Dragging ourselves out of the chateau proved to be hard work.
Even though all the sights of Burgundy were at our disposal (well the ones open in winter!), it was just too easy to relax and enjoy each others company playing petanque,
deciding on a ping pong champion,
sampling the local wine right next door,
or just getting out in the fresh air for a walk amongst the vines.
However, as tempting as it was to kick back and enjoy our immediate surroundings all week, greater Burgundy beckoned. Our first touristic venture was a fail. Even though the Chateau de Couches looked spectacular in the early morning light and we all piled out of our van (Van Blanc as we dubbed it) excitedly to take photos, the chateau was actually closed.
Apparently in winter you need to ring and make an appointment to visit, and no looking longingly though the chained gates was going to change that.
The morning was but young so we decided to press onto what is arguably the jewel in the Burgundian crown – Beaune. About 5 of our number had visited Beaune 15 years previously and we were looking forward to seeing if our fond memories were justified.
Our first pleasant surprise was that were able to drive Van Blanc right into the heart of town and find a parking space immediately – one of the joys of travelling through France in winter. Our next was that Beaune was as lovely a town as we had remembered.
Obviously 15 years had been too long a time as in our search for the entrance to the famous Hospices de Beaune, we walked straight past the entrance and ended up having to ask directions from the woman in the shop immediately across the road. Aaah tourists.
The Hospices de Beaune was founded back in the 15th century as a charitable hospital for the poor. The Hospice, or Hotel-Dieu, certainly has an impressive exterior but walking into the inner courtyard reveals its true beauty and the reason we walked past the plain exterior. An amazing roof of patterned red, yellow, brown and green glazed tiles greets visitors and is possibly the most memorable part of any visit.