On a cold and frosty early morning, before the sun awoke a woman wakes up in Paris. Everything is quiet, and the small family hotel is still asleep. It is hard to get going today. A late night with plenty of local delights, a very comfortable bed that swallows you whole and does not let go, the seductive scent of frangipanis that seems to pervade this room, all coming together to make this a struggle.
The concierge is the only other soul awake, the business of checking out is complete and the limousine driver is already here. The quick espresso coffee, a luxury. Farewell Paris and time to head to the bright lights and bustle of Gare de Lyon to collect the hire car that will take her through the waking streets of Paris, out via A6 to Chablis and eventually the land of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, where kings were once crowned and wine is a religious calling.
Not a soul in the village of Chablis, so when she finally arrives at the destination the two souls at the winery’office are a surreal yet welcoming experience. The tour is perfunctory, the processes of wine making the same as on her side of the globe. The wines, tasted from the barrel and on the barrel however speak of place and time. Each vintage, each appellation is different. The clos are discussed and tasted, and she comes to finally see the real taste of million year old soils and the what the meagre weather does to that workhorse, chardonnay. The ever so subtle variation, east bank versus west bank of River Serein, 2014 and 2015 of the same, the elegance and the incredible richness of the Grand Crus are all on show today.
She leaves, driving past snow covered fields and vineyards that are bare and white. White from the chalk, not the snow. Still not a soul in sight. No cars, no dogs, no cats. Only birds are crazy enough to be out in this cold snap, the rest are all inside by the fire as evidenced by the curling wisps of smoke coming from the occasional chimney. It is magical.
To Dijon, and the train to Beaune. A walk through the old town, getting lost in the labyrinthine streets, even with technology the streets are a maze. The cobbled streets are not easy to navigate, especially dragging a suitcase but the place has already put it’s magical spell on her. She stops and looks, at buildings that feel as old as time that must have seen so much misery, pain and also joy. Once through, and in front of the Notre Dame, the hotel is in sight and calling out it’s warm welcome. The hotel staff are welcoming, the room is at the top of a turret with the view of the main thoroughfare and allows her to see a bit more of the old town as dusk settles.
She heads out, to explore unencumbered. Shops are shutting, a wine shop the only thing open. It is cold and dark, so she heads to for the light and a golden Premier Cru Meursault beckons to her. Something to be sipped slowly, enjoying every last drop while she watches the town meet the night, as the snow continues to fall. Only a few few souls brave the night, scurrying home or out looking for a meal. It is quiet. The night is settled in. Not a star can be seen as snow continues to fall.