Pascale drove us to Dijon this morning so we could get some errands done in a big city without having to bike in it. She had meetings with clients there all day so it worked out perfectly. During the hour-long car ride, she pointed out numerous world-famous vinyards and explained how the best grapes are grown on the cotes (hills), while the average ones are grown on flat open land. Apparently grapes which grow on hills receive more sunlight and this translates into better wine!
After our fast-moving tour Pascale dropped us off, pointing us in the direction of both the centre ville and the gare where we would catch the train home. Though we'd both had plenty of rest, we felt very sleepy as we dragged our feet around town. I think our bodies have become used to vigorous exercise in the morning, and without it, they don't seem to realize we should be awake! After twenty groggy minutes we decided to stop for some coffee and pastries. I felt very French, being absolutely "incapable" of doing anything without first sitting to relax and drink something caffeinated.
Only slightly more lively after our coffee infusion we headed out into town, hoping to find some English books and a bike shop with non quick-release skewers. First we wandered around in search of the Fnac, a large department store. When we found it, we discovered they had a very small selection of overpriced, uninteresting English books. Dommage! (too bad). Finding a bike shop proved to be difficult until we stopped at the local McDonalds to look online; thanks google! After a brisk 15 minute walk, we arrived at the most promising one we'd found only to discover it was closed.
Our mistake. We had momentarily forgotten that we are in France and very often, stores are closed on Mondays. Not that Monday is anything special, as stores are also likely to be closed on Tuesdays, Wednesday mornings, Thursday afternoons, Friday early evenings, and certainly between 12:00 and 2:00 every day (lunch), or maybe 3 or 4 if you're in a small town. This isn't counting holidays, weekends, days on strike, or any other various freak circumstances making it absolutely impossible for anyone to do anything.
After our bike shop search failed we started a new search, this time for a bathroom. If we were on the road this would be no problem, just pull over and pee! Sadly, we were in civilization. If you are lucky enough to find public toilets in a big city in France, chances are you'll have to pay for them. This is a country with free healthcare because it is a basic human right, but not toilets! The right to pee isn't free.
Miraculously we found some public toilets near the elusive tourist office. Naturally, there was a huge line. We wandered off, letting it disperse. When we returned, the complicated door mechanism seemed to be en panne (broken). Instead of showing a green glowing "open" sign or a red glowing "occupied" sign, there was nothing. When I pressed the space-age button to enter the toilet facility, nothing happened. It was neither occupied nor empty. It was, in true French form, broken. ARGGGG.
All of this fruitless walking around was making us hungry and we were both pining away for an American-style all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet with mountains of deep-fried chicken pieces drenched in various sweet and spicy sauces. Oh General Tsao how we miss you. French Chinese food is nothing like American Chinese food (neither of which resemble actual Chinese food, perhaps), but any "Chinese" food is better than no Chinese food. We had passed one restaurant earlier but it was closed on Mondays. Another one had a hand-written note saying "closed noon today", meaning that presumably they would be serving dinner but not lunch.
With money in our budget to spend and seemingly no one willing to take it, we both realized how American we are, and how much we appreciate some aspects of capitalism. Sometimes it is nice to patronize an establishment that is eager to take your money rather than annoyed by the inconvenience of it. Finally we did find a place, and shelled out 18 euros for very skimpy portions of the various dishes they were serving. No General Tsao :(
Our day in Dijon really wasn't a total loss; after lunch we enjoyed visiting the FREE musee des beaux-arts (fine arts museum), wandering around looking at looking at lots of paintings of Jesus and sculptures of Greek gods. Then we went back to the Fnac to explore the photography section and acquired a portable, bendy, tripod for our camera. It was around 4:00 in the afternoon when we headed, exhausted, to the train station. We bought tickets and relaxed on our way to Chagny, where Philippe was waiting to pick us up and drive us back to Fontaines.
On our way home, Philippe proposed a late-afternoon wine-tasting and we were more than happy to oblige! Just a few kilometers down the road we entered a warm, dark cellar where a woman was serving wine to a group of prospective customers who were milling around, swirling ruby liquid in their glasses, talking about faint hints of raspberry, and a slight smokiness that touched the back of the tongue.
Philippe explained to the woman that he had a couple of Americans in tow, and asked if we could have a tasting and maybe a little tour? She happily consented and immediately began pouring a 2006 white wine from just down the road. We tasted six different wines from the very-near vicinity, and tried our best (in vain) to distinguish the differences between them.
The lowest level wine was a Bourgogne, with grapes from a large unspecified area in Burgundy. The medium level was a wine with grapes from a particular village. The highest level, the Premier Cru, was from a very specific parcel of land on one of the hills nearby: the best of the best.
After our tasting we got to visit the caves where they store the barrels and bottles, see the machinery used to bottle the wine and the vats used to macerate the grape skins in their juice. After tasting six generous half-glasses of different wines, our frustrations inherent with being in France lessened considerably. No wonder everyone drinks so much!
Even after our wine-tasting, Tyler still managed to get a considerable amount of work done while I helped Philippe prepare dinner. On the menu was a green-bean salad, fried potatoes, and delicately seasoned meatballs. We ate for a long time, very slowly, with many glasses of wine. Ah, France.