Rollicking Road Trip Through France: Chapter 7
This is a summary of Day 2 in Beaune. And also my Valentine’s Day gift to you. It’s a doozy. XOXO.
If you haven’t read Day 1, do that first.
Route des Grands Crus
We wanted to drive through some vineyards in Burgundy, but didn’t have much of a plan. Of course, C came through again and gave us a few recommendations to help us solidify a plan. Burgundy has a 60-kilometre route called the “Route des Grands Crus” that runs through many wine growing villages and vineyards of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune areas. So we decided to go south and focus on Côte de Beaune. We picked a few villages along the way that we wanted to visit and started driving.
Rolling hills, endless patches of vineyards, winding roads, stone buildings and churches here and there. It’s beautiful and peaceful. We followed this path:
- Volnay. This was a first stop so we just parked and walked around this small village.
- St. Romain. We drove to St. Romain le Haut – the smaller part of the city situated on the top of a cliff. We parked and made a decently steep climb up to a view point. It was so windy that day, and particularly up there. I was standing on a small rock to try and get a picture and was blown back on solid ground in about 15 seconds. But the views are worth it – it’s just a broad expanse of green valleys below.
- Chassagne-Montrachet. We stopped at Château de Chassagne-Montrachet for a tour and tasting and had a really awesome, young woman as a guide. We tried 5 wines and ended up purchasing 1 red and 1 white.
- Mersault. We just drove through this village a bit.
- Pommard. I knew before we started our quick half-day wine trip that I wanted to buy a couple of Burgundy wines to bring home to Bordeaux with us and would probably just go to a wine store to buy them (rather than individual producers). We ended up stopping at Les Domaines de Pommard for this and that turned to be one of the best decisions I’ve made recently.
We were warmly greeted by Delphine who runs the store and were immediately reminded that meeting people like her is one of the main reasons we travel. I told her what I was looking for – a few interesting wines from the region – and before I knew it we were talking in French and English (70/30 probably) about everything under the sun. We talked ALL about our trip, leaving our jobs, learning French, deciding our plans for the future, her time working in the Burgundy wine industry, her own travel dreams, and the fascinating side of getting into the Burgundy wine business if you didn’t grow up in it through family. We were there for over an hour chatting and enjoying ourselves. She felt like an old friend.
And then she talked about wine. I was so utterly impressed by her knowledge and passion for Burgundy wine. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else that knows more about wines from this area. And I did work for TWM, so I have come across a few wine geeks in my day. She walked me through several wines, describing each producer in detail. I made 3 selections and then right before we left, she was rummaging around the store looking for something – presumably a bottle of wine, but I wasn’t sure what she was doing. She then slipped a bottle into a wine gift bag and said “c’est un petit cadeau pour vous”. She gifted us a with a bottle of Pommard that she felt was a great representation of the area and told us to drink it when we got settled into our new home in Bordeaux as a way to remember this area. We were so surprised, excited, and thankful. It was such a cool gesture.
Do you ever have those moments where you meet someone and in the first five minutes, you know they’re special? I don’t mean awesome or smart or funny or cool – lots of people are those things or some combination thereof. I mean there is something different or peculiar about them. You know they have a story and you know you’re unlikely to forget them. She was one of those people.
A Soirée to Remember, in 3 Acts
Act I – Blending In
We went home to quickly change for the party. We met C and her husband at their house and then followed them about 15 minutes north to the small town of Moux. As we drive up to their niece’s “farm”, we quickly learn that was not exactly an accurate description. The property was more like an estate with a small castle on it that also had a farm. There were probably 50ish people at the gathering, including a 15-piece brass band playing Balkan music, a large table full of finger food, and plenty of wine being poured. Some of the notable food items included baskets of beignets (similar to Cafe du Monde in that they were doughy bits covered in powdered sugar, but not at all the same) and head cheese and rilletes, being served by the guy who made them from wild boars he raises.
We were introduced to several people and the band started playing shortly after. It was great. We were roaming around a bit, chatting a bit, grazing on the platters of food, and listening to the music for the first hour. There was an intermission of sorts and then the band played another set – and this time, the music and the group were considerably more lively. The band members were encouraging people to dance. We saw several specific instances where the band members went up to people and coaxed them onto the dance floor. As a couple well-schooled in the art of avoiding these interactions, S and I found some chairs in the back of the room with a few fellow wallflowers and had a seat.
