Salut tout le monde!
Exciting news! The new house, La Maison de la Vieille Vigne,
has now been officially purchased. At the beginning of April Franck went over to
Burgundy to sign the final purchase documents. This trip was mainly work –
despite Peter Mayle’s views on the subject, dealing with truculent French
notaries is not considered by most rational folks to be a leisure activity.
However, to ease the pain, Franck did manage to fit in a bit of recreation.
Because we're talking about Burgundy, this consisted of eating and drinking with the odd
bike ride thrown in to assuage the guilt.
We’ve been pleased to receive many, many
inquiries about La Maison de la Vieille Vigne. We even had some groups
that were interested in renting it as early as this summer, but I couldn’t in
good conscience let that happen, as we haven’t even begun renovations yet! Given
what we are planning to do with the house, we have projected that it should be
all fixed up, furnished, and ready to rent by December 2004 / January 2005. In
any case, we’ll keep you updated via The Grape News.
We are also pleased to pass on that, as of this
Magny-les-Villers and Villers-la-Faye will at long last join the 21st Century
and finally have access to high-speed Internet. As soon as we are able, we will
be installing a high-speed connection in both La Maison des Deux Clochers and
the La Maison de la Vieille Vigne. If you want to use your vacation in Burgundy
to forget that things such as cell phones, PDA’s, and the internet exist that’s
completely your prerogative – don’t plug in, and you won’t even know the
connection is there.
However, if you dream of waxing creative on your laptop,
sending digital photos to your coworkers to make them
jealous, or just even being in email contact with the folks at home, the
possibility to get away from it all and stay connected will be yours for the
Besides, how evil can the internet be? Without the internet
there would be no Grape News, after all!
I. Flights to Europe – Cheap, cheap, cheap!
Since Franck and I decided that we were moving the family back to France in August to start renovations on
La Maison de la Vieille Vigne, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for a good deal on any of the transatlantic routes. The cheapest ticket I had found was over $2000.00 on British Airways from Vancouver to Lyon. Multiply this by a family of four and it will come as no surprise to hear that I was starting to
feel like I was developing an ulcer develop an ulcer. Needless to say, I figured we needed to keep looking…
Lo and behold, our Scottish neighbours (the same ones who told us about the great seat sale British Airways had this Christmas), told us about a brand new charter company called
Zoom Airlines - a bit of a ridiculous name really, but made much more palatable by their ridiculously low prices.
We checked out the company’s website (the nattily named
www.FlyZoom.com ) and were very impressed with what we found. So impressed, in fact, that we booked our tickets with them that very morning.
We leave on August 7th (smack in the middle of high season for most carriers), and our price per ticket was only $499.00
CAD. The company flies 767’s on its trans-atlantic routes, and for only $179.00 we can add on a supplement to be in bigger seats at the front of the plane.
We will land in Stansted at 5:30am, and we found a great flight with
EasyJet airline company flying from Stansted to Lyon at 12:30pm and which cost us only 30.00 Pounds a ticket (about $70.00
CAD or so). Because we’ll be flying out on the same day we arrive, we can avoid the grotty and ridiculously overpriced Hilton hotel at Stansted that we decried in Grape News – Volume 6.
Booking our tickets on both websites was dead easy, and we even made our seat selection right then and there. According to our rough calculations, we figured that by going the Zoom /
easyJet route, we saved over $4000.00 CAD for our family’s trip to France. When
an airline offers savings of this magnitude, they can call themselves any darn thing they please.
If anyone is considering a trip to France this summer (and we still have some availability at
La Maison des Deux Clochers in late May to June, then again in July and August), go and visit the Zoom
Airlines website – you’ll be glad you did.
II. Biking in Burgundy
for the Budget-Minded
An example of the nifty bikes
to rent in Chaux
It has come to our attention that biking trips in Europe have the reputation of
being accessible only by those with exceedingly deep wallets. You know - Texas
oil barons, trust fund kids, ex-Microsoft employees and the like. Unfortunately,
if you check out the prices of the leading tour companies, many of which
run their operations out of Beaune, you’ll find little to challenge
I did a little internet research, and found that for a seven day biking trip in
Burgundy, these companies (no names, as a humdinger of a lawsuit would be a
seriously unwelcome visitor in our lives at the moment) charge an average cost
of $4000.00 US, or $5400.00 for us Canucks. Oh la la! as the French would say.
This includes lots of snazzy accommodation and meals, to be sure, but it does
NOT include airfare.
