Monday, June 13, 2011

Land of Delicious Molds and Bacteria (June 13th, 2011)

Greetings from Cluny! The day started off with meeting the group under the clock-tower of Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. The week before the meeting, I had stopped at Gare de Lyon train station, so I thought I knew where I was going. However, I used the metro system in Paris and had only seen this station from the inside, and the clock-tower was outside. To make things complicated, there were several entrances to the outside of the station, depending on the subway line and the part of town that can be accessed. Finally, after walking circles outside the perimeter of the station, I found everyone. We boarded the TGV train to Macon-Loche and then took a bus to the town of Cluny.
We are staying at Cluny Sejour—a hostel that was once the candle-making building in Cluny. This is because Cluny was a grand monastery before the French revolution. The building now that it is renovated to a hostel looks like a replica of a typical dorm. There are two or three beds per room, and there is a common bathroom on each floor. Because we are in Cluny, the hostel also has views of the old monastery walls and towers. There is an engineering college across the hostel in a grand building (also converted from the monastery) and the students all wear robes depending on their year. I never thought I would see a school just like Hogwarts in real life!
After arriving in Cluny, we were warmly welcomed with a wine and cheese tasting at the town’s wine shop. We learned by tasting the burgundy region’s local wines and cheeses as defined by the AOC. The AOC, or the Appellation Controlle Origine, is a regulatory committee that preserves local goods [such as cheese and wine] to each region in France by labeling the product “AOC”. For example, Champagne can only be produced in Champagne, France—otherwise it is only sparkling wine if made elsewhere. I absolutely love this system because it preserves patrimone—or heritage, of each region and keeps the economy going. Maconnais goat cheeses are AOC to the Bourgone, or Burgundy region of France. Similarly, the Burgundian wines are made from the regions grapes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The wines would not be called pinot noir or chardonnay—they would instead be named after the AOC region from where they were made. This is because they terroir—or terrain of each region is different, and thus results in a different wine.
Anyhow, I’m heading off to bed soon. Earlier in the evening, I went on a run through the countryside to burn off the cheese and I’ve concluded that the town of Cluny is also a runner’s paradise. There are gradual hills, steep hills, beautiful pastures filled with sheep, goats, cows, and of course—the vineyards. This is such a scenic town. Everyone in town seems to know everyone living here, and the community feeling is strong. I can’t wait to go on my early morning run tomorrow and smell the boulangerie’s fresh baguettes! Bonsoir! Bon nuit!

Everyone minus Dr. Haggblom (who took the picture) at Gare de Lyon train station
Housing at the Cluny Sejour Hostel

Walking up to our first wine and cheese tasting


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