Dick and I are back in Paris after several days in Beaune, France, the heart of Burgundy and its wine. Once again we stayed at our favored L’Hote de Beaune, first introduced to us by a Butterfield & Robinson bike tour we took about five years ago. Biking through Burgundy on the mythical Route des Grands Crus is how we became interested in the complex subject of Burgundy wines, as we visited the revered wine villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Aloxe-Corton, and Puligny-Montrachet.
The Butterfield tours at the L’Hotel de Beaune are off about two-thirds, we were told. According to a manager, Americans are concerned about terrorism and are opting instead to stay and travel in the U.S.A.
We had lunch yesterday in Paris at the Patricia Wells-recommended Cafe Varenne on the corner of Rue de Bac in the 6th arrondissement. Same friendly service and delicious food as earlier in May, but this time, policier sporting serious looking Uzi-like weapons outside the restaurant. Not sure what it was about, and we were not concerned (since no one else seemed to be), but it was interesting after talking with so many French about their concern over weakening tourism.
Our Burgundy friend David (Bourgogne Avec Chauffeur) has taken us on tours of the vineyards and transported us to and from Paris-Beaune several times. As he explained, another incident (terrorist) is going to make an already teetering industry come to an abrupt halt.
Strikes by unions are also not helping. Unions protesting France’s labor laws have closed six of France’s eight refineries (right before the soccer games). Many petro stations have run dry, stranding motorists, according to the Independent:
A third of petrol stations were dry or dangerously low on fuel after days of blockades at refineries by union activists.
British motorists traveling to France in the next few days would be well advised to arrive with full tanks. Some of the worse stricken areas are around the Channel tunnel and ferry ports in northern.
The French government already faces a nerve-racking time during the month-long soccer competition. More than 500,000 fans from the UK alone are expected to cross the Channel – half of them without tickets. France is still on high security alert following the November jihadist attacks, in Paris.
On our drive back to Pairs from Burgundy, David stopped to fill up on the highway because some stations in Burgundy are already running low on petrol. Wish I had taken pictures of the long lines.
On purely anecdotal evidence, Dick and I would say most cafes and bistros are only half full. Walking past Café Flore, it was hard not to notice how disturbingly empty it was. We had no trouble getting a table at our favorite Basque restaurant off Rue St. Dominique in the 7th. Pottoka is usually reservations only, even at lunch.
The manager of one of the lovely Palace hotels in the 8th arrondissement was boasting that his hotel’s occupancy rate was 80% in May, the only one in Paris, he said. A high-end shopping guide has lived in Paris for years. Her business is off 80% from same time last year. She counts on May and June to carry her through the less-touristy summer months and now is unsure her days as a tour guide continue to be viable.
And finally, Dick just received an email from a friend of ours who is a wine rep in Rhode Island. The strike is killing his business, he reported.
C’est la vive from Paris.