Chapter Three: Checking Out Beaune…From Above and Below

rogier-van-der-weyden-last-judgement-hospices-beaune-france-1Chapter Three:  Checking Out Beaune…From Above and Below

Day Three: MaiTai and The Amazing Technicolor Roof, Second To Nun, Our Man Rogier, Woman Of The Cloths, It’s All About The Tapestries, The “Elevator List” Revisited, Historic Cellars, Wine In Our Spacious Backyard & Dinner At The God Of The Grape Harvest

With that final Rusty Nail dancing in my head, I awoke relatively early so I could plop myself down in the nearby breakfast room of Les Jardins de Loïs.  A few cups of coffee later and filled with some breakfast goodies, Tracy (who had joined me) and I were ready to stroll over to the Hospices de Beaune/Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune.

p1090091After breakfast, I ran into Phillipe in the driveway (fortunately, I was not driving). I told him we would like to purchase one of his wines to enjoy in the Back Forty later that afternoon. He said he would select a bottle for us and leave it downstairs so that we could open it upon our return.

p1090090On a beautiful Wednesday morning, the streets of Beaune were rather quiet…

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…until we entered the square near the hospices, where a local market was setting up shop. I knew I was in for future monetary trouble when Tracy took notice of a long table chock full of lovely tablecloths.  I tried to divert her attention, but it was too late.

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Before spending money on linens, however, we met Gloria (Greg was under the weather) and entered Hôtel-Dieu, founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, as a hospital to provide free care for the poor after the Hundred Years’ War (it remained open until 1971 when a new hospital was built). Cost to enter was €7.50, which included an audioguide (recommended, but a little too wordy, especially after a late night Rusty Nail).

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Stepping out into the central courtyard, we were immediately captivated by the structure’s stunning multi-colored roof of Burgundy tiles (tuile vernissée de Bourgogne).

p1080950We arrived here early, which is always my suggestion at popular tourist attractions, since by the time we had toured around the facility, it was getting pretty crowded.

p1090027We first entered the Salle des Pôvres (Great Hall Of The Poor…they probably bought too many tablecloths)…

p1080951…which is full of curtained hospital beds (28) lining each side of the room where patients could be accommodated.

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We also noticed the colorful ceiling beams.

p1080960After walking past the beds, we entered a small chapel (close to the hospital beds so those who were able could attend mass)…

p1080962…with a beautiful stained glass window (photo courtesy of St. Vincent de Paul).

p1080961To get to the areas of the hospice, we entered the courtyard from another angle.

beaune-hospices-4-france-1The rest of the walk through the Hospices de Beaune/Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune took us past exhibits of medical equipment that made you wonder how any patient ever lived back in those days and a pharmacy/laboratory…

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…showing how some of the medicines were mixed. It even had its own Pill Factory (Breaking Bad in the Middle Ages).

p1090052There was a re-creation of a kitchen with some fake sisters cooking meals, which I assumed were “second to nun” and perhaps even “habit-forming.”  I religiously paid attention to the detail.

beaune-hospices-kitchen-france-1The building with its incredible roof and the Salle des Pôvres/Chapel were captivating, while the rest of tour was interesting to me solely because of its history (the exhibits were “ok”). However, there was one piece of art that Tracy and I especially wanted to see at the end.  An artist who we had just “discovered” last year in Spain created a masterpiece altarpiece here nearly 600 years ago…and it did not disappoint.

p1080963Not knowing where I might end up after I die, I really wanted to take a long look at Rogier van der Weyden’s Polyptyque, The Last Judgement, with St. Michael standing below Christ and telling people if they were headed up or down (don’t forget Mike, we have a history together).

rogier-van-der-weyden-last-judgement-hospices-beaune-france-1We had viewed this Flemish painter’s works at a special exhibition at the Prado last year and were blown away by his paintings.  This altarpiece had been commissioned in 1443. It was magnificent, and van der Weyden can even make a place like hell seem like a colorful place to visit.

p1090054Also in this room were various other interesting art pieces and tapestries. According to legend, “St Eloi resolved the problem of a horse reluctant to be shod. He thought it was possessed by demons, so he cut off the horse’s foreleg and, while the horse stood on the remaining three legs and watched, he re-shod the hoof on the amputated leg, before miraculously re-attaching the leg to the horse.”  Sorry, any pun inserted here would just be lame.

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This 15th-century tapestry is of St. Anthony The Great.

p1080966That was it for the tour…all’s well that ends well.

beaune-hospices-well-france-1Wine has played an integral part in the continuation of this hospice and the new hospital built in the 1970s.  Since 1859, on the third Sunday in November, a wine auction has been held that helps keeps the coffers full.  Various vineyards take part.

