Tour de France without bikes but with wine: Les Hospices de Beaune

We obviously had to eat during our, but this wasn’t easy as thought… not because there were not enough restaurants, but because the famous Hospices de Beaune were about to take place the next days (so lots of people from all over the world already traveled to Beaune). The Hospices de Beaune aka Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is first of all know for formerly being a charitable almshouse in Beaune founded in 1443 by chancellor of Burgundy Nicolas Rolin, as a hospital for the poor. The Hôtel-Dieu, one very beautiful building to say the least. Nowadays they service their patients are in new/modern hospital buildings.

Hôtel Dieu (2) Hôtel Dieu

The second reason they are very well know (mostly amongst winelovers) is because of their yearly charity wine auction held in November (so the period I was in Beaune :-)) already since 1851 (on the 3rd Sunday of November to be more precise) . Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organization that owns around 61 hectares (150 acres) of donated vineyard land by patients (with most appellations being Grand and Premier cru). So as they are a non-profit organization they decided to yearly keep auctions where the bidding happens mostly by professionals, but surprisingly also by a lot of private buyer and they can bid on 31 cuvées of red wine and 13 of white wine. I have no clue for which prices these barrels are sold, but I’m sure some nice investments can be done by the cause. The Hospices de Beaune is also the moment all winemakers in Beaune open their doors to the public and they whole town celebrates with food and wine 🙂 Also it is up to the buyer to age, cure and elaborate the wine further…


Hospices de Beaune

This year's hosts Michel Drucker et l'ex-mannequin Adriana Karembeu

Hospices de Beaune wine

Hospices de Beaune wine Bouchard

So moral of my story is that most restaurants were fully booked and I just had to look harder to find one 🙂 But instead of looking I just asked local people as to my opinion this is still the best way to discover good new places! One of the restaurants we were suggested and liked during our stay in Beaune was the Ermitage de Corton located a few minutes outside the city center of Beaune (direction Nuits St. Georges). The spot if you are looking for good refined food to be enjoyed in a relax atmosphere and put your thoughts on hold for a few hours. That is how I would describe the Ermitage de Corton…

Ermitage de Corton

As we were in Bourgogne it didn’t seem a bad idea to take the menu Bourguignon… I started with a Poached egg a in a red wine sauce with onion and bacon. Carlos being a snail lover started with the Chinese cabbage stuffed with snails, butternut and chestnut mousse.  Mine tasted as I wanted it to taste, which is basically comfort food where you can taste the butter and rich ingredients 🙂

Chinese cabbage stuffed with snails, butternut and chestnut mousse Poached egg a in a red wine sauce with onion and bacon

As we already had been tasting the whole day it wasn’t easy to decided which wine we wanted, but as I know Carlos is a big white wine fan we chose a nice bottle  2011 Saint-Romain, “Sous Le Château” by Christophe Buisson. Why I chose this wine? Well first of all I wanted to try a local wine that I hadn’t tried yet that was affordable 🙂 . I can also say for a fact it was a very nice bottle of wine, very floral with a little richer taste that everybody would like. Perfect for an evening amongst friends.

Saint-Romain Sous Le Château 2011

We continued our meal with for me Steamed fillet of plaice with quinces, lemons and walnuts, Crémant Sauce and polenta crisps. Although I must admit Carlos’ choice did make me doubt as he had the Beef cheeks cooked in a red wine sauce during 7 hours… (I did get to taste some 😉 )

Beef cheeks cooked in a red wine sauce during 7 hours Steamed fillet of plaice with quinces, lemons and walnuts, Crémant Sauce and polenta crisps

We finished our meal with French toast of gingerbread, pears poached in red wine… more comfort food I’d say. A lovely meal in great company!

