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We're in Burgundy!

10/14/10 - Pont Aubert, France   (Shutterfly photo album - Northern Burgundy, France)

Visiting the charming, northern region of Burgundy

Approximately 2 1/2 hours southeast of Paris lies the northern edge of Burgundy, renowned for their wine and food - making it an obvious choice for our next stop after leaving Paris.  One of the first towns we came across was Chablis, where we enjoyed the scent of wine in the air and stopped in the local co-op to sample the first of many Burgundy wines.  The very scenic, but confusing, local roads led us next to the historic, charming village of Vezelay, another recommendation from our friend Christopher.  We arrived shortly before sunset, walking up the quaint but steep streets to the Basilica Ste. Madeleine, located at the top.  The views from the walls of this hilltop town over the surrounding villages and countryside were absolutely spectacular, especially in the late afternoon light.  The basilica was beautiful, and we were there just in time to hear vespers, adding to the ambiance.

Our hotel for the next two nights was the Au Soleil d'Or in Pont Aubert, an extremely small village about 10 minutes east of Vezelay.  This establishment was... just fine.  Quirkier than our contemporary room in Paris, the friendly staff made up for a lot, especially the young man who seemed to enjoy practicing his English with us, giving us a welcome break from speaking French (or attempting to, anyway).  Upon finding many of the area's restaurants closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we ended up dining in the hotel restaurant both nights of our stay, and were not disappointed. 

Remember how we said it was unseasonably warm in Paris?  Well, no more! On Wednesday morning, we stepped out of the hotel, breath visible, with all of our sweaters, coats, gloves, and scarves on, and were still freezing.  After a quick stop in the work-a-day town of Avallon for coffee and a hair dryer (the Au Soleil d'Or's wasn't going to do), we spent a long day in the car driving through Burgundy, getting a little lost in the Parc Morvan while trying to get to Semur en Auxois.  When we finally did arrive in the quiet  historic center of Semur, we enjoyed a lovely walk through the steep, cat-lined streets (yes, there were many furry friends with which to engage).  We skipped a tour of the Fontenay Abbey, which was the next stop on our route, since a busload of Germans just beat us there, and instead visited the touristy-but-quiet village of Flavigny sur Ozerain.  Flavigny is famous for both its anise candies and for being a location where the movie Chocolat was shot.  Scott was pretty sure that Caroline had one eye on the candies and the other looking to see if Johnny Depp might be back for a nostalgic visit.  We also caught our first real glimpse of the lovely Burgundy Canal, where we vowed to return for a canal & bike trip someday.  For now, we'd settle for a brief walk and a few snapshots, before heading back to Vezelay for a pair of pre-dinner Kir Royales (très régionale) at the Poste & Lion Hotel.

On Thursday it was time to pack up yet again, when we headed south for the popular wine town of  Beaune in the southern-central part of Burgundy.  On our way, we stopped off in the region's largest city, Dijon - where we kept a close lookout for passengers in Rolls Royces passing each other mustard.  Dijon was the first place that we saw any evidence of the nation-wide strikes that had been going on, as there was a fairly large student protest in the city center.  Most of the students seemed to be enjoying the pleasantly sunny day a little too much to be taking the march very seriously (or they were texting while marching).  Dijon seemed to be a great mix of historically charming city center - with its colorfully tiled roofs and half-timber architecture - and a more bustling modern town with upscale shopping and enticing restaurants, and we think it could be an excellent spot to spend a longer time exploring.  But since we were trying to get down to Beaune at a reasonable hour and also enjoy the scenic drive through wine country on the way, we didn't stay long.

The scenic drive to Beaune along the Route des Grands Crus lived up to its top-billing status.  We drove through one tiny old wine village after another, each with its own chateau, set in the middle of endless vineyard vistas.  As we drove in the late afternoon sunshine, the vines appeared to be on fire, in their vibrant shades of yellow and red.  A stunning drive, which, even Caroline agreed, would be wonderful to bicycle some day.  Scott will not let her forget.


Vineyards in Chablis

 

Walking the streets of Vezelay

 

Examples of the tiled rooftops and half-timber architecture (left) typically  found in Dijon

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