Following the grape

Today was all about Beaujolais.

We started the day visiting the town of Villefranche-sur-Saône, the start of the Beaujolais Villages circuit. This town celebrates the local product and is a good starting place to learn about the various types of Beaujolais. We never realized that there is such a thing as Beaujolais Blanc. We had some for lunch and it was fabulous. However, only 1.5 million bottles are produced, versus 30 million of Beaujolais Nouveau, so no wonder we never see it – the French keep it for themselves.

Then it was a short drive on to Vaux-en-Beaujolais, which is like a story-book French village of another era. It is perched on a hill and has lovely views with vineyards all around.

And then we learned that there is a story-book version of this town, known as Clochemerle.

We are late to the party in learning about this 1934 satirical novel by Gabriel Chevallier, set in a French village inspired by Vaux-en-Beaujolais, which deals with the ramifications over plans to install a new urinal in the village square. This town celebrates that relationship, to the extent of having a functioning old-time urinal set up in the plaza which honors the author and his work. The surrounding buildings have murals with characters made famous by the original book and those that followed.

I sense a French Mapp and Lucia here. And the tourist office mademoiselle acknowledged that the urinal is actually used by the locals – “When they’re drunk,” she said disapprovingly. Can’t wait to read about this funny town of Clochemerle. They actually have talking plants around town which provide excerpts of the book in both French and English. Hysterical.

We are staying the Auberge de Clochemerle, an inn run by Romain Barthe, a young rising star in the chef world, with one Michelin star to his credit already. Great view from our window.

Tonight we made an exception to our habit of not eating out for dinner, as it would be a crime to miss this magic just downstairs. It was divine. Can’t describe everything except we did have a lobster starter and filet de veau for a main course, with lots of things amusing our bouches before and after.  Sigh.

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