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Back outside, after a morning of reckoning with van der Weyden, I now had to face my day of reckoning with Tracy, and the fact that we were going to spend money.

beaune-france-1At the market, Tracy had her eyes on a couple of Jacquard table linens.  Our house now only contains table linens purchased in France (not kidding). The others come from markets in Ribeauville and Sarlat (next time I see a market in France, I’m going to run).

beaune-tracy-gloria-france-1Nearby the market stood the Basilique Notre-Dame de Beaune…

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…a Romanesque church dating from 1120.

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We spent a short time wandering inside.

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The church contains some interesting 15th-century tapestries illustrating scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, which are on display in the sanctuary.  There was supposed to be a €3 charge to see them, but maybe they gave anyone who purchased two tablecloths a break.

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We met Greg back at Hôtel Le Cep…

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…and we grabbed a quick and largely forgetful lunch (Rick Steves recommended…when will we ever learn not to eat at his choices)…

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…however it was in a cute area of town (well, most everything is pretty cute in Beaune) on a pretty day, so no harm, no foul.

p1090095Then I made a tactical error. Instead of hopping in the car for a 45-minute drive to Semur-en Auxois (I’m still kicking myself for not going), I recalled that here in Beaune you could “walk the ramparts.”  Hey, it was fun in Dubrovnik. It was a blast in Rothenburg. What could go wrong?  Well, I suppose you can walk Beaune’s ramparts, but first one has to find Beaune’s ramparts, of which there are four entrances.

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This excursion turned out to be the first event on this trip to be added to the dreaded “Elevator List” (for an explanation of the Elevator List, please click on Modernist Marvels in 2015).

We eventually found an entrance, but these ramparts were more like an alley than ramparts. Oh, there were some little sights along the way.

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For the better (or worse) part of the next hour we attempted to navigate these mysterious ramparts that would begin and end with no semblance of reason. Where there were ramparts, there really wasn’t all that much too interesting, except for the Tour des Billes, a watchtower built at the end of the 14th century.

tour-des-billes-beaune-france-1Since Jimi Hendrix was not with us, we decided not to walk all along the watchtower, because the day was growing increasingly hotter as we pressed onward.

p1090110There were a couple of statues of interest and a charming garden or two…

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…but, as you can see, we were getting pooped.

p1090089Porte Saint-Nicolas is an old fortified gate (Louis XIV was welcomed there in 1669), where we made a quick stop, but our patience was waning. An executive decision had to be made…quickly!

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“To the wine cellars!”  Underneath the streets of Beaune lie the Caves Patriarche Père & Fils (entrance 5-7 Rue du Collège/r Paul Chanson), which bills itself as having the largest wine caves in Burgundy (three miles of vaults containing three million bottles of wine that wends itself under the streets of Beaune).  It’s been around since 1780.

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For €17 euros apiece, we first entered the small chapel.

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Then the four of us crisscrossed the maze of vats and bottles, stopping at kiosks along the along to learn about its history.  We would not go thirsty, either.

beaune-caves-patriarche-3-france-1During our self-guided tour, we would taste 13 wines (three white and 10 red). We would pour these into our commemorative silver sommelier tasting saucers.

beaune-caves-patriarche-2-france-1Although we were unable to find a wine we liked enough to buy, the experience is fun, and we all thought it was worth money to take this tour.

p1090124At the end, their professional sommeliers answered questioned, all the while attempting to shill (I mean sell) its wine to us.

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Even after tasting 13 wines, we somehow had the will power to say “no,” however yours truly was “coerced” to buy a couple of small bottles of cherry liqueur, perfect for that Kir Royale we could make at an establishment we would be staying at next week where champagne would be awaiting us upon arrival.

Obviously I had not done my usual task-master guide job well, because we actually had time for a nice nap before meeting Greg and Gloria in “our backyard” for wine about 6 p.m. We went downstairs where we found our wine, a magnum of Philippe’s estate Burgundy. “Wow, only €32 for magnum of wine.  What a deal!” (foreshadowing alert).  Actually, this wine turned out to be our favorite from this area.

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The four of us enjoyed the expansive garden as we sipped wine until it was time to head out for dinner.

Unbeknownst to us, we were now headed to one of the best restaurants we enjoyed on this entire trip. So good in fact, that I made a separate post to just to write about it (click Le Bacchus for all the info).

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After closing the restaurant, we headed back to our B&B for a good night’s rest. We would be up early, because the four of us would hop in the car and head northward for a day-trip to delightful Dijon.


Next – Day Four:  Scrambling For Breakfast, The Elusive Dijon Parking Lot, Heart-Stopping Climb, The Tomb Room, Owl Be Damned, Aztec Wishes, Not So Grand Cru, Not My Cup Of Wine, Oh That Wasn’t Our Bottle, A Looney Tunes Dinner and Last Call


Chapter Three: Checking Out Beaune…From Above and Below — 1 Comment

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