Last Friday, a group of our friends headed to France for birthday celebrating/wine tasting/bike riding/French food feasting. The 7:50 am train out of London came early, but before we knew it, we were popping bottles at Sacré-Coeur during our layover in Paris before continuing on to Beaune.
Prosecco eased our back pains as we loaded up our luggage and hiked to Jeanne B where Barlow blew out his first 30th birthday candle. The chocolate mousse with salted caramel was one of the weekend favorites- it was our first of too many mouth-watering French feasts. Snapping back to reality from our food coma, we piled into an Uber van and headed for Gare de Lyon to catch the train to Beaune- the adventure was only beginning! A slight hiccup had us nervous about the time, but after waiting for a few minutes, the construction worker not-so-urgently removed the sink from the middle of the street.Once in Beaune, our coordination of navigating 11 people from the train station to the hotel on single body-wide streets was like an elegant dance. Thrilled to drop our bags, we all felt weightless (despite the three course lunch) as we floated through the town to Ma Cuisine where Barlow’s birthday bash continued. Plates of escargot, duck pâté and foie gras made their way around the table that grew to 13 friends. Ready to hit the town after dinner, we took over a local wine bar and had a blast with the raging saxophonist to cap off the night.Wine o’clock came early the next morning and our tour guides, Rob and Joy, arrived just as we were finishing our croissants. A full day of learning, exploring vineyards and age-old wine cellars, and of course tasting was on the agenda. We’d be making our way from the northern part of Côte de Beaune to Côte de Nuits. The spectacular views and informative overview of La Bourgogne (the Burgundy region) was a great way to wake up.
We soaked in as much information and snapped as many photos as possible before the tasting bonanza began. Domaine Henri De Villamont was picturesque with its sprawling vineyards. I loved learning that each owner marks the end of their rows differently; my favorite distinction were the beautiful flowers. The second stop was a much smaller cellar run by husband and wife Nadine and Remi Marcillet – Domaine Marcillet. One wall was finished entirely with wine bottles so I knew I was going to like it! The hubs and I bought a two cases, including Aligota and Cassis for making proper Kirs (Mom- I know that makes it hard to resist a visit in the fall…). Lunch at Au Petit Bonheur kept upping the ante with another spectacular meal. The garden overflowing with blossoming flowers behind the restaurant was like out of a painting.
Last but not least, we visited Domaine Rene & Francois Leclerc where the highlight was most certainly trying a bottle of 1984 Gevrey Chambertin.
On our way back, the scenery was stop-the-car-and-get-out-for-a-photo good.
Later that evening, the group met for dinner at Caves Madeleine for another plate sharing, wine drinking, wonderful dinner.
Afterwards at a wine bar, continuing with the musical performances, a woman at the table next to us broke out into an unexpected opera solo that momentarily silenced the room.
Sunday morning, we had had our fill of three-course meals and were ready to work it off. Parker and I miraculously motivated each other out for a morning run around the town. Having to stop and take a photo ever quarter-mile made the workout a little more bearable.
Two hours later, it was time for workout part deux. We packed up a picnic and divided amongst our bikes, some hauling and looking more French than others. While the bike path through the southern part of Côte de Beaune was mostly a leisurely and seemingly endless ride through heaven, we did have to power up a hill before finding the perfect spot for a charcuterie-style lunch.
To kick off Mary Stuart’s birthday, we adorned her with Twix while her husband toasted her French style- bread, apricot and wine in hand. A few hours of frolicking later, we had finished our attempt to capture the most scenic picnic spot imaginable and nearly finished our cornucopia of market fresh food. We biked on a bit further to Puligny Montrachet before heading back to Beaune.
A huge outside table for all 13 of us at Double Sens was Mary Stuart’s excellent choice for her birthday dinner. We played high-low, where everyone around the table recalled their highest and lowest point of the trip to ceremoniously end the weekend. Notably, biking through the vineyards was quite preferable to schlepping our bags through Paris and the tiny town of Beaune.
All too soon, we were schlepping more bags back to a very rainy and dreary London. Nothing a Kir can’t fix!