We had spent the day watching the Tour de France run into the small town of Nuits-Saint-Georges. We’d also spent the day looking at vineyards that stretched in every direction, as far as you could see. This is one of the major wine centres of France.
In a twist of fate, some friends from Niseko have relocated and opened a French restaurant here called La Goutte d’Or. It wasn’t far from the finish of the Tour de France, so we backtracked to surprise them for a dinner visit – though, calling first to make sure it was open, and that there was an available table!
Their restaurant in Niseko, Côte Jardin, was one of our favourites, and introduced me to raclette, among other things. So, as you could expect, we were looking forward to seeing what they were able to produce now that they are back in France.
We went for a three course menu, choosing different starters and mains, allowing us to sample a few more tastes. I had a fresh sardine terrine, and Risa had a salad with scampi – both fresh and delicious. I had a rich and creamy chicken main, and Risa went for a tempura soba, bringing some of their Japanese experience back with them. Again, hard to choose a favourite, with both being fresh and delicious.
We caught the tail of a pastel-hued sunset over the surrounding vineyards, and realised just how much wine dominates this region. It truly seems to be the heart and soul here.
Of course, we had room for desert, as well as a small local cheese sampling!
It was another great meal, and great to see them again, catching up between courses. They offered us to stay in their large car park, so we did, and planned to have a coffee together in the morning.
Temperatures eased a little overnight, though it was still quite warm in our little van. We went through our usual morning routine, and popped in for a coffee with the two of them. I was amazed that Thomas had been up since 6AM, busily preparing for the day, even though the last of the guests hadn’t left until well after 11PM.
We chatted more, catching up on all the things changing in Niseko, as well as spending a little time with their two daughters. It was hard, but we finished our coffees and said goodbye and continued on our journey of the region.
We were spoilt for choices for beautiful chateaus to visit in this region. We decided upon this one, as it sounded grand with turreted towers and an elevated position.
But, on the way there, the vibration from yesterday returned. I wasn’t able to understand where it was coming from. It wasn’t from turning, or braking, or from the engine. It seemed to happen at random. I found a shady area to pull over and inspect the car. Everything seemed to be solid. The brakes, the steering, and the drivetrain. Nothing was leaking, nothing looked damaged.
Our timing was once again impeccable. It was lunch time on a Saturday, which meant that just about everything was shut until Monday. There were a few garages that would re-open after 2PM, about a 30-minute drive away. So, we continued with our sight seeing, wary of spending too much time and missing the chance to see a mechanic today.
The chateau was smaller than expected, but absolutely beautiful. We didn’t enter inside, as we were worried about the time, but just walking around the outside was enjoyable. There were several small locked passages in the rock below the chateau, getting our imagination into overdrive about attempted break-ins – or escapes from within!
But, reality of our broken van crept back into my mind. The reviews for this mechanic were all quite negative, so it wasn’t my first choice to bring it to them. We limped our way towards Beaune, but the noise seemed to be getting worse and more frequent. The only thing that stopped it was a quick press of the clutch pedal – which cleared it up for a few hundred meters.
We eventually decided that it was best not to continue limping into town, and instead returned back to our friend’s restaurant, and we would call for roadside assistance from our breakdown cover with ADAC. Thomas knew the local mechanic, so we drove out there to see them in his car – they were closed, but there was an emergency afterhours number. Fifteen minutes later, the mechanic came out to look at the van, and had me limp back to the workshop for a closer look on the hoists.
He checked similar things to me, and they all seemed OK. However, with the luxury of the hoist, he was able to take the protective panel off the bottom of the engine, which immediately showed what the damage was. At the bottom of this panel was a large pile of metallic shavings. Immediately above it was a mess where there should have been a bearing for the driveshaft to the right-hand wheel. The drive shaft had been flapping around inside without a supportive bearing – and we’re not sure just how long this has been going on.
It looked to be a rather simple fix, but it would require parts – and the shops aren’t going to be open until Monday morning. If we were lucky, he’d be able to source a replacement on Monday, and had it delivered by Tuesday for fitting. If we were unlucky… well, it would take much longer.
I limped it back to La Goutte d’Or’s car park, where we were lucky enough to be able to park until they were able to start work on the car next week. It was a saddening set back, but at least we were lucky that this occurred in a convenient place, where we’d be able to wait for the mechanics, as well as spend time with some friends. It also didn’t look too complex, so it shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. “Shouldn’t”.
Since we were stranded in Burgundy for the next few days, we decided to make the most of it, and went to explore little town of Meusault. As you would expect from Côte d’Or, we were surrounded by vineyards, wineries, and lavish chateaus.
We just ambled around, walking up streets that took our fancy, or carrying on if they didn’t. There was no intent in our direction – at least not until the first drops of rain started falling, then our motivation was to return back home as fast as we could!
The restaurant was opening soon, and after joining the family for dinner, we took their daughters out for some fun and games, allowing our friends to concentrate on the restaurant. Babysitting is tiring work!
