Looking for a relaxing trip in France? Consider Burgundy. Known for its wine and its food, it’s a more laid back option than Paris.
Stretching over 60kms, the Cote d’Or is divided into two regions: the Cote de Beaune and the Cote de Nuits, making it easy to tailor your visit to a weekend or a week, depending on the amount of time you have. You can also choose to focus on the reds (Nuits) or sample more whites of the region (Beaune).
But unlike the Route du Vin, many vineyards require advance appointments and charge a hefty price for tastings, so you’ll need to do a little bit of planning.
The epicenter of the region is Dijon, with it’s gorgeous l’Eglise Notre Dame, a gothic cathedral. It’s typically the starting point for either route and home of the famous mustard.
But the heart of Burgundy seems to be in Beaune.
It’s a charming town. Stroll along its cobblestone streets, as you’re captivated by its distinctly painted buildings, like the Hotel-Dieu.
It’s a good base for exploring the northern region.
Beaune is also a good option for sampling wines from around Burgundy. A visit to the Marche aux Vins can provide it all.
You can sample 20 up to wines, both red and white, from all over the region, as you walk through the cellar/museum while learning about the differences in wines from one town to the next and the basis for the various designations and price differentials. Check out their cool chandelier too.
If you spend the night in Beaune, make a reservation first or you might have a hard time. It’s a little pricey too, so consider staying on the outskirts of town, a short drive away.
For more of an adventure, stop at some of the gorgeous vineyards along the wine route (in either direction) to sample some of the most famous wines of the region and more obscure selections. The Chateau du Gevrey-Chambertin is as impressive as the wine that bears its name. We found an amazingly good and reasonably priced Ladoix and an even lovelier Aloxe Corton at Pierre Andre. Too bad I can’t purchase them here. Most of the wines you find in Burgundy aren’t exported, so purchase as much as you can carry – or have it shipped. The prices are worth it, at least compared to what I pay in NYC for an equivalent Grand Cru.
Now that you’ve sampled a good amount of wine, you’ll need to eat. Hopefully, you made a reservation at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants in the area. But if you overlooked this detail or figured it wasn’t necessary, you may still be in luck. After a few unsuccessful attempts — even begging to let us dine in what appeared to be open seats, we decided to steer clear of the more frequented restaurants in larger towns. Instead, we were fortunate to walk into the idyllic Les Gourmets. Off the beaten path in Marsannay la Cote, it’s a great choice, especially if you’re driving from one area to the next. We had an excellent lunch from the set menu, including rouget and a great cheese plate (somehow I only managed to get a shot of the cheese).
Then we headed northwest to Vezelay, where we had scheduled a hot air balloon ride over the Morvan.
Maybe it’s not a great idea to drink before you fly, as I started to experience vertigo as I became overheated from the flame and made the mistake of looking down for too long.
Lesson learned. But it was an incredible experience that I recommend if you have the time, aren’t afraid of heights and it fits in with your budget.Watch the sheep become specks as you rise high above the farms.
Wild boar will run through the forest beneath you.
Hopefully, you’ll land in a field somewhere safe and on the right side of the fence, so as not to disturb any animals grazing nearby.
Tip: Check out the Burgundy tourism site for the most up-to-date info on events, including cooking classes. If driving, watch your speed, especially if you don’t have French plates. The shakedown police stopped basically every foreign car at the toll booth and forced us to pay a hefty fine — without any evidence. Make sure you have cash on hand to pay immediately or you could end up with your car impounded (also what occurs if you want to dispute the ticket).
And they don’t speak English, so thankfully my high school French was enough to grasp what was going on. I decided to pay and be on our way. Despite this, I still love my times in France. And it did make for a good story.