We were sipping our wine and enjoying the crowd when a dance line started. As the line snaked its way through the room, the hostess made eye contact with each of us on two separate occasions gesturing for us to go up and join. But we’ve mastered the polite decline – a raised palm, a subtle shake of the head, mouthing “oh I’m good”, and then averting your eyes. So that’s what we did, and of course, she moved on. We’re professionals.
Act II – Nobody puts Baby in a corner
But then a song or two later, just as I’ve been lulled into a sense of security, one of the band members had apparently given up his instrument in favor of dancing, circled the room, and was now standing right in front of me with a hand outstretched. I was not prepared for this at all and did not have my reaction prepped and ready to go. So I sheepishly accepted defeat and offered up my hand. In my head, I was having some internal dialogue…well, more like internal screaming: “what are you doing!? Sit back down!”. But in reality I’m on my feet and am being led to the dance floor.
Then, my survival instinct kicks in and I quickly turn back to S and give him my outstretched hand so that he would come with me. It can’t be that bad if he’s with me, right? We’ll be able to figure something out. And in the cruelest turn of events, he gives me the polite decline. His hand is up, he shakes his head, mouths “oh i’m good”, and looks away. He used my own gesture against me. I can’t believe it.
Well, the rest is pretty embarrassing. There is dancing and then there is Balkan dancing. Have you ever heard Balkan music? This is not just a simple 2/4 beat people. It’s a little more complicated than that, so even if you wanted to dance (and for the record I don’t) – it isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Do you know how they say that in times of trauma, your mind shuts down a little until the trauma passes. That’s sort of what happened, though there are brief moments I remember. He led, and I desperately attempted to follow. I really wanted to avoid having him speak to me because he was likely unaware that I don’t speak French – and I certainly don’t speak it or understand it in a loud, chaotic room while simultaneously being whirled around.
At some point, the tempo started speeding up and we were doing some quick skipping-type-step in a circle in one direction and then turning and going in another direction in an ever-increasing pace. I was trying to keep up with this madness and was thinking – I have no idea what I’m doing, I wonder how everyone else is keeping up. So I look to my right, and then to my left, only to realize that they aren’t keeping up. They’re watching and clapping and cheering me on. In fact they are looking right at me. Unbeknownst to me, the crowd had formed a circle and my dance partner and yours truly are in the center. We are the show. This is mortifying. Dancing to Balkan music for the enjoyment of a crowd of French people was not on my list of things to do in France. Ever.
And then finally, my partner slows down along with the music (thankfully), leans in, and says something to me. I think he says “follow me”, but who knows since it’s in French, the place is loud, and I don’t exactly have all my cognitive functions. He detaches one hand from me and stands so we are both facing the circle. Uhhhh – where are we going with this Anton? That’s not his name and he’s likely French, but this is what I’m calling him in my head. And while the crowd has encircled us and is cheering us on, the guy gets down on his knees, raises his hands (taking my still conjoined hand with him) and continues to shimmy and shake to these Balkan beats. In defeat and with everyone staring at us, I copied him, added my own flair, and tried to a muster a facial expression that would suggest anything other than the complete mortification I was feeling.
Act III – The Escape
At some point while I’m on the ground (yes, it lasts this long)…a girl I met earlier emerges from the crowd and leans down and is attempting to do a little jig with me. My mind lights up with the possibility of handing her off to him as his next victim. She starts to back away to slowly join the crowd again, but I grab her hand in mine. Now I am holding on to each of them. I casually stand up and bring my hands together until their hands meet. They both offer resistance, but there is no way I’m letting go. There is no way their desire not be on the dance floor with each other is less than my desire to get the hell outta there. She gestures that she has a wine glass and therefore can’t dance – so I quickly grab that from her so she is free to be flung about by Anton, and I slip backwards to merge with the crowd so that they now have the spotlight. I made it.
When I get back to S, he said “whoa. I looked up and you were on the ground. I didn’t have time to capture that on camera”.
Have there been any sweeter words? There are videos of course of the other parts, but they won’t see the light of day.
Au revoir, Beaune. We won’t forget you.
Do it big, do it right and do it with style.