For the first weekend in October, one of the Strasbourg program’s planned trips was a weekend to Burgundy, a region of France located southwest of Strasbourg, known for its famous Burgundy wine. We departed on our large, purple, butterfly covered bus early Friday morning and arrived at our first stop, Dijon, the capital of Burgundy.
It began with our professor leading us on a great walking tour of the city. We followed, walking while observing the beautiful architecture around us. Entering old, historic churches along the way covered with large, elaborately decorated arch ways at the entrances. As well as descending into dimly lit crypts underground. We visited the Museum of Fine Arts which holds the remarkable Tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy. We also walked through many courtyards throughout the city, some with amazing outdoor staircases and one with an interesting, extremely old tower. He also led us to another church, where, when you stand in front of it, and look directly straight up, you just see rows and rows of gargoyles towering over you. It was an interesting sight unlike any other.
With some free time on our own, we walked more through the town and stopped in at the famous mustard store, because of course this was the famous Dijon Mustard! Unfortunately, mustard is not my favorite, but my friends enjoyed sorting through all of the interesting and colorful flavors of the region’s famous condiment.
The next morning, the bus departed for Beaune, the capital of the Burgundian wine industry. Along the way we took La Route des Grands Crus (the Route of the Great Vintages), an extremely picturesque route and stopped along the way in the small town, Fixin, to take a short walk in the vineyards.
The views around us were amazing. Vineyards covered the French countryside only scattered with a few small cottages in the distance. The colors of the green, purple and red tones of the grape vines created the most picturesque scene surrounding us. Once we reached Beaune, our first stop was at the Hotel-Dieu, a UNESCO World Heritage Monument that was used as a hospice beginning in the 1400s. My professor had warned us, “It has the most amazing roof you have ever seen.” He was definitely right. The roof, similar to many roofs in Beaune, was made out of brilliant colorful tiles, put together in an elaborate pattern, which covered the entire top of the large building.
We had free time around lunch and the whole group ended up exploring a large outdoor market in the town that day. It was bustling and filled with fresh fruit, cheese, bread, meats, desserts and the local specialty, ginger bread. It was a beautiful day weather wise, so we found some church steps to sit on and enjoyed our delicious picnic lunch outside in Beaune.
We then met up at Les Caves Patriarches for a wine tasting. These caves are the largest in Burgundy and stretch 5 kilometers underground! Apparently, you need a year in advance reservation to get a tour there! With our wine tasting cup in hand, we entered the dark long cellars. Everywhere you turned, the walls were covered in rows and rows of dark, old bottles of wine. We continued to the wine tasting, all explained in French and proceeded to taste five wines.
We left Beaune to the next town, where we were staying for the night. Our professor had told us, it wouldn’t be a hotel or a hostel and there would be nothing around. What did that mean? We arrived to a small, no, a teeny village two hours away from Beaune. There was nothing there except for three donkeys, some chickens and a few cows. We stayed at a boarding house where the bedrooms slept many people in one room.
Upon arrival, we took a little walk around the area, which was beautiful and peaceful. Greenery covered the area and large hay stacks sat on the surrounding fields. With nothing left to see until dinner, some students started up a game of kickball. Dinner was a humongous meal complete with some of the region’s specialties, mainly, Beef Bourguignon, and too many courses too count. It was all delicious and none of us could move much once it was finally over.
Our professor had told us to come with our own entertainment for the evening. People had surely come prepared. Suddenly our group of 33 students had turned into a talented collaboration, complete with guitar players, singers, fiddlers, Scottish dancers, comedians and story tellers. Randomly, our two professors taught us old French drinking songs and the whole group sang rounds in French. It was amazing. It all sounds incredibly corny, I know, but everyone was having such a great time. It was probably one of the best evenings I’ve had since I’ve been abroad.
We woke up to depart for the village of Vézelay, where one of France’s historic churches sits up on a hill. As a group, we took a hike up to the top, taking the actual pilgrimage route from the 15th century. It was beautiful, with landscapes of Burgundy all around us and pure greenery. We stopped half way up where Professor Bach taught us a great round. I just thought it was such a funny moment, 33 college students standing on a hill in Burgundy countryside singing a round. We continued on to the top where the view was unbelievable and took a tour at the La Maison du Visiteur, which described the architecture, history and purpose of the church. Then we walked up to the Basilica and also visited the crypt underneath. As a group we ate our picnic lunch at a park nearby looking over Burgundy.
Who knew historic French towns, real local French food and a talent show in the middle of nowhere French countryside could be so fun?