Beaune—A Jewel of Bourgogne

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After much writing about Provence, it’s time to get back to Burgundy. After all, that’s where it all got started. Yes, Provence is intoxicating, and it has its hold for sure. But Burgundy, and really all of northern and central France, has the type of charm portrayed in fairy tales. Filled with sleepy villages, châteaux, rolling hills, vineyards, and canals, Bourgogne is the essence of charm.

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The town of Beaune, a jewel amid the most dreamy of winemaking villages, is often considered the wine capital of Burgundy.  Though I usually prefer small, sleepy villages, the larger town of Beaune is one classy place, filled with fine restaurants, cafés, museums, wine cellars, and gourmet shops.

It’s an absolute must to sit at a café on the Place Carnot looking out at the charming carousel, medieval rooftops, and enchanting cobblestone streets.

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Wine tasting opportunities are endless. Though a bit touristy, the Marché aux Vins, right by the famous Hospices de Beaune, is a very fun, casual experience. The cellar offers a self-guided tasting tour, where you help yourself to the wine as you walk from barrel to barrel through a candlelit cellar. I can handle that!

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Not to be forgotten is the outdoor market, held on Wednesday and Saturday morning. Filled with gastronomic specialties, this market is one of the most beautiful markets in France. The medieval village comes alive on market day. The regional delights abound. There is also a small section of brocante stands set up, where many treasures await—perhaps an old Dijon mustard jar or a vintage coffee grinder.

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One can get lost for days with much to do in this town. Beaune is truly a Burgundian jewel of culture and elegance. A visit must also include a drive—or better yet a bike ride—on the Route des Grands Crus through the famous winemaking villages of Volnay, Pommard, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Santenay, all surrounded by gorgeous vineyards.

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À bientôt!

Discovering Brancion

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My Bourgogne consists mostly of the charming wine-making villages surrounding the town of Beaune along with Flavigny-sur-Ozerain to the north. But one day we decide to venture a little farther south to see what the village of Brancion (now called Martailly-lès-Brancion) is like.

As we make our way through the rural countryside, it’s a Burgundian feast for the eyes. The winding roads have us enveloped in hills dotted with vineyards, colorful tractors, bales of hay, and the lovely Charolais cattle grazing. The fairy tale just continues as we stumble upon this private château on our way to Brancion.

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Upon arriving at Brancion, we park our car outside the village, as it is a traffic-free zone, and enter by the impressive medieval château. Looking down on the village, it is as though it has been frozen in time.

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What we find is complete solitude as we have this “undiscovered” medieval village all to ourselves on a quiet, sunny October day. The red and golden colors of fall combined with the warmth of the sun are just delightful as we sit and enjoy a glass of wine in an auberge (a family-run inn or restaurant) that we have all to ourselves.

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I still go back and forth tortured between my love for Burgundy and my love for Provence. One minute it is Provence, but then these Burgundian charms just pull me back in. The tug of war continues.

À bientôt!

Wine Tasting Anyone?

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It’s safe to say, I’m no expert on wine by any means. In fact, I hesitate to open my mouth and say even one word on the subject. But years ago, knowing nothing about wine, we chose Burgundy for our first trip to France based on a pastoral scene in a guidebook that just called to us. Little did we know of the complex world of wine that we were about to stumble upon.

Our first trip to Burgundy revolved around everything but wine. We thought the four-euro bottle of wine we purchased from the village épicerie was something. We thought the glass of wine we ordered at the café was something. We had no idea what was all around us right at our fingertips. Yet, we wondered, ‘What are all these signs for caveau, dégustation, and vente de vins located every two feet throughout the region?’ So innocent. But not for long.

I began to do a little research about Burgundy wine before our second trip to the region. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I discovered, unbeknownst to me, that there were Grands Crus, Premiers Crus, village wines, and wines of Bourgogne. I learned how to understand a French wine label. With newfound excitement, I was armed and ready to return.

No longer did I simply order un verre de vin rouge, but I asked to see the wine list. I was excited to try a Grand Cru, a Premier Cru, a village wine. I enjoyed comparing a Pommard to a Volnay to a Savigny-lès-Beaune and a Saint Romain to a Saint Aubin to a Meursault. I was discovering this fascinating, intricate world of Burgundian wine!

Being that we don’t speak much French, especially back then, we pondered should we now take it a step further and go into a cave for dégustation? Nervous and intimidated, we go for it and have our first tasting at Domaine Maurice Gavignet in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Another day, we rang the bell at the caveau of Michel Rebourgeon in Pommard and had a tasting.

