Thursday, 5 March 2020

Below ground in Beaune

After a lovely morning marvelling at the Hospices de Beaune and a delicious lunch (of course!) we were suitably refreshed and ready for the next stage of our Beaune exploration.

This time we were heading underground!

Down into the depths of the largest wine cellars in Burgundy to be precise :)

The Caves Patriarche are made up of around 5 kilometres of tunnels underneath the centre of Beaune and they hold around 3 million bottles of wine!

Our tour was self-guided, which was a bit daunting at first but we were soon in the swing of navigating our way around dimly lit tunnels packed with rows of very dusty bottles. There were plenty of signs warning visitors not to touch the bottles but as you can see not everyone could resist the urge to leave their mark :)

Extra-special bottles were safely tucked away behind bars to keep them out of the reach of the public. These bottles were part of a collection from the 1959 vintage, which the sommelier later told us is considered to be the best vintage of the last and the current centuries.

A number of the bottles from this vintage are due to be opened in special ceremonies in 2020, 2050 and 2094! It is quite something to stand in front of bottles of wine that you know will not be opened until after your lifetime!

Once you have navigated your way around the dusty cellars there is, naturally, an opportunity to taste some of the wines that are languishing in those cellars. In the Patriarche cellar rather than viewing and tasting the wine with a glass, these tastevin, or tasting cups, are used. The silver-coated cups were in use before the advent of electric lights, when merchants needed to assess the quality of wine by candlelight. The shallowness of the tasting cups and the raised patterns on the inside of the cups allowed prospective purchasers to assess a wine for clarity as the dim lighting in the cellars would bounce back from the shiny surfaces and highlight any impurities in the wine. Nowadays the silver tasting cups are more usually given as Christening or Birth presents, but back in the day every Burgundian wine merchant would carry his own tastevin around with him.

I am happy to report that there were no impurities in any of the wines that we tasted and I am sure you will not be surprised to know that our purses were considerably lighter, but our bags were heavier by the time we wandered away from this equally interesting aspect of Beaune :)


Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Wandering in Beaune

On our recent trip to France we took the opportunity to travel to a New to Me part of the country, with a couple of days in the lovely city of Beaune in Eastern France. Our weather on the way across was grey and miserable but, fortunately, our main day there was bright and sunny.

Our hotel, which was in a former wine-merchants house was only a few minutes walk from the Collegiale, Notre Dame de Baune so that was our first port of call on our day of discovery. The Basilica is best known for its collection of 15th Century tapestries but this was not open whilst we were there sadly. It is pretty impressive though isn't it?

The main focus of our morning though was the Hospices de Beaune, which as you can see is pretty amazing. The Hospices, which was established in 1442 by the then Chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy and his wife, was set up to provide nursing care for the poor and needy in the area. A role that it continues to provide to this day, although not now in this building.

The main part of the hospital has been restored to reflect its original medieval state. The box beds along each side were used by more than one patient at a time and could be closed to the main ward with the curtains for private examinations by the medical staff.

The original construction did not include a pharmacy, but one was added later in the hospital's history. The entire contents of a pharmicist's shop was purchased to stock the hospital pharmacy at one stage and these bottles are remnants of that purchase. Dragon blood and green tea are perhaps not the first combination of medicines that you would reach for in the case of illness! The Dragon blood is not quite as bad as it sounds as it relates to the root of the dragonfruit tree :)

The quilters amongst you will no doubt be as thrilled as I was with the gorgeous tiled roofs of the Hospice. Tiled roofs like these are apparently typical of Burgundy, but these must be the most amazing examples of the tilers art.

The Hospices is famous for the wine auctions held there every year, which is contributes to the funding of the care provided by the charity. The charity owns a vineyard as well, which is just so quintessentially French :)

Wine was the focus of our second port of call in Beaune (surprise, surprise!) which I will regale you with in a separate post.

Let me know in the comments if you have travelled somewhere new this month too!

Friday, 21 February 2020

Sheepish Cuddles

A while ago I made a Bear cushion for our elder grandson, which I am pleased to say that he has really taken to. Recently, however, our son told us that our younger grandson has also taken a shine to the cushion, so in the interests of filial harmony a request was put in for a second cushion for our littlest grandson.

As I didn't want to make a replica of the first one, I trawled through all sorts of cushions on Pinterest until I finally decided that I would have a go at a sheep cushion.

I had never worked with fleece before so that was the first challenge!

As you can see, however, it turned out fine :)

The front and back of the cushion are 16.25" fleece circles, the face is grey felt with scraps of white and black for the eyes which I have raw-edge appliqued to the fleece backing.

I used six strands of black floss to backstitch the mouth and nose.

I wanted to make the ears stand proud of the face and body, but wasn't sure how to achieve that until I came across this tutorial by Shiny Happy World that uses Soft & Stable as wadding. Now, as it happens I had a strip of Soft & Stable left over from the Catch-All Caddy, so problem solved!

My first attempt at the ears wasn't very successful as I made them so slim at the bottom I found it impossible to turn them right side out. The second attempt, which you can see here, was much better!

I didn't have a round cushion inner so had to make do with a square one, however, it gives my sheep a slightly wonky shape which I think suits her very well :)

I was really pleased with how this turned out and hope that she will be as much cuddled as her Bear companion! 
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