manage a walk around and even to find a decent dinner before heading back to our hotel to sort our bags out for tomorrow. 

We will land in Melbourne about 10pm on Friday, so should be home by midnight. We are so excited to see Leyla, but Elaine & Andrew have advised us that they are heading to Rye for the weekend and will have Leyla with them. We consider this dog-napping...so looks like we will have to drive to Rye on Saturday to pick up our girl!



Monday, 28 September 2015

Monday 28th Sept: Heading south




We start the day with our final breakfast at the beautiful and scenic La Bastide de Sanilhac! The only others staying at the hotel are a Danish couple to whom we said ‘Bonsoir’ to last night. A final breakfast on the terrace and we try to memorise the view as much as possible…and take a few more photos as well just in case.

Then we are off. First stop today is the Chauvet Cave. This is a full replica of a cave with cave art that is 36,000 years old. They have learnt from the Lascaux caves that they cannot allow tourists in the real cave as it increases the humidity so much that it destroys the drawings. So this is an exact replica. It is really impressive, as is the whole tourist and educational centre that has been built around it. The drawings are impressive and they were drawing with perspective even 36,000 years ago. Not sure why they had to rediscover it in the Renaissance!

From the Cave our next stop was back at the gorge that we went to a few days ago. At the beginning of the gorge there is a spectacular natural rock arch, that we totally missed while I was trying to stay on the right side of the road and grind through the gears! And it really was worth going back to see it. Again it was another beautiful sunny day and about 23’C. It was tempting to have a swim but we did not really have time. My driving this time around was much better.

It was then time for lunch, which can be hard on a Monday as many places are closed. Anyway, at the nearby town we found a boulangerie open, so bought a chicken roll, tart and éclair and we sat on the nearby steps of the town square to eat. A few minutes later the Danish couple from our hotel last night came by and also went to the same place to buy their lunch and on seeing us came over to eat and chat. They are from Copenhagen and are on a 2 week driving holiday. They assured us they knew ‘Our Mary’ (Princess Mary) well but I think they might have been pulling our leg!

Then it was off on the 1.5hr drive further south, to the final stop in the south, the Pont du Gard. This is a triple storey roman aqueduct built in 50AD and remains in almost perfect preservation. It is also a very impressive piece of engineering to take water across a decent size valley. I did see this on my first trip to Europe that was nearly 30 years ago. Needless to say the aqueduct itself has not changed, but the tourist infrastructure certainly has. I think we just pulled up on the rivers edge back in those days, no entry fees…it’s a little different now. 


We spent a good hour or so, and as it was nearly 6pm we were able to see the colour of the bridge change as the late afternoon sunlight changed.  Then it was time to head to the nearby village of Collias and to our little bed & breakfast. It is beautiful and it is a shame we are only staying one night here. Only shame is that there is nothing in the village open for dinner and we did not fancy driving 10kms to the nearest town in the dark. A night with out dinner will actually probably be good for our bellies!

Sunday 27th Sept – a walk and a rest





No driving is planned at all today… the car deserves a rest (or at least those gears do)! We sleep in til 8am and then head down to breakfast. The mornings have been so beautiful that we have been taking our breakfast out on the terrace where we can look over the wonderful valley below, with its vineyards, stone built hamlets, the distant hills and now defunct farm terraces.  It is a stunning view.

Once our bellies are full, it is then off on our 10 km hike up some nearby hills (5 km ‘up’ and then 5 km back down) to a tower that is on top of one of the nearby hills. The second half of the walk up is quite steep and so Jackie has told me I have to say we scaled a mountain today!

It takes nearly 2 hours at our slow but steady pace to reach the top, but it is so worth it with 360’ views of the surrounding countryside. Almost everything we see is villages and countryside there is not a large city or town, for that matter, to be seen. It really is a lovely part of France around here.  The tower itself seems to be the only remaining bit of a castle which they have then refurbished and I think use as a meteorological measurement site and I suspect fire-spotting tower in the summer. After taking a stack of photos, we walk back down which of course only takes half the time it took on the way up.

Then it is back to the pool for some more relaxing, prior to our last few days before heading home. Jackie manages another swim and I manage to get up to my knees! 