French toast of gingerbread, pears poached in red wine

A few other places you have to try when you have the chance when visiting Beaune:

Up to Damery …

Tour de France without bikes but with wine – Bouchard

After a good night of sleep (which we needed because the day before was a very long day) we set sail to visit a vineyard in one of Beaune’s most ancient buildings that goes back to Louis XI (15th century) and where thanks to Michel Bouchard there is wine made. Up to today this vineyard is still family owned with Christophe Bouchard as current General Manager. I must add that eventhough the vineyard is still family owned and lead by a Bouchard family member, it is now owned by the Henriot family (who are also owner of Henriot Champagne). Welcome to the Bouchard vineyard I’d say! We are in Beaune… for those who didn’t know it yet, we entered the world of Bourgogne/Burgundy wines. Together with Bordeaux, Bourgogneis one of the most spoken about all over the world (mainly the wine world I’m sure). Most wine makers from outside of France either follow the Bordeaux or the Bourgogne methodology to make their wines … so I was really interested in knowing/seeing what was so special about it and what fascinates/attracts all the winemakers to this wine region, but also why they all come here to learn everything about winemaking.

Bouchard pere et fils (1) Chateau_de_Beaune_remparts SAMSUNG CSC

First things first. What do you guys need to know about Bourgogne/ Burgundy wines to be able to mingle in when people are talking about this wine region? The Bourgogne wine region is located somewhere between Lyon and Dijon in which we can distinguish 4 different departments: Yonne (Chablis), Côte-d’Or (Côtes de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), Saône-et-Loire (Chalonnais en Mâconnais which is next to the Beaujolais (Fleurie) wine region) and last but not least Nièvre. The vineyard from our friends from Bouchard is in the Côte-d’Or which is basically the heart and soul of the Bourgogne wine region.

Bourgogne wine region by Wine Folly

As grapes, they mainly use Pinot Noir for the red wines and for white wines this would be Chardonnay. Sometimes they’ll also blend with other kinds of grape like Pinot Blanc for whites and Gamay Noire or César for the reds. Bouchard mostly sticks to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Something that always used to confuse me in the past with French wines was when they started talking about ‘Premier cru’, ‘Grand cru’ and/or ‘Village’… you agree?? The difference between them all is mostly the location of the grapes which leads to either a very affordable or very expensive wine 🙂 (so even in winemaking it is all about ‘location, location, location’). The ‘Grand Cru’ represents the best of the best where the grapes were able to grow in the best conditions (best weather, sunshine, nutrition, etc…) whereas the regular wines aka ‘Appellations Régionales’ in “lesser” conditions (there are obviously more differences, but my example is just generally speaking). Due to the fact that there are not that many grounds/area’s that are considered as ‘’Grand Cru’makes it that it only represents 2% of the total wine volume and therefore are also much more expensive than the ‘Appellations Régionales’ or the’ Appellations Villages’ For example. A fact you do also need to take into consideration is that Grand or Premier Cru wines also age much longer (so a bigger investment for the winemaker) Maybe the pyramid below will help you understanding.

Appellations Bourgogne

It is also very possible that for example a particular wine can all 4 gradations of wine of the pyramid. So for example a ‘regular’ Nuits Saint-Georges and a Nuits Saint-Georges 1ière cru 🙂 . To understand the best the difference between them you should just buy all 3 and taste them next to each other… a whole new world will open, I promise!

Back to our visit to Bouchard which was basically a walk through history (without some King doing his business behind the curtain in the hallway that is 🙂 (luckily)). All kidding aside, Bouchard might be one of the most beautiful vineyards I have ever visited and it being in an ancient castle with everything still intact makes it soooo incredible. I was also surprised to find out they still have a few bottles from the 19th century that believe it or not that are still drinkable! They did admit that not all of the bottles preserved as well. A reason why Bouchard still has bottled wines of the 19th and 20th century, is because they first of all can age them in the original conditions and they change the corks every X years (depending on the wine they do it more regularly, but mostly between 20-30 years) . The moment they change the corks, they do check if the wine is still OK or not. In case it is not OK anymore they don’t keep that bottle… this makes that the bottles they do still have are still good to drink… can you imagine to drink a wine from over 200 years??? Obviously this is only something a few fortunate people are able to taste, but still….


