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Bourgogne, September 2010

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Bourgogne in September! Fall is a perfect season to visit this region, as it is colorful and bustling with the grape harvest in full swing. Some may only know this region by the name Burgundy, but whatever you call it, it is a wonderful part of France.

September 2010 is when the same group of people, that joined me last year in the Dordogne region, decided to go along again for another adventure. Karen was courageous enough to become the sixth member to join us this year.

We rented a van, a Renault Trafic, at Charles de Gaulle Airport and headed southeast for the Bourgogne region. Each of our eleven days was filled by strolling through charming villages and towns, exploring castles which are peppered all over the region, and driving through miles and miles of beautiful green farmland, vineyards full of grapes, and on tiny rural routes barely large enough for our van, let alone two-way traffic.

We stayed in a total of five different hotels, which enabled us to do less driving and more exploring. Our first hotel was between Avallon and Vézelay in a beautiful wooded area on the banks of a small river. Vezélay is impressive with its 12th century basilica and quaint village which winds its way up to the church.

We stopped at Abbey de Fontenay, the oldest Cistercian monastery in Europe, founded in 1118. We then drove to Semur-en-Auxois, a walled city which dates back to the 13th century. The view of this town is spectacular as you cross the river. Our last stop for that day was in the village of Epoisses, famous for its cheese of the same name.

Our next hotel was in the village of Saint Seine L’Abbaye, northwest of Dijon. We spent a full day in Dijon, but that was certainly not enough time. It was a bustling market day and we each bought food at the various market stands and then had a picnic in a park. A nice break from the two plus hour lunches we were having in restaurants.

The following day we drove to Flavigny. This quaint little sleepy village boasts two big phenomenons. First, this is where the little jaw-breaker candies of licorice are made and have been made since 1591, each one with a tiny anis seed inside. This was also the location where the film Chocolat, with Juliette Binoche, was filmed. The church (in the film) is right in the heart of the village. We then drove to our first Bourguignon castle, Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin, complete with moat, turrets and beautifully manicured gardens.

Time to move on to another hotel! We drove to the lovely town of Beaune. Our small hotel was run by a husband and wife team and they served us wonderful buffet breakfasts. This was “home” for the next four nights. We spent part of a day visiting the Hospices de Beaune which has its famous multi-colored glazed tiled roof. Just a gem to look at! This was a former hospital run by Catholic nuns, which was known up until the 20th century as the Palace of the Poor.

We spent a couple of different days driving the Route des Vins and the Route des Grands Crus, to the north and south of Beaune. We visited many of the big names wineries:

Volnay, Pommard, Clos de Vougeot, Meursault, to name a few. My daughter, Jessica and her boyfriend Gonzalo, came from Zurich to spend the weekend with us in Beaune, and joined us as we drove from winery to winery. What fun we all had!

Our last town and hotel in the region was in Cluny, where the Abbey de Cluny, the largest Christian building in the world until St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in Rome in the 16th century, used to stand. We spent a day in the town and another day exploring the small villages nestled in the surrounding area. Some of the little roads we ended up on were definitely not made for a minivan, and we encountered some rather tight spots but we made it through them.

Leaving the region and heading back to the Paris area, we stopped in the town of Chablis, known for its wine. We only had time to have a quick lunch and wander a bit through the town, but it was well worth the stop and we were sorry not to have more time to explore it. Off to spend the night in a town near Charles de Gaulle Airport to be able to leave on an early flight. Another wonderful trip to a beautiful region of France!

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