We will have our dinner and then pack up tonight before heading off tomorrow morning directly after breakfast. We have a few stops on our way further south, before heading to a place called Uzes, near the famous roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard. We have one night there, before turning around and heading north again on Tuesday. We will drive back to where we picked up the car and then catch the train back to Lyon. We have a night in Lyon before then heading back to Mulhouse up on the Swiss border but still in France. We were going to have a final night in Zurich, but the cost of accommodation is too expensive. Mulhouse is in France, but is only 1 hour by the TGV fast train from Zurich, which will give us plenty of time to catch the plane on Thursday lunchtime.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Saturday 26th Sept – a bit of a rest day






Today is our rest day…we figure we should have one or two while we are on ‘holidays’ and given that we will be home next week.

A lazy lie-in starts the day, before we decide that we should at least head down to our local village to check it out and get a coffee. This is a 7 km drive though and takes a while when you hardly ever get out of 3rd gear because the road is so narrow and windy. This village, Largentiere, does not even rate in our guide book to the area, however we discover that it is still an old stone village, with the a square, the usual civic buildings and is really quite lovely and typical of the area.

We find a shop open to sell us a coffee and then buy a croissant to eat by the small river that runs through town. After a bit of a wander around we head back up to the top of the hill to our hotel.

Then it is RnR time! The hotel is nearly at the top of the hill, but its outdoor pool is a few flights of outdoor stone steps at the very top. It is a beautiful sunny day of around 21’C. The pool is all set up with banana lounges, but of course we are the only ones mad enough to be up here. I test the water, it is freezing, so decide to lie on my lounge and read my book. Jackie, of course, decides that the pool must be swum in and so slowly eases her way in and manages a few laps of the short pool (crazy!).


It is a most pleasant way to pass the afternoon. Then it is time for a bit of nap before our dinner. We are working our way through the menu at the restaurant and we can buy a bottle of wine, and leave it half finished for them to bring out the following evening. Very civilized!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Friday 25th September – driving around the Ardeche countryside





Breakfast at our rather luxury hotel is a reasonable buffet…nothing too over the top, but sufficient to send us on our way. We have chosen a few more remote village locations in the north of the area that we are in. These narrow roads are getting easier.

The northern Ardeche area is full of mountains (large hills at least) with great views all around and valleys with villages, rivers and farms. While this area is nice and green, there are also lots of rocky limestone outcrops and escarpments. I suspect it gets quite hot here in the summer and some of the higher areas also get snow in the winter. At this time of year, the weather seems mild and around 19 – 21’c averages with occasional days of rain (not this week though!).

Our first stop is a small hilltop village, and like all the villages the house are made from the same local stone, meaning there is a consistency of look to everything. This village is quite exposed and the wind is blowing hard and cold, so we don’t spend long here. No one is about, and all the houses seem shut up, but a dog wanders out to say hello indicating that there is some life about.

On one of the roads down a valley we are desperate for a coffee and find a place precariously perched on the side of the hill overlooking the river, valley and mountains. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but we suspect it might have a coffee machine. Once inside we realize it is a bit of a local institution, as there seems to be quite a few locals wandering in. As it is lunchtime we decided to stay and eat. The food is excellent; all the vegetables are grown in the garden down below the house. We have the ‘plate of the day’ which is entre, main & a dessert or cheese for ~$28. The food was excellent - magnificent homemade pate & salad for entre, a main of pork stuffed vegetables and rice, Jackie had the blueberry pie and I had a selection of cheeses. This was washed down with a glass of local rose and a coffee. It was a great find!

We stop at a couple of other small villages before stopping at the final village that has been built in a secluded valley, up the side of a hill. Another scenic stone village, with church and castle standing out above the houses below. We stroll around, along with quite a few other tourists. We have decided to do all the tourist stuff on a weekday, as I am not sure I could face these narrow roads with the volume of weekend traffic that I suspect occurs. It is all very pleasant and we head back.


Thursday 24th – Gorges L‘Ardeche




Jackie once again volunteers to drive again as we head across country to the beautiful Ardeche gorge. The roads again are exceptionally narrow and windy as we head through valleys and up hills. Eventually Jackie’s headache is too bad and so it is my turn to step up to the driving. We find a parking area near a sports oval and with a good stretch of straight road with round abouts, so I can do a bit of practice before tackling the gorge road. Once I am feeling brave enough, off we go. The road follows the gorge, initially almost at river level, but then climbs as the hills increase. It is very windy and with lots of ‘belvederes’ (viewing spots), so I probably get more practice with gears stopping and starting than I would in 3 weeks driving at home!

