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The Burgundy region of Central France


Regional Departments
Yonne, Nièvre, Saône-et-Loire, Côte-d'Or.

Main Towns
Nevers, Clamecy, Auxerre, Sens, Tonnere, Montbard, Dijon, Château-Chinon, Beaune, Autun, Chalon-sur-Saône.

If Paris is the capital of France then Burgundy (Bourgogne) is its heart. The region lies midway between the vast cereal plains of northern France and the valley of the Rhône and the South. The River Yonne is the traditional waterway link to Paris, the Loire river marks the western border and the River Saône flows through the southern vineyards.



In many ways the landscape reflects the Burgundian character; hospitable, friendly and expansive, tinged with nostalgia, dignified and religious but tempered by an irrepressible spirit and a wit as sharp as mustard. Over the centuries, Burgundy's colourful history has marked the region with a rich architectural heritage that stands as a testament to the medieval stonemasons, woodcarvers, sculptors and painters of the time; the great abbeys of Vézelay, Potigny, and Fontenay, the Gothic cathedrals of Auxerre and Nevers, resting place of St Bernadette of Lourdes and the basilica of Paray-le-Monial, famous as a centre of pilgrimage.

Wine has shaped Burgundy's way of life for centuries and its wine making tradition goes back to the monks of Cluny and Citeaux. Chablis, in the Yonne is the first of the great Burgundy whites and the Auxerre wine route in the Yonne meanders through medieval villages like Chitry and Irancy, surrounded by their vines with whole communities involved in the production. The countryside of the Cote d'Or is marked by an endless patchwork of carefully tended vines, each producing a vintage known around the world; Nuits-St-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin, Beaune, Mersault, Puligny-Montrachet and others. There is a succession of events celebrating the wine throughout the year, but the high point of the annual cycle comes after the vendage with three days of feasting, wine tastings and auctions. These are held at l'Hotel Dieu in Beaune, a magnificent building, built as a hospice for the sick and needy in 1443. Its dazzling jewel coloured roof tiles echo others throughout the region.

Southern Burgundy is still wine country and Tournus makes an ideal base for visiting the Chalonnais, Maconnais and Beaujolais vineyards and exploring. To the west is rich wooded farmland, the fields dotted with white Charolais cattle, mellow villages, ancient fortress farms and, 'air so pure you only have to breathe to get fat'. To the east are the flat plains of the Bresse, which produces chicken so good that they have been awarded their own appellation as a mark of distinction. Louhans in particular has a very good market every Monday and many small brasseries where you can lunch.

The Morvan runs through the centre of Burgundy and is a vast nature reserve with rivers, lakes and forest, a haven of great beauty, space and silence where you can walk and fish, ride, cycle and hang-glide. There are few towns but you are never far away from a village. It is well signposted with almost empty roads. Gites, bed and breakfast or country hotels are generally small, friendly and full of character and there are excellent local restaurants providing local cuisine.

Food

Good markets throughout the region, although the days vary. Many excellent Michelin starred restaurants at Joigny, Vézelay, Saulieu, Chagny and elsewhere. Family owned auberges deep in the country often serve superb regional dishes for modest prices. Go to Epoisses, famous for its cheese, which can be bought at the fromagerie where it is made, or sample at the local café with a glass of wine. Dijon means mustard and pain d'épices. Don't miss the pastries and chocolate.

Activities

There are many museums to choose from and most charge a small entrance fee. In the summer there are numerous fairs, fetes, carnivals, concerts, theatre and pageants throughout the region.

Climate

From spring until late September and sometimes beyond, the climate is warm and dry with summer temperatures often reaching 30 degrees C plus, occasionally punctuated by short heavy thunderstorms. Cooler mornings and evenings in early spring and late autumn.

Travel

By Air
A choice of international and other independant airlines operate services to Paris and from there you can travel via TGV to most places in Burgundy, or hire a car. There is also a regional airport at Dijon.

By Road
Burgundy is located just 100 km south of Paris and 80 km north of Lyon and has good motorway connections with both the north and south of France via the A6 and A31 motorways.

By Train
The TGV service to the area is excellent with several daily sevices from Paris or Lyon. From the Gare de Lyon station in Paris you can be in Nevers and Magny-Cours in 50 minutes, Auxerre or Montbard in 1 hour, Le Creusot in 80 minutes, Dijon and Mâcon in 90 minutes.


 
 
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