Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Le Hameau du Vin

If you've logged on and found the blog short of updates it is for two reasons - the first and truly the most important, is that our lovely daughter came to stay for the week and in fact only left by plane into Gatwick airport late this afternoon; the second reason was that I wanted to wait until I had something new to write about regarding an attraction in the area. Hence this blog!
When someone comes to stay it is always a great chance to introduce them to something in the area and we had promised ourselves and Hannah, that when she came, we would have a day out at the Hameau du Vin.
On Tuesday we set out towards Macon and then drove south for a few kilometres until we found signs for Romanche-Thorens.  In this village is a large attraction - it's advertised as a museum of wine, but honestly it is a lot more than that. We entered into a massive hall - reminiscent of an old fashioned railway station booking office. It was beautifully elegant, shiny and and well kept. We went to buy our ticket- and I have to say that I always explain (in French!) that we are English so that hopefully the official will 1)either speak in English or 2)speak slowly enough in French that we can make an attempt at understanding! The man who sold the tickets explained in English - and slowly that the ticket was in three parts - and that were we not able to do the whole tour at one visit our tickets would continue to be valid for at least a year so we could go back! Armed with headsets which did simultaneous translation into English, the first part was the museum itself with a succession of rooms explaining in many different ways the production of wine, corks, glass and wine seals. When I write it like that it does sound boring but it wasn't at all! We saw a collection of wonderful old tools used in vine production over 100 years ago. Then when you might think this was getting a bit boring we went into a room that informed us that Noah was the first wine grower. A very clever animation introduced us to Noah, the familiar story told but with a twist - Noah took on board the ark a vine and looked after it, planting it after the ark came to land on Mount Ararat.
We then learned about the different terroirs - soils - of the Beaujolais region, which is where the museum is situated. We met a automaton winemaker and his chatty vine, and went on a visit with 2 bees over the Beaujolais countryside in a pod, which moved in harmony with the film.We were introduced to the 10 crus of the Beaujolais and were able to pinpoint them on a 3D map.
I can never understand how anyone might need wine  in bottles this size!
After we had completed the whole tour of the museum, we went into a beautiful dining area where we were offered a glass of wine. We heard the organ playing too!
After we had toured the shop which was well stocked with wine
and lots of other stuff we had time to visit the second part of the museum.

Across the road was the old railway station building. Unlike many railway stations in England that have been converted because the main line is no longer in use, the line continues busy, but the station building is on the other side of the free car park!
In the old station, there were several things of interest - the first being the Imperial railway carriage of Napoleon III. Apparently when Napoleon and his empress toured the country they stood in the picture window and waved to people on the railway station platforms as they went by!

It was very beautifully furnished, although I wouldn't have felt very safe without chairs fixed to the floor!
We then saw some wonderful train layouts - and examples of trains that perhaps my brother had as a child!

Hannah and Joe puzzle out which trains are on which tracks!

The third part of the visit is to the winery and the gardens and there's a tourist train that gives you a free ride to that. We decided that we had run out of time for this so that is for another day!
After the visit, I am completely in awe of the hard-working wine producers who are at the mercy of the climate and the weather - the wine produced is tasty and amazing!

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