Their customers stayed late, so they were busy until late cleaning. There was a large thunderstorm on its way tonight, and we were all a little concerned about sleeping in the van tonight. We were invited to stay in their home with them – and when the winds started shaking the trees, and the rain lashing the side of the house horizontally, we were thankful of the offer.
To thank our hosts for allowing us to stay with them, we tried to help as best we could. They are currently searching for a kitchen hand, so to fill the gap until they find someone, Risa and I helped out washing dishes. It’s the first time I’ve been in a commercial kitchen, and it was a little eye-opening for me! It was only a lunch shift, but it was exhausting work keeping up with the steady stream of dishes, as well as pots and pans. Luckily I had Risa helping with the drying, and the temperatures were significantly cooler than the past few days. I don’t know how Thomas manages to cook AND clean – hopefully they find some help soon.
I’ve always been curious about working in hospitality, and this gives me a no-obligations experience into the industry. I don’t blame my brother for going to university and becoming an Engineer – I’m much more comfortable with computers.
The restaurant was closed for dinner on Sunday night, and as a treat for helping out in the kitchen, we were taken on a family outing to nearby Beaune – the regional capital.
We started with dinner, which happened to be at Buffalo Grill. We’ve passed several of these while in France, usually in the large areas on the outskirts of towns with the giant outlet stores. I didn’t have very high expectations, but Thomas was excited for meat, and I trust he knows about food. It was a super kitsch decoration, recreating an American diner. The menu consisted of big chunks of steak, as well as my favourite – burgers! Again, I set my expectations low, as I have a general rule of only eating burgers from burger restaurants – not restaurants that have a more varied menu. I have to say, other than a little excessive burger sauce, it was fantastic. Big juicy patty, great brioche bun, crispy and smoky bacon, as delicious melted cheese. Plus, it had bottomless sauces to go with the delicious chips.
It’s been a long while between burgers. Over 100, in fact. First burger of our travels, and thankfully it was good – would be depressing to break the drought on something sub par. I didn’t have high expectations of this American chain in France (we’ve driven past a few in shopping malls). It was completely misplaced it would seem. Simple bacon and cheese, but done well. Smoky, juicy, crisp and soft – in all the right places and quantities. Chips were also on point – especially with the blue cheese dip. 4/5 – My only gripe was an excess of burger sauce.
After dinner, and after the thundering rain had stopped falling, we went to explore the city. As you would expect from a regional capital, it was much, much larger than little Mersault. Also, as you would expect from a capital in a wine district, there were countless shops dedicated to wine – either selling wine, or wine paraphernalia.
We’re not big drinkers, so we were more interested in the architecture of the city, including the glimpses of the beautiful coloured roof of the old hospital – we were too late to officially visit it this evening, so these glimpses were welcomed.
We were treated to further thunder and lightning storms this evening, but not as violent as last night – so we returned to the familiarity of Gunter.
The morning started yet more storms. Thomas was telling me on Saturday that it was looking to be a good season for wine, as it was hot and dry – however, I wonder how things will change after all the rain that has fallen in the past few days.
I was wondering what we ‘d be doing on Day 100, and I couldn’t have guessed that this. I offered to help out again in the kitchen, and Risa played with the girls. I had only been doing the dishwashing role for a single day and had already been promoted to peeling and slicing potatoes, as well as dicing herbs and preparing gratin dauphine. I mused that if I stayed longer, at this rate I’d be running the place.
Good news came in the afternoon, too. The mechanic was able to source a replacement (for €175), and they had already received it. They had reserved a spot for me in the morning to fit it, allowing us to get back to our adventures.
It was another busy day, that after an all too brief rest, merged into a busy evening. Time passed without much reference, and before I knew it, the day was over, and it was time to shower and head to bed. My body was exhausted, and I slept very well indeed.
The restaurant is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, so there was little for us to do. We slept in a little, cautious that the mechanics were expecting the van at 9AM, with a goal of having the work completed by lunchtime. Until then, we did our best to relax.
We got the bad news a little before lunchtime that there was a problem with the replacement part, and that it would take a little longer to repair. Fortunately, they still believed that it was going to be possible to complete the work today.
Again, we were treated to lunch for helping out in the restaurant yesterday. We planned to visit a nearby pizza restaurant, however, it was unexpectedly closed. Instead, we ended up a very nice restaurant, Restaurant l’Agastache, which had a fixed daily course menu – which saved me the agony of trying to decide what to order. All three courses were fantastic, and we all nearly licked the plates clean.
There was more anxious waiting for the mechanic, who finally gave word at 5PM that Gunter was ready for collection. The news soured a little when I learnt that the bill came to €520… I learnt that the quote for the part didn’t include the 20% tax, which also applied to all the other charges – as well as the inspection fee on Saturday. Still, the car felt smooth to drive, so I guess I can’t complain too much – I’m sure it would have been more expensive in UK or any of the Scandinavian countries!
We packed and raced north on the motorway towards Luxembourg. We covered nearly 300km before calling it a night at 10PM.
Any time we use the motorway in France, we roll the dice and hope for a reasonable price. I was expecting it to be cheaper this time, as there were none of the bridges or tunnels that are said to make some sections more expensive than others. But, the bill came to just over €30!! Damn…