Now that monsters have been created, do we dare take it even a step further and ring the bell of a private stone house in Pernand-Vergelesses and ask to taste the family wine? Scared and reluctant, we press the bell. An older French woman, perhaps about 80 years old, answers the door and grants our request. She escorts us down some stone steps into the family cellar where we try her wine. We purchase a few bottles and return on bicycle the next day with one of the bottles for a picnic. An older French gentleman comes up to us and gives us a thumbs up when he looks at what we are drinking on the side of a stone wall. Who knows, maybe he was the winemaker!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

314To top it all off, would you believe that we were actually invited by an English expat neighbor who had a friend who worked at the Rebourgeon winemaking facility in Pommard to go on a tour to see the process of making wine? Do you think I was smart enough to document that? No! But I remember we tried the wine for that year’s vintage, which was still undrinkable at the time. The wine was passed around from the workers to us in a communal wine glass. I figured the alcohol would kill any germs and decided just to live like the French for a moment and be free.

I still haven’t learned too much about wine but that it is a fascinating, complex art. Wine is alive. It is a piece of the land, the terroir. It truly is a gift.

À bientôt!

“Burgundy Healed Me”

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Funny story. A few years back, I was undergoing a bit of a stressful time, and we decided to take a last minute trip to Burgundy to help me “recover.” Escapism, I know.

So we arrive in Meursault exhausted after flying all night and pick up our “hidden” key to our adorable gite rental. We open the door and begin to explore our new home only to discover that it had not been prepared for us since the last guests checked out. I felt a little stressed. So we called the gite manager, and she sent someone right away to clean and prepare it for our arrival What to do?

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We have a couple hours to kill, so we decide to sit in the center of the village and order a bottle of Meursault while we enjoy the fairy-tale-like view of the château. Being as I had been under a lot of stress as of lately, I say to my husband, “It’s amazing how well I am doing!” He responds, “It’s amazing how well you are doing? You are sitting in the most charming wine-making village in Bourgogne sipping a Meursault wine in front of a château, and it’s amazing how well you are doing? Yes. You deserve a medal for enduring such hardships!” Point well taken. We had a good laugh, and “It’s amazing how well I am doing!” became the saying of our trip.

I kept saying that I am going to write a book entitled “Burgundy Healed Me.” Yes, being amidst the vines is soothing, nurturing, healing.

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There are so many beautiful, serene spots in this world to be discovered. But as any Francophile will tell you, there is something addicting, something intoxicating, about France that keeps one needing more.

À bientôt!

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois—Fairy-tale Burgundy

116One of the things that adds to the romantic charm of Burgundy is the 150-mile-long Canal de Bourgogne, which winds its way from one village to the next. It’s hard to find a more storybook village than Châteauneuf with its enchanting château perched high on a hill overlooking the canal below. This is a must see village on a trip to Burgundy.

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There is nothing more relaxing than trekking along the towpath, where there are abundant opportunities to stop and have a picnic or enjoy a glass of Bourgogne vin blanc or vin rouge—special moments that stay with you forever.

It was an overcast, misty day in the month of October when we last visited Châteaneuf. This just added to the mystery of the medieval village and beckoned us to take cover in the village crêperie called L’Orée du Bois. Burgundy is not too touristy in general, but we basically had the whole village as well as the crêperie to ourselves that day.

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Hope you get to journey to Châteauneuf-en-Auxois one day and discover the rustic, country charm of Burgundy.

À bientôt!

Villers-la-Faye—A “Secret” Burgundian Charm

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There is this little village, probably known to few, that we stayed in a few years back on one of our Burgundian sojourns that is authentic Burgundy at its best. There are no shops, other than a small boulangerie and a local winemaker. There is probably no reason for any tourist to stop off here. But, oh, it’s the real thing when it comes to charm!

I remember waking up our first morning in Villers-la-Faye and leaving our adorable gite to explore the village. My first thought was, ‘I’m in a real French village!’ There was no tourism, just real French life.

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Our gite called la Maison de la Vielle Vigne

The most memorable thing to do in this village is to walk past the Place de la Mairie and onto the Mont Saint Victor path overlooking the most picture-postcard village of Magny-lès-Villers. Whenever we are in Burgundy, we always return to stroll this path and just sit on the bench above Magny to take it all in. The vineyards, the tractors, the rolling hills, the architecture—it’s charm for days.

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View of Magny-lès-Villers from the Mont Saint Victor walk

More pictures overlooking Magny-lès-Villers and of charming Villers-la-Faye.

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À bientôt!

Meursault—The Most Charming Burgundian Winemaking Village

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It doesn’t get much more charming on the Route des Grands Crus than the winemaking village of Meursault. This storybook charming village, filled with character, is a dream. From the moment you arrive in the centre and view the château with the fountain bubbling forth until you sit down in the village square and have un café or your first taste of one of the great Meursault whites, you will be in bliss.

