Everyone goes to the Loire Valley to see chateaus and that's fine because there are so many spectacular chateaus there. However, many towns in France have a chateau and Burgundy is no exception. You can visit a chateau every day of your trip and not see them all.
We took one day out of Beaune last spring and searched chateaus listed in the local tourism office brochure. It was great fun and we visited about six chateaus that day, including one festival that occurred as we wandered in. Many chateaus are open to visitors and many have costumed docents. This is particularly fun if you have children with you.
Stop in any tourist office and ask about nearby chateaus. They will give you information and if necessary, they will book a tour for you. It's a fun way to spend an hour or a day.
Type the name of any town into the Virtual Tourist Search Window and check Tips to see if a chateau visit is available.
Côte d'Or Tourist Information Official Web Site
A visit to at least one "Farmers' Market" is a must during your Bourgogne visit even if it only to take some photos of the wonderful product on sale.
There are covered markets in lots of towns (Dijon for example). A dedicated building set up for the market - "halle(s)" in French. Also "street" markets are common even in small villages.
Armed with a list of towns with the days of their markets listed, you can allocate a morning to a market visit as you travel the region. Morning is best time to visit. Book mark the web pages if you carry the necessary.
Here are two lists:
List of weekly markets including “covered markets” and “street markets” by alphabetical list of Burgundian town names.
Lists by Departments then arranged in order of days of the week. Info on products for sale and location of markets. Not all towns listed : a selection of the most popular.
There are very few towns or villages throughout France without their own, special market. You are advised that all the markets listed are morning markets, usually closing around 13:00, unless otherwise stated.
Seeing we require to stock up our larder from time to time as we cruise the canals, we are very partial to the fresh farm produce available at the markets as well as the cheeses, pates, terrines, farm-house condiments and jams.
One we made a special cruise to visit - the Monday morning Bresse Chicken Market in Louhans.
There are other stalls such as bric a brac, hardware, clothing. However, I'm loath to purchase some of the items on sale....with uncertain country of origin. I'm reminded of one of our travelling companions who purchased a pair of shorts for five dollars at the market. They did not survive one machine wash...fell apart at the seams.
Visiting Bourgogne? Keep in mind that one of the Medieval Routes taken by Pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain to pay homage to the relics of Saint James/Sainte Jaques/Sant Iago passes through the Region. The symbol of Saint James, the scallop shell, which marked the Pilgrim's route and were carried externally to mark them as devotees to the cause can be found in the town.
The UNESCO listed hill-top Abbey Church of Vézelay , the Basiique Ste-Madeleine is perhaps the focal point of any visit to Burgundy to check out the Religious History of both France and the Region. However, you will not be disappointed by a visit based purely on architectural grounds. Who knows, just by exposing yourself to the splendid Basilica and its pure light you may well enjoy a semi-religious experience anyway......... “pure light”?- unlike most historic religious buildings that I have visited, this one does not have stained glass windows and in daylight the light filled apse and ambulatory draw the visitor into the building. On the 21st of June, the Summer Solstice, windows lighting the nave produce pools of light along the floor a further invitation to enter and discover more.
The Basilica itself has long been the final destination of Pilgrims. So what was the big attraction? Relics! Success of religious edifices in the Middle Ages was measured by how big a crowd they drew. Possession of a body part or two from a saint was the way - especially if a couple of miracles could be contributed to them. The abbots of Vézelay imported fingers of Saint Mary Magdalen from Provence after which it hit the big time for 400 years or so. Helped also by the Pope giving the thumbs up sign (in writing) to the authenticity of said relics!!
Popularity dwindled after the body of Mary was found intact in Southern France (and, not surprisingly, in other places in Europe) with a full complement of fingers – questions were asked…opening the proverbial can of worms!!!
Having visited Vézelay and been enlightened your next stop is 70kms south-west at Nevers which was on the old Pilgrim Road to Spain but is now more famous for a more modern Pilgrimage.
No messing around with a couple of fingers here. This is the full shooting match… the body of Sainte Bernadette under glass. In 1858, as a young girl she experienced devine visions in the grotto at Lourdes in Southern France . She ended up serving the Sisters of Charity of Nevers until her death in 1879. In 1925, her remains were placed in a gold and crystal reliquary in the Chapel of Sainte Bernadette at St Gildard, the house of the Sisters of Charity. Her body attracts about half a million visitor-pilgrims each year. Many have already been part of the eight million Pilgrims who visit Lourdes each year.
Sick of visiting relics? Do yourself a favour! Slip south east about 100 kms down the road (or canal) from Nevers south-east to Paray-le-Monial which features some visit-worthy religious structures sans relics. However, the remains of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque rest under the Chapel of the Visitation which entices Pilgrims to arrive in droves at certain times of the year looking for “Favours”.
