The last part of our month vacation was to head to wine country. We chose to go to Burgundy (French: Bourgogne) as it is only about a 3 hour drive away from Lausanne and the wine is known as some of the best in France.
Quite the day! We started early with a flight from Amsterdam back to Geneva, train to our apartment in Lausanne to re-pack and then got into our car to hit the road. We drove from Lausanne to Pommard, which took about 3-3.5 hours (hit a little snag of traffic at the Swiss/French border).
We wanted to stay in the Bourgogne region for four nights at a small B&B on or near a vineyard. Our hotel was exactly that and exceeded expectations. Hotel Le Clos du Colombier is an old house on the edge of the village of Pommard, with vineyards for a back yard. The hotel had a pool, with poolside drink service (always a plus!), and a full service restaurant and spa (if you book ahead). The service from the staff was excellent, it is primarily run by a local family. We enjoyed our time in the hotel so much.
Our first night we brought some food with us from Switzerland and had a picnic at a table outside by the hotel. Our second night we went to an Italian spot in our village that was unremarkable but the only place open. Turns out this region of France has more limited opening hours than we expected! The third night we ate at the hotel. Not only was the food good, but it was very nice to be able to walk downstairs and sit at our own hotel for a delicious French meal.
Our last night in Pommard we went out for a more gourmet meal at a spot our hotel staff recommended, L’Agastache in the nearby village of Volnay. It was about a 20 minute walk through the vineyards from our hotel, which also added to the fun. Below are some of our dishes.
We arrived in the evening on Monday August 15. We were ready to get some exercise after all our traveling, so we made a big plan for Tuesday. We woke up first thing and went for a run up into the vineyards.
For the afternoon we had arranged with our hotel to rent bikes. We decided to follow a route from the Rick Steve’s guidebook (we like him, can you tell?) he recommended for driving or biking except for a section that went up into the hills. We figured we could handle it and still went by bike. So smart, we are! It turned out that without knowing it, these two inexperienced cyclists took ourselves on a 36 km (22 mile) ride. With full sun and around 90°F, it was a challenging time and took us about 5 hours. But, it was so nice as we were on a bike trail almost the whole time and got to see several adorable little villages, chateaus, old churches and even a castle as we rode through the vineyards. Here are some photos:
On Wednesday, I had arranged for us to take a guided wine tour with Burgundy Discovery on their Hidden Secrets wine tour. It was us, one other couple and the tour guide who was British. The tour took us to three small production wineries and out to lunch. With the tour guide to teach us about Burgundy wines and also to translate, we had tours and tastings directly with the wine grower/taster (who usually spoke only French). This was so unique in comparison to our typical California wine tasting as we were not served by a tasting room server but with the person who grows the grapes and makes the wine! At one point we even went into the fields with the wine maker to look at the vines and talk about the process. We had such a good time learning about the wines of Bourgogne in a very personal atmosphere and of course loved being taxied around to different areas while sipping on wine in France!
The winemaker/grower, Ulrich is in the red shirt. At this vineyard, we walked through his wine making process, which is Bio (Euro version of organic). We did the wine tasting in his vaulted cellars, which date back to the 12th and 14th centuries. Ulrich was an incredibly smiley guy, and really stole our hearts (and money – his wine was really good) as we learned that his first career was as a teacher of the mentally disabled. Now, he employs people with disabilities in his wine making business in order to provide work opportunities to people who otherwise may be unemployed.
On Thursday the weather was a bit cooler and cloudier, with rain in the forecast. So, we made plans to explore the nearby town of Beaune. We did a little bit of a self-guided walking tour, that included the L’Hôtel-Dieu Hospices Civils de Beaune. This is an old hospital that is now a museum. It was really interesting to go through, and learn a little about old medical practices and see the 15th century architecture. Nowadays, the hospital had moved to a more modern property. A neat fact is that the hospital owns a lot of vineyards, a lot donated from grateful patients. As such, there’s wine you can buy and they even have a huge auction every year to sell barrels of wine. The wine is highly sought after as they sell for prices ranging from 10k per barrel up to 60k! Not sure buying this is in our near future.
Our time in the Burgundy region was everything we hoped for and more. It was relaxing, the food was delicious, the wine was excellent, and our hotel was an oasis amid the vineyards. We enjoyed getting to be in France where we could exercise our French (which was completely unused during the previous weeks of travel). I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed our time in Burgundy in the little village of Pommard. I highly recommend you visit some time!
Now, according to our original itinerary, the plan had been for us to continue on down to the city of Lyon for the weekend before coming back to Switzerland for work. Lyon is known as a gastronomic epicenter with tons of Michelin star restaurants. After our cruise and knowing our time in Burgundy would be full of fine wine and food, we decided to post pone our trip to Lyon and to head back to Switzerland. Our hotel was kind enough to give us a credit as we have full intention of going in the future. This should allow us time to recuperate our taste buds and be fully prepared for the food experience of Lyon in the near future!