Today’s photo shows a typical vineyard north of Beaune. The vineyards around Beaune produce some of the most expensive wine in the world. Just 10 km from Beaune is the vineyard of the Domaine de la Romaine-Conti. Bottles of their premium Romaine-Conti red wine sell for $10,000 each and a bottle of the 1990 vintage recently sold for $25,000. Romaine-Conti’s wine is so expensive mostly because of the vineyard’s history, dating back to before the French Revolution and also because of its location and organic farming methods. The use of horses instead of tractors and vines that are over 50 years old mean yields are low and only 2,700 bottles of Romaine-Conti wine are produced annually. The limited supply amid huge demand by wine collectors worldwide results in a wine that is among the most expensive of any drink in the world.
Travoy leaving the Cent Vignes campsite in Beaune. The campsite at Beaune had signs up saying that anyone who didn’t leave by 12 would be charged extra. I had washed my clothes the day before and they were still not dry the next morning but I had no choice to pack everything away eventhough some of the clothes were still quite damp. It was about 11.30 when I left the campsite but there didn’t seem to be too many campervans leaving at the same time. The campsite full sign was gone but there were very few empty pitches available for anyone arriving that afternoon.
Total cycled today – 95 km. Total cycled so far on 2016 Tour de Travoy – 1055 km. Very hilly route today and it didn’t help that the gears on my bike were acting up.
Along the Route de Grand Crus north of Beaune in Burgundy. Beaune is surrounded by vineyards, and the Cote de Beaune region produces about 50 million bottles of wine annually. Most of the vineyards in the Cote de Beaune produce white wine but here near Savigny-le-Beaune, production is 85% red wine. 10% of all the wine in France is produced in Burgundy and 10% of all the wine in Burgundy is produced here in the vineyards around Beaune. Most of the vineyards in the Cote de Beaune are classified as either Premier Cru or Grand Cru. A Premier or Grand Cru vineyard will typically produce 5,000 litres of wine per hectare which at an average sale price of €50 per liter means these vineyards can produce a crop worth €250k per hectare annually. The same fields planted with wheat or corn would only produce a crop worth €2k per hectare annually.
Hotel Dieu in Beaune. One of the biggest vineyards in the Cote de Beaune region is owned by the Hospices de Beaune. The hospice was founded in 1443 by the chancellor of Burgundy as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, the Hôtel-Dieu, is one of the finest examples of fifteenth-century architecture anywhere in France. It features a glazed tile roof similar to that I came across on the Manastrie de Brou near Bourg-en-Bresse, a few days previously. Over the years, vineyards in the local area were gifted to the hospice and the charity now owns over 60 hectares of local vineyards. Every year since 1859, an auction has been held on the third Sunday of November in which barrels of wine from the hospice’s vineyards are sold to the highest bidder. Typically, around 800 barrels of wine are sold at the auction. Each barrel of wine in Burgundy contains 228 litres, which is about 70 litres more than in a barrel of oil. The price of each barrel varies depending on the wine, if it is either Premier or Grand Cru, but the auction normally raises between €5 and €10 million annually for the hospice charity.
Wine growing regions of Burgundy. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all but one of the region’s white Grand Cru wines are in the Côte de Beaune. The best wines, from Grand Cru vineyards, are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the Premier Cru come from the less favourably exposed slopes. France produces about 5 billion litres of wine annually of which 250 million litres is Premier or Grand Cru. 95% of wine in France is pays de vin or village wine and every year about 10% of this wine is converted into industrial alcohol as it can’t be sold. A typical French person who would drink 100 litres annually in the 60’s, now drinks less than half that. Likewise, less French wine is now sold overseas due to quality concerns and more competition from New World wines.In other parts of France, vines are being uprooted and vineyards closed to reduce the glut of French wine on the world market but this doesn’t seem to have affected Burgundy wine to a large extent so far.
Beaujolais Nouveaux wine is released on the third Thursday of November every year. The most famous wine producing region of Burgundy is the Beaujolais region, about 100 km south of Beaune. Beaujolais produces more wine than all the other Burgundy wine regions put together. In all, about 500 million bottles of wine are produced annually in this region and about a third of that is marketed and sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes are harvested between late August and early September and fermented for just a few days before being released to the public on the third Thursday of November. It is the first French wine to be released for each vintage year though other countries have copied the practice such as Italy (vino novello) and Spain (vino nuevo).