Perhaps you are attracted towards your own pilgrimage to a really modern site encompassing an up-to-date ecumenical theme. Head approx 45kms east from Paray-l-Monial to the monastic order in Taizé. Founded during the Second World War by a a Protestant, Brother Roger Schutz, it now has over a hundred permanent Brothers from all religions. Since the mid 1960's it has attracted young adults and each year over one hundred thousand from all countries and religions come for a week at a time to experience a basic non-denominational religious experience in the company of like souls from all nations. Join the enlightened.
Although probable not as famous for its castles as the Loire Valley in the Centre Region of France, Bourgogne has a plethora of Châteaux worthy of a visit.
More importantly, it hosts a site which I believe is compulsory for any true tourist interested in architecture, history and France:- Guédelon, south-west of Auxerre near Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye
At Guédelon, workers are constructing a Château ( more correctly château-fort ) from scratch using original techniques and materials. A visit to this site in conjunction with a reading of Ina Caro’s book, “The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France” will set you up to better understand and appreciate the evolution of chateau design over the ages and make your chateaux visits more worthwhile.
“Evolution”???? If you get the idea that the original objective back in the middle ages was to build a fortified residence to repel the attacks of marauding rivals and to act as a secure base from which the owners could carry out their own marauding attacks, you will start to understand the “evolution” bit. As the world changed , hopefully for the better, and political stability reduced the need for “security” so did the style of the buildings change.
There are three score and more of the castle-fort type Chateaux in Bourgogne plus many of the grand residence style.
To get you going, here are two Chateaux which we have visited while cruising the Burgundy Canal that illustrates this “evolution”.
For a look at the typical castle-fort, it’s hard to beat Châteauneuf-en-Auxois (west of Dijon). This fort and its village sits beautifully on a hill top dominating the surrounding region. Built in the 12th century its defensive features still dominate. It was extensively updated in the 15th century with more habitable buildings being added without taking away from the defensive nature of the site. Together with its village it is listed as a “plus beaux villages de France” and is a national protected historical monuments heritage site.
Château Ancy-le-Franc today is the end product of the “evolution”. The castle-fort was torn down in the mid 16th century and a rectangular non-fort palace was built on the foundations. The designer was an Italian architect, Sebastiano Serlio who was involved in the construction and decoration of the Château of Fontainebleau. Ancy-le-Franc was a private commission. (Seb had to do something at the weekends). Only the Château de Fontainebleau has a better array of sixteenth-century frescoes and wall-paintings. (It’s not what you know: it’s who you know!!) No doubt Serlio was able to attract some of the Italian Artisans working there. Château Ancy-le-Franc web site
The Burgundy Promotion Board has realised what a mighty asset the tow paths associated with the canals of Bourgogne are. They have promoted them and disused railway lines and paths through vineyard areas as “ green roads” (voies vertes )suited to exploring the region by bike.
Although I suspect their web-site needs a little updating, it is the starting point for planning a do- it-yourself ride through Burgundy.
Of course, if you have the money, there are companies that have pay-to-ride tours (some guided) also using the voies vertes. Here is an example of an itinerary advertised by an Australian company. (have not tried it).
There is a good regional map on the Promotion Board home page with existing routes - 580 kms of them. The plan to eventually have 800kms of paths. The system is interconnected with the Eurovelo Cycle Routes which can be used to cycle from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Coast. Check out the map of European cycle routes.
In Burgundy, five routes have been organised - each with maps and GPS coordinates. Accommodation and Restaurants meeting the Board's requirements are listed. Hotels have to meet specifics like Secure Bike Stowage and provision of breakfast for an “early start”.
The itineraries include - Canal de Bourgogne, Canal de Nivernais, Canal du Centre, Southern Burgundy & The Vineyard Way.
Maps are supplied and pull down menu links to accommodation carrying the Bourgogne by Velo label. Each itinerary has links to (a) Joining the itinerary (regional train & bus transport which have facilities for bikes)
(b) Your itinerary ( map with distance markers and possible overnight stops)
(c) On the way (sites and sights)
(d) Accommodation and restaurants
(e) Bicycle rentals and repairs
(f) Tourist offices
(g) Guides and Incoming agencies
(h) Further information (downloadable documents and brochures).
Most importantly there is a good guide on How to get You and your Bike to the Region by public transport.
Top site - all you need to get you on your bike in Burgundy!!
URL : http://www.burgundy-by-bike.com/burgundy-by-bike--01en.html
Visiting Bourgogne? Do some homework on the Food of the region and its famous Recipes.
Two that come to mind Beef Bourguignon – Beef stewed in red wine & veal stock and Coq au Vin (chicken in red wine).
Other regional dishes include Snails in Garlic Butter and Jambon Persillé (Cold cubed Ham in Parsley layered Aspic).
