The Chateau de Rully, where the past meets the present

While waiting for our bus to the Chateau de Rully, we joined some new friends for a drink at a little cafe. Gerda and Margery had come all the way from Capetown South Africa to tour France, but they had been on the Bordeaux cruise while we went to Normandy.  The Ramblers learned that Gerda, mother and Margery, daughter, were of Boer heritage and Gerda still farms in the countryside outside Capetown.

The Ramblers enjoyed a snack while waiting for our bus to the Chateau with Gerda and her daughter Margery.

When Gerda learned that I was a retired history professor, she asked if I would answer some questions she had about US history. I was happy to do so and before the end of the cruise, we would sit down for a question and answer session. I think it was fun for both of us. Today, however, we were just getting to know each other. Soon after we finished our coffee, our bus arrived and we eagerly boarded for our trip into the Burgundy countryside.

Rows and rows of great burgundy wine in a Beaune wine cave.

The Chateau was a fair distance from Beaune and along the way, our guide, Leslie,  told us something of its history. What was amazing to me was that the estate had been in the same family since the 12th century although the owners’ last names have  changed over time. This was because the Chateau was  inherited through  the female line several times. The bride then  took her husband’a name when she married, no hyphenated names in this family. Ownership thus  went from the Rully founders who built the first square, fortified keep, to the St. Leger’s , the Montsessus’  and finally to the De Ternays who have owned the Chateau for the last three generations.

Count Raoul and his three little boys. The eldest is in line to inherit the title and the Chateau, a mixed blessing in these days.

Count Raoul de Ternary is the current owner and he grew up and now lives in the Chateau with his wife and three little sons, his mother and his aunt.  Unfortunately for the Count and his family, although the Chateau is classified as a monument historique, the De Ternays receive no funds for its maintenance from the French government. Thus the Count in engaged in a constant battle to maintain his beautiful but aging home. You can just imagine what might need work in an 800 year old building. Consequently he decided to open the Chateau to tour groups, by appointment. In addition he added a wedding facility in the former stables where we would enjoy a farm-style lunch. He also owns a successful winery which is made from  grapes grown in the vineyards that surround the estate. Fortunately for him, some of his vineyards are classified as Premier Cru, which generally means the wines made from the grapes grown there will sell for a higher price.

The Chateau de Rully surrounded by vineyards. looking like a fairy tale castle.

We gained some background about the Chateau’s construction from Leslie en route. By end of the 14th century, the castle, initially a small fortified keep , now had, along with the initial keep, three round corner towers and one flanking tower. All were connected by curtain walls  and crenelated at the top. The St. Leger’s dug a broad, deep moat surrounding its base. The only entrance was then through a single  drawbridge. By the 15th century, the Saint-Leger’s had added a succession of buildings with splendid oak woodwork on the east, north and west of the interior courtyard,

The older part of the Chateau needs constant attention.

However at the end of the 19th century, the medieval structure. was modernized.  The moat was filled in by the order of the first De Ternay owner, after he fell into it! The  drawbridge and the large, protective courtyard doors were also removed at this time,  and another more modern building was constructed. Since the family lives on the upper floors of the Chateau we would only be touring the ground floor as well as the wine cellar. As it turned out, there was plenty to see.

Needless to say, we were all  excited when we got our first sight of the Chateau. It certainly lived up to its billing, towering  over the acres of vineyards that surrounded it on all sides like a fairy tale castle. In August, the vines were a deep green and the grapes were beginning to ripen. It was only a short walk to the open courtyard of the Chateau. No longer would we have to walk across a drawbridge which spanned a deep moat.

Here is the main entrance to the Chateau, no more moat or drawbridge.

One  of the things that Leslie pointed out was the statue of the Virgin Mary which rested high in a niche over the entrance. The statue was  placed there by the Count’s great grandmother after WWII,  in thanksgiving as the Chateau had been spared from Nazi bombs during the war.

If you look at the niche above the gateway, yo can see the statue of the Virgin Mary which was added after WWII.

We were met at the entrance  by the Count who welcomed  us to his home. This was a very different experience than entering a castle or historic building that no longer housed a family. It was obvious that the Chateau besides surviving from the 12th century, was  lived in and loved.