BTW Comme Chez Soi’s wine-cellar reminds me a bit of the Bouchard cellar (less ancient obviously) … just FYI that I mentioned that 🙂

I hope it doesn’t come over in a wrong way or make you think differently about me, but it was 10:30 in the morning we started tasting wine 🙂 🙂 BUT in my defense, when I say tasting I do mean tasting and spitting out the wine (so NOT drinking it) no matter how good they were. It might be strange we started tasting the reds and afterwards the whites, but according to a French saying, ’Blanc sur rouge, rien ne bouge, rouge sur blanc tout fout le campthat says that it is better to first drink red and than white wine 🙂 so we didn’t want to argue with that…


Already from the first sip I was converted into a Côte-d’Or Bourgogne fan… even the first, a 2011 Monthélie , wasn’t the highest level they had or more complex wine yet it was definitely my cup of tea :-). It was a very playful wine that everybody would like and is easy to drink and that leaves a very fresh fruity taste in your mouth. FYI all wines we tasted were 2011 Premier Cru’s (besides the first that is as that was an Appellation Village)… which proved (not that I needed it to be proved) I prefer the stronger/ more complex wines and that I am one spoiled brat :-).


My Absolute favourite from amongst the red wines we tasted was the Nuits-Saint-Georges – Les Cailles Premier Cru with scent and taste of very ripe dark red fruits like cassis or bil/blue berry and even lickerish accents in it and yet very elegant to drink without too heavy tannins…. The second favorite would be the Volnay – Caillerets Premier Cru which is made from the Bouchard Family’s first and oldest vineyard… It must be said that these wines are best with a stronger meal and not really like a Monthélie that can be drunk on a summer’s day outside with some friends.

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What I was surprised to read is that unlike the Rhône valley where red wine is 89% of the total wine production and I did also assume it would be the same for Bourgogne… but I was wrong as it seems that 70% of the total wine production in this region is white??? Who knew (I didn’t, nor expected it)

When tasting their white wines I started understanding why… the most famous white wines from this region that for sure ring a bell are Chablis (Chardonnay) or Pouilly-Fuisse. FYI not all chardonnay wine from this region is Chablis! What is nice about white wines, is that most of the time you can distinguish ‘easier’ what flavours or smells they have. Like the white variant of the Monthélie (and with variant I mean that you can drink outside on a sunny day with friends) would be the Bourgogne Chardonnay La Vignée where you can find hinds of peach and pear.


Again here my preference went to the stronger whites. Number 1 would be the Meursault – Genevrières a rich wine with hinds of vanilla, wood (not too much) that can still ago for 8 years and would be a perfect match for foie gras or poultry. N°2 and 3 would be the Beaune du Château Premier Cru (Marzipan, almonds, grilled bread) and the Montagny Premier Cru (Honey).

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I could keep talking about how they taste or with what they would go well, but there is only 1 way to find it all out yourself and that is by tasting it yourself (I know I say it every time, but it is true). Also I think this post it more than long enough and I hope you already learned something 🙂 BUT there is still more to learn!!

To be continued….

info about these wines like where you can buy them contact Peter Lauwerens: Cinoco – Le palais Du Vin 0475/595.3456 –

Tour de France without bikes but with wine and food

Travelling on an empty stomach isn’t advisable or at least I would never do it :-). So before setting sail towards Beaune Carlos and I decided to enforce our inner person in a local eatery recommended by locals (in this case Laure and Florie). This brought us to ‘La Ruche’ in the heart of the Cornas town centre (Cornas city if you will ;-)). La Ruche means ‘beehive’ in English, this is also why the restaurant’s logo is a part of a beehive…(I’ve been told the story about it, but I can’t remember :-() We were not sure what kind of food to expect , but in the end it was exactly the kind of food were craving and looking for (comfort food with high quality ingredients)… Simple, very tasty and accompanied by a good glass of local wine… Sweet as honey (to keep it in the ‘bee’ theme 😉 ) Their nice interior and the lovely young lady behind the counter were a bonus. 😉






