Burgundy’s Best: What to See
If the stress and hustle and bustle of modern life has you yearning for something a little more real, it’s time to book an escorted tour to Burgundy, one of the best cities to visit in France for wine and relaxation. It’s here in this quiet region in the west of France, in view of the majestic Mont Blanc, that life pulsates with authenticity and simplicity. Farmers bring their goods to market every morning in the village square and winemakers tend to their centuries-old vineyards, humbly producing some of the world’s greatest vin. Heritage, tradition and a commitment to what’s pure and true guide life in Burgundy. Here’s what to see on your small group tour of the region:
Part of what gives Burgundy’s vineyards their charm is their winemakers’ understated and reserved attitude toward their world-class product that fetches thousands of dollars per bottle for some varieties. Unlike other famous wine regions in France, like Bordeaux, there is no pomp and circumstance or flash. Burgundy’s winemakers maintain a fierce, traditionalist commitment to their land, which has been tilled for thousands of years and is replete with Roman history.
With this commitment to their craft, however, comes a strong sense of privacy. Many Burgundy wineries do not have public visiting hours, like those in Bordeaux. That’s why it’s essential to book an authentic Burgundy wine tour for your trip. A knowledgeable professional will gain you access to the region’s best vineyards, like the impressive Clos de Vougeot, and down the steps into cool, damp stone cellars where endless barrels of wine patiently wait to be tested.
While Burgundy may boast many quiet rural villages, its capital, Dijon, is bustling with activity. Picture-perfect shops selling delectable cheeses, pastries and mustards – for which this city is perhaps the most well-known – while friends meet for a drink at the outdoor cafe beside the breathtaking Palais des Ducs, designed by the architects of Versailles. Even just strolling the quaint cobblestone streets is a feast for the senses, as beautiful medieval architecture is everywhere you look. Be sure to wander through the stalls of Les Halles, a vibrant covered market, and taste jambon persille, a trademark ham dish of the region.
Historic Architecture and Cathedrals
The Burgundy region is rich with history, with signs of its past at every turn. Visit Fontenay Abbey, the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey on Earth. It was founded in 1118 and is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture. Also be sure to visit Autun, an idyllic, ancient village. Though the village may be sleepy and serene today, it was used as the headquarters of Roman Emperor Augustus in the 1st century A.D. Walk its picturesque streets and try to the events that took place in the 20,000-seat Roman amphitheater located in the village, which was the largest of its time, as you study its stone remains. Autun Cathedral, or Cathedral St. Lazare, can also not be missed. Built in the early 1100s, it features premier examples of Romanesque architecture and works by renowned artist of the period Gislebertus as well as Gothic influences. Climb the bell tower for magnificent views.
Wine Capital Beaune
Rustic village Beaune is the center of Burgundy’s wine country. Lovers of the simple pleasures in life will savor every inch of Beaune, which gleams with pastoral beauty and where an incredible glass of wine is never more than a few steps away. In addition to taking Beaune wine tours and sampling local country fare at the village’s well-regarded restaurants, visit the Hospices de Beaune, which was founded in 1443 as a refuge for sick and needy. With its impressive architecture the Hospices de Beaune became known as “a palace of the poor”. Today, the complex houses an impressive collection of medieval art and also encompasses and sprawling wine estate. Sommeliers and wine aficionados from around the world gather at the Hospices de Beaune each November for a prestigious auction.
Pastoral beauty and tranquility abound in the village of Cluny, home of the revered Cluny abbey. Regarded as the center of monasticism in medieval Europe, the influential Benedictine abbey was founded in 910 and led more than 10,000 monks in the 12th century. It also had one of the largest churches in the world until St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was rebuilt. Part of the abbey was demolished during the French Revolution, but visitors today can learn what life was like there thanks to engaging interactive exhibits. The Art and Archaeology Museum gives an intriguing look into the excavation and preservation process involved with the abbey. The national stable in Cluny is also a wonderful attraction. The creation of the stable was ordered by Napeloeon I, and visitors can marvel at its world-class collection of pureblood stallions and get a fascinating look at how stables were run in the 19th century.
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