The Chablis and the Beaujolais vineyard : they are near the town of Auxerre, are half-way between Dijon and Paris. They are spread over the hill-slopes on either side of the pretty valley of the river Serein.
We stayed for 2 nights at the Relais de la Sans-Fond in the town of Fenay, 5 km south of Dijon by the D996. It had a good inexpensive restaurant and we ate our dinners there. With our first meal we ignorantly requested a local white wine. The waiter explained that red burgundy was the proper request. We countered that we did not want to spend a large sum and a dry white would please us more. He came back explaining that this wine (the Aligote varietal) was rather sharp. I took a taste and approved. He then told us that we should first have it as part of a Kir, an aperatif. We concurred and he hurried back with aperatif glasses 1/3 filled with creme de cassis (which he told us was another local specialty). He filled the glasses with cold Aligote, which mixed with the cassis, et voila! We finished the bottle with our meal. He then told us about the 65 yr old priest Canon Kir who invented the drink and was a secret member of the Resistance during WWII when he thought up the drink. After the war Kir was elected mayor of Dijon for 4 consecutive 6 year terms and was the only Catholic priest in the National Legislature. (There is much more about this character; look him up). Most bars do not have Aligote and serve a blanc-cassis (or in Provence a vermouth-cassis). Other substitutions include one the Canon served Khruchiev when he visited Dijon, a "Double-K" substituting vodka; using champagne makes it a Kir Royale, also quite good.
Inside of Notre Dame in a chapel to the right of the choir is a wooden statue with a dark complexion. (This phenomenon has occurred on several other ancient wooden pieces of this type. The statue is in the form of the Virgin Mary ("The Black Virgin") and dates from the 11C. It is considered to be the oldest Christian church statue in France. There have been numerous votive offerings to it and it has been considered to be the city's savior since 1513. Nearby there is some fine 13C stained glass.
Atop the South Bell turret of the Church of Notre Dame, behind the peculiar church facade, is a clock and four automaton figures. The figures are a “family”. In 1382 Philippe the Bold confiscated a clock with a mechanical bell-striking figure after the Battle of Courtrai. After much transport difficulty it was installed on the tower where it still stands. The people gave the figure the name Jacquemart ( a play on the words for a man striking). He has worked proudly ever since with his pipe in his mouth. Feeling that he was lonesome, a wife was acquired in the 17C (Jacqueline) then a son was born (1716; Jacqillinet and a daughter in 1881. The father has always struck the hour (big bell) and the wife the half-hour while the children do the quarter hours (smaller bell).Needless to say there is great local pride about this town function.
Carved into the stone of one of the chapel buttresses at the east end of Notre Dame is the image of an owl. This figure of unknown provenance gave rise to the name of the street Rue de la Chouette (Owl)and appears to be as old as the church. It has become the custom to believe that good luck comes from stroking the figure with the left hand and then touching the left chest (heart area). This picture was taken in 1992 and is of the original carving. I understand that vandals disfigured the image in 2002 and that a new object has had to be substituted. Good Luck!
The other picture is of the Apse of Notre Dame from further down the r. de la Chouette.
A local custom is to rub the tummy of the owl that is carved into the north side of the Eglise Notre Dame on Rue de la Chouette. You are supposed to rub it with your left hand since it is closest to your heart. They now have security cameras trained on the owl 24 hrs a day due to some vandalism. His tummy is very smooth and polished from all of his tummy rubs. My dog would be jealous if he knew about this.
When at any restaurant or bar in Dijon, order a Kir. This drink is a regional specialty named after a former mayor of the city. Made from a black current liquor (Crème de Cassis) et white wine, it is an ideal before dinner drink. If you are feeling fancy, you can also order a Kir Royal, which replaces the white wine with champaign.
in some villages around Dijon you can still find the traditional way of making a house in Bretagne. Nice to see the locals appreciate this way and preserve the houses. They use big logs as a way to support the walls and also as a decoration.
The kir cocktail is one of the most simple in the world but it is so nice when done when the right ingredients. The cocktail was first called "blanc-cassis" or "blanc-cass" as it was made from white wine (white = blanc) and balckcurrant liqueur (blackcurrant = cassis).
It only became known as Kir when Canon Félix Kir, who was mayor of Dijon at the time and for whom it was the favourite drink, started offering it to visitors of the Dijon city hall. Canon Kir was very popular with the people of Dijon and he eventually allowed local companies to use his name for commercial purposes. The cocktail then became known as "un kir".
The kir mix:
1/3 Crème de Cassis, from Dijon
2/3 White wine, Bourgone Aligoté is best
You can replace the wine with Champagne and it becomes a "kir royal".
You can also replace the white wine with (Breton) cider and it becomes a "kir breton".
The Wine Trail
They're called Gevrey-Chambertin, Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée, Nuits Saint-Georges, Aloxe-Corton… known to everyone in the world. This is why the Burgundy wine trail from Dijon to Nuits Saint-Georges is a serie of essential stopping places. First you come to the mecca of wine, the château du Clos de Vougeot, owned by the ”chevaliers du Tastevin.“ From there the road is long… It will take you from one flavour to another, from the “pinot noir” grape to the sensual “aligoté.”
Burgundy has concentrated on just two grape varieties, though each supreme in its kind. So, with some minor exceptions, all the wines of Burgundy are produced either from the Chardonnay grape for white wines, or the Pinot Noir for reds. Of the less widely-grown varieties, the main ones are Aligoté and Gamay.
If you don't speak French, at least say Bon Jour. The French are lovely people who get a bad rap from American's. If you make an effort to speak French, they will warm up to you. Also, don't slam the wine. At least, not when they're looking!
Wandering in the old town, try to find the owl. Local wisdom has it that you should make a wish while touching it and it will be granted.