Anyway, the gorge is spectacular. The water flows quickly and clearly and there are many canoists on there. We did not organize a canoe trip, and are a little jealous…until we see some of the rapids!

Unfortunately, with the concentration on the driving, changing gears, staying on the right side of the road, we actually miss the most important part of the gorge, the arch of rock…but I am not turning around and doing it again! Sorry!

The drive from one end of the gorges to the other takes a number of hours because of the slow speeds and all the stops. At the other end is a small village where we find a great patisserie for a coffee and cake (well deserved frankly). We then ask Gertie (the GPS) to direct us to our next destination, some caves. More narrow and windy roads….sigh!  But we get there and have just missed the English language tour of the cave system. C’est la vie… they give us a brochure with the main points in English and we wait 30 mins and go on the French tour. The tour guide is obviously a character as he has the audience laughing…oh well. We spend an hour wandering through 3 enormous caves with stalagmites and stalactites, which is an hour well spent as it is all very impressive.


It is then an hour or so drive home again through more spectacular countryside and interesting looking little villages! Dinner and bed…I sleep well!

Wednesday 23rd travelling from north to south



A quick trip to the market for our last Colmar coffee and to pick up a couple of croissants for today’s train trip. We drop off the key to our place at the agency and then head to the train station and wait for our first train, which arrives in just a few minutes. The first trip is a 30 min back to Mulhouse where we wait 45 mins for the TGV train (fast train). It is then just a 3 hour or so train trip and we are back in the south of France. The fast train is very pleasant and we chat for an hour or so to 3 people from East Bentleigh!

Our train destination is Valence where we are to pick up our hire car. We have ordered the cheapest car, which is also the smallest car. We figure with these small French roads and crowded villages with little parking that is the way to go. The other thing we order is a GPS to help us find our way around the countryside. The woman at the Avis hire is lovely, but they are having a few problems with the number of cars available today and the only available car is a Jeep Renegade, bright orange! This is a 4-wheel drive…probably a bit on the smaller size as far as 4WDs go, but nonetheless the opposite of what we wanted! And of course, all hire cars here seem to be manual, which is fine except that neither of us have driven manual for around 7 years.

We have no real option, so take off in the orange beast! How hard can it be in a 4WD, manual, right-hand drive and driving on the other side of the road!!!! Bloody hard!! Jackie is brave enough to volunteer to drive first, while I navigate and work out the GPS. First mistake is that we find ourselves on a motorway (tolls) when I did not want to do these. Panic at the immediate toll gates!! Push the button to talk with someone, who of course does not speak English, so Jackie just says “error” in a Spanish accident (I don’t know why!). Smart man works out exactly what the problem is and delivers us a ticket, which lets us through. We drive on to our exit point and there are able to pop our credit card in the toll machine (we had seen Anthony do this a week or so ago) and we are through…those motorways are not so bad after all.

It is then a 1.5 hour drive to our hotel! We start off on a main road, and it wends it way through villages and spectacular scenary which we can hardly admire as we concentrate so hard on driving and speed limits and other traffic. Then the roads get smaller and smaller, until we are on one-lane roads which only just fit our car, but they are 2-way!! So we are driving in 2nd gear most of the time as we go around blind bends and pray no one is coming the other way!


We arrive at our hotel and decide the stress was all worth it. This place Is on top of a large hill in a beautiful valley… think Tuscany, think Provence… it looks very similar! It is a beautiful valley with small hamlets of stone buildings with those roman semi circular tiles on the roof. The hotel itself is pretty swish… and our room has spectacular views as well. Luckily they have a restaurant for breakfasts and dinner as we could not have driven down the hill again to get any food!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A flying visit to Strasbourg





So we have one more day to fill before heading south again. After the usual breakfast in bed of muesli and a cup of tea, we head to the local market which is open again and have a coffee and buy some things for tonight’s dinner. Today is a lot more overcast and the forecast is for showers.

We then have to drop into the agency that provided this apartment to pick up our deposit and then head to the train station. Our French friend, Anthony had suggested that if we had a free day we could head to Strasbourg. So why not!