Count Raoul was very friendly and hospitable and open to answering questions from  our group. As he talked about growing up at Rully, I asked him how his wife felt when she came to the Chateau as a bride. He responded that it had been quite an adjustment for her at first, as she had been a city girl. I can see how one would eventually succumb to the charm and beauty of the Chateau, and it is a wonderful place to raise three active little boys. They certainly have plenty of places to explore. No one asked if the Chateau was haunted, and the Ramblers felt that it was too happy a place to house a ghost of any kind.

Before we entered the Chateau we walked around the side of the building and entered  its wine cellar.

Count Raoul opening one of the bottles we tasted.

There we would have a tasting of the wines produced from the Rully vineyards. The Count does not manage the vineyards himself as it would be a full time job.  The Rully vineyards extend over 800 acres!  Burgundy is, of course, one of the important wine producing regions of France and the Rully vineyards are just outside the famous golden triangle of Burgundy viticulture which produces the greatest white burgundy wines.  Fortunately it shares the same terroir or soil and climate.

Here is the wine I purchased in Kennesaw GA. It has traveled a long way from Burgundy.

We tasted four of the Count’s wines, two whites and two reds, and while the senior Rambler passed on wine as did a few others, I enjoyed them very much. I recently checked and found that they are available at our local Total Wine warehouse, so I had to buy a bottle of the white to enjoy at home.

The converted stable where we would have our lunch.

After the tasting, we were escorted to lunch held in part of the stables which had been converted into a sunlit room. There we were served..what else but Boeuf Bourguignon, family style along with delicious bread, salad and coffee.  Of course we enjoyed a red wine with the meal. it was an tasty meal and the service by women from a local village, was excellent.

Our lunch at the Chateau is served; a good time ws had by all.

After lunch, it was time for our tour of the inside of the Chateau. Of course its walls were lined with family portraits, some dating back to the 16th century. Perhaps the most interesting was the portrait of the Marquise who was imprisoned by the Jacobin revolutionaries

I am pretty sure this is a portrait of the beloved Marie Fernand de Vaudrey who saved the Chateau.

during the French Revolution. She was so beloved by the people who lived on and nearby the Rully estate that they protected the Chateau from damage and petitioned for her release. She was eventually able to return to the Chateau although the records are unclear as to how long she was imprisoned. Family tradition says a few days but the Count told us he recently found records indicating she had been imprisoned for months.

As you can see, they could roast some huge animals in that fireplace. Of course, the current owners have a much smaller modern kitchen elsewhere.

Mere photographs don’t do justice to the interior of the Chateau. We got a chance to see a series of formal and informal rooms, the library and finally the kitchen. The windows were relatively few in the old part of the building and the walls thick which only added to the sense of history and the past. A secret passage was even mentioned by the Count.

This had been an outstanding day, but Leslie rounded us up to board the bus for our trip back to Macon and the Catherine. As we were sleepily watching the countryside roll by from the auto-route, Leslie asked us to look outside the windows of the left side of the bus. Of course, the Ramblers with their usual luck, were sitting on the right side but… as it turned out we were able to see the white peak of Mount Blanc in the distance, more than 200 miles away

Just use your imagination and look at the area where the skyline meets the ground. You can just make out the shapes of the French Alps in the far distance. We could see it much better from the bus of course.

. Leslie said it was extremely unusual to sight the famous mountain from Burgundy but it did happen once in a while. She then added that it usually meant bad weather was coming. As it turned out, she was wrong about the weather, as we had no rain on the rest of the trip.

Back to Lyon tonight!


Lyon, the gourmet epicenter of France

After our 2 hour long train trip on the TGV, we boarded a bus  for the Quai Claude Bernard  where the SS Catherine was docked in Lyon. On the Catherine, much larger and newer than the Baroness, we happily moved into a larger cabin, which we greatly appreciated. Uniworld had scheduled no special events for Sunday arrival night, as this week’s passengers came at different times. Some were already  on board when we climbed up the gangplank. The Baroness passengers who were doing the Grand France tour came from Paris on the TGV along with another group who had sailed the Bordeaux rivers, However, the rest arrived in small groups the rest of the day.

Our cabin on the Catherine. A moody bland and white perspective

Just as on the Baroness, the Catherine was only a little more than half full when we sailed, as many people had cancelled due to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Marseilles. Given that there was heightened security in France at the moment, the Ramblers were surprised to see that our luggage and ourselves were not scanned for explosives at the Paris train station. Although there was a visible police presence, it seemed to us that maybe checking baggage  was a good idea. Fortunately there were no incidents on the train, but still…

We spent the rest of a beautiful afternoon exploring and enjoying the comforts of the Catherine and strolling along the quai. We were well acquainted with the cruise director, Emmanuelle Bonneau, who had come with us from Paris, but almost all the rest of the staff were new to us, and equally nice,  Ariana, the bartender in the lounge, was familiar from last year’s cruise on the Maria Theresa.

