After leaving the wonderful Cinqua Terra on the Mediterranean Coast of Italy, we headed for the final two stops on our Rick Steves’ 21-Day Best of Europe Tour. From Italy, we hit Beaune, France for a night followed by the last two of our trip – Paris.
Beaune (pronounced “bone”) is a delightful and historic city of about 25,000 people in eastern France, right in the wine capital of Burgundy. The city still has a good portion of the wall, ramparts and moats constructed during the Roman era to protect it. Although my preference was obviously beer, we had a very interesting tour of Bouchard Aîné & Fils cellars – one of the many located in and around the city and established in 1750. .
We also visited the Hospice de Beaune, a charity hospital built in the 15th century after the devastating Hundred Years’ War and the Plague left more than 90 percent of the town’s population destitute .
I then ventured into a majestic cathedral right across the street from our hotel – which turned out to be Notre-Dame de Beaune – one of the largest Romanesque churches in Burgundy. It dates to the 12th century and was not completed until the 1600’s and has marvelous tapestries from the 1500’s inside.
Unfortunately, we left early on a Saturday morning when the merchants of Beaune were just setting up the notable food market which features cheese, wine, fruits and other delicacies from all over Burgundy.
Before an excellent dinner, we had a beer in one of the most delightful pubs we encountered on the trip – The Publican. Unlike my experience in Paris the next day, the bartender was very friendly and spoke excellent English. (I considered myself to be bilingual because I knew how to say “hello” in French.)
They had a nice selection of beers and a great little deck where we joined a number of other patrons and enjoyed the afternoon.
We concur with this excerpt from a Yelp review in late 2012:
“Best bar in town!” The owner is great. The prices are perfect …The seating is all couches and nice chairs, very comfortable! Very English friendly but we also saw a number of local youth (18-25 years old). The wine they serve is from the owner’s in-laws and very good for the price. We didn’t have any food, but the meat and cheese plate looked good.”
The bus driver, as we arrived in Paris, gave us a quick tour, of sorts, through the city. Seeing the Eifel Tower, the Seine River and the Arc de Triomphe was amazing – as was our subsequent tour of the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the incredible Church of Sainte-Chapelle.
I found another amazing cathedral – this one the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – established in 1861 and the first Russian Orthodox place of worship in Paris.
And while we really enjoyed Paris, Thebeerchaser had his only negative experience in a Parisian bar after visiting over sixty in America and six European countries since I started this blog in 2011 – a validation of the stereotype of rude and snobbish French servers and a justification for presenting this bad bar joke before I relate my experience:
A Frenchman with a parrot perched on his shoulder walks into a New York bar:
Bartender: “Wow, that’s really neat! Where did you get him?”
Parrot: “In France. They’ve got millions of them……”
Thebeerchaser is Chastised!
Our hotel was only one block off the famed Champs-Elysees – one of the world’s most famous boulevards. The night before, I saw a pub with the inauspicious name “The Beer Station” only about two blocks from our hotel and I took a picture of the sign on the outside.
After visiting the Russian Cathedral, I decided to take a picture of the interior on my way back even though I did not have time for a beer – I wanted to at least mention one bar in Paris.
So on a late Sunday afternoon, I popped in and took a quick photo of the bar which had about four patrons sitting at it. After I left, the bartender came running out yelling, “Monsieur, Monsieur, you did not ask permission to take this photo.”
I explained what I was doing and showed him the two pictures – one of their sign and one of the bar with its beer taps. In righteously indignant and broken English, he informed me that he wanted me to delete the picture of the bar. Rather than argue – I did.
Everything turned out fine, because I walked a block to the La Vin Couer – a classy bar and one in which the bartender and his staff were more than happy to pose for a Beerchaser picture.
It made me wonder why the bartender was so prissy about pictures which admittedly did include a few patrons. I assumed, however, that an important corporate officer or high-ranking politician who did not want to be seen at a bar would patronize a place other than one called “The Beer Station.”
Then it occurred to me that a bar with this moniker only one block off the classy Champs-Elysees is tantamount to Leonardo de Vinci, naming the subject of his famous work – “Gertrude.”
And after reading this April 2012 Yelp review, it made me think that I was better off skipping The Beer Station anyway:
“What you see is what you get.
Eating here was not a highlight of my recent trip to Paris. It was raining, I was tired, so we decided to find a place near the hotel to eat. This place filled that void. We had below average food and wine at a below average price.”
And the bar down the street – La Vin Couer was classy and favorably reviewed in this December 2012 Yelp review excerpt:
“This seems to be an ‘in’ place with the crowd as it is relatively close to the Arc de Triomphe… It is a popular place. They were very pleased that we asked “Parlez vous Anglais?” even though they spoke perfect English – just made mention that it was nice that we even inquired! Food was very good and prices were reasonable – for Paris…Good sized servings, good taste, easy access…… “
And so ended our outstanding 21-day Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour – one that we would strongly recommend for anyone making their first trip to Europe. We saw majestic scenery, living history, met wonderful people and visited a few great bars.
That said, it will be nice to return to Portland and the comforting ambiance of the Barmuda Triangle…! Stayed tuned for our next review of Slab Town in NW Portland.