Even the slow regional trains here go fast, so Strasbourg was only a 45 min train trip away. We arrive just on 11am and luckily there is a tourist office at the train station so we can pick up a map and get a general idea of what we need to see. These tourist office people are pretty impressive, with all the languages they speak and they are so nice and helpful, we have had no problems at all. The other day, we had to queue to ask one of these people a question in Colmar and by the time I got to the counter, she had already spoken in French, German and Spanish…needless to say English was not a problem either!

We decide that we will focus on the cathedral, as that seems to be the standard attraction to see. And wow, it certainly is! In the typical style of most European Cathedrals (Salisbury Cathedral excepted of course!) it is a mishmash of architectural styles, 12th – 15th century, and while it is basically a Gothic cathedral, it is quite different from anything I have seen before. The detail on the outside is so intricate even up the spire that the whole thing looks like lace work. The three portals on the front are a mass of carvings and you could spend ages trying to see it all. Then you go inside and it is lit by a mass of wonderful stain glass windows, as impressive as Chartres Cathedral. With the exception of an impressive pulpit, frescos behind the alter, and the most impressive organ pipe loft hanging off one of the walls… the rest of the decoration is reasonably limited. I am so glad the Baroque folk did not get their hands on this one! There is also a very impressive Renaissance astronomical clock that still provides all sorts of astronomical readings.

Next stop was lunch and we headed to a café. Timing was good as the rain started as we were eating. After lunch we spent a few more hours wandering around the old town and admiring much more medieval and renaissance architecture.

We were back on the train about 4:30 and back at our apartment by 5:30. We headed out again after a rest to have a glass of wine and get access to wifi so we could sort out tomorrows trip back to the south of France. It is so fantastic having these fast trains, as getting around the countryside is so easy and with the Eurail pass that I bought us, it does not matter how far we travel..

A walk in the vineyards (Mon 21st)




Our tiny apartment does not have wifi (or phone coverage) so, after breakfast, in order to keep you posted we took the laptop to one of the nearby squares where I could access free wifi…but it was so slow, so not many photos downloaded. After our daily Expresso coffee, we dropped the laptop back off at our apartment, picked up the leftover pasta from last night and headed off for our day in the vineyards.

It was a really spectacular day weather-wise, first for about a week. Probably around 20’c and clear blue skies. We caught the local bus that headed out to a series of small villages about a 30min drive out of Colmar (where we are staying). You have got to love the local bus that does not take a direct route, but wanders around the back streets and through heaps of vineyards. Our stop was the furthest village, Ribeauville.

This area is the heart of the Alsace wine area, fields of vines everywhere even into the small villages. The very helpful man in the tourist information centre, not only provided us with the information we wanted, but also mentioned that the vineyards around here were established during Medieval times at the same time as the villages were established. What that meant is that while all the grapes are grown outside the town, all the wineries where the wine is actually produced are actually in the centre of the towns, so would have once been behind the city walls. Gotta protect that valuable wine!

Anyway, as it was getting close to lunchtime and there was a beautiful little park just near where the bus stopped, we thought we would begin our touring with some food. So we had our little picnic of leftover pasta under some plane trees, along with a number of other ‘cheap’ tourists and some locals. 

Then it was time to wander through the old town. Ribeauville is a good size village and one of around 7-8 villages all within a small area. Each village is separated by vineyards that run up the hills, with the villages in the crevices at the bottom of the hills. The towns seem to all date back to 12 century at least and each have their ‘old town’ areas. This one was typical of the others, with a central main street wending its way up the hill, eventually ending in a castle ruin at the top of the hill. The street is lined with medieval, renaissance and 17th/18th century buildings. This is a key tourism area, so everything is in good nick. This Alsace area is a lot more like the northern parts of Europe with brightly painted houses.

We had the map from the tourist office that provided the guided walk through the town, so we were able to see various points of interest…churches, the old town hall, the houses that were owned by nobles or by various craftsmen.

It did not take too long to walk to the other end of town at which point we headed off on our walk through the vineyards to the next village. This was probably only about 3km away, although a few good inclines to slow us down a bit, as did the continuous photo taking as around each bend there was something else to photograph. We were walking on the old roads between the villages (one lane only) which are now only for walkers, cyclists and local wine growers. Most of the walk is through vineyards, with one section through a bit of a forest. There are also great views of the surrounding villages and nearby hills. The fields are busy at the moment as it is grape picking time, so heaps of people hand picking the fruit.


