On the last weekend of September, the program that I am studying abroad through offered to take us to the region of Bourgogne. Bourgogne is a historic and administrative region. It is south east of Paris and is broken into four departments/sections. Our first stop was Vézelay. La village était tres jolie! (The town was very pretty). Vézelay is situated on a hill, what a hike it was just to walk through the tiny place! We took a tour of the famous basilique (basilica) of Sainte Marie Madeleine. From the outside it looked like a regular church but on the inside it was beautifully carved with intricate relic designs, sculptures of the Saints, and just overall, built in a way that is inimaginable (unimaginable).
After lunch, the bus scurried très rapide (very fast) to our next location, Dijon. Dijon is the capital of Bourgogne. It is also home to la moutarde de Dijon (Dijon mustard). However, it is interesting because even though they produce the mustard here, they still have to have the Dijon seeds sent from Canada to the region. C’est interessant. We walked around the capital and yet again saw another church. This one had une petite chouette (an small owl) carved on one of the pillars. The old myth is that is someone touches the chouette on the right side they will have a good marriage. Pffff, okay people of the Moyen Âge (Middle Ages).
Étonnement (surprisingly), there was a band playing in the middle of the center. They were playing “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. Only in Europe, no I mean seriously. I can’t go anywhere without hearing English music. It’s a gift and a curse, at least they were singing Pink Floyd and not Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
We all gathered at the hotel to attend the fanciest dinner’s I’ve had since I’ve been in France. Bourgogne is also known for its gastronomie. Definition of gastronomy: the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food. I definitely ate very well this weekend, that’s for sure. But…another reason why I ate well this weekend, je mange de la viande maintenant. I am too afraid to translate that in English so bonne chance! (good luck!) I have realized that it is difficult to be a vegetarian in France because none of their traditional dishes really translate into being vegetarian. I find it easier to find vegetarian options in the United States. It’s weird but very true. So feast your eyes on the rich food I sadly, without regret, savored.
Bourgogne is also known for it’s vin rouge (red wine). The next day we had a wine tasting at a vignoble (vinyard) called Chateau de Marsannay. Even though the red wines were good, and that is what the region is known for, I fell in love with the buttery white wine. I learned how to tell how dry a wine is. If you swish the wine in your glass and the residue that sticks on the side of the glass takes a while to trickle back into the wine puddle, it means that the wine is dry. The longer is takes to fall down the side of the glass (and if the residue lines are very thick) determines that the wine is very dry. Here are some fun pictures of the vineyard and the wine tasting:
The one thing I got out of this weekend, besides great food, breaking my habits, drinking fine wine, being a tourist, and touching stone owls: France consists of old churches. And I find this beautiful in an ironic way. After the French revolution, the idea of separation of church and state was a huge ordeal. The concept that eventually developed from this idea was laïcité. Laïcité is a concept, that corresponds with the French law of separation of church and state, that is mostly used in schools but the definition also applies to public spaces. It is the decree that states no one is allowed to wear a symbol affiliated with any religion. This includes the hijab, cross, etc. However, in public places it is mostly tolerated, in the schools it is not so.
Yet all across France there are many churches and many restorations being done to preserve the churches. I find the laïcité debate interesting because for a country with many religious symbols and manifestations through structures, people are restricted to openly sharing their own belief on the sidewalk, in schools, and other places (for example: women who practice Islam are not allowed to wear the full headscarf if they wanted to). But it’s not the entire country that thinks this should be so, it’s mostly the politicians on the far right. And looking at it from a historical point, it’s more understandable yet in my opinion should be less restricted (kind of the set up the United States has in place). Because the Catholic church was heavily involved in politics and education in France, after the French Revolution the Republique wanted to make sure that religion would not lead the country. In the US, the first immigrants, pilgrims, left Great Britain so they could practice their own belief. Soon after other immigrants crossed the Atlantic and the idea of freedom of speech and being able to profess who you are, if you choose, was excepted. C’est intéressante mais c’est la vie, c’est histoire. Overall, je suis passé un bon weekend!