Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead



This is the ninth in a series of articles about a boat trip along the Rhone River


By Charles N. Stevens

Photos by Dolores Seidman

Our bus leaves Lyon on a sunny morning, the streets still wet from last night’s rain. The apartments across the river appear especially bright in the morning sun and crisp air, the town fresh. At first we travel through a very long tunnel with Lyon’s morning traffic. All the red tail lights of cars stopping and starting cast a strange glow on the tunnel walls.

As we pass through Chalon in the Beaujolais area I’m surprised to see so much industry rather than vineyards, since Beaujolais wine is so famous. Sprawling Bayer and Kodak plants dominate the landscape. Only later does the countryside become more agricultural. For the most part, just as our freeways do, the highway skirts the villages and small towns. We see water standing in fields, and trees inundated by overflowing rivers and streams, the results of heavy rain in recent days.

Our first stop is at a highway complex, a roadside gas station, restaurant and store. These are common along freeways in France. This particular one is at Port de Bourgogne, meaning that we are now entering Burgundy. The area’s symbol is the snail as the people are fond of escargot. We all taste a candy called flavigny that looks like a white ball. It contains anise and black currents and is delicious.

We drive by beautiful, well-kept farms with white cows grazing in deep green fields. But we also pass a relic of the past; a sagging barn with its crooked hand hewn beams exposed, now twisted and open to the weather. Now and then we see young forests, all of the trees still winter-bare.

Our bus turns off the main highway toward the city of Beaune. It is a charming town of 20,000 people with narrow curving streets and steeply pitched roofs. The town’s life centers around wine so wine caves and shops abound. As we enter the town square, church bells chime as though welcoming us.

By foot we pass by the ornate, 15th century Hotel Dieu then continue walking to the 12th century Notre Dame church with its Gothic façade. Inside, however, Romanesque columns and arches prevail. Most unusual was the apse; the space behind the altar, where there were four slightly curved benches. These were reserved for the area’s winemakers, owners and coopers— winemaking raised to a high level.

Most interesting in Beaune is the Hotel des Ducs de Bourgogne, the Duke’s palace of the 15th century. There were four powerful Dukes in Burgundy, part of the territory including pieces of Belgium and Germany. They maintained palaces in many cities. The one here was always ready for them, but they never came. Today it is a wine museum.

We enjoy a stroll through the quaint town, peeping into all the shop windows. In one delicatessen window we see a large loaf covered with thick green paste. It is called jambon pecsille, a loaf of cooked pork pieces with a green topping made of parsley and wine. This is especially popular at Easter.

Back on the bus, we travel a short distance to Savigny de Beaune, the slopes around it covered with vineyards still bare and dormant. A statue of St. Vincent, the patron saint of wine making, stands over one of the fields, blessing the crops to come. We turn off the road toward the Chateau de Savigny. We are surprised to see that part of the owner’s estate is covered with old jet fighter planes from several countries, his personal collection, and a contrast to the mystique of the vineyards.

We enter the grand chateau by walking over a small bridge that spans an unfilled moat. Waiters in suits and ties usher us into a large room with stone arches where tables are set up for lunch, wine glasses gleaming. We look up at the vaulted ceiling, the flat stones of the arches appearing like stacks of books. Lights shine on the stone arches, illuminating their texture. We begin with an appetizer consisting of a slice of jambon pecsille, the same item we had admired in the store window. Delicious. On the same plate are shredded carrots and little clear cubes of meat jelly. Along with the appetizer we sip a glass of excellent Chardonnay. Beef Bourgogne is our main course along with crispy discs of potato. The beef had been properly braised so that it was fork tender. Along with the main course we are given a glass of perfectly done Pinot Noir. Dessert is apple pie, thin sliced apples laid like shingles over a flaky crust. It looks better than it tastes.

After our lunch at the chateau we are taken on a tour of the Burgundy wine producing area. The noble grapes of Burgundy are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the quality of them depending on the soil and whether they are grown on slopes or in flat fields. We pass through miles of vineyards, at this time of year the plants only twisted stumps. Villages are not allowed to expand so that the prime land can be used completely for vineyards. We learn that Thomas Jefferson purchased his wines from this region. The largest vineyards are owned by only a few people, their wines bearing the names of their chateaus.

We leave for Paris, only a few puffy clouds in a blue enamel sky. On our way we pass Chateau Neuf, high on a hill with green fields surrounding its towers, high walls and conical roofs. Not long afterward our bus bogs down in the impossible traffic of Paris. By the time we arrive at our hotel, day has slipped into night.

We stroll down a narrow street in the quaint wine city of Beaune.

We stroll down a narrow street in the quaint wine city of Beaune.


We have lunch in the old Chateau de Savigny near Beaune. The bridge before us spans a dry moat.

The conical towers of the chateau point skyward; our last view as we part.

The conical towers of the chateau point skyward; our last view as we part.


  1. As always, an absolutely fantastic peice of writing. One can’t read a single article of this series without feeling like they’re actually there.

  2. Great article, Norm! It takes me back to my time in France but be glad you were in a bus going into Paris, it is really exciting on a bicycle!

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