Germain Au Mont D’ OR, France – I wrote of the joys of wine travel for my latest newspaper column but I was maybe too focused on the wine part.
I am leading a small tour group in Burgundy France June 11-19. I flew in a day and a half early to get a feel for Beaume – the heart of the Burgundy wine growing region. I visited Chablis in 2012, at the north end of Burgundy, but never beyond that small commune’s boundries.
So yes, this is a bit of a travelogue – today at least. It’s been eventful getting here. And I’ll quickly add, I think I have a few helpful travel tips along the way whether you’re headed for wine country or elsewhere.
It all started in early March when I booked my flight from Chicago to Paris. Most fares were showing at $1,500-$1700, and that is economy friends. I discovered CheapOair a discount site. They have great prices with airlines you’ll seldom give second thought. The flights are cheaper but often feature grueling layovers of 10-12 hours. So I was thrilled to find a flight on Iceland Air from Chicago to Iceland to Paris, a one-hour layover, and it was mid $1,200.
So my adventure began Wednesday afternoon (June 8) leaving my Indiana home about 2 p.m. I separately booked a flight from Indy to Chicago instead of leaving my car at O’Hare for nearly two weeks. All went well until boarding the plane. After locking down, we spent 45 minutes setting at the gate waiting for a mechanic’s paperwork on a small repair.
But into Chicago, over to the International terminal and my first surprise. I checked in with Iceland Air only to learn my flight was re-booked on Air France direct to Paris. I sort of wanted to enjoy my hour in Reykjavik, but hey I’ll take that disappointment any time.
Oh, on the way to the airport I first learned, or paid attention, to the France rail strike. My attention was focused with an email noting my particular connection was cancelled due to the strike. But the French are delightfully civilized about such things – and they do like strikes – but only one in three trains are affected.
The Air France flight was uneventful. My seatmate was a very nice gaseous Muslim lady who ate stinky food. Not sure that I slept much at all. The meal was pretty crappy.
I was proud of my effort at Charles DeGaulle airport. If you’ve never flown through Chuck’s Paris spot, let’s just say it’s big – really big. I picked up my one checked bag, found the terminal with the train station and made my way to a ticketing office. That re-book on Air France got me in earlier and proved to be a blessing.
My original train was 4 p.m. south to Lyon then back up to Beaune with a 9 p.m. arrival. That’s sort of like leaving Crawfordsville and driving to Bloomington to get to Indianapolis. But the only direct train to Beaune was like 7 p.m.
So I booked a 2 p.m. train instead with the same crappy route. I can’t sing the praises of the French TVG hi-speed rail service enough. It runs on time, all of the time, and darn they do go fast. I sat with a French teenager who was very quiet despite my efforts. Maybe he was fully concentrated on the shower he was going to take when he got home because those close train seats know no lies.
So now I’m writing this on more of a “local” train headed back north to Beaune. In train-speak “local” means old and slow. It’s sort of like a Greyhound Bus ride – we stop at every town. Oh, we’re stopping now in some burg called Villefranche-sur-Soane and a lot of people are getting off.
We’re stopping AGAIN – Saint Georges De Reneins! And now we wait those five minutes in middle of nowhere with no one getting on or off. It doesn’t seem very efficient but hey, did I mention they run on time? Well, five minutes after our SGDR stop above we’re stopping in Velleville Sur Saone (no hyphens on this one, hmmm). Okay, enough of that but you get the idea.
Beaume is still just under an hour up the road. It’s 5 p.m. in Burgundy, or about noon EDT. So I’m going to make it to Beaune, that’s the good news. I’m staying at a bit of an apartment/hotel for first two nights before tour begins. Don’t be afraid of the off-the-beaten-path spots. They can add character to your trip – not to mention Euro. I’m paying something like 80 Euro a night compared to more than 300E at the spot our group will stay in starting Saturday.
My host, Ines, could not be more gracious. She communicated every step of the way with all my changes and promised to personally pick me up at the train station.
What’s coming up? Well Friday and Saturday is exploration days. I will wander around Friday and find the restaurants, and stops we’re making in Beaume before group arrives. I’m looking forward to the farmers market Saturday morning. Then my group starts to arrive Saturday afternoon.
I’m going to try to get something up on the blog daily while in Beaume. I will have postings throughout the day on Facebook and Instagram!
Follow along – au revoir for now.