On our roadtrip from Paris to Avignon, we stopped overnight in the town of Beaune, France. It was a welcome break from the road, and from the string of highly touristed cities we had been frequenting for the last two months (I’m talking about you, Venice and Rome). After parking and unloading our bags into our hotel room – at Hotel De La Cloche, a pleasant little hotel with polite service and a quaint feel – we set out to see what the town had to offer two tired photographers on a tight schedule.
The main attraction in the town is the Hospices Museum, but we knew we’d have to save it for the next day since it was closed by the time we set out (we probably shouldn’t have taken that nap when we got there, but hey, we’d been up since three in the morning). Luckily, the entire town beautiful. We spent a couple hours wandering around the old town, checking out the scenery and looking for a bite to eat.
Before we left for Europe I had a clear image in my mind of what a European town would look like. It looked like Beaune. Modern stores and restaurants lined the cobblestone streets below a patchwork of old buildings, uneven rooftops and beautiful windows dressed with flower boxes.
In the late afternoon, all of the businesses had closed except for a handful of cafes in the city center where locals and a few tourists rested and enjoyed the fresh air over a cup of coffee and a croissant.
And there were always towers and steeples in view, because this is France, so of course there are! It made the city feel old and quiet but also lived in (unlike the Old Town of Dubrovnik during the off season).
The next morning we got up early to explore a little more. The Hospices didn’t open until 9:00, so we spent some time beforehand shopping at a farmers’ market right outside the gates. Fresh vegetables and local crafts were on display. Lisa desperately wanted to hold everything (including some beautiful dishes), and the shopkeepers laughed. Maybe they thought she was cute, or maybe they hoped she would convince us to buy something. Or maybe both.
We did buy a beautiful cloth lined woven basket. I’ve been carrying it everywhere since then. It’s made appearances in our photos from our Pont Du Gard Picnic, and our day exploring Portree on the Isle of Skye.
When the hospices museum finally opened, we stepped inside and bought our tickets. I have to admit that we sometimes miss some of the history when we travel. We get focused on the pictures, and with a toddler in tow there’s often not enough time and energy to read all of the plaques or take in the stories. But it was a slow kind of morning and there were few enough people around that we didn’t feel too bad taking it slow and taking turns chasing Lisa so we could each enjoy part of an audio tour. We learned more about Beaune, France in one day than we sometimes do in a week in other, busier cities.
The architecture of the hospices museum was so singular, especially those roofs that reminded me of the skin of snake. The audio tour discussed not only the historic mission of the building (caring for the sick of the region) but also the efforts that have been made to preserve and restore it over the years.
We decided to eat an early lunch before we continued on our roadtrip to Avignon. We ordered something familiar with a French twist. We shared a large pizza topped with goat cheese, bleu cheese and olives. It was so different and so good, and just what we needed before another long car ride. Then we climbed back into the rental car for another few hours of beautiful countryside, slow rivers, and rolling hills dotted with chateaus.