The Beaujolais Run. In the 60’s and 70’s, Beaujolais Nouveau day was November 15th and by law wine could not be released from cellars in Beaujolais before this day. This resulted in various races to get the wine first to Paris initially called the Beaujolais Run. The first Beaujolais Run to London occurred in 1970 and was a race between 2 British wine critics to be the first to deliver a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau to the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly. In 1973, a columnist in the Sunday Times wrote about the Beaujolais Run race between the 2 wine critics and challenged members of the public to be the first to reach London with a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau. At first, the aim was to be the fastest car to travel between Burgundy and London and this continued until some RAF pilots broke all records by using a Harrier Jump-jet to ferry a case of Beaujolais Nouveau to the Ritz in less than 2 hours. In 1985, Beaujolais Day was set to the third Thursday of November and supplies were made available to wholesalers worldwide ready for this day. So there is no longer a race to be the first to get Beaujolais Nouveau though every year, there is still a charity run for classic cars to collect Beaujolais wine in Burgundy.
Timber sculpture near Savigny-les-Beaune. I had come across some timber sculptures in Nantua but those were quite small compared to this sculpture. The timber statue of a woman holding a bunch of grapes was at least 10m tall and towers over the fire brigade van in this photo.
House being built near Bouilland. On this year’s Tour de Travoy, I had come across numerous apartment blocks being built in Luxembourg, Switzerland and Annecy but seeing a house being built or renovated was a rare sight. This house looks like it has been built using structural insulated panels with a truss roof on top. The panels and trusses would have have arrived on a flat-bed trailer and been lifted into place by a crane. That would explain why there is no sign of any sand for mortar or scaffolding either. In Ireland, block built houses and timber frame houses would be much more common than structural insulated (SIP) houses but a few were built during the Celtic Tiger as they have the best insulation of any type of house.Winters in Burgundy are much colder than winters in Ireland so the extra insulation that SIP houses offer would compensate for the additional cost of construction.
Turkey farm near to Saint Victor sur Ouche. I am not a turkey expert but I believe the breed of turkey at this poultry farm is known as Spanish Black. Turkeys were first bred domestically by the Aztecs in Mexico and were brought to Europe by the Conquistadors in the 16th Century, just like potatoes and chocolate. Turkeys grow much faster than chickens and reach their maximum weight within 20 weeks. These turkey look only a few weeks old so should be fully grown in time for Christmas.
Traditional French Christmas dinner of turkey with roasted chestnuts. Turkey is traditionally served in France for Christmas dinner though, unlike in the UK and Ireland, it is traditionally stuffed with chestnuts (dinde aux marrons). Christmas dinner in France is normally served on Christmas Eve and is known as Reveillon de Noel. Appetizers of oysters or foie gras is followed by the main course of turkey or some other meat. The main meal is then followed with a cheese platter and then a dessert, normally of Buche de Noel or Yule log.
Golf de la Chassange near Malain. Golf courses are not as common in France as they are in Ireland but there are a few here and there. This golf course is located about 20 km west of Dijon, which is the capital of Burgundy. It is located in the grounds of the Chateau de Bourgogne, which has its own airfield. Annual membership at Golf de la Chassange costs €910 and green fees are €36 in the summer.
Wicked witch of Malain. In the small commune of Malain, I came across this tree stump which had been decorated into the shape of witch. As soon as I saw it, I knew bad luck would come my way. And sure enough, just after passing it, I heard my gears make a crunching noise. Pressing the shifter made no difference as the derailleur wouldn’t move either up or down. The chain was stuck on the eigth gear which was no fun with a series of hills still to climb. What had happened was that the cable between the shifter and derailleur had frayed as it made its way around my handlebars. But at the time, I thought the shifter had broke. New shifters are not cheap and a replacement Shimano 105 shifter can cost over €200. Most bike shops don’t stock them and instead order them from a supplier. This means you have to wait a few days for a shifter to be replaced which is not ideal if you are touring and have to get somewhere by a certain date. With 5 days and about 400 km still to travel to Paris Beauvais airport, it looked like I would have to try and travel the rest of the way with just one gear.
