Saturday, December 14, 2013

The autoroute in winter

We left Paris and drove the A6 past Fontainebleu... the forest goes on forever. The shadows of the trees lengthened as we drove. It was 2 degrees centigrade when we started in. We saw turned-up fields with frost settled into the lines of the tractor's tires. Just outside the péage (toll gates) at Fleury-en-Biére, we saw a huge abstract painting-- something along the lines of a Joan Mitchell. Just there. We headed deeper into Burgundy, and the road is now called The Autoroute du Soleil (the highway of the sun). A church with a pitched slate roof tells us we are still pretty far north. Clustered village and two distant farms, a yellow "la Poste" truck on the parallel little road.

Mistletoe clusters in bare trees... the mistletoe is green against the greys and browns. More frost, now on the grasses near the highway. A fat French hawk on a fence. The greens in the field sparkle... melting frost? Shadows of trees stretching down their hill.

Then, a "Pays de Charolais" sign, and up come the white cattle against the brown and green grassy hills. We see two more hawks.

Then the "Côte d'Or."  Tidy little (trimmed?) hedgerows around planted fields, and more white cattle. Two trees, nearly disappearing under the mistletoe. Then we see our first field of rolled hay bales.

Molly and Bloom... two people, in one. Molly, in James Joyce's Ulysses, stays at the center of Bloom's moving world. One part of us moves, one part of us stays. This is the time when we are moving, and loving the moving.

It is so beautiful here. Charley sees a hawk hunting.

Fifth hawk, passing the Chateau d'Eguilly. A broken, but still imposing, fort/castle. A village behind, still protected. A hillside, all snow. Clumps of grass sticking together, iced and green all at once.

"Chateauneuf" village off to our left. The canal de Bourgogneon our right. Then, the valley of the Ouche River, all white hills.

"Alert Meteo: Nuit Prochaine Verglas" the sign says, warning that the roads will freeze tonight.

All of a sudden, everything is mist. Like a fairy tale. Then, at the Beaune exit, grapevines covered in white frost. It is now -2 degrees centigrade outside. Sixth hawk. Department: Saône et Loire. Seventh hawk, huge and shaggy. 8th hawk, then birches, with some yellow and some frosted leaves.  -1 degree centigrade. A row of farmed poplars.

Now it is 0 degrees. The grass is green again, but anything standing up in the air is white: bushes, vines, straggly grass, trees, fences. The houses remain grey and beige. Ninth and tenth hawks.

Our diesel Citroen C3 has used 1/4 of its little tank in 4 hours.

11th hawk. 12th hawk. Charley says they are watching the cars.

13the hawk. 14th hawk, wings spread, looking down at his claws.

Fifteenth and final hawk.

We arrive in Maçon. We fall, somehow, into the best, smallest, warmest restaurant in town.

This is lapin en gelée with mâche salad and onion confit at "le Carafé: Les Vins en Liberté," a bistro-cave in Maçon. There are three choices of first course, three choices of second, three desserts. The wines of the night were Minervois and Morgon. A man came in from his vineyard with a bottle of Volnay and gave us a taste... we then talked with some of the customers about wines and Maçon.

Today, we were wanderers.

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