Getting Ready for Christmas
18.12.2011 - 18.12.2011 -1 °C
We eventually had some success in our quest to find an open chateau. The Château de Clos de Vougeot is located between Beaune and Dijon and started life in the 1500s as a winemaking enterprise belonging to the Cistercian monks. They lost it during the French Revolution but it is now a national historic site. For the monks, winemaking seemed to have artistic, scientific and, to some extent, religious dimensions as they applied their "8 hours work" to it. I suspect that they might have been thinking about it a bit during their "8 hours sleep" and "8 hours prayer" as well, given how successful they were. I gave in to my "inner boring man" by being truly fascinated with some massive wooden wine-presses that were engineered in the 1400s.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to refuel the hire car at automated fuel stations (not sure what it is with French payment systems and our credit cards but there have been a few random refusals to work), we got it sorted when we found one that had a human on board on a Sunday. The GPS again didn't know about the Dijon tramway project so I tricked it by going past the city centre a little and arriving near our hotel from a different direction. This approach is quite satisfactory although the "perform a U-turn when possible" repeated plea does your head in after a while.
Dijon is a beautiful old city and we were fortunate enough to observe some of the pre-Christmas activities. Highlights included the distribution of free vin chaud (warm mulled wine) in the street, the Dijon Lions Club fund-raising by selling soups donated by "the chefs of Bourgogne", antiques markets, carol singers and a few children in elegantly understated angel costumes. There also seems to be a tea-house culture in Dijon and we visited a particularly beautiful one. After dark, the Liberation Place area was alive with a busy Christmas market as well as people watching a clever 3D style movie protected onto a prominent building and families skiing on artificially constructed snowfields.
Real snow started to fall during the early hours of Monday morning and made for a pretty scene through the glass doors of the hotel room balconies.