The next village was similarly quaint as the last one, although this one had a fortified church at the top of the hill. Then it was probably another 4km walk to the last village, which turned out to be very similar again (how much quaintness can one take…and frankly they all looked the same).  This last one was a particularly busy one with tourists, so we did our best to avoid the crowds and found a bar to have a glass of champagne (and here you can actually call it that, because it is champagne) and waited for our local bus to take us back to Colmar and another home cooked dinner of vegies.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Heading out of town (Sun 20th Sept)




We are up and out this morning about 8:30am and realize this is the time to explore the old city as there is no one around on a Sunday morning. However, we are heading to the train station to catch the train one stop up the line to Selestat. At Selestat, we catch a bus that takes us 30mins up the local mountain to the castle on the top. It turned out to be ‘Heritage day’ and so the bus and the castle are free!

The castle is the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle. Originally built in the 1200’s to protect surrounding lands, or at least the nobles of the land, but was destroyed in the 1400’s and rebuilt and then destroyed again in the 1700’s. It lay in ruins for a couple of hundred years until the German Emperor, William II of Hohenzollern decided it should be restored, a massive undertaking that occurred between 1900 – 1908. At this point in time, this area was part of Germany, so no doubt it sounded like a good idea. But I guess they must have been a bit peeved in 1919 when this area was given back to France, a fully restored castle included.

The restoration was done in a manner that restored the castle to its 15th – 16th century condition…with the exception of a few extra stairs and doors to keep the tourists moving and a shop at the end to try and catch a few tourist dollars. These massive stone constructions always seem so cold and I am always eternally grateful that I live in the modern times of central heating. Although I have to say these dudes did ok with either open fires or Dutch tiled ovens in each room.

We spent a couple of hours wandering the castle and then caught the bus back down the hill to another quaint town, Kintheim, where we stopped for a couple of hours to sit out the front of a local Winstub (restaurant) and have our lunch. We tried another couple of local wines, but still have either not found a good one yet or Alsacian wines are just not our cup of tea.

We then walked 5kms back to the train station and caught the train back to Colmar. Another quick walk around the old town and then back to cook ourselves some dinner.



Colmar




A terrible night’s sleep, as I find the bed very hard. But a lack of sleep is not really going to hurt when you have a day of sightseeing ahead. The day is showery and overcast and a top of 19’C, which I think might be pretty average for this time of year around here.

Today’s activities revolve around seeing Colmar. Colmar is a small town just south of Strasbourg, with a population of around 100k. It is a key town in the Alsace area and significant in the wine industry here. Historically, this town seems to have switched sides quite a lot, between France and Germany… given that the German border is not very far away. In fact, most of the towns and villages in this area and the names of food sound a lot more German than they do French.

Colmar, like many European towns has an ‘old city’. Colmar’s is one of the best preserved with lots of buildings remaining from 12th century, through to Renaissance times and beyond. It also appears to be a bit of a favourite on the ‘weekender’ route for both the French and the German tourists.

Our first activity of the day is to visit the little market that they have here and pick up enough food for the next 3 nights. We figure both our stomachs and our wallets need a bit of a rest. And while you couldn’t swing a cat in our little apartment, there is a tiny kitchen with tiny oven and cooktop…so we can look after ourselves for a few days.

We drop our shopping off back home and spend the day wandering around the streets of the old town. There are lots of buildings to see, but sometimes you do need them pointed out so we even catch one of those tourist “trains” that drives around the streets telling visitors the things to look at (kitch, but we learn a thing or two). A couple of times we need to make a dash for cover to avoid some heavy showers. There are also many detours trying to avoid the hoards that are in this town. I cannot image what this must be like in peak season!

This is a town that has obviously had a bit of money and power over the centuries as there are lots of impressive buildings. This is also the hometown of the sculpture, Bartholdi…. Who you ask?  The fellow who created the Statue of Liberty! However, he has many much more modest sized works around this town. There is your usual Cathedral, as well as the Unterlinden Museum currently housed in the Dominican church, which boasts a very significant Alterpiece, which we went and saw and were suitably impressed with.

By 7pm, as the visitors start to leave, we have had enough of exploring this little town, so head back to our little apartment and have ‘a night in’!


