August 31, 2014
All I wanted for my 13th birthday was a rock hammer; and my supportive parents
located an authentic geologic hammer which I used through college and to this day.
Cut to 2014, France, Cote d’Or. My goal today was to go look at some rocks in the
area which had been beckoning to me since I first arrived in Burgundy. Many of the
finest vineyards are on Jurassic limestone; I then recalled that the Jurassic Period is
named after the Jura Mountains to the east of Burgundy. So off I drove, armed with a
saucisson, baguette, hand drawn map and a compass (all which, in turn, proved to be
I made my way east through the French countryside passing the riverside town of
Seurre where a speed boat race was underway, then on to Tavaux, Parcey and
Poligny. In Arbois (a lovely village surrounded by vineyards) I was delighted to find a
statue commemorating the town as the birthplace of Louis Pasteur—whose early work
was with wine, then later applied to the dairy industry. For lunch I enjoyed a croque
monsieur, gougere, glass of red Jura wine, and a delightful chocolate mousse dainty at
a sidewalk table at a boulangerie overlooking the town square.
Between Arbois and Champagnole my rock search was rewarded with a fantastic
limestone outcrop/former quarry where I happily spent an hour climbing about
examining the rocks. The cliffs were truly massive.
It was about at this point I realized I was not too far from Switzerland, and never having
been, I made for Geneva. While it had been dark and threatening to rain in the Jura
Mountains, as soon as I looked down on the glistening lake and town of Geneva, the
sun shone and the air was clear. I was informed by a pleasant couple from Alsace at
the overlook that the border crossing was no big deal, so I continued down into the
valley, over the border and into Geneva. It was then that I realized the greater Geneva
area is closer to 1,000,000 people than the quaint Swiss city I had envisioned. With
no map of the city or GPS, the best I could do was head downslope where I eventually
found the lake. I spent the late afternoon strolling down a magnificent lakeside
promenade, walking through the spray from the giant jet of water which soars several
hundred feet into the air, and enjoying my saucisson and baguette while sitting on a
bench in front of a large fountain in a waterside park.
While many signs facilitated finding my way to Geneva, returning back through the city
to France without a map proved to be more challenging. Luckily I had my compass
and kept heading west and south until I happily spied a sign stating “France” with an
arrow. Perfect. My route home was entirely different, passing through Bellegarde,
Bourg-en-Bresse, Macon (as in the Maconnais wine region) and Chalon-sur-Saone (as
in the Cote Chalonnaise). Somehow I ended up driving through a post-fireworks throng
of festival goers in a town on my way back (who has a fireworks show at 10:30 on a
Sunday night??). Eventually, around 11:30 p.m. I made it back to Volnay…with a trunk full of rocks!