I’ve written a post on Beaune last week. It’s time to turn the attention to the Burgundy region where Beaune sits in.
There is a lot of beauty in Burgundy in spring. There’s dancing sunlight and blooming flowers. The towns are starting to see activity and liveliness. However, if you are here for the vines, they have barely awoken from their winter slumber.
Burgundy is all about her grand vins yet also more than her grand vins. Sounds contradictory? I went to Burgundy expecting it to be about the beautiful wines – the elegant, oaked chardonnays and the subtle, sophisticated pinot noir but Burgundy turned out to be so much more than that.
There are many small towns (aside from wine-making towns) in Burgundy; I’ve visited a few of these medieval, small towns that left a lasting imprint. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, the town where the movie “Chocolat” was filmed in offered a quiet beauty.
While in this quiet medieval townm, you should follow your nose to the Anise sweet facotry. Yes, you would smell that nice whiff of anise aroma in the air. The Anise sweet factory is located at the historic abbey as the sweets were used to be made by the Benedictine monks. The sweets are not made with star anise, but with the aniseed. The anise flavour was surprisingly very pleasant. My favourite is the rose flavoured one – with the delicate flavour of rose permeating it. Apparently, the flavours of the candy are all natural flavouring – derived from plants through alcohol of steam distillation.
Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, a small medieval yet picturesque village perched on a hilltop, is definitely worth a stopover. The journey is as beautiful as the destination as you can see the fortress from a distance.
You can visit the small fortified castle and its walls that was built in the 14th century. Otherwise, you can just take a stroll around the small medieval town and admire the beautiful views of the mountains of Morvan and the Auxois plains from this hilltop village.
The Cistercian Abbeye de Fontenay (Fontenay Abbey), a well-preserved UNESCO Heritage site of a 12th century Burgundian monastery. The Abbey is situated in the middle of a wooded valley, near Montbard. The structure and buildings are quiet plain and free from embellishments – the cloisters are simple with stone arches around but very beautiful at the same time. The space encourages quiet contemplation and is a good site that gives a full view of the monastic lives of the cistercian monks.
Another stop that you shouldn’t miss is Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region. Dijon is a much bigger city compared to Beaune but its centre is pretty much walkable. Dijon is more than its namesake mustard. Of course, you can and should troop down to the Dijon-established Maile boutique to taste its full-range of mustard products.
After that, you should most definitely follow the owl’s trail around town (with the owl pointers on the roads); the owl’s trail brings you to the important sites like the Ducal Palace and the 13th century Notre Dame cathedral around Dijon town. The owl or la chouette is the icon of the Dijon town.
Dijon town is very lively even when we were there on a day with a lot of grey clouds and passing rain. You can drop by Les Halles, an indoor covered market; I prefer the market at Beaune but if you happen to be in Dijon, you can just walk around the busy and authentic market and watch the locals shove their way into getting their produce.
A fun fact: Les Halles du Marche is designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Maybe that’s why you see similarities in the iron wrought arches?
The restaurants in the market’s vicinity are worth a stop for lunch – they have very affordable prix fixe lunch menus and allow you to sample a good range of Dijon fare. One of my favourites is the oeufs en meurette (Eggs cooked in red wine) – very delicious and all you need to do is to use a slie of bread to soak up all the good sauce. If you want a change from wine, you can opt for Dijon’s traditional cocktail – the kir royale, a cocktail made with creme de cassis and a crisp white wine like aligoté.
Another thing to get your hands on is the town’s specialty pain d’epices (spice bread). These pain d’epices are usually sold by the loaves and they make good gifts for your loved ones.
There you have it, Burgundy is so much more than her wines. You can definitely spend a whole week in the region and not be bored. It is definitely a region that I hope to revisit in the future.
You can visit Châteauneuf-en-Auxois, Flavigny sur Ozerain and the Fontenay Abbey in a single day.
Les Anis de Flavigny factory
You can visit the factory to see how the candies are being coated.
Opens: 9am to 11am, Mon to Fri
Opening hours differ based on seasons. Check out the Abbey’s Fontenay Abbey opening hours for precise timings.
Fee: 10 Euros for self-guided visits, and 12.50 Euros for guided tours.
Les Halles (Dijon)
The covered market is located on rue Quentin
Opening hours: 7am-1pm Tue & Thu-Sat
Shopping in Dijon
Maille (for mustards)
32 Rue de la Liberté, Dijon
Mulot et Petitjean
13 Place Bossuet, Dijon.
Baking pain d’epices Dijonaise since 1796. Also, a shop with very pretty decor.