8. from Meloisey to Meursault

There I was sitting at the breakfast table at L'Hotel de Beaune, taking a photo of the embroidered napkin which I was about to put on my lap, when I looked out of the window. Such a surprise! I pushed my chair backwards, jumped up and almost flew out the front door. I didn't have time to explain why to Alexi who had just delivered my coffee.

There, just rising over the roof of the bistro, was a hot-air balloon. I never would have been able to get out a camera, switch it on, and take a photo. Another tick for smart phones!

John picked us up at 8.45am to take us for a short ride west to a hill above the town of Meloisey. The route is marked in lime green on the left hand side of the map. It was such an enjoyable walk south through vineyards and villages, finishing at our next hotel in Meursault. The twelve kilometres would normally take three hours, but with a little dallying for photography, it took six. A thoroughly enjoyable six hours. We're now south of the Côte de Beaune in the land of the grand white wines!

The walk began on top of a ridge of cliffs overlooking the little town of Meloisey. John felt that the first part of the walk would be extremely boggy after all the rain, so we walked through the town itself, a little longer but better for shoes.

Later in the day we saw some boggy patches in puggy clay and were glad we'd avoided that.

This was the reward. Another heart-stopping moment. We hardly saw a soul about.

The formal peonies in the village gave way to wild flowers.

A nameless wildflower.

And strawberry clover.

John and I tend to walk together, then apart. I stop to take a photo and he overtakes me. He stops to take a photo and I overtake him.

I take photos of him. The bag over the shoulder was a 'cadeau' - a gift - from the man who ran the refreshments bar on the TGV from Nîmes to Dijon, the belly bag one that Butterfield and Robinson give guests. The hat is new, bought at home in Australia to replace one lost in India.

And he takes photos of me.

We haven't seen wheat before, and it was a small paddock. And we've not seen any of the canola crops that we saw just outside Paris from the TGV. Of course it's wall-to-wall vineyards...

I loved the wheat waving in the breeze. By the way, the forecast thirteen degrees turned out to be sixteen with no wind. Blue sky with some clouds, just perfect for walking. By the time we arrived in Meursault it was cloudier, but none of the forecast possible showers.

We passed by the tiny village of St-Romain-le-Haut and made our way down stony tracks through the vineyards on either side. Another valley with vineyards on either side opened up.

This tractor spraying the vines looked like a creature from outer space, and we saw several more rigs along the way. I guess it's to control black spot after all the humid showery weather of the last few days.

We walked along the tops of the vineyards until we descended into the little town of Auxey-le-Petit.

We came down the hill behind the hamlet, past the lavoir: a shed with troughs full of running water for washing. The Auxey valley was one of the first places where grapevines were planted in Burgundy during the 2nd century BC when Druids were worshipped. The church (tallest building in the photo) was originally built in 696 and was rebuilt several times. It's now crumbling but the cemetery inside the surrounding stone wall is still in use.

I saw a shop in the town owned by the Croissant family. Somehow it cracked me up. Mr Croissant, Mrs Croissant, and all the little croissants.

A few minutes later we ate our picnic lunch sitting on an old stone wall.

After we left the town, we heard the barking of a pack of dogs. It sounded so savage that I felt quite reluctant to go further. John was sure they would be locked in, and he was right. We passed the kennels, full of handsome hunting dogs looking for all the world as if they should be out on a fox hunt in England.

We spent ages here photographing the Queen Anne's lace, or something very like it. We both ended up deleting nearly all of them. But it was such a challenge trying to get a good angle. Do you think it's a kind of Queen Anne's lace?

These Charolais cattle are among the first cattle we've seen up close. Other herds have been further away.

These apple trees escaped the frosts, even though they were on low flat land.

Remember the couple at Charles de Gaulle airport who bought a house in Burgundy? John thought this one might be a bargain.

The good old Californian poppy....

We were getting closer to Meursault by this. Such soft fertile looking country, even though strewn with rocks.

The scenery was inviting but we were starting to look for home...

There it was, in the distance.

It wasn't long before we were in Meursault. More appealing houses.

On the street at someone's front door was this piece of whimsy - rather unusual to see. Such a delightful surprise!

Just as we were hoping for the Château du Citeaux La Cueillette to appear, we looked left through high gates, and there it was. But the gates were locked! Thankfully the hotel wine tasting rooms were next door, so we entered that way. We were actually looking at the back of the building. Reception is on the other side. How wonderful to have arrived.

This is the front entrance from the other side. The hotel is on the site of the Abbaye de Cîteaux built by Robert de Molesme in 1096. For Christmas that year, the Duke of Burgundy gave the abbey 4 hectares of land. Grapes were planted, and a cellar constructed for the resulting wine production. During the French revolution, the land was confiscated, and the abbey fell into disrepair.

In 1865, Jules Bernard bought the domaine, replanted the vineyard and built this château, using his monogram throughout. At the end of the nineteenth century, a dreadful disease wiped out most of the vineyards in Burgundy. Jules Bernard, devastated, sold his property to a the Loubet family from Paris who would use it as their second home. It eventually fell into disrepair, and in 1995 an old family of local wine-makers, the Bouzereau family, bought the estate. In 2009, a Burgundian couple Jean Garnier and his wife saw it was on the market, and liked the idea of making it into a hotel. They inspected it at 10am and had bought it by 5pm. It has 600m2 of Cistercian cellars.

This is the gatehouse.

Cute little portico?

While I was exploring, another spray rig, this one in the hotel vineyard. Doesn't it look like something from outer space? Many growers use simple sprays like sulphur. It's difficult for those who own several rows of biodynamically grown grapes to be beside those who use chemical sprays. But everyone is becoming more environmentally conscious.

We had dinner at the Hôtel du Centre (the Central Hotel) tonight. We ordered the Menu du Terroir, showcasing local produce. First a starter of cauliflower soup with a little truffle oil on top. John loves snails, and after eating his entrée of Burgundian escargots declared that he could live on snails and beer.

I had a very nice local dry white wine from 2012 called Meursault Chevalières Xavier Monnot.

We both had Suprême de Volaille à l'Epoisse which was delicious. Then for me the local (soft) époisse cheese which had been the base for the chicken sauce, and for John, pears in wine.

I'll show you more of the hotel in my next post. We're walking south tomorrow, and we're going to visit our guide John's vineyard and drink wine which has not yet been bottled - they've sold their entire vintage from last year. And tomorrow night, dinner at the hotel's gastronomique restaurant La Cueillette, in one of the most charming dining rooms I think I've ever seen.

Until tomorrow my travelling buddies, I wish you bonne nuit.