15) Burgundy

Burgundy called and Giles and I heard the call so we answered the call by booking train tickets to Dijon, going to a bar, having a few drinks, missing the train, getting another train, sitting in Lausanne station getting wrecked, getting on another train, drinking more wine, running out of wine, stealing a bottle of wine from first class, getting more wrecked, arriving in Dijon completely wrecked and going for a drink.

Then, sensibly, we rode 40 km out of Dijon to Nuits St. Georges, stopping on the way for a drink. We did have a very specific idea of where we wanted to end up, and we did manage to arrive within 40 meters of it, before giving up, drinking one last bottle of wine and passing out. All in all a splendid evening.

Day 1

Unsurprisingly I awoke to a terrible hangover, with little idea where I was or how I had got there. To make matters worse Giles felt fine and was in an irritatingly good mood about it. Shitty coffee and an even shittier quiche lorraine for breakfast helped not one bit.

Luckily, the first thing we did upon departing Nuits St Georges was cycle straight up a hill. That helped. Then the sun came out, and that helped too, and soon enough I was cycling through the villages and vineyards of Burgundy, up hill and down dale, with a huge grin plastered all over my face, which lasted all the way to Beaune where the roads are paved with cobblestones which are quaint and everything, but the shaking does your hangover no favours at all.

Luckily Beaune is only 9 km from Meursault, where a great lunch awaited – namely an insane contrivance called tartipoisse which is potatoes, bacon and Epoisses, and must surely have been invented specifically as a high-stakes hangover cure. It’s incredibly effective, especially when washed down with one of my favorite white wines in the world: Meursault.

After lunch I was drunk again so I don’t remember much except cycling past an enormous cock (above), riding alongside a canal, and dozing by the river which we followed all the way to Chalon sur Saone where we showered at the enormous public pool, then found a terrace under an awning on the main square of town and ordered two beers just in time for it to piss with rain. When it stopped raining the temperature dropped so we headed into the nice warm restaurant next door and ate a weird and startlingly delicious dish of fried ham in a puddle of what looked and tasted like butternut squash puree but according to the nice old mad old lady who ran the place, wasn’t.

After dinner we found a very superior camping spot, polished off a last, completely unnecessary bottle of wine and retired for the night, planning to the sleep of the tired, drunk, Thermarest-sleeping-pad owner. That plan worked out great up until a car drove past in the early hours and woke me up. Slightly odd, because we were in the middle of nowhere, but no biggie. I drifted back to sleep, only to be woken again by gunfire! Fuck! Hunters! Or worse, a mafia execution squad! On reflection, probably hunters, but several more shots went off, and I lay there wondering if the drunken hunters would recognize my tent as a tent, or think it was a wildebeest and shoot at it.

Eventually I dozed off and woke up the next morning not full of bullets, so phew!

Day 2

Dawned bright and sunny, and my hangover was far less awful than the day before, possibly as a result of not having drunk as much. That said, Giles, who had also drunk much less, felt much worse. I cheerfully told him it was probably his immune system packing up and we set off.

A flat, ambling couple of hours along the river got us as far as the small town of Tournus where we set about locating a traiteur to put into a effect A Cunning Plan that we had formulated whilst riding, which was not to eat lunch in a restaurant. Not eating in a restaurant may sound like like an insane thing to do, but eating in restaurants all the time actually gets a bit boring, even in France.

So instead we were going to stop by one of those brilliant shops you find all over France (called traiteurs) that sell high quality pre-prepared food. We would buy a lot of it, add in a bottle of wine or two and find ourselves a picturesque spot next to the river to sit and stuff it all into our faces. But the plan failed because we were in France and because it was the precise time when everyone wants to buy pre-prepared food, so all the traiteurs were shut, so we had to fall back on an extremely shitty supermarket instead.

Giles went in to see what he could scavenge and I sat outside guarding the bikes, marvelling at all the young people with nothing better to do on a Sunday than hang around in a supermarket car park. They all wore the sort of revolting old tracksuits you find discarded in lay-bys and had bad teeth and terrible haircuts. They drank vodka and talked very loudly, laughing when no one had said anything funny. They were the ones who stay behind when the people with looks and brains have gone to other, bigger places where they can find jobs and attractive members of the opposite sex.

Giles finally emerged brandishing a loaf of bread, some decent cured meats, a ripe brie and some other stuff I don’t remember, and most importantly a nice Givry. We found a suitable spot next to a camp site, stole some glasses (having tried to buy them and been told there weren’t any) and sat next to the river eating. It was all extremely enjoyable, especially the bit where Giles accidentally threw his expensive sunglasses in the water and lost them forever.

From thence, after a little nap by the river, we continued to wend our way down river as far as Macon where we showered (I think, I hope, I don’t actually remember), then turned right and headed up into the hills and vineyards. Burgundy melted seamlessly into Beaujolais and we celebrated by stopping in Saint Amour Bellevue and drinking a glass of Saint Amour before winding up in Julienas.

Julienas is a place where only good things happen. In this case a protracted apero in the local bar surrounded by horny grape pickers flirting with each other, followed by a delicious meal in Le Coq a Julienas, followed by a nightcap in the local bar surrounded by horny grape pickers copping off with each other, and then a glorious night sleeping outside right next to the graveyard. Except I didn’t sleep as much as I’d have liked on account of Giles who kept kicking me. Apparently I was snoring, although I don’t see how since I was awake the whole fucking time.

Day 3

After foul-tasting coffee and croissants made by God, surrounded by shagged out grape pickers nursing hangovers and comparing notes on who slept with whom we rolled out along the back-roads of the Beaujolais, then down the lazy wending Saone, then through a monstrous industrial zone on the outskirts of Villefranche sur Saone. The industrial zone was the least fun bit. 0/10 would avoid.

We’d picked up the wherewithal for another picnic lunch and were corybantic (a word, apparently) to arrive at a perfect little park with wooden tables, right by the river, just in time for lunch. Well, perfect at first glance. The tables had all been placed at a strategic distance from the shady trees, so it was way too hot to sit at them. Then Giles trod in a big stinking pile of dog shit, which we realised was all over the place. Then, when we’d finally found a shady, dog shit free place to sit, eaten and drunk our fill and were pleasantly dozing off, a man showed up with an obnoxiously noisy strimmer and strimmed the fuck out of everything within a 3 meter radius of where we were sat.

And that was pretty much that. Getting into Lyon by bike is boring and a bit shit pretty much however you come at it, so we put our heads down and cranked out the last 40 km then caught the train home.

The end