Rolling hills west of Dijon. The hills of Burgundy might be good for growing wine but they were definitely not good for a weary cyclist with broken gears. I was surrounded by hills and after had happened to my gears, I knew I wouldn’t get far with the bike stuck in such a big gear. So I pulled into a lay-by and using all the pressure I could muster in my right foot, I was able to push the derailleur onto the third gear. The cable was now slack but when I tightened it, fortunately there was enough tension in the cable to hold the derailleur in place. However, even in third gear, this hill near Baulme-la-Roche proved too steep for Travoy and I had to get off the bike and push it for about 1 km. I would easily have got up the hill in first gear but I couldn’t push the derailleur with my foot below third gear. It was the only time I had to push my bike in France but just typical, I was passed by about 100 cyclists out for a spin going down the hill as I was going up it. It was more cyclists than I had seen all week and it was a bit embarrassing to be passed by so many cyclists the only time in France I had to push my bike. In all, I spent about 20 minutes pushing my bike out of 20 days cycling in France yet in that 20 minutes, I was passed by more cyclists than in the whole of the rest of France.
Sign for a missing cat. On the way to Baulme-la-Roche, I passed by this sign for a missing cat. The sign translates as “Looking for my black and white cat with a collar”. There were about a dozen of these handwritten signs posted in the local area so hopefully the owner eventually found their cat again. I remember looking at the sign thinking I too needed a black cat to appear for my luck to change. And incredibly, my luck did change as soon after passing these signs, I made it to the top of the hill. As it was mostly downhill for the rest of the day, I was able to put the chain on the big front ring and therefore made good progress for the last 20 km of my trip today.
World War 2 memorial for slain Resistance fighter. The memorial plaque say “On the 7th September 1944, Marcel Delangre was assassinated here by the Germans at the age of 17. Never forget.”. On August 15th 1944 , Allied forces landed near Saint Raphael in Provence in Operation Dragoon and rapidly pushed north. Meanwhile, Allied forces that had landed in Normandy managed to break through the German lines and liberated Paris on August 25th. By this time, the Vichy government had fled to southern Germany and General de Gaulle had declared himself prime minister of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. On September 3rd, Lyon was liberated by Allied troops that had landed in Provence and just a week later, these troops would meet up with General Patton’s Third army near Dijon. Unfortunately, that means Marcel was probably one of the last Maquis fighters to be executed by the Germans as within a few days of his death, most of France had been liberated by Allied forces.
Roadside memorial for a traffic accident victim. Just 60 metres from the WW2 memorial and on the same stretch of road, I came across this traffic accident memorial for a young girl called Lucie. French accident memorials often only include the victims first name and unlike Irish roadside memorials rarely include a photo. But what makes this memorial extra poignant is that this accident happened in almost the same spot that 17 year old Marcel Delangre was killed by the Germans, 60 years earlier.
2 roadside memorials, 60 years and 60 yards, apart near Veneray les Laumes. Over a million people are killed every year by traffic accidents and in fact, more people have been killed in traffic accidents since WW2 than were killed in both WW1 and WW2. Every year, there are ceremonies to commemorate the war dead but there are rarely any ceremonies to commemorate those that died in traffic accidents. These 2 memorials, 60 years and 60 meters apart on the same stretch of road, ask the question are we any further on. Hopefully, in another 60 years, most cars and vehicles will be self-driving and this should result in a lot less traffic accidents.
Train station at Veneray-les-Laumes. French train staions are the most stylish anywhere in the world and here at Veneray-les-Laumes is another fine example. With the gears still acting up on my bike, the sight of this station on the mainline to Paris, was reassuring. If my bike’s transmission packed up completely, at least I always could get the train.
Camping Alesia in Veneray-les-Laumes. My campsite for the night was only 1 km or so from the train station, so I decided to stay the night here and assess my bike the following morning before deciding to either keep cycling towards Paris or get a train. It proved a good decision as the campsite was lovely with comfortable pitches, excellent facilities and lots of room to dry my wet clothes, that I had packed into my rucksack that morning.