Monday, 14 January 2013

Topiary tastic

Day 183 13.01.13 Beaune

We have a bit of a lazy lie in before getting on the road to Beaune.  Avoiding the toll roads means we have to contend with lots of stops and starts in the manner of unnecessary roundabouts and traffic lights galore.  We get there eventually and pull in at the town’s municipal aire.  Its 5 minutes’ walk from the centre, next to a police station for security, has a huge supermarket right by it and machines to provide us with electricity and water (at a charge of course!).  Perfect! 

Hotel de ville, Beaune in FranceAfter a lunch of the dregs of our supplies (said huge supermarket doesn’t open Sundays) we head into town.  We pick up a map from the tourist office and head for the grandest looking entrance to town.  Beaune is surrounded by impressive rampart walls which also means there are some remarkable entrance ways.  The one we found had strong towers and a garden behind it filled with trees pruned into weird and wonderful Alice in Wonderland style shapes. 

As we walked through we found very typically French looking houses with tall sloping roofs and shuttered windows.  Soon we stumbled upon the town hall building with its attractive fa├žade and pointed trees outside (the gardeners of Beaune have been BUSY!).  Our next stop is one of many little squares with a tall Belfry tower next to the museum with a temporary Dali exhibition on.  At 7 euros a ticket for what appears to be a very small building we decline. 

Belfry in Beaune, FranceThere’s a lot to notice on our wanderings as so many of the buildings have little flourishes of grandeur here and there.  We soon find the highlight of town, the old hospital building with its colourful tiled roof and wooden fronted cloisters.  It soon becomes apparent that you can’t see any of it without coughing up 7euros a person.  I know it’s pretty but for little more than a courtyard it seems extortionate.  I’m pretty disappointed as I’d been looking forward to seeing it but no such joy sadly at that rip off price.  Beaune seems to be very targeted towards tourists with its high prices and luxury hotels but it all feels a little pushy and somewhat cocky.  It’s lovely here, make no mistake but there are lots of very nice places we’ve seen in France already which seem much less oriented to draining the pockets of foreigners and as a result make for a more enjoyable visit. 

Elsewhere it’s nice to see the impeccably clean river with pretty old bridges across it.  The church of Notre Dame is quite impressive from the outside but a little dull inside, save for some interesting stained glass windows which are monochrome except for highlights of gold.  There are some cute wooden fronted houses and striking colourfully tiled roofs.  If you took away the cars it would be easy to believe you had gone back in time with all the old buildings here and the cobbled streets.

We’re struck by how small the town is, taking less than 10 minutes to walk from one side to the other along the winding cobbled streets.  There isn’t a huge amount to see unless you’re willing to be ripped off or fancy taking several tours of identical looking wine cellars geared towards you buying a bottle or five of their label.  Perhaps I’m just sour that I couldn’t go to the old hospital building but Beaune just seems too big for its boots in thinking it’s a tourist hotspot when there are places with more to offer demanding less in return from its visitors.

Having seen all there is to see we head back to the van as its starting to rain.  After an early dinner we spend the evening writing and watching films with the aid of some electricity from the handy Flot Bleu machines at our parking spot.

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