Burgundy: A pocket guide
Ever since Louis XIV’s doctor prescribed wine as a palliative for the royal dyspepsia, Burgundy has been associated with viticulture. Chablis and Nuits-Saint-Georges are among the region’s most famous names—but there is more to Burgundy than wine. Renaissance chateaus, medieval abbeys, and fortified villages attest to Burgundy’s colorful history, and its architectural heritage boasts some of the most magnificent Romanesque structures in Europe. Today, Burgundy is the powerhouse of France’s thriving agricultural sector, known for its cheeses, poultry, Charolais cattle, truffles, mustard, black currants, and cassis. Easy to reach by train or car (the capital city of Dijon is only 180 miles from Paris), this peaceful region invites you to immerse yourself in la France profonde.
The region where Julius Caesar won the Gallic Wars at the Battle of Alesia, changing the course of history, Burgundy in its heyday was the most powerful duchy in Europe, stretching north to Holland and east to Flanders. Among its architectural treasures: the Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene, with its light-filled Romanesque nave and Gothic choir, at Vézelay Abbey, from where Saint Benedict launched the Second Crusade in 1146; the abbey of Cluny, the pioneer of Gothic architecture in medieval Europe; and Fontenay Abbey, the world’s oldest preserved Cistercian abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Hospices de Beaune was constructed in the fifteenth century as a charitable hospital; its original building is now a museum where one can see, among other artworks, a magnificent polyptych altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden.
At Burgundy’s heart is Morvan Regional Natural Park, a thousand square miles of wilderness dotted with lakes and picturesque villages, many of which have family-run brasseries in their tree-shaded squares. The Yonne River meanders through the fields and hills of Burgundy, beckoning vacationers to glide along its tributary canals, fish its waters, and cycle along its banks.