Tag Archives: travel

Two reviews from our road trip to Beaune

Building in the center of town, Beaune
The center of town

Last month we went on a road trip through France, and out first stop was Beaune. This makes for a perfect trip since it’s an easy 4 hour drive from Zurich. Besides enjoying a lovely walk around the city walls, each day we had a few glasses of wine, tried a new restaurant, and then headed back to our hotel satisfied and happy. Two places stood out enough that I’d happily recommend them. (Click on the headings to go to listings on Trip Advisor).

Hotel Alesia

We stayed here once a few years ago when they had two stars, and we really liked it then: friendly, clean, and a good-quality generous breakfast. Their location outside the city is really easy to get to by car, and it’s not too long a walk into the center of town. Now they have three stars and the decor has been nicely upgraded, free WiFi is available, and the price doesn’t seem to have gone up at all. Handy tip: there’s an Aldi right nearby (you can see it from the hotel), which is a great place to stock up on bargain-priced provisions before you drive off to your next destination.

La Part des Anges

We arrived in Beaune planning to eat at two restaurants chosen from Trip Advisor reviews (La Ciboulette and L’incontournable), but being August, they were closed for summer holiday. Oops. On to plan B: wander around and choose by the old-fashioned educated guess. We liked the look of La Part des Anges, so even though the kitchen was closed, simple dishes were still available and we had a plate of smoked salmon, then a cheese platter, both accompanied by a couple different wines by the glass. Everything was perfect, delicious and lovely. We sat outside watching the world go by, taking our time, getting a little tipsy but not drunk, enveloped in that magical feeling of everything being just right. I saw from some reviews on Trip Advisor that it doesn’t always go that way here. But our experience was so nice that my recommendation is definitely give this place a try. Have a glass of wine. See how things go. If you’re not having a good time, move on. But if everything seems good, stay and enjoy la part des anges.

Beaune city wall
Beaune city wall

Great Swiss train trip: Chur to St. Moritz

Graubunden view from train

If you’re looking for a simple train trip in Switzerland that has lots of great scenery, try Chur to St. Moritz (via Tiefencastel). Run by the Rhaetian Railway (aka Rhätische Bahn), which is famous for the Bernina Express and Glacier Express routes, this trip is short and sweet. It’s two hours long, has great views, and doesn’t cost extra if you use a SBB Tageskarte.

My photos don’t really do it justice since I was too busy enjoying the view to spend too much time photographing it, but I hope this gives you an idea.

View of train around curve

map of route

view from train

Madrid: the Reina Sofia Museum

This past weekend I got to go on my first European trip, and spent four days in Madrid with Alan. The food was awesome, the sights were wonderful, but my favorite discovery was the Reina Sofia Museum.

Reina Sofia 9
The 18th-century (left) and 21st-century (right) buildings of the Reina Sofia Museum.

The Reina Sofia Museum opened in 1986 and is one of the world’s great modern art museums. The original building was a hospital completed in the 18th-century, and in 2005 an additional building by Jean Nouvel opened. These two buildings combine to make a magical art-viewing experience.

The new building is very exciting. The interior courtyard has a high red roof and uses a mixture of glass, matte black, and glossy red materials. The layout separates it from the busy street, and right away you feel like you’re somewhere special and new. The galleries inside are white and simple so the art collection can take center stage, but transitions to each floor have the same feeling of architectural drama. There’s also a terrace on the top which you have to see. The combination of glass, reflection, and height make it both striking and dreamy in the filtered light.

Terrace of the new building.
Terrace of the new building.

Joining the new to the old building on each floor are hallways with dark walls, emphasizing the change in architectural styles and making it into a little journey. The 18th-century building also has a courtyard, which is cool and tranquil.

The courtyard in the old building.
The courtyard in the old building.

The original, older building is filled with eccentric rooms which the curators use in innovative and imaginative ways. In the new building I focused on checking out the art in the permanent collection, but in the old one I was excited to discover a Juan Munoz retrospective. His works were in rooms on two floors, and sometimes in the hallways, in the courtyard, or on the small 3rd-floor terrace.

Enigmatic figures on the 3rd-floor terrace.
Enigmatic figures on the 3rd-floor terrace.

Balconies and staircases were subjects featured in his early work, and the retrospective featured two rooms of Munoz’s prints, which you had to climb up a spiral staircase to view on thin, delicate balconies. Another great example of the museum’s presentation is “Many Times”, an installation of 100 figures. Not only are you are allowed to walk among them, which is an eerie and strange experience, but from another room you can also peek through a window to watch the museum-goers among the sculptures.

Munoz; Many Times
Juan Munoz: Many Times. 100 gray, same-looking footless fellows. (This is not my photo since photography isn't allowed inside the museum.)

Munoz's early work often featured balconies, minarets, and stairs.
Juan Munoz: Hotel. Munoz's early work often featured balconies, as well as staircases and minarets, and turning outside into inside. (Once again, not one of my photos).

As an expat I loved Juan Munoz’s themes of displacement and the strange mood of dislocation they produced. It’s enjoyable when your personal life resonates with the art you’re viewing, giving you the bonus of a strong emotional connection. And when you’re lucky enough to experience the marriage of an enchanting setting and pieces so thoughtfully displayed, it’s extra rewarding to be an art-lover. If you like contemporary architecture and art, I highly recommend visiting the Reina Sofia Museum and seeing Juan Munoz: Retrospective (through August 31, 2009).