Roman Arch on a street in Beaune, France
Beaune is known by many as the wine capital of the Burgundy region of France. Nestled in world-famous vineyards including Pommard, Corton-Charlemagne and La Romanee-Conti, Beaune has an Old World feel. A wall and moat once surrounded the town, some of which remain today. The main road encircles the town, which is dissected by narrow streets that are lined with shops, restaurants and wineries. The town has a rich heritage that centers on food, wine and hospices, the most famous the Hotel-Dieu dating back to the 1700’s.
View of the Jardins de Lois from the courtyard.
My wife and I stayed at the Jardins de Lois during our stopover in Beaune. The property is conveniently situated on the main road that goes around town, and the façade is in perfect harmony with the surrounding architecture. When we arrived we learned that other guests had extended their stay, so the manager offered us the Clos des Renardes for the evening. The apartment was magnificent, from the design and structure to the furniture and décor, and had two windows that opened out to a beautiful garden. The manager was gracious enough to make reservations for us at the wildly popular restaurant Les Caves Madeleine, then in the morning welcomed us to breakfast, which he served. We found the Jardins de Lois welcoming, cozy, clean and charming.
Colorfully glazed-tiled roof of the Hotel Dieu
Hotel Dieu was founded in 1443 and has been called the soul of Beaune. The structure is a masterpiece of gothic architecture and an essential element in French history. Its history dates back to the Duke of Burgundy, Phillip the Good, and his wife, who created the hospice for the poor. Aged, orphaned, women with children, poor, sick and infirmed occupied the hospice from the Middle Ages until the twentieth century. Beds line the inside of the vaulted “Room of the Poor,” where religious services were held so patients could attend. The colorful glazed tiled roof covering the huge structure is so spectacular it grabs a visitors’ attention the moment it comes into view. The property is home to stunning artifacts including wrought iron artistry surrounding a well in the courtyard, which predates the building, and the likeness of Christ sculpted into an oak trunk.
Caves Madeleine on Rue Faubourg Madeleine, is unpretentious and serves authentic French cuisine.
Our dinner at Caves Madeleine was an experience in authentic French dining. We walked past the restaurant, expecting from its reputation that it would somehow stand out. Rather, it sat comfortably and inconspicuously among storefronts along Rue Faubourg Madeleine. The layout of the restaurant is homey and encourages socializing, with long communal tables where patrons sit side-by-side and share an extraordinary experience. We sat at a private table by the store front, wine boxes stacked as an informal half-wall for semi-privacy, but the friendly atmosphere was contagious. The ambience is unpretentious, a plain black chalkboard with the menu written across, wine racks covering an entire wall and the owner mingling with diners and sharing advice on wine selection and answering questions about the menu. An assortment of olives for an appetizer was delicious and the escargot was to die for, but the beef bourguignon was simply the best either of us had ever tasted. Naturally, being in the middle of the Burgundy region, the wine was excellent.
Side street in Beaune, nestled in the Burgundy region on France
On a lazy stroll back to our apartment, it seemed as though we were walking through the Middle Ages. The buildings that lined the cobblestone streets, the architecture, different shades of brown masonry and the flower pots that sat on wrought iron-enclosed balconies give the town an Old European feel. We crossed the border road and opened a large, heavy wooden door that protected the peaceful courtyard of our temporary quarters like a fortress. A final glass of Pinot Noir capped a wonderful evening in Beaune.
Open air market selling local produce, cheeses, cookery and more.
We woke in the morning to a wonderful European breakfast of fruit, rolls, juices, eggs and coffee that we shared with a couple from Great Britain. Our host encouraged us to go to the Saturday morning market before we left town, so we walked across the street to a bustling outdoor market. Vendors lined the streets and sold produce, vegetables meat, cheeses, chocolate, flowers, homemade clothing, cookery, toys and crafts. As we strolled along the streets, we noticed it was impossible to walk ten paces without passing a wine shop. We decided to stop and order a case of fine Burgundy wine to ship back home. The morning was a whirlwind of fun, and a perfect ending to our stay in Beaune.
See more pictures of Beaune here.