…and you should also. Burgundy is a place of elegant wines, sophisticated food, and some of France’s most gorgeous