Saturday, October 17, 2009

Interlude in France

For some years now I have intended our going to Dijon to use as a base for visiting Beaune to see the great Van der Weyden
polyptych in the Hotel-Dieu there. When I first thought of doing this Ryanair flew to Dijon which would probably have made
for an easier journey though not necessarily a pleasanter one. Taking Eurostar from St Pancras with a change in Paris is
fairly straightforward. Fast, fairly smooth journeys of around two hours more or less on each sector. Overall, I thought the
French TVG stock was better quality than that of Eurostar with better announcements (the heavily accented English on Eurostar was not that good). The local train between Dijon and beaune was adequate for a short ride. With the pound having lost value against the Euro, meals were costly - our hotel was adequate as a base but rather costly and breakfast at
£15.00 was a meal we took elsewhere. By and large, the meals we had, both informal and formal, were OK but not outstanding and the wines unexpectedly expensive for the heart of a major wine growing area. I tried andouillette which is a
tripe-filled sausage at one meal - interesting but I don't think I shall repeat it. A major gripe about both websites and the
publicity materials issued by tourist authorities is the lack of any scale on so many of the maps. The one I eventually found for Dijon was fine, that for Beaune covered a small enough area that the lack of scale did not matter but the one I used for the detour to the Musee Jacquemart-Andre in Paris on the return journey gave us grief: what appeared to be possibly a 10 minute walk turned out to be much more on what had become a hot day - we took a cab back to Gare du Nord afterwards to
make up for this! The Van der Weyden is definitely one of the great masterpieces of the northern Renaissance, not quite as
superb as the Van Eyck 'Mystic Lamb' nor as startling as the Grunewald Isenheim altarpiece, but brilliant in its conception and
execution. Obviously now carefully displayed away from its intended setting, it is easy to imagine the effect it would have had on the occupants in an age where belief was part and parcel of everyday life. To paraphrase Michelin, worth far more than a detour. The Musee des Beaux Arts in Dijon has some fine early work, both Flemish and Italian as well as an extensive collection of later works which received rather less of our time than the earlier items did. The 'Brueghel, Memling, Van Eyck'
exhibition which occasioned the Parisian detour was a disappointment. Very crowded with several group visits in progress with 'learned' lecturers explaining what the paintings were to what seemed to be, as so often, mainly bored listeners. The
trouble is that they detract from the enjoyment of others by obscuring the paintings. This is a practice which should not be
allowed. There was only one Van Eyck and a few Brueghels and Memlings with a fair amount of lesser works but I suppose it would have been a pity to miss it.

1 comment:

pppatty said...

That about says it all!