Sunday, July 3, 2011

Beaune Voyage! Hold the Dijon.

Today we left early for Zurich to get our rental car to begin our journey to France.

The Turn to Deutchland

I had one idiotic goal this morning: go to Germany. So the first part of our day involved us driving around Basel looking for the border of Switzerland, France, and Germany where you could jump between countries. Eventually I became so disgusted with Swiss streets that we just abandoned the plan and headed for France.

Driving the Puegot

The entry into France was so shocking that I wasn't really sure what to make of it. Gregg had warned us that we would have an hour-and-a-half wait at the border so we'd packed all manner of snacks and refreshments to pass the time. Eventually we went under a bridge in Basel and there was what appeared to be a small shed on the left. Two men in berets were standing outside the shed and there was some sort of sign indicating that this was the entrance to France.

Jen quickly dug out our passports and I rolled down the window to pass them to him. I said, "Bonjour, hello." He waved us off with a smile saying, "You should be okay."

I thanked him and the next thing you know we saw a small sign on the side of the road (about three feet by four feet) that simply said: "France."

"What just happened?" I asked Jen.

"I think we just entered France," she said.

Having gone back and forth together through the Canadian-American border several times (where one of us is a citizen of each country) we have been hassled every way you can imagine. Apparently, crossing between two countries where neither of you is a resident is much easier.

Nate in Super-Heated Highway Overpass

Our trip in France began with a mad rush to find an ATM so that we could pay the exorbitant tolls on the roads. We first stopped off in this rest station where we crossed the highway in a super-heated tunnel of death. Here I am attempting to force a smile even though I could feel my skin cooking.

Our second stop was in Dole which took the place of Orange as my least favorite French city. Both detours yielded us no ATM.

It's All About the Euromans, Baby

Our luck changed when we crossed into Beaune and made it rain!

Marche Aux Vin in Beaune

Jen was eager to see the Marche Aux Vin. Unlike the border to Deutchland and France this was actually much easier to find even though we just parked the car and wandered through the streets until we stumbled upon it.

Jen About to Enter The Caves of Marche Aux Vin

They gave us some nice little metal tasting cups and we headed down into the cellars to sample about twenty wines. Most of them were pinot noir which is funny because that may be one of Jen's least favorite grape varietals. However, it is amazing how good pinot noir can be when it costs more than $6.99 a bottle.

The Caves of Marche Aux Vin

As we worked our way through the caves we filled out a list of what we thought of all the wines while Jen filled up a little metal carrier with the bottles she liked.

Sommelier at Marche Aux Vins in Beaune

Afterward the sommelier began talking with us then took us into a small cage (it was nicer than it sounds) where he offered us a taste of seven or eight other wines and put together a small order for us which he is having shipped to us back home.

Spanish Hens

Then a tremendous group of Spanish hens came barreling through the marche and the echoinig of their incessant chattering became so much that we had to end the tasting and call it a day.

What Caused Those Expressions?

We exited the marche and took this picture by some grape vines. It's hard to tell if the expressions on our face are from the sunlight in our eyes or the knowledge of how much money we'd just spent on wine.

Puegot Rental Telling Me To Shift Into Sixth Gear

Back on the road we headed for Dijon. I became increasingly annoyed with the car because it's constantly offering you suggestions of when you should be shifting. Usually the car is like: "Hey, you're doing 2,000 RPMs, you should totally shift up!" Often times it just tells you to go straight to sixth. "Hey, I know you're in third gear, but you should be in sixth! It's totally the logical next gear to shift in when you get to 3,000 RPMs!"

This car has a love affair with sixth gear.

Church in Dijon

After another short drive (while being reminded to shift into sixth gear) we arrived in Dijon. We listened to the radio on the way and Jen translated the news about the Tour de France so we could stay abreast of the action.

It was a quick stop for dinner and to stay in a hotel before heading out tomorrow for Bordeaux. We spent a great deal of time looking for a restaurant to eat in until we reached Place de la Liberation where all the restaurants seemed to be.

"Cool" Side of Place De La Liberation in Dijon, France

We wanted to eat on what appeared to be the "cool" side of the place where, as you can see all of the people seemed to be eating. Unfortunately the waiters we approached about getting a table responded to our request with "C'est impossible." Even though it appeared there were plenty of empty tables.

"Uncool" Side of Place De La Liberation in Dijon, France

Then we observed the "uncool" side of the place but every umbrella had a poster advertising a hamburger with Coca-Cola so we decided to head out on our own and find somewhere different.

Grimbergen Blonde

When we found a nice little restaurant away from the scorn of the French waiters in La Place De La Liberation I got this Grimbergen beer which I'd seen everyone drinking along our walk. Much to my surprise (and delight) it was a Belgian beer even though I'd expected it to be something like the Budweiser of Dijon. In actuality I saw someone at the same restaurant getting the Budweiser of Dijon. It was called Budweiser.

Dijon Bus to Chicago

Right after beer was served a bus to Chicago passed. I ran out like a maniac to get a picture of it, thoroughly embarrassing Jen and confusing all our fellow restaurant patrons. Still, it doesn't matter. I totally got a lackluster picture of a bus to Chicago in France. I win!

Cassolette D'Escargots a Creme D'Ail

Jambon Persille + Salade Verte

Jen wanted to get something typical of the area we were in so we ordered the escargot and this ham dish. Both were fantastic.

Gambas Flambees au Cognac

Epaule D'Agneau Rotie A L'Ail

Vegetable Terrine

Jen got the flambeed shrimp and I got the largest piece of lamb I've ever been served in a restaurant. It came with a vegetable terrine that if I'd had it alone I would not have been able to finish for dinner. Jen also taught me how to tell the waiter that I'd had enough but, unlike the waitress in Gruyere the other day, he did not say that I had an appetite like a little boy. He also did not accuse me (like the waitress in Gruyere had) of eating too much chocolate. So, it's nice to feel like an adult again.

Cafe Gourmand

Jen did not order creme brulee, even though she wanted it, but was surprised when it came with the coffee she ordered anyway. The nice thing about France is that you don't really need to order dessert. If you order coffee the chances are that they'll sneak some cookies or cake on the plate along with it.

Nate Drinking Armagnac in Dijon

I had an armagnac and enjoyed the rest of the meal. Here I am looking only about 75% as Euro-Douchey as a similar pic of me on our last trip to France.

Slightly Elevated Bed

After dinner we headed back to our hotel to watch the Tour de France highlights. We also saw a band called Katherine perform their song J'aime tes fesses. The band features a man that appears to be the cross-dressing DNA mash up of Freddie Mercury and Ron Jeremy.

We had to sleep on our strangely angled bed which I think may have been designed by the red cross to elevate the feet of patients in risk of going into shock. I learned all about how to do that in the boy scouts.

Tomorrow I'll show you how to tie a sailor's hitch!

1 comment:

esteban987 said...

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the France-Switzerland border area and your experiences with wine sampling and fine dining. I got to your site by looking into details of Voltaire's escape from France to Verney Switzerland, which led to border issues he faced in case Swiss authorities decided to make life hard. Anyway, times seem to be better now, at least for the most part, in that beautiful part of the world (which I have never seen).