The most fantastic, brilliantist, bestest shop in the world is at Beaune. I know because I shopped in it today.
A counter longer than possible with display cases stretching into the impossible. And all of them containing cheese. So much cheese it would be impossible to count the types. Cheese for eating, cheese for drinking, cheese to scare away terrorists, every cheese imaginable…and then a few more. I was in heaven.
Alain Hess, House of Cheese, it’s called. The website can only show a very small part of this wondrous place but it’s better than nothing. Just click here for more pleasure than you’d think possible.
Speaking of cheese…one of my favourite cheeses from this region is Epoisse and we’ve had some with most meals that featured a cheese course. Asked by Sam to describe the taste, Anna put it like this: It’s like goats cheese met Brie and had a really strong baby. I can’t really improve on that.
Actually, Anna entertained us quite a bit today in the long car ride from Mont St Jean to Beaune. Mostly telling us about the things she believed were true when she was younger. There were also some hilarious stories about Sam…but I’ll spare his blushes. I was with Jack and the kids while Lisa nattered along in Coco with Mirinda. Apparently it was a very easy trip because they were just following us and didn’t have to worry about such annoying things as navigation.
The reason we were going to Beaune was to see something I’d never heard of before walking into it today. It was something that Lisa was wanting to see. But, before I leap into what it was, let me first correct something that’s been happening ever since we left Massangis. I blame Alex and Paul because before we met them we’d never heard of Beaune.
Since first hearing of it, we’ve been pronouncing Beaune as Bone. This is subtly but very wrong. It sounds so much more lyrical when the inhabitants say it. Imagine starting to say Berne but suddenly changing your mind halfway through the ‘r’ and gracefully slipping into the end of Bone. Beaune. Now, practice until you get it right.
However, moving right along, we were in Beaune to visit the Hotel Dieu.
It’s an extraordinary place. Thought of by Nicolas Rolin in 1441 and gaining royal approval, the building started in 1443 on a hospice for “the accommodation, use and residence of sick paupers.” Eventually they also took in paying customers who had a fire in their room but it never stopped taking in the sick poor.
Nicolas Rolin served under both John the Fearless and Philip the Good and had a meteoric rise through the government until he was one below the Duke of Burgundy. Amazingly, he gave us the tour of his hospital via the magic of an audio guide.
The audio guide was excellent but possibly the best bit was when I first walked into the main ward that leads to the chapel. I had yet to turn mine on and was suddenly presented with the sight of about 20 people either shuffling, standing or sitting down, guides pressed to their ears and the faint sound of voices speaking in numerous languages like some sort of electronic Babel. And not another noise the length and breadth of the room. It was quite a surreal moment.
As we drifted around the various rooms of the hospital, learning about its development and the gradual raising of Mr Rolin to mythical status, I was astounded by how quiet the story managed to keep the kids. Cleverly, the Hotel Dieu has two level of audio guide. One is for adults while the other is for ‘enfants.’ Now, I don’t know what they are told but it sure manages to keep them interested.
Could I just stress that by placing the above photograph in that spot coupled with the content of the preceding paragraph, I am NOT saying that Anna is a kid. I just thought it was a nice photo and it’s the first one of her I’ve put on the blog so far. But back to the Hotel…
Having heard all about the wonderful things that Mr Rolin had achieved and seeing the results of his labours, one felt that he was quite the humanitarian and, regardless of the fact that he used his own money to build most of it in a bid to ensure his entrance into heaven (something a lot of Catholics still do), giving the poor access to the latest medical treatment and care was still a mighty good deed. However, I then read later that, when visiting the hospital in 1462, following Rolin’s death, King Louis XI is quoted as saying: “It is only fair that the one who brought poverty to so many during his lifetime should build them a refuge in which to die.” Makes you wonder.
There were many things I loved about the Hotel Dieu. St Sebastien is one of the patron saints for a start and there’s the most amazing model of the place made entirely of straw built by a soldier in lieu of payment in around 1750. However, having been accused by Jack of having extremely long blog posts, I’ll move onto the rest of the day. In fact, I’m going to write it in the style of Jack.
The weather was hot. It was 40 in the shade. Lunch was lovely though Gary had raw cow. The Goodman Macintyres tried to walk the ramparts but stopped halfway. We went shopping.
Dinner was a piecemeal picnic on the lawn. The four of us then had a delightful child-free walk to the local Chateau.
Okay, this post might be approaching and passing 1,000 words but I prefer my overblown, descriptive nonsense style…though, to be fair, Jack makes reading a lot quicker. I guess it depends on if you prefer reaching your destination or the actual journey.
So, finally, and before I go, here’s a jolly little video of Sam eating his first snail after being challenged by his little sister. It is very funny.
Obviously, there’s more (and better) photos on Flickr.