Not that we were in a big hurry, but as we still had to drive 3hours towards Beaune we didn’t want to take too long to eat. This is why we chose La Ruche’s lunch menu (the other dishes on the black board also look appetizing) existing out of a main dish and dessert (we also got some njammy homemade Humus as taster). As main dish we were served was Codfish with a parsnip purée and Jerusalem artichokes with which I took a refreshing glass(es) of white Viognier by Alain Jaume . Our dessert was an all time favorite, a ‘moelleux au chocolat’ made with the local Valrhona chocolate from Tain-l’Hermitage (15minutes from Cornas). A nice glass of Port (a Vintage or Colheita), Madeira of Sherry (Oloroso) would have made even more perfect… but sometimes one just doesn’t have to exaggerate 🙂 🙂 This was only day 1… I know you normally should see every day as your last day, but my cholesterol sometimes things otherwise 😉




If you are ever in the neighborhood, I definitely recommend you to make a stop at La Ruche because you won’t regret it!!

Up to Beaune …


La Ruche

Address: Quai du Docteur Jules Bouvat 13, 07130 Saint-Péray

Phone n° : +33 (0) 982 404 438

A touch of class

Let me take you on a nice trip down memory lane. For many years my parents, my brother and I used to travel to Italy by car.  When my  brother and I got  a bit older, we always stopped in hotel “Du Parc”in Obernai. Obernai is a little town  just outside of Strasbourg (well-known for the European Parliament, etc….  ) located in France’s Alsace region.  What you will notice if you ever get the change to go to there, is the German (maybe even Austrian) influence that is noticeable everywhere as this region has been part of Germany for many years. What I like about this region is that you  have the feeling that you are traveling back in time because of  the nice flowers on the balconies, seeing beautiful murals (on façade of the houses) and the friendliness of the people. For some strange reason I always feel like putting on some Lederhosen (don’t worry, I never really did it) when I’m walking around.  Sorry, I got carried away for a moment J , back to hotel “Du Parc”.

 Hotel “Du Parc” is a 4 star hotel, but if you ask me it could easily be a 5 star hotel. The hotel has a good combination of old Alsatian style, modern elements mixed with a touch of class. This goes for the whole hotel. The rooms are also of a nice size and you can choose between modern or local style rooms that have all comfort needed. You can also relax at the in- or outside pool, spa, or peaceful garden. My favorite part of staying at this hotel is eating (surprise surprise). At lunchtime you eat at this old fashion “Stub” where you can enjoy the best local cuisine (don’t worry it’s not only heavy food) and enjoy this accompanied with a nice Riesling (which is the wine from this region and one of my preferred white wines).

In the evening, it is the total opposite story!  Be ready to bade in luxury.  In the “La Table” restaurant, the Wucher family (Owners of the hotel) tries to give you the best gastronomical experience you have ever had. A mix of local cuisine is a brought in a refined way and French cuisine. Highly recommended is the home made “Foie gras” or as dessert the “Tarte aux Brimbelles” (a blueberry tartlet) and again all of this accompanied by superb wines, as the hotel has a wonderful wine list (personally I like trying local products). Being served by the owners from the hotel is something I highly appreciate and is something very rare in this kind of hotels.

After a nice night of sleep you will be very pleased with the breakfast, food as far as the eye can see J + freshly squeezed orange juice!!

 Hope you’ll enjoy your stay!!

Monaco low profile

Playground for the rich and famous you might say? I won’t be able to afford Monaco? Well people, you are wrong!! It’s not that you’ll be living there 🙂 I had the chance to go to Monaco on different occasions and none of those times ruined me. Monaco is a place that you can make as expensive and cheap as you would want… Of course if you are staying at ‘hotel de Paris’ or eat at Alain Ducasse, I’m sure your pocket will feel a lot lighter afterwards.  Follow my lead and I am sure you’ll enjoy Monaco in a normal, but still fancy way.

