Tuesday, September 25th
Day Trip #13


Up to clouds again & in the 50’s. Gets up to mid 60's later in day.

            We leave shortly after 9:30 & head north. We run into light & then fairly heavy rain. Auto route A-6 to Blerre-les-Semur to Montbard & onto the ancient Abbey of Fontenay. It was founded by St. Bernard in 1118. It is one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in Europe. It flourished particularly from the 12th to the 15th c. It started to decline in the 16th c. & was closed in the French Revolution. It was sold in 1820 to an individual to become a paper mill,  & then again in 1906, to a banker in Lyon, who restored it very authentically. Since 1981, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At its peak, the abbey housed 200 monks.

            We first entered the Abbey Church, which was beautiful in its plainness, simplicity and starkness – undecorated columns, pebbled floor w/ stones, undecorated altar, & sculpture of Mary, who the church was dedicated to. A nice touch was the recording of monks chanting – not continuous but it set the mood.

            On to the upstairs dormitory with its 15th c. chestnut wood ceiling. One big spacious room (unheated) where the monks slept on mattes.  We are very cold on this damp, rainy day, & we can’t imagine sleeping here w/o heat. In fact, there are only 2 chimneys/fireplaces in the whole abbey complex besides in the kitchen. Yikes!


the unadorned Fontenay Abbey

Fontenay's dormitory - unheated


a course at L'Ecu, Montbard

wine cellar at Bouchard Aine & Fils, Beanune


           The cloister is beautiful despite the pouring rain. We also see a stone carver, a chapter room, a common room (w/ 2 fireplaces), & the forge, where iron ore was extracted from the local rock, & where the first Europeans created metal tools with a “tilt-hammer,” motored by a stream & water wheel. Overall, this is a beautiful place with an annoying English language handout/guide of two pages with the beginnings of sentences cut off. When I complain (ugly American!) I’m told they lost the original and so can't fix it!

            The rain has stopped & we head back to Montbard to find lunch. At fist we find a sandwich place & Don & I get out to walk & find the advertised TI for a recommendation or a better place on our own. I walk around the block, towards what is supposed to be the TI & quickly find another restaurant in a hotel, but no Tim, Don & Deb! I eventually try to call Tim on his cell phone, but have no luck. After about 10 minutes, I turn back & find Don walking towards me. Deb & Tim had driven around the block but couldn’t find me. Frustrating to be lost and not be able to communicate! So we hook up & enter the restaurant I found (Hotel – restaurant, de L’Ecu). What a find! We have another fabulous meal. Food is definitely an art here & a surprise & a pleasure for the taste buds! There is a woman who takes our order who can speak English & explain the menu, which we had basically already figured out. The rest of the meal, we are served by a young woman in a black suit & white shirt & with a bun, assisted by a young, skinny man in the same type of clothing. He’s obviously new, cause she reprimands him periodically whispering to him in French. Our meal is SUPERB – Me & Tim & Don & Deb  start w/ a whipped tomato crème w/ green herbs. Tim & I – poached eggs in a red wine sauce w/ onions & mushrooms, typical dish of the area. Yum! Deb & Don – vegetable tart w. oil & balsamic vinegar garnish & green salad; Entrée – Deb, Don & I: Salmon stuffed w/ spinach accompanied by a carrot, scallion & licorice tasting plant/root vegetable.   Tim: thinly cut veal, rolled into a puck shape, resting on top of paper thin cut potatoes (au gratin) & same root vegetables. Dessert: Tim: orange cold soufflé/strawberries & kiwi & an almond pancake cookie; Deb & Don: warm, sliced apples in a pastry puff, accompanied w/ strawberry halves, sliced kiwi, strawberry coulis & lime sorbet. Judy: butter finger kind of cake filled w/ cooked pears, resting on a caramel sauce , strawberries & kiwi & lime sorbet. Fabulous! Yum! Yum! Yum! 60€ couple ($75).

            From Montbard we drive south to Vitteaux (Ouche valley), kitty cornered on a narrow country road (1 lane w/o a line, then dirt) to Boussey to Soussey-sur-Buonne to Grand Champ to Pouilly-en-Auxois & then eventually Beaune. The views of the countryside were completely different from the Pommard area – no grapevines, but farms, steep green fields, white cows dotting the hillsides & fields divided by hedges of green bushes. Farm country, not wine country.

            We reached Beaune shortly before 5:00, & drop Debbie off to hit the sewing shop. Deb has been bored w/o a project, so she gets yarn to knit a scarf & some embroidery. Don, Tim & I head to a wine tasting place, recomm. by Rich Steves. We have to wait a half hour for the tour and tasting to start, so we walk thru the streets of Beaune. I buy a purse for Mari.

            Back to Bouchard Aine & Fils for a tour & wine tasting. 9.50€ each. Winery started in 1750 & still owned by same family – 9th generation. Bouchard Aine was the oldest son in the 4th generation, who broke off & started his own business. We have a tour thru their caves, basement level, along w/ other Americans & an English speaking guide. Interesting, informative tour – one white, four reds including a grand cru & premier cru & a crème de cassis. Also a smelling room w/ diff. containers containing a variety of items (spices, fruit, veggies, coffee, chocolate, etc.) Also saw wines from 1911 up – all over 20 yrs. old. Select wines of owner, 1929 bottle -- 300€ worth. Also a room of touch. Very knowledgeable guide – obnoxious American asking questions – A Frenchman on the tour too who was very knowledgeable. Educational & interesting tour. I even enjoyed the reds – esp. the premier crus. Tim buys a bottle - 29€. He and Don were hoping they wouldn't like the more expensive wines, but needless to say, there's a remarkable difference!!! Back to get Deb & go to the supermarket for our last food & Mari’s deodorant. Back home in lots of rain again.

            Snacks & cereal for dinner. Last of our good market sausage.

PS: Tim read on Google today about the problems the wineries are having in Burgundy, France. This past winter cold & hail, now heavy rain during harvesting with  mold & decay. Also another problem has been underdeveloped grapes on the same clump with well developed & good grapes. Pommard was mentioned especially (where we are staying).

PPS: A word on cars – There are many here which are not sold in the States, or used to be & aren’t anymore – Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Peugueot, Megane, Citreon, models of Fords, BMW, etc. that are not in the US. Also Dacia, Opal, Renault & Ibiza seat, Lancia, and Iveco.