One Fish speciality I have sought is Pochouse, a stew of a combination of the different types of river fish caught in the region. Hope you have better luck than I had on two occasions I tried it. It was bland, bony, small fish – hardly a taste treat at all.
I’ve enjoyed most versions of another speciality I’ve tried - Oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in red wine sauce)
For a real kick in the mouth (and the nostrils) try some of the local cheeses especially Epoisses. While you are tasting cheese look for a product produced just outside the western edge of Bourgogne - Crottin de Chavignols. “Crottin” = horse droppings (named for the look not the taste!)
Dijon, capital of the region is famous for its Moutard (mustard) and a “ must visit” is to the Maille mustard store at 32 rue de la Liberte to sample the variety of styles. Dijon also is famous for Pain d'épices (spice bread) – English translation “Ginger bread” despite there being no ginger in it. Try to find a shop with samples hopefully without chocolate or other foreign substances in it!
Another “must taste” - Crème de cassis is a sweet, dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants. Mixed with white wine it is known as Kir. Added to local sparkling wine (or Champagne): Kir Royale. more details on the history of Kir and how to mix it
For the full-monty look at Cassis while in Bourgogne, visit the Cassisium in Nuits-St-George (south of Dijon) URL: http://www.cassissium.com
Bourgogne waterways map tnx to VNF
Hire a boat and steer it yourself.
In French -“location de bateau sans permis” – hire boat without requirement for a boat operators licence. No previous experience required. A quick lesson on which is the pointy end of the boat and away you go!!
Bourgogne is easily accessed by car or public transport from major hubs – Paris and Lyon. Only an hour forty minutes by TGV from Paris to Dijon the capital of the Region -Two hours by car.
Bourgogne (Burgundy) consisting of French Departments Cote d’Or (21); Saone & Loire (71); Yonne (89) & Nièvre (58) is rich in boat cruising grounds with more than a dozen options both Canals and Rivers. Check the map above - green coloured waterways are canals & blue denotes a river. It is possible to hire boats on the Canal Latéral à la Loire; Canal du Centre; Canal de Bourgogne; Canal de Briare; Canal du Nivernais; Canal de Roanne a Digoin and the Rivers Yonne, Saône, Seille and part of the Mother River, The Seine.
The major French hire-boat companies all have ports in the region.
Here is a list of a few of the bigger companies (Google will find more):
These companies offer suggestions for one week; ten day or two week cruises. Itineraries include “one way cruises” (with drop-off fee) or “return to pick up point”. The latter is a cheaper option and has the convenience of having your car (if you have one) ready when you arrive at drop-off. By the way, cars are usually kept in a secure compound. The down side is seeing the same bit of waterway twice.
Cost of hiring depends on the size of the vessel and the time of year. For example Saône Bateaux in their 2012 brochure list the cheapest periods as prior to the 6th of May and after the end of September. The most expensive period 7th of July to 17th of August. For a 9.1 metre long, 3 cabin boat the cheap price 1,280 € : High Season Price – 2,190 €.
Check this web site for a comprehensive table of typical costs and the inclusions of boat hire.
photos 2,3,and 4 are of typical hire boats. 4 (an "American 43", is instantly recognisable as a "hire" boat because of the great number of fenders hanging over the side
Each company has multiple ports where boats can be picked up and dropped off.
Locaboat, for example, uses Joingy (Yonne R); Corbigny (Nivernais C.) Dompierre sur Besbre (close to Canal Lat. à la Loire); St Leger- sur-Dheune (Centre C.) & Loisy (on the Seille River near Louhans).
le boat has ports at Gray (R. Saône to NW of Dijon), St Jean-de-Losne (south east of Dijon and Branges (Seille River near Louhans).
Nicols uses Brionon and Venaray-les-Laumes (on the C.de Bourgogne) Rogny (on the C. de Briare west of Auxerre) and Plagny ( Nivernais C.).
Saône Plaisance is based at Savoyeux (R. Saône north west of Dijon) and Louhans (R. Seille).
So you can see between these companies ( and there are more) there are many Burgundian towns around which you can plan your cruise in a “bateau sans permis”.
As part of your planning for a visit to France you should put villages that have been classified as the most beautiful in France on your “hit list”.
Any road trip will be made much more interesting if you are aware of this list of 155 beautiful places. Bourgogne has several listed villages and there are a couple just outside of the region well worth a visit.
Check out the web page on Villages and mark their locations on your route planning map or in your GPS.
The page has villages listed under their department names. On the page for each village,there is a link to further info (visit xxxx) which also has interesting nearby places to visit as well.
Those located in Burgundy include:-
In Côte-d'Or: Chateauneuf-en-Auxois – 30 kms SW of Dijon. The Chateau sits in the landscape wonderfully well. Easily reached from the Burgundy Canal by foot or cycle as well as by car. Explore the village and visit the Chateau which is a National Monument.
& Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – 20 kms SE of Montbard . Famous as the village in which the movie “Chocolat” was filmed.
In Yonne: Noyers-sur-Serein – 30 kms SE of Auxerre
& Vezelay - 40kms S of Auxerre. You may wish to visit Vezelay for other reasons. The Abbey of St Mary Magdalene is an important memorial on the Pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella and, as you walk the town, you may find evidence of the Scallop shells symbols of the pilgrimage to the relics of St James in Spain. Do not neglect finding the View-points giving panoramic views over the surrounding country side. Vézelay and the abbey are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In Saône-et-Loire: Semur-en-Brionnais – 25 kms N of Roanne
Just out side the region in Cher : Apremont-sur-Allier – 15 kms SW of Nevers. Could be visited when road tripping to the Loir or if you are a motor-racing enthusiast on a visit to Magny-Cours where French Formula 1 races used to be held. Other events are held there so check the calendar of events for your "hit list".
Ecluses - the french call them. It's a way for boats (and its contents) to get over heights.
The Canal Nivernaise has quite a few of them.
Each lock has a person that operates it - though sometimes it is the same person for several locks.
Some of the locks are automatic - which means, the operator just has to push a button. On our travel these were the locks closer to Migennes - until about Auxerre.
After Auxerre down to Chatel Censoir all the locks had to be opened and closed manually. The lock operator does that - but he (or she) is happy, if he gets some help.
Junior loved being able to turn the wheels that were necessary for that.
So, how to you go through a lock?
Approaching it - look out, if it is open. If not - wait about 100m before the entrance until the operator opens it. In the (seldom) case nothing happens - try use the horn of the boat.
Drive in carefully and slow down early enough. If you are alone, choose a place in the back of the lock, -especially if you are going "up". The water that does come in when the lock fills can be quite violent.
Use the ropes in front and in the back to secure your boat. If you go up you can tie them on. If you go down you better hold them ... or else you suddenly have a boat that hangs on the side from the ropes you tied on (remember: the water and the boat will get down, sometimes more than a meter).
One goes off the boat and helps the lock operator with closing the lock.
Wait until the water has risen (or fallen).
Help the lock operator to open the lock.
Untie the boat and carefully drive out of the lock.
The Hôtel-Dieu of the Hospices de Beaune was used as a hospital up until the 1960s. The Hôtel Dieu is now a museum that shows how the hospital cared for people from 1443 through to the 19th Century.
The multicoloured roofs of the Hôtel-Dieu have become one of the symbols of Burgundy. This place is not only contains an old hospital, but three courtyards, outbuildings, a 15th century bastion, a museum containing approximately 5000 items and hundreds of metres of cellars. There are four buildings open to the public that represent the Hôtel-Dieu of former times.
The interiors are almost as beautiful as the exteriors and it is an interesting place to wander around. The museum contains some very famous works of art, including The Last Judgement by Rogier van der Weyden and many tapestries. Entry is inexpensive.
With sections dating from the 11th Century, a visit to this old castle makes a nice day trip. A guided tour is recommended so as to appreciate its medieval past. You can also enjoy a wine-tasting in the cellars!
In April, May and October, it's possible to arrange individual visits from 2.30pm to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays.
In June and September, it's open every day from 2.30pm to 6pm.
In July and August it's open every day from 10am - midday, and from 2pm to 6pm.
Groups can arrange a tour at any time during the year.
Beaune is a beautiful town. A lot of interesting history. May be called the Wine Capital of Burgundy.
There is a lot to do and to see, so spend at least 1-2 days here.
You can do guided wine tours from here which is a very insightful and enjoyable half-day trip.
I have built a page on Beaune, as it deserves its own.
For more details, you can visit my page on Beaune
A trip to Burgundy would not be thorough if Auxerre were not included. There are interesting churches and a pleasant town to experience. The cathedral shows a definite audacity in its lightness of texture and internal soaring space and there is plenty of very old and 16C stained glass.
After Dijon and Beaune (or maybe sooner) Vezelay is a top destination in Burgundy.It has a church situated on the crown of a hill above a quaint village and am attractive view for miles around, with the Morban to the south. The church houses the finest Romanesque sculpture in the forms of 148 capitals and 4 tympani. Be sure to have a guide in hand to locate and “read” the works of art and to refer back to if you take pictures. Binoculars or some other “close-up” device are helpful. Plan to spend at least one or two hours at the church alone.
Cluny is a town (pop. 4.7K) that has lived in the shadow of its famous monastery since 910 when it was founded. An extremely tall church tower stretches up from the center of the town. It is a surviving fragment of the church (Cluny III) of the once dominant monastery of Cluny and in 100 when it was built, it was the largest church in Europe (eventually eclipsed by St. Peter in the Vatican). Nearby there is a museum with some of the earliest Romanesque sculpture (capitals, etc.) from that time.
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