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Beaune



We made up some fruit salad for breakfast this morning from our remaining bits of fruit. It is a refreshing start to the morning. Then out we head to the main reason that I chose to come to Beaune, the Hotel Dieu (Hotel God) or Hospice de Beaune.

In 1441, a local noble man, Nicolas Rolin, decided to build a place for the poor and ill to be looked after. There had been a hundred year war in the area and this town alone had lost 400 families with a further 400 families being destitute. Two years later the Hotel Dieu was opened. Nicolas, arranged for the sick to be cared for by Nuns who were also housed within the building and he personally employed the physican and apothecary. But most of all Nicolas was a man of great foresight, while he recognized it is all well and good to donate a building and set it all up, the ongoing expenses of such an enterprise would be onerous for future generations. So as part of his donation he included 60 hectares of the best Burgundy wine vineyards, which to this day produces some of Frances best wines. Each year in November the wine is sold off and the money is allocated to the hospital and also to one other different charity each year.

The hospital (a name probably not really in use at the time) opened in 1431 and continued to provide healthcare until 1971 (yes, that says 1971). It was regularly renovated and kept up-to-date with contemporary changes in medicine, but the building itself remained true to its original architecture and design (because it was so good). In the 1970’s a larger hospital was built elsewhere in Beaune and this building was converted into a museum, with the exception that the wine auctions continue to be held here every year.

So the Hotel Dieu took up a lot of the morning, it was really something great to see. We then had an hour or so to wander more around the old city and take a few photos, seeing how inclement the weather was yesterday.

Then it was off to the train station where we caught the train to Dijon. At Dijon, we had to book a ticket on the TGV (fast train) to Mulhouse, where we then changed trains again to Colmar in the Alsace. Three trains in three house sounds tricky, but we have been so impressed with French trains, with all the staff at the stations (all been very helpful) and with our Eurail ticket (so glad we got one!).


So we arrive in Colmar. For me this is a going to be a risky one, as this was an unplanned stop, but recommended by our French friends in Lyon. What this all means of course is that I have done no research or planning…and this leaves me a little worried. There wasn’t a lot of accommodation available when we booked last weekend, so we had a feeling that our luck of wonderful accommodation might have run out. We arrived at our apartment to meet the man with the key at 5:30 and realize we are in a bit of a shoe box for the next 5 nights. At least the place is clean, and recently renovated and quiet. We are a bit disappointed and I am concerned that we might be in another tourist town, is this going to turn out to be a good choice or not. We decide to hold our judgment until we have had a good night’s sleep and had a look around town tomorrow. Anthony has given us a place to eat, another place for ice-cream and suggestions of things to do each day, so I am sure we will be fine. As well, he is checking in with us, via a phone call, every couple of days to ensure that everything is ok. What a lovely man!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Au revoir Lyon...for now!





So a bit of an earlier start today, as Delphine, the woman who owns the apartment that we have been staying in, is coming at 8am to pick up the key. We are ready with at least 5mins to spare.

Unfortunately, it is pouring with rain so it is a very soggy walk the 10 minutes or so to our local train station. It is not long before we arrive in Gare de Part Dieu, which is the main station. But we are not catching a train just yet, but on the advice of our new friend Anthony, have been told that the food speciality market (Les Halles) is not far away. We put our suitcases in luggage storage for a few hours and head off in search of our final Lyonnaise food experience!

Today is not a day to get your directions mixed up, but alas I did and so it took quite sometime to get us to the market, by which time we were both pretty drenched, despite raincoats and an umbrella!! The market doesn't look much from the outside, and is smallish inside, but is packed with French food specialities. But we start with an expresso coffee to help us shake off the water and frustrations!

Then it is time to wander the cheese, pastry, charcuterie shops amongst many others. A delightful and clever salesman from one of the Fromageries (cheese stalls) entices us to his magnificent array of cheeses and offers us tastings and some education, which we jump at! Finally, we might learn something about all the lovely cheeses we have been eating. First thing is that most of his cheeses use unpasteurised milk and they use the milk of cows, sheep and goats. Many of the cheeses are particular to a specific farm, which seem to have specific stories to them. This one is from a particular type of cow that has to be hand milked, and then when created is put into a cave to age for the requisite time. He also shows us an array of small round goats cheeses but all of different sizes...then proceeds to tell us that they are the same cheese but have been aged differently and so have different amounts of water in them. The fuller ones still have their moisture, but the smaller ones have dried out a lot more. He advises different people like the different ones... this explains the dried out cheese that I ate the other day and which I threw away!! Such ignorance Amanda! We manage, despite a bit of indecision, to order small pieces of 4 different types of cheeses.

