Monday, August 12, 2013

Beaune and Aix en Provence, 2013

When we left Paris, we wanted a taste of the French Wine Country and settled on a stay in the small town of Beaune, just south of Dijon. 

In my mind, this picturesque little village would serve as perfect home base while we rode rented bicycles through the Burgundy vineyards. In reality, it was cold and dreary when we arrived and we were more tempted to hole up in our hotel with hot beverages.

Between rainfalls, we ventured out to explore the little town and it was quite charming. There were many tasting rooms and wine shops, so we made a point of finishing our evenings with some local wine.

Our second day here, which was B's birthday, was still a bit dreary. And on top of that, it was also Labor Day, so many businesses were closed. We laughed about our misfortune, but obviously being stuck in a quaint French village is not the worst thing we could doing.

We decided to visit the local attraction, the Hospices de Beaune at the Hôtel-Dieu. It is a striking building with a colorfully tiled roof, and was essentially a free hospital for the poor for five centuries. It was relatively interesting and  a fine way to finish off our short visit since the whole bike-riding adventure was out of the question. (Seriously, could those clouds be any more menacing??

After Beaune, our next stop was Aix-en-Provence.

Our train ride was uneventful, until the point when something was announced over the speaker which presumably explained that our train would not be stopping in Aix as planned, but would instead continue right on to the next stop in Marseilles. B's understanding of French is better than mine, but even he was unsure. When we got off the train, we tried to determine what had happened and what we should do to get back to our destination. After several unsuccessful conversations, we shrugged and got onto a train and headed back to Aix. Then (and I blame travel fatigue for this) I got super panicky that we would be kicked off/fined/imprisoned once we were found to be riding a train that we hadn't purchased tickets for. B begged me to keep it together and I barely did before the ticket checker came by and approved our wrong tickets without hesitation. Crisis averted.

Once we found our hotel and settled in, we were anxious to head out into town as it was warmer than Paris or Beaune had been and seemed to have a large population of young people. It was a pleasant place to walk around and full of shops. B and I are not big shoppers, but the people-watching was good too.

Obviously, we made an exception for macaron-shopping. We are not monsters.
One of the more enjoyable things we did during our stay in Aix was to visit Cézanne's studio. It was an easy decision to make since the city seems hell bent on making you visit something Cézanne-related. There are literally little C's embedded in the streets to help navigate you towards Cezanne's great aunt's best friend's house, or something as questionably "historically relevant".

But the studio was legit. We could have taken a bus ride up the hill, but we were happy to hoof it.

The studio was a small 2-story building, so the actual tour was more of a look around a room filled with items you might recognize from Cézanne's paintings.

this image from here (no cameras were allowed inside)
 The grounds were really peaceful and lovely though.  We spend a good amount of time there before deciding to head further up the hill out of town. We didn't realize how much we'd missed the sensation of walking without worrying about cars and bikes and pedestrians.

We stayed up in the hills for a good part of the afternoon, enjoying the views of Mount Ste.-Victoire that peaked out above the homes.

Painting of Mount Ste.-Victoire by Cézanne from here.
By the time we made our way back into town, we realized it was time to figure out how we'd be getting to Barcelona...

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