Here are some miscellaneous experiences and observations about visiting the Côte d’Or region.
Grand Cru, Premier Cru and all that jargon
A meaningful part of our experience was to drive through the wine districts on secondary roads that traversed the precious vine-cloaked slopes and through the series of villages that share their names with some seriously famous appellations.
We had photocopied some pages from the wine atlas my son gave us; these showed precisely which vineyards were Grand Cru, which were Premier Cru, etc; this was both educational and entertaining. Thank you Julian.
Driving in France
This was the first time that we had driven in a country other than Australia. We had made this out-of-comfort-decision because we wanted to explore the region, which involves mostly short trips, and we knew that we were not in the target up-market for organised wine tours in Côte d’Or.
As previously posted, and as an Aussie friend had warned us, the first hour or two was quite stressful but, by the next morning, we were confident enough to use minor roads. Perhaps North Americans and Asians would cope better but you would still have to adjust to different signage systems, etc. So, start slowly and be kind to each other!
(We used Europcar, one of four car rental companies operating at Dijon railway station.)
English and French
Tourism is a big industry in France and even more important in Beaune. So, in most businesses that cater for visitors, somebody will be able to communicate with you in English. I studied French at school and we are on our third visit to France, so my ‘travel French’ is quite useful. If you don’t speak French at all, you should at least learn to say “bonjour”, “merci” and “au revoir”. We also have a visual phrase book – when all else fails, I can ‘pick and point’! (But watch this space for how much use I got from our German visual phrase book.)
Choosing a restaurant
According to Trip Advisor, there are 141 restaurants in Beaune. How to choose?
Well, don’t book on the basis of what it says on any website. Use these to get some background but you really need to see menus and premises with your own eyes. You also need to be aware of what you want. Is it a taste of all the Burgundian classics, with quality less important? Easily done! 100 restaurants offer these at a variety of price points and you will have the company of like-minded souls.
If you are seeking refinement in food and wine, as well as ambience, you need to look closer at the menu in the window, followed by the prices. If the price of all the main courses start with a 2 or a 3, walk away. Toute de suite! If the prices are better than that and the menu includes a good range of fixed-price menus, then you should decide on the basis of dishes that appeal to you. However, if it is one hour after opening time and the place is occupied by a handful of white-faced tourists, look elsewhere.
Following our own advice led us to four of the best meals of our lives at less than 50 euros per head each time, including excellent wine. Ignoring our advice got us an expensive disappointment.