Friday, September 26, 2008

A Trip to Wine Country: Burgundy

When we returned to the apartment from Versailles, Marie-Jeanne had kindly prepared another nice dinner for us. This time, the theme was Tunisian. France has quite a strong presence from its former colonies in Northern Africa. In fact, of France's total population of 62 million, about 4-5 million are Muslim (about 7%). Their presence can be felt quite strongly particularly in the larger cities such as Paris. Whereas any outward signs of Christianity are strongly discouraged, the same does not appear to be true for the Islamic community. But this is a much larger discussion...

In any event, we had a very tasty dinner and then crashed for the evening, because the next morning the three of us were off early to visit the countryside -- particularly, Burgundy, in east-central France.

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Early the next morning, we took the famous high-speed train, the TGV (which can reach speeds up to 350 mph), from Paris to Dijon. (See the top photo.) From there, we switched to a conventional train down to the little city of Beaune, the wine-making capital of Burgundy.

Once we reached Beaune, we stopped at a little cafe for a coffee and then headed over to the Hotel Dieu, a private hospice founded by a devout Christian in the 15th century. Apparently, this man had been quite successful in public affairs and had amassed quite a fortune (with possibly questionable practices). As he neared the end of his life, he wanted to repent by using his fortune to build a hospital for the sick. He insisted on the best of everything for this place, and you can still see that today.

The second photo is of Pelagia and Marie-Jeanne standing in the main courtyard of the complex. Notice the famous beautiful tiled roofs, which I've also captured in one of the windows in the last photo.

The third photo is from one of the main rooms of beds for the sick. Interestingly, the hospital was able to support itself through the production and sale of wine from its vineyards, a tradition which continues to this day.

More from Burgundy tomorrow...

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