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The white wines of Meursault, made from chardonnay grapes, are considered some of the world’s best, along with its neighbors Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. The unique Burgundian terroir produces Meursault whites that are crisp, rich, buttery, full of minerality. I would describe it as tasting the golden color of autumn in a glass. The wine shop in the centre of the village offers glasses of the region’s delicious whites for five euros. You can sit outside and enjoy the view of the château.

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Café across from château

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It is absolutely a must to wander off the beaten path onto the back roads of the village to walk through the gorgeous vineyards and discover the hidden charms.

Hope you enjoyed this little escape for today to the charming village of Meursault.

À bientôt!

 

Semur-en-Auxois—A Burgundian Jewel

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Without a doubt, Semur-en-Auxois is the most picturesque and photogenic of the Burgundian villages to be explored. You truly won’t be able to put your camera down as you make your way around the ramparts and down to the banks of the River Armançon, which winds its way through the charming village.

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This medieval village has it all—character, charm, prettiness, romance, mysteriousness. Though the smaller nearby village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain still remains my favorite, Semur-en-Auxois is a must see on a visit to Burgundy. In fact, you can combine the two villages on the same day if needed, making sure to go to Ferme Auberge la Grange in Flavigny for lunch.

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One can’t help but get lost in this romantic and pretty village, from the winding cobblestone streets in the medieval center down to the picturesque banks of the river.

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Semur-en-Auxois is about 45 minutes from Beaune and the charming, notable wine-making villages of the region. Near Beaune is where I prefer to stay and then travel out a bit to explore. The villages of Meursault, Pommard, and Villers-la-Faye have all been excellent locations to stay. From there it is an easy and scenic trip to Semur-en-Auxois.

À bientôt!

 

Biking the Route des Grands Crus

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The Beaune to Santenay cycling route is an absolute must—a never to be forgotten experience—when visiting this region of Bourgogne. This 44-kilometer round-trip route will take you into the heart of the prestigious vineyards on the Route des Grands Crus while you pass through one charming storybook village after another.

To start, you can pick up your bikes at Bourgogne Randonnees in Beaune. The friendly staff will help map out your route and provide tips on where to stop for wine tastings. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to bike 44 kilometers while stopping to taste wine along the way. J’aime la France!

After a short distance of cycling through traffic in Beaune, you will reach the peaceful bike route. The first village you will come to is Volnay. It’s hard to resist the temptation to leave the bike route and explore every nook and cranny of these picturesque villages filled with charm.

The next village you will come to is Pommard, which produces some seriously good vin rouge that is described as masculine compared to its neighboring Volnay that produces a more delicate, or feminine, red from the pinot noir grape. Oh so many great opportunities for tasting in this village! But we have a long way to go.

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The winding bike route through the vineyards as you approach Pommard

As the route takes you past Pommard and into the center of the next village, you will just want to pinch yourself. The charming village of Meursault is the most dreamy of them all. Here is where you will definitely want to stop for un café while you sit in the village square in front of the château.

From here it’s down the hill—which means you will have to come back up—and on to Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet, where the terroir contributes to the world’s greatest chardonnays being produced. There are ample spots along the way to stop and have a picnic on the side of a stone wall overlooking the world-renowned Puligny vineyards. Or you can have either an elegant lunch at le Montrachet or a tasting lunch at la Table d’Olivier Leflaive, both located in Puligny-Montrachet.

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At this point, if you can still make it on and up the hill to Santenay—or perhaps leave that for another day by car—you will cycle by more beautiful vineyards.

You’ve made it, hopefully. If so, there is another charming square with a beautiful fountain and more restaurants for lunch if you timed it right. We made it to Santenay one time at 1:50 p.m., plopped ourselves down at a restaurant, and ordered just a bottle of wine as a reward before making the long ride back. Of course, this was probably completely unacceptable etiquette. But at the time, we didn’t know any better. Nonetheless, we were served a bottle of wine.

If you can find the energy to make it up just one more little hill before heading back, you will be brought to the most picturesque château—where naturally there is wine tasting—and a fairy-tale-like turret above the village of Santenay.

Now, it’s a long trip back to Beaune. But what a gorgeous ride it will be! And what better way to end the day than at le Clos Carnot, because I think it should be about apéritif time!

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À bientôt!

 

Aloxe-Corton and a Visit to Domaine Comte Senard

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Aloxe-Corton is a charming little winemaking village in Bourgogne. The number one reason we explore new villages is for charm. The second? The food and wine of course! Loving good wine, yet being novices to the culture, we have somehow … Continue reading