The senior Rambler got a pleasant surprise after boarding the Catherine. He learned that his luggage had arrived from Paris, all in one piece and had been placed in our cabin. When he checked the contents later, nothing was missing although it was obvious someone had looked through it. We  thought that we would never see this bag again but evidently after a week of calling from France and some prodding from Delta Atlanta, Air France delivered the bag to our ship in Lyon. It would have been much easier for AF if they had just sent it to us when we were in Paris. Evidently it had been sitting in their lost luggage room for the last week.

The crew of the Catherine were always busy. When they were docked, it was time to make sure the Catherine was the best looking ship on the river.

We thought we would be touring Lyon the next day, but on checking the schedule, we saw that the Catherine would sail for Macon that evening; all-aboard was set at 5:30 PM and they weren’t kidding.  Promptness is very important on a Uniworld ship, and passengers soon learned to be on board before all-aboard time as the sailors would immediately begin dismantling and stowing away the gangplank and the ship would be underway shortly afterwards.

We would tour Beaune next morning before boarding a bus for the 12th century Chateau de Rully where we would enjoy a wine-tasting, lunch and a tour of the Chateau conducted by its current owner, the Count de Rully. A little bonus was the bus tour through the vineyards of Burgundy on the way to the Chateau.

The Chateau Rully tour was the only extra tour that the Ramblers signed up for on this double cruise and we were glad we did. Emmanuelle had assured me that I shouldn’t miss this tour and she was right. Even better, the Senior Rambler enjoyed it as well. But first we headed for Beaune. Unfortunately we would not see much of Macon except from the Quai des Marans before we left for Beaune. As soon as we got back from our day’s outing, the Catherine would sail back to Lyon for a full day and night’s exploration of that most interesting city.

A typical small village near Beaune in the Burgundy countryside.

Beaune is in the heart of Burgundy wine country the seat of the Dukes of Burgundy until the 16th century. Unfortunately we missed the Saturday morning market which winds around the cobbled streets of the historic center. Of course Beaune is also the heart of one of France’s great wine regions. The Hospices de Beaune which we would shortly enter, is the site of the largest charity wine auction in the world, currently in its 150th year.

The entrance to the Hospices is quite plain but it opens onto a beautiful courtyard.

The Hotel-Dieu or Hospices de Beaune is one of the great historic sites of France. Not a castle or a palace, but instead a 15th century almshouse  founded in 1443 by Nicholas Rolin the Duke’s Chancellor. The people of Beaune had suffered terribly during the 100 Years War and many were destitute. Thus the Hospice was built and staffed by a new order of nuns to heal both the bodies and spirits of the poor. Amazingly, it remained a hospital until the 1970’s!

The more than 500 year old building is well preserved and  still contains half-timber galleries and ornate roof-tops and a wonderful glazed tile roof. These  roofs originated in Eastern Europe but soon became a Burgundy trademark. Unfortunately the current tiles are replicas which date from the early 20th century but they still look wonderful.

The beautiful sunny courtyard was unexpected after the plain entrance.

The large central “room of the poor” is set up as it might have been in the 15th century  with two rows of curtained beds and space for dining in the center. From there, one enters the chapel which was the original location of the Roger Van der Weyden  polyptych altarpiece now in the Hospice museum.

I had one of my worst photo days inside the Hospices and this shot of the nuns at work in the kitchen was one of the better ones. The mannequins are amazingly lifelike, clad in the habits of the past.

The Hospices is now a non-profit organization which owns 150 acres of donated vineyards, much of which is classified as Grand and Premier Cru. It is these wines that are auctioned off yearly on the third Sunday of November as part of a 3 day festival celebrating the food and wines of Burgundy.

Not wine but chocolate caught my eye before we left Beaune.

We couldn’t leave Beaune without visiting one of its famous wine shops or caves, although we passed up a wine tasting at the Caves des Cordeliers (wine cellars) formerly Beaune’s oldest convent dating to 1242. This despite the lure of going away with my own tastevin or Burgundian wine tasting cup.

Next stop, The Chateau de Rully!