When you visit Monaco or Monte Carlo a few ‘must see’ attractions are obviously the place du casino and it’s casino (you won’t be able to enter in swimwear), the Royal Palace and if you like sea life I’m sure the oceanographic museum will be something for you.  The famous tunnel under the Fairmont Hotel where yearly the F1 takes brings you to the port. But did you know that Monte Carlo also has a normal beach? It is  not enormous, but big enough to fit some people. For car lovers, the Ferrari museum is a must. The limited edition beauties that you’ll find there are unique. A place where you can find your inner self Is the Japanese garden, right next to the Grimaldi forum, overlooking the Mediterranean sea (that would already be relaxing for me). Going the the open-air cinema (cinema d’été) next to the Oceanographic museum is also a thing that you should really do. Or maybe eating an ice cream in the Häagen-Dazs garden ice salon in front of  the casino sounds more appealing to you? A small anecdote to show that Monaco doesn’t always have to be expensive. Once I bought a special Ferrari toilet seat in Monaco,  as for the price I would pay in Belgium I could buy 3 in Monaco! (true story)

When going to Monaco you could of course stay in a close by city and just go to Monaco for a day, but you really have to try weekend night in Monaco in summertime. Two hotels that are nice and still reasonable of price are the Novotel and Hotel Ambassador (and good located right next to the underground train station). Check for good prices. I’m sure once you’ve spend one or a few nights you’ll agree. The whole summer there is a fireworks contest between countries who send their very best firework specialists. In the weekends Monaco is really the place to be, you’ll see more fancy cars then you can dream of, you might also bump into a celebrity or two. In the weekend this Principality really comes to life.

But I’m starting to feel hungry, we didn’t eat yet. I don’t know if you have ever eaten a pizza with a Foi gras and asparagus toping? If you want to try this you should go to restaurant “Le Bambi”. Or maybe some “Gambas a la plancha” are more of your preference, in that case Le Baobab would be a nice choice. My first time in Monaco, I went to a very nice Italian restaurant in the street right in front of the Royal Palace, Il Pinocchio (lots of famous people love this restaurant). One of Prince Albert’s preferred restaurant is Sass Café, so who knows …  A friend of mine tried and enjoyed the “La villa” These restaurants are just a few of the places I’ve tried in Monaco. The three I’ve given are of a normal price range. “Sass” and “La Villa” might be a bit pricer, but still acceptable.  If would like more know more Monaco restaurants, don’t hesitate to ask or check the restaurants of monte carlo website.

Buon Viaggio!

Catalonia à la française and so the story continues…

The first night we decided to go to a restaurant of the Le Neptune . We went to the La voile du Neptune, with nice overlook over the little port/harbor of Collioure. Where we first had the Serrano Ham with Manchego Pan Tomato and the range of forgotten Tomatoes of “Pezilla-de-la-rivière”, Parmesan chips and Mozzarella. Followed by Gambas à la planxa deglaced with Xéres (sherry) and Entrecôte 1er choix snackée, beurre à la moutarde à l’ancienne (I know, no meat at the seaside, but I just wanted it so bad) and to finish with a Fondant au chocolat and a café gourmand. Overall a very nice dinner. Although I never understand why at some restaurants the seranno ham (or Parma) sometimes gets cut quit thick? I really prefer when it is thinly sliced… but maybe that a personal taste.

But never the less, it was some goooood food and of course all of this was accompanied by a nice local rosé wine. I would indeed recommend this restaurant, although it slightly more expensive.

We stayed 3 nights in Collioure, sadly we didn’t really felt like visiting too many cities or villages, although this region has lots of nice places to visit like Perpignan, Port-Vendres, Andorra (although still quit a drive).  And there are also from “routes des vins”  to visit some nice vinyards. During our stay we mostly drank wines from Cave Veuve Banyuls and honestly these wines were very good, we tried the Collioure Rouge and Rosé.  As I said, we decided to relax our few days and enjoy the sunshine.