Attendez! Do not despair - there is an alternative out there. We just
helped a group of three college students arrange a bike trip in Burgundy. They
are going to use La Maison des Deux Clochers as their home base, and we set them
up with a local family business located in the nearby village of Chaux which
rents out both VTT and VTC bikes that are extremely well-suited to the terrain
in the vineyards and on the roads around the house. Franck checked out the
bikes while he was there, and he found them to be in excellent condition.
The Chaux outfit charges a mere 81 Euros ($130.00 CDN) for the one week rental
of one of their bikes, and this price includes help in consulting your maps as
well as expert advice on routes and excursions. Bikes can also be delivered
directly to La Maison des Deux Clochers if desired. While he was
there, Franck reserved bikes for our guests. We can do
this at any time for any of our guests – all you need to do is ask.
One of the advantages of staying in a self-catering house such as La
Maison des Deux Clochers is that food can be bought at the local village markets (we leave a comprehensive list
of these in our information binders at the house), and meals
can be cooked at home in the fully equipped kitchen of La Maison des Deux
Clochers - we even have left a few of our favorite French and Burgundian
cookbooks in the bookshelf in the living room for inspiration. Or, it
can be eaten picnic
style at any inviting spots encountered during a days' bike route. What’s there not to like about
the idea of dining on a fresh baguette and a wedge of brie whilst
perched on the ancient stone wall of a vineyard?
Heck, you can even pick the stone walls of La Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (the
most expensive wine on the planet) if you like. Here, you may just come
across some of the clients of the big bike tour companies, who never miss this
must-see spot. If you do, you may want to avoid any mention of how
much less you are paying for the privilege – it could give them a nasty
case of indigestion - and nobody would wish that on anybody who is
International Festival of Baroque Opera - July 2 / August 1, 2004
Calling all opera buffs!
world-renowned opera festival, held in Beaune, a mere ten minute drive from
Maison des Deux Clochers, is in its 22nd year, and the 2004 edition promises to
be particularly memorable and will include the following:
The production of four "forgotten" opera
masterpieces by Vinci, Melani, Pergolèse et Charpentie.
Little-known operas and oratorios by
"the Magic Flute" by Mozart played on
ancient musical instruments.
The operas, concerts, recitals are all
performed in either the stately Basilica of Notre-Dame which dates back to the
XII th Century, or the stunning courtyard of the Hospices de Beaune which dates
back to the XVth Century. Combine these magical locations with lush
musical offerings and you truly have a memorable summer's evening.
If you'd like to find out more or book
tickets, just contact us or go to the following site - unfortunately there is no
English version of the site.:
IV. Two New Restaurants and Introducing our Pet
When Franck was in France I gave
him the onerous task of trying out one or two new restaurants for the benefit of
our Grape News readers. Even though it was (sniff) rather difficult to have him
regale me about his culinary excursions while I was doling out cheerios and
muffins to our kiddies back here in Canada, I think it was worth it.
The good food must have nourished Franck’s creativity, because it was after a scrumptious
dinner at Le Benaton (reviewed below) that he came up with the idea of
ratings system for our restaurant reviews based not on stars, but on the
ubiquitous Burgundian escargot.
That’s why these little red and clear snails are meandering across your computer screen
below. The Michelin guide has its stars – we have our snails. We decided to
rate each restaurant out of five, and colour the amount of “snails” that the
restaurant garnered in red, and not just any red - Burgundy red, bien sûr.
25 rue Faubourg-Bretonniere
Closed Wednesdays and Thursday at lunch.
Like La Ciboulette that we reviewed in our last Grape News, Le Benaton has a
long-established history as a favored restaurant of the Beaunois. In case
you were wondering, un benaton in this case has nothing to do with an
Italian clothing line, but is the name for a type of woven basket that was
traditionally used for the grape harvest.
The restaurant is housed in one room, and as a result is very small and
intimate, with its walls of exposed stone and oak beams. Franck started off the
evening with a soup of scallops and escargots that he reports were absolutely
divine. Next, his parents, brother, and himself moved on to the main
courses, which varied from a thick slice of veal with spring vegetables to a
wedge of foie gras stuffed with jambon cru. The Germain family was
unanimous that the food was stunningly presented and uniformly superb.
Before dessert came a little plate of miniature cakes and treats to mettre en
appetit our intrepid food critics. The dessert, a mixture of sorbet and
seasonal fruits layered most imaginatively in a miniature canning jar, garnered
Throughout their meal, Franck and his parents enjoyed watching the eagle eyed
patronne hover in the corner of the room, ready to swoop down and intervene
if she had reason to believe that one of her customers wasn’t being treated like
royalty. The chef also came out of the kitchen and made the tour of the tables
(and, one is to assume, receive compliments), which was a nice personal
The only drawback, as far as our group could tell, was that the meal was on the
pricy side. Excluding wine, the meal cost 30 Euros per person. However, such was
the quality of the cuisine and the overall ambience that no-one batted an eye
when it came time to pay the bill.
