|Sept. 24, 2005 - Dijon Area
We camped in Beaune, just south of Dijon, for nearly a week. It is right in the centre of the Bourgogne wine producing region so it was very interesting to compare it with the Mosel. Like the Mosel, nearly every person, or business, supports the wine industry: the pickers, the chateaus, the caves (where you can taste and buy wine) and the tourists. The Bourgogne is about a month ahead of the Mosel in their wine production process as the vineyards (vignobles) are covered with pickers, both human and mechanical! One day we packed a picnic and walked up into the vineyards that are right on the edge of the village. We talked to the pickers, found out the difference in production between the mechanical pickers and the human ones (the machine could replace 30 pickers but can only be used on mature vines), how they sorted the grapes, removed the stems, etc. Another day we rode on the bike trail 25 Km south through the vineyards, through little villages with winding, cobblestone streets with barely a soul anywhere. Finally at one village we heard the sounds of laughing and the tinkling of cutlery on plates. We rode by an open door and peeked inside and there sat about 25 people down a long trestle table, obviously the pickers taking their midday meal!
Beaune is a very picturesque, walled city full of delightful sidewalk cafes, specialty shops including boucharie/chucuteries, boulangeries, chocolaterias, trendy clothes, gifts, etc. We were fortunate to have the campsite within walking distance to town so we could wander up to buy baguettes for breakfast, shop for the local wines and use the Internet. Each Saturday they hold their weekly open air market that winds its way through the narrow streets - they sell everything from underwear to sun-dried sausage to fruit and vegetables to spit roasted suckling pigs. It was buckets of fun shopping for our dinner along with all the other residents of the city. We had no idea what we bought but it included whole fish and interesting cheese - and all turned out to be delicious (well, one of us thought so but the other was suspicious of the cheese).
We took the fast train from Beaune to Dijon one day (about 30 minutes) and it included one of those "compartments" with the sliding doors you see in all the European movies! Both of us love hanging out in small villages watching and living like the locals so setting out for the city was a big step! There was an excellent walking tour that follows little bronze owls that are embedded into the sidewalk all through town - with details about what you are seeing along the way. The highlights were climbing the tower that is part of the Ducal City (a spiral, marble staircase including about 618 stairs) to look over the red and multi-coloured tiled roof city and Notre Dame Cathedral. Neither of us is particularly religious but we have found the churches very spiritual and awe-inspiring - some full of the scent of flowers and burning candles, some playing taped chorale music.