On leaving Paris, we joined our fellow ‘Avalonians’ – Avalon Waterways Cruise passengers on our transfer to Dijon via the TGV – “Train à Grande Vitesse”- the very fast train. Geoff was really looking forward to this leg. Usually the TGV travels at speeds of approximately 280 – 300 km per hour – depending on the trip and the line condition. Geoff took great delight in watching the speed updates on the carriage LCD screen noticing a maximum speed of 293km per hour.
From Dijon we travelled a short distance to our first Burgundian mediaeval town, the ancient city of Beaune, home to the Hôtel-Dieu or the Hospices de Beaune – a hospital foundation catering for the poor and sick was established in 1443, by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, and supported by his wife Guigone de Salins. The hospital, one of France’s most prestigious historic sites, was run until late in the twentieth century by an order of Ursulines. It is famous for its flamboyant Gothic architecture, being built around a grand courtyard, with its most outstanding feature being the polychrome tiled roof with is elaborate geometric patterns, typical of grand Burgundian architecture from the Middle Ages.
The Hospice de Beaune is also famous as home to the famous painting “the Last Judgement” by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden. It consists of fifteen paintings on nine panels Some fine Flemish tapestries were also on display. The Hospice also featured a fabulous example of a Pharmacie with highly decorative ceramic apothecary jars storing ancient herbal medicines.
The Hospices de Beaune is also famous for its vineyard established by generous benefactors for over five centuries to provide ongoing support for the charitable work of the hospital. Today the 60 hectares wine estate, continues to produce prestigious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines which we were also keen to sample 😉 during our free time exploring this charming town from the middle ages.
We then boarded the coach and travelled a short distance to Chalon-on-Saône where we were welcomed aboard our beautiful cruise ship the Avalon Poetry II. Our stateroom, 303, was on the top deck. It was elegant and will be a wonderful home away from home as unpack our suitcases for a whole week! Time then for the Welcome Aboard drinks and dinner as we meet the Captain Julian, our Cruise Director Tony and the all the smiling crew. We are in for a wonderful cruise!