We drool over charcuterie, we consider some escargots and purchase some figs stuffed with homemade 'fois gras'. This market was featured on SBS's Food Safari recently and Maeve had some oysters for breakfast...so "when in Rome..." We head to a stall selling fresh oysters and ordered half a dozen oysters.. 3 different types.. they were magnificent. When I tell you they were served with a glass of wine, do not fear, despite it being 9:30am, the glass was a large sherry glass...so just a little to wash them down! A few extra oysters and once they are gone and another expresso consumed, it is time to say goodbye to Lyon for now. Head back through the rain to the station and catch the train to our next stop Beaune (near Dijon).

We catch the 12:16 train, which amazingly is on time... with all the rain and wind storms yesterday I was expecting delays. The train conductor inspecting our Eurail pass announces that he visited Australia years ago and he still gets is underwear from there...he thinks they are the best (and tells us in great detail why!).  I don't recognise the brand he is saying so he gets his phone out and shows me the brand 'Aussie Bum'!!! He is camp as a row of tents!

It is less than 2 hours, and we arrive just after 2pm in Beaune (pronounced Bone). Beaune is a key town in the Burgundy district. It was once the key seat of the Dukes of Burgundy and so has many key historical buildings. But of course it is the main town for the Burgundy wine district. Unfortunately it is still raining a bit, but we manage to find our accommodation, which is a lovely apartment with cooking facilities. We buy a baguette and make a start on some of the cheeses we bought for our lunch. Then we take a bit of a walk around the old city, a fully walled medieval city at that! We check out the wine museum and then decide that we will save some money and eat in tonight (although we have to note that the food here is no where near the quality of the food in Lyon).

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

More Lyon







After a pretty disturbed night due to much rattling and banging from the wind outside, we ventured out and started our wandering ‘down the hill’ from Croix-Rousse to the main part of the city. It was a reasonably circuitous route, as we explored alley-ways, parks, murals, old buildings, artists studios and even another Roman amphitheatre! This is really an interesting part of the city.  We even tried to find some of the Traboules, which are the passages that were built between houses to enable the silk workers to take the silk from the factories to the river for transport without getting wet. These passages which are behind closed doors were also very important for the Resistance during WWWII as they hid from the Nazi's. These days they are behind locked doors and we discovered that the only way we were going to be able to get inside was by guided tour...unfortunately we discovered this too late.

So forgetting the Traboules, we instead focused on some of the amazing murals that have been painted. Many of them cover the one or more sides of multi-story buildings. They are really great to see and have put Lyon on the world map as far as murals go.

After our last mural, we decided to stop for lunch. We found a nice looking cafe/restaurant that looked reasonably popular and we ordered the 'Menu du Jour'...ie meal of the day! The food was excellent, entre of sardines (really lovely),main of bream and dessert of chocolate fondant (the best ever!). Fed and watered, we were ready to go again.

Today was incredibly windy, and while you did not notice it in the laneways, you certainly did in the squares. In one of the main squares that we crossed, tables and chairs were being blowed all over the place. According to the news this evening, quite a bit of damage has been done around the place. As well, it turned into quite a warm day. Previously we had had days of around 20 -22'c, but it was up around the 27'C mark today.

Our next stop was a silk specialty shop, where a little bit of purchasing occurred. Then wandering past one of the many optical shops, we both bought a pair of frames (we will leave the lenses to be done when we are back in Melbourne). Everyone in Lyon wears funky glasses, so we just had to join the trend.

We then wandered through another shopping area, but this time just window shopped until we got to the Textiles and Decorative Arts Museum. The Textiles section was really fabulous with many fabrics, embroideries, tapestries, clothes, religious vestments from 11th Century to 19th Century were on display. Only problem was that the place was really hot and stuffy and after a while we both started to feel dizzy...so we had to leave and get some fresh air. A bit of a shame really that it was such a rushed trip. 

Then it was the train back home, a final visit to our local Boulangerie (for baguette) and Fromagerie (for some more delicious cheeses). Tonights dinner finished off what we had left in our fridge. Then it was time to pack up as we leave tomorrow.