 The 2nd and 3rd day we went to the same 2 restaurants for lunch we want to Argelès-sur-Mer at “La Vieille Cave’ in Avenue de la Liberation (51 bis) and in the evening. Very nice little restaurant with a terrace with a very good price- quality-quantity value. They serve a big variety of tapas, salads and bigger courses. The first time we tried some fish and the second time tapas and both times we were really satisfied and had enjoyed our lunch for 100%. And we assure you that 1 dish is more than enough as the portions are really generous.

In the evening we went to restaurant ‘Le Clocher’. This restaurant was by far the niced place I have been in my 2 weeks in the South of France.  Typical Catalonian refined cuisine for a very normal price, served by very enthusiast and friendly staff. At restaurant ‘Le Clocher’ for tapas o/ first cours, main course, dessert, wine and apero you should count between 50 and 70 EUR for 2 persons. What to my opinion a very good price, knowing that you are still in the south of France. I actually discovered a very good champagne in this restaurant,  champagne from ‘Besserat de bellefon’ . We both days started with the tapas, where I can recommend the Serrano con pan e tomate (thin sliced ham J ) where you get the garlic, tomato and bread separate so you can decide how much of each you want on your toast. For main courses everything is recommended as everything looked and tasted amazing!!

So for everybody who wants to discover the best of Pyrénées-Orientales should definitely visit Collioure. Bon Voyage!!

Catalonia à la française

For an Italian it is not always easy to admit that other cities, countries or villages are breath taking if they are outside of Italy. Collioure in the French département Pyrénées-Orientales along the Côte Vermeille is one of those places. Only a 20 minute drive from the Spanish border, to my opinion this is what makes this region so wonderful. The best from both French and Spanish (Catalonian) culture.

About two weeks ago, when I was driving towards Collioure, from Montpellier onwards I was astonished from the beauty nature has created there…..At your right the hills with the vines enjoying the sunshine wresting on its leafs at that same moment you also notice the amazing view over the Mediterranean sea… And as cherry on top of the cake The blue sky overlooking all this beauty. The more I drove the better it became.

 The hotel we chose was 2 minutes (by car) outside of Collioure, in a little town called Argelès-sur-Mer in hotel Les Mouettes. A nice hotel with pretty spacious rooms, but what makes this hotel even better is the stupendous views:

As you can see on the picture above, just wonderful! Afterwards we also noticed that the group to which this hotel belongs, also had a hotel right in the center of Collioure and according to the comments it gets on  It is/was also a very nice hotel. The only thing that could be negative is that both hotels don’t have elevators… but personally, it didn’t bother me… as the rooms were nice, the hotel had everything one could want; swimmingpool, Jacuzzi, etc… (all free for use) and all with view over the sea. Plus the hotel staff was also very kind and helpful.

 In the evening after having enjoyed some southern sunshine, we headed towards Collioure city. What actually happens to be the world capital of anchovy (ansjovis), so I was already a bit scared that everything on the menu was anchovy related. Driving towards the city center we enjoyed a nice short drive surrounded by vineyards and overlooking the sea we entered in this picturesque little mediaeval town with 2 sights that immediately catch your eyes are the Collioure Notre-Dame-des-Anges church and the Château Royal (in the summertime there are open air concerts in this castle). Something that also fascinated me about collioure is that in the early 1900’s, it was a center of artistic live as lots of artists made it their meetingplace, artists like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, etc…. as they were all inspired by this wonderful town.

 When I visit a town or city, the thing I refuse doing, is eat at a so called ‘tourist trap’ restaurant. We could have of course asked at the hotel where to go (as they have the menu carts from most of the good restaurants), but I always see it as a quest to find a nice spot myself, which sometimes can annoy my girlfriend. When looking at some menu’s my fear was already over, although they indeed had some dishes with anchovy, but most dishes were southern French- Catalonian tinted. And so we started our first search for good food.

 To be continued…