LE CAVEAU DES ARCHES
Le Caveau des Arches
10 boulevard Perpreuil
this is between the Place Madeleine and the
Place Carnot in the "ring road" or periphique of Beaune.
We include this restaurant not because we particularly recommend
it, but because we want to show you that we don’t systematically gush over every
meal we’ve ever had in Burgundy. The Caveau des Arches has the reputation
amongst locals as being somewhat of a tourist trap. Bus tours and organized tour
groups routinely shepherd their flocks down the stairs to this restaurant.
One of the reasons for this is probably that the setting of the
restaurant is undeniably beautiful and resolutely Burgundian. True to its name,
it is situated below the streets of Beaune in an honest to goodness vaulted wine
Everything looks great, so much so that perhaps the management
think that they don’t really have to put too much effort into the food, which is
pedestrian at best. According to Franck, you’ll find the same tired old
repetitions of Burgundian classics such as escargots and Boeuf Bourgignon
that are not singled out by either wonderful flavour or panache of
you’ll find on your plate is on the whole quite ho-hum. In our
opinion, if you care just as much about the taste of your food as the context in
which it is presented, you may want to give Le Caveau des Arches a pass.
additions to the French Favorites section
Below you will find our latest picks for
myburgundy.com’s “French Favorites” section, where we highlight our favorite
French books, music, and movies.
AND WAR: THE FRENCH, THE NAZIS, AND THE BATTLE FOR FRANCE'S GREATEST TREASURE
by Don and Petie Kladstrup
"To be a Frenchman means to fight for your country and its
Claude Terrail, owner, Restaurant La Tour d’Argent
I am only half way through this book, but I’ve loved it so much
so far that I figure it has already merited a recommendation.
I have long been fascinated by the importance of wine in
Burgundian culture – in fact, in the French culture as a whole. Liberty,
equality, and fraternity are all well and good, a champion of French culture
once remarked. But, he continued, what made France truly superior to its
neighbors was the French passion for wine, which "contributed to the French race
by giving it wit, gaiety, and good taste, qualities which set it profoundly
apart from people who drink a lot of beer”.
Winemakers all over France went to great lengths to thwart the
Nazis who tried to pillage their precious caves and use their vineyards for
target practice. I, for one, am slurping up this tale of resistance and
subterfuge. Many famous Burgundian winemakers are mentioned throughout the book,
particularly Maurice Drouhins from Beaune. It is a great tale that highlights
how wine can bring out the true French character; proud - at times bordering on
arrogant, bound to traditions and history, and yet possessing the rebellious
that would make an anarchist proud.
The Kladstrups fill their pages with memories of the wine war
from both sides of the struggle; stories that are sometimes somber, sometimes
amusing, but which all commemorate those "whose love of the grape and devotion
to a way of life helped them survive and triumph over one of the darkest and
most difficult chapters in French history."
We’re moving (again…)
As you read above, the tickets have been bought, the suitcases
are being packed, and as of August 7th we will be in Burgundy to renovate La
Maison de la Vieille Vigne. There will be no interruption to the rentals of
Maison des Deux Clochers. However, we are going to have our
mail redirected to my family’s business address while we are away.
From now on, could everybody sending us anything by mail please
try and remember to send it to:
c/o Bradbury Management Ltd.
814 Broughton Street
Tel: (250) 598-5682
Fax: (250) 385-7500
We will be maintaining a voice mailbox at our current phone number
(250) 598-5682 that we’ll try to check from France at least every
Our email and website address will remain unchanged, and just in
case you have forgotten them, here they are again:
We always marvel how every year the reservations calendar fills
up completely differently. Months that are the first ones booked one year are
the last ones booked in another, and this year is no exception. We are more or less
booked up solid except for these dates, which are still free:
We can’t quite figure out why July and August are still free,
given that these have usually been the two months that fill up the fastest in
the past. Maybe it was because last summer was unusually hot in Europe, or
perhaps because the airlines, as I have seen for myself, don’t seem partial to
giving the flying public many breaks during this season. However, with the arrival of
Zoom airlines, a trip to Europe this summer has
suddenly become much less expensive.
As always, if you want to find out more about La Maison
des Deux Clochers, the new La Maison de la Vieille Vigne,
or if you’d like us to reserve some dates for you, don’t hesitate to give us a
call or drop us an email.
We’ll be talking to you soon – and from Burgundy next time!