Each year our Master takes a group of Horners for a weekend away and this year our Master, David Giachardi, chose Beaune in the heart of Burgundy to enjoy both the area and its wines for which it is justly famous. Arriving on Thursday evening in time for supper, we dined at Le Caveau des Arches which was, as it’s name implied, underground in a cavernous cellar. The meal was excellent and wine, burgundy of course, flowed freely. We stayed in the Hotel de la Cloche, a converted and modernised 16th century coaching inn which was conveniently situated for most places of interest in the town.
After breakfast the following day our guide, the delightful ebullient Andra shepherded us aboard our coach for our first outing, a trip to Dijon. We divided into two groups for a conducted tour of this city, the capital of the Cote-d’Or, and visited the Palace of the Dukes and the church of Notre Dame. Popular legend has it that one of its stone relief sculptures, an owl is a good-luck charm: visitors to the church touch the owl with their left hand to make a wish. A number of us reached up to place our palm on its very smooth surface. Let’s hope their wishes come true!
Then off to our first winery, Domaine d’Ardhuy where we tasted some of their wines over lunch and were told all about Burgundy, it’s appellations, districts and history. Afterwards we visited the historic former abbey of Clos de Vougeot. Although the building dating from 1550 is no longer in use for wine production, it is an enormously impressive structure including some gigantic 15th and 18thcentury wine presses. It is also the home of La Confrerie des Chevaliers de Tastevin, a group of bon viveurs dedicated to enjoying the wines and food of Burgundy. When we visited, they had just finished one of their feasts and sadly we were too late! Their motto, “Jamais en vain, toujours en vin” (Never in vain, always in wine) certainly had an appeal for some Horners.
After a drinks reception in our Hotel to celebrate the Master’s birthday, we went our separate ways for dinner, choosing from the wide choice of restaurants in the town. Comparing notes afterwards, everyone had found the cuisine excellent wherever they went.
Saturday in Beaune is market day so our conducted tour included the market, as buzzy as all French markets are. Some came away with various purchases including some very smelly cheese which may have given issues in luggage packing! Our visit had to include the Hospice de Beaune and we were not disappointed. It is a building completed in 1451 as a hospital, which although still in use until the 1960s is now beautifully restored as a museum. There were separate rooms for the rich and for the nobility but it was also clear that the route to heaven was for the rich to pay for the healthcare of the poor! The main room for the poor is some 50m by 14m, with an altar at one end, so it resembles a very large church with beds for the sick. Included in a collection of memorabilia was gruesome early medical instruments, a remarkable kitchen, and the pharmacy containing endless bottles of miscellaneous chemicals including one labelled “sang dragon” (Dragon’s blood!). The building includes a classic highly patterned Burgundian glazed tile roof. Internally one of the great artefacts is a polyptych altar piece from about 1450 depicting The Day of Judgement, a scary reminder of what awaits those who do not follow the straight and narrow!
Then off to Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet for a talk and guided tour of their cellars followed by a tasting lunch. Their Chassagne Montrachet en pimont 2013 was outstanding. More than one Horner visited the shop afterwards to make purchases to be shipped home.
In the evening a formal dinner at the Hotel de la Poste rounded off a busy day. We enjoyed a four course dinner with wine during which Past Master Miles Baird thanked the Master, on behalf of all of us, for a most enjoyable weekend and presented both him and his Mistress with a gift each. The Master responded and thanked us in turn for joining him in Beaune before presenting our helpful and so efficient guide Andra with a token of our appreciation.
Our last visit on Sunday morning was to La Moutardarie Fallot, a factory belonging to the last family-owned company making the mustard for which the area is famous. As it was a Sunday the factory was not in operation but nevertheless, it was a most interesting visit. Before leaving for our final lunch on the way to the Airport, we visited their shop to buy some mustard to take home, chosen from a wide variety of flavours.
Finally we arrived home after a hugely successful weekend.
You can view pictures of the weekend in our GALLERY.