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Burgundy, France

Another cold night outside: -2ºC. Another night without gas and electricity. Another night without a heater. We didn't want to get out of bed because it was so cold. We eventually did, and dressed in multiple layers in record time. We started the car, cranked the heater and left Epernay and Champagne to drive to Dijon in the Burgundy region, five hours away. The road followed the Seine for much of the way, which was much nicer than the last few days. Adding to the picturesque scenery was a deer that we passed by the side of the road. Definitely not something we have seen in Australia.

 

We found a huge supermarket-type store with smaller gas bottles for sale but they had a different connection to what we needed. It shouldn't be this hard to find gas.

Dijon was an old, pretty town. We picked up a tourist map, however we were happy to wander around aimlessly. Danny stopped to get a French SIM card while I visited the Church of Notre-Dame (there seems to be a Notre-Dame in every city in France) and the Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne (could they have thought of a longer name?). After our whirlwind tour through Dijon and seeing everything we felt it had to offer, it was time to get going again.

Back in the car we made our way to Beaune via the Route des Grand Crus (with only a couple of wrong turns). Along the way were tiny little villages every few kilometres, where all the buildings were a bland beige colour. We didn't notice this too much as many of these villages contained vineyards, with "Open for tasting" signs out the front that caught our eyes. It would have been rude not to accept the offers. We stopped at three vineyards, tasting many Pinot Noirs and an Aligote (similar to Chardonnay). There were no Grand Crus for tasting (not surprising given they cost upwards of €80 a bottle) but we did taste a Premier Crus which was absolutely mind-blowing. We restrained our purchases to only one Pinot Noir for the day, which is amazing for us. Danny usually buys at least one bottle at every winery he visits.

The highlight of the day: we stopped at a Peugeot repair centre (Peugeot make the brand of our van, Talbot) and asked a man who could not speak a word of English to have a look at our gas bottle. We were becoming experts at charades. After looking at it for all of one minute he realised that we just needed to twist the connection a quarter turn more and it was fixed. I don't know if I've ever seen Danny happier. Suddenly we had an oven, a grill, a stove and, most importantly, a heater. We still needed electricity to heat the water, but life just became a whole lot more comfortable.

Beaune was another gorgeous town, similar to Dijon. Walking around we spotted yet another Notre-Dame, this time a Basilique, plus a couple of opulent, exclusive hotels. More exciting for us was the laundromat, as we hadn't showered for three and a half days and all our clothes were starting to stink. 

At night we parked the van in a narrow street in the middle of town. Soon after pulling in a police car pulled up beside us. We became slightly nervous as we thought he was going to tell us to move on and possibly inform us that we couldn't sleep in the van in town, which would leave us in a bind. All he requested was that we turn our side mirror in so it didn't stick out into the street, then said, "Have a good night". Relief! As soon as we locked the door and pulled the curtains shut we cranked up the heater. Within moments we were boiling hot, with the warm air quickly filling the small space. It made for a nice change from the previous nights.

The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain and trucks trying to squeeze past our car on the tiny street. We kept waiting for the sound of scraping but thankfully it never came. Again we got ready and got going super quick so we could turn on the car heater to warm up. Another day of a maximum of 5ºC. I don't think I'll get used to this.