Honestly though, I feel that when many people think about France as a country, they have a preconceived notion that Paris is the final destination with the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and a couple of other sights to see in the city. What they are missing out on are the hundreds of beautiful attractions that France has to offer which are quite far from Paris. Living in Cluny, aka wine country, France for two weeks now, I have seen some of the great features of this region of the country. Here are my favorite things that we have done thus far:
1. Learned about the history of Cluny
Now I know that I have spoken at length already about this small town, but it is honestly quite beautiful! Not only did we stay inside one of France’s 10th century monastery towns, we also got to witness Arts et Métiers Paristech’s (aka Cluny Engineering Graduate School) homecoming complete with a red carpet gala, two farmer’s market days, and a two day international reggae festival (As I type this post my room is buzzing from the base!)
2. The Wineries
I call this region of France “wine country” because when you are surrounded by grape vines every which way you turn, there is bound to be a winery nearby! Our group visited the Perraud Family Winery, Bouchard Winery, and Clos de Vougeot to name a few. At Bouchard, we were able to see some of the oldest bottles of wine in the world dating back to the 1700’s which can be seen dust-ladden here! I got a crash course on how red vs. white wines are made. Speaking of which, did you know that the juice of a red grape is actually white? In order to get those deep red colors that make Burgundy and Beaujolais famous, the juices must sit in vats with the grape skin so that the color from the skin can be dissolved into the juice and then vinified into wine! Not only did we visit wineries, we received VIP all access passes to tour these wineries and taste their wonderful wines! I wouldn’t say that I am a connoisseur by any means, but after tasting more than THIRTY different wines this week, I’d say that I know my way around the bottles.
3. The Cheese Factories
Some people are wine people, while others are cheese people…I am definitely a cheese person! With so many different French cheeses to taste, I quickly became lost when I arrived. In the time that I have been here, I visited two industrial sized factories,and three farms all of which produced absolutely delectable cheeses. Just yesterday, we visited a co-op cheese factory where about ten farmers send their cow and goat’s milk to the factory where it is transformed into either morbier or comte cheese. As a die-hard fan of soft cheeses, comte frightened me a little bit not only because of its large size, but also because of its strong taste. Not only did I love it, I bought half a kilogram of it to eat! I only spent a few days in a couple regions of France which means that I’ll have to come back to try more cheese.
4. Louis Pasteur
I am pretty sure that at this time in your life, you have heard the term “pasteurization” as it is applied to milk. This process involves the heating of raw milk to kill off all microbes in the milk for safe consumption. This process was founded by Louis Pasteur in Arbois, France along with a slew of other (possibly more important) discoveries. Pasteur is recognized internationally as the “Father of Microbiology” due to his development of the world’s first ever vaccine for rabies which allowed for more people to keep dogs as pets. In addition, Pasteur challenged the global ideal of spontaneous generation. He was able to prove that life does not just generate out of thin air. Also, he proved that some microbes were able to live in the absence of air which, quite literally, changed the definition of life forever! As a science major who is interested in microbiology, I cannot believe that I was able to tour his laboratory and look at the glassware and equipment that he used in these pivotal experiments.
5. The Landscapes
With all of the traveling that we have done here, there has been a lot of time spent on the bus. I have finally experienced a highway that I dislike more than the New Jersey Parkway. In fact, all highways in the countryside of France only contain two lanes, one for each way, and most of the time, they are too narrow for two cars, but enough about that. The countryside of France is absolutely beautiful with all of the vineyards and sights to see! One afternoon, we visited the village of Baume and got to hang around this beautiful waterfall. There is just so much green along the highways which makes up for those cons that I previously listed and I cannot forget to mention the pastureland. Some areas are known for their wine, and others for their cheese, but in order to help cultivate both of these products, animals are needed to either plow the land or offer their milk for processing. Every couple of minutes while driving, you can see a pasture of cows, or horses, or goats which was always fun!
Though my time in Cluny, France is coming to an end, I know that I will always remember my trip here! Stay tuned for a couple more installments of this blog!