19-20 August: On retourne en France!

Author: Mrs A

Location: Hirtzbach, Alsace, and Pommard, Côte-d’Or, France

Monday morning was cool, grey and drizzling as we departed from Zurich and continued our journey west…or ‘drizzerable’ as Mr A described it. There was again no sign of the magnificent alpine scenery Switzerland is so famous for.

Before long we were back into France and aiming for a little village in Alsace where we were to roughly plan our next couple weeks as we work our way over to Dieppe to catch a ferry across to the UK. First though, we called in at a supermarket for some shopping. I’m ashamed to say it was the absolute highlight of our day!

This was the best supermarket we have seen this whole trip! Not only did they stock all the Asian food ingredients I had on my list (very rare for France!), but Mr A was delighted by the extensive deli offering fresh quiche, pâté, a wide selection of meats and cheeses. We took our time!

And so on to Hirtzbach. When selecting this location we did so because it is on a rail-trail cycle route, and the village sounded picturesque and pretty, winning prizes for its flowers, historical buildings and fruit growing. Sadly in the wet weather it didn’t look as lovely as it could have done and we didnt get the bikes out.

Our site for the night…in its favour, it was absolutely free of charge

We did have a stroll around the village though.

Many houses had dates carved into the wood, 1570, 1580 and so on…
Definitely a unique look to these homes
Plenty of flowers as expected, and nice bright colours
A village of gardeners it seems
Fruit trees on every corner – ripening apples, limes, lemons, tubs of tomatoes and other herbs and vegetables

Along with many colourful houses dating back to the mid-late 1500s, there was a park in which sat one of the last remaining ice-houses in Alsace.

Used prior to the invention of the refrigerator, ice houses used to store ice for preserving food

We decided some wine tasting might be in order as we make our way through France, and so made our way across to the Burgundy region come Tuesday morning.

Our night in Hirtzbach was not as peaceful as we would have liked, with the village church bells peeling every hour, and every fifteen minute increment – including all through the night. It was a little bit like sleep torture as you drifted off after the quarter-to bells, only to find yourself waking enough to count the chimes on the hour “Oh, only four o’clock…I can still sleep a bit longer…”. Ugh! If we were residents we would definitely be requesting they stop between 10pm and 7am!

We chose to visit the village of Pommard, not far from Beaune, the ‘capital’ of Burgundy wine country. There we had another free night on the private driveway of a vineyard and tasting room in the middle of the village. This is part of the France Passion scheme we belong to.

Truffy’s cosy courtyard surrounded by 16th century farmhouse
(Photo from the following morning, sunshine!) – spot Truffy hiding!

We first joined France Passion when we hired a motorhome and travelled through France three years ago, and were so impressed with the scheme, we decided to do it again this year. Once signed up (about AU$50/£27) there are no further costs. The scheme is made up of a range of farms, vineyards, olive groves, castles, mansions and other businesses with some space for self contained motorhomes and a desire to share their wares or services with visitors. For us, its a great opportunity to get off the beaten track and see some areas we would probably neither find nor hear about on our own.

What we especially liked about this location was that there was space for only two motorhomes, making it very private. We were first to arrive, and not long after we had set up a Dutch couple turned up too, and together we went into the tasting room to sample some wine.

‘Our’ vineyard was run by Patrick Virely-Rougeot with wines produced in the Burgundy tradition on just 9 hectares of vineyard. The quality was excellent though, sharing with us samples of Burgundy (Pinot Noir), Pommard, Pommard premier cru and Meursault. We purchased one bottle of premier cru to take back to the UK and share with friends.

We decided to explore the village, with many tempting signs pointing towards tasting rooms leading to firmly locked and closed doors. We were nearly back at Truffy when I spotted the sign I had been looking for: ‘Cave ouvert – degustation’.

Very ‘rustic’ looking streets, a little scruffy and run down…and yet making it feel more authentic and not too touristy
Why is nobody open?
Burgundy gates contrast with thick ivy…
Beautiful roses

We wandered into the courtyard and spotted some cellar doors opening to a dark stairwell leading under the 17th century house. Out popped the head of the sommelier, who grinned and said he’d be back with some glasses, indicating for us to head down the stairs.

Heading down into the cellar (cave)
Wines for tasting lined up on the stairs, our sommelier easily moving from French to English in his presentation

The cellars were full of old musty barrels, and about 8 other people – a range of Dutch (speaking English) and French visitors, already ahead of us on the tasting front.

Looking down into the cellar
A great location for some tasting

We tried samples of seven wines, starting with white and moving on to red, but I have to say none impressed us any more than the delicious wine where we are staying. We didn’t end up buying any there.

The well in the courtyard of our wine tasting – completed in 1641

Our final stop for the afternoon was the ‘famous’ winery of Pommard, Chateau Pommard. We popped our head into the very swish reception, all glass and chrome (in stark contrast to the musty rustic cellars) to be told we couldn’t do a tasting until tomorrow morning, and it would be €35 a head (that’s AU$114/ £64 for the two of us!)…we laughed and said we’d be back…with no intention of course. We’d rather spend that money on wine thank you very much!

The grand entranceway to Chateau Pommard
Beautiful lilies in the pond at Chateau Pommard

We finished off our evening cooking up a Thai prawn Panang curry, accompanied by one of our Italian reds, making space in Truffy’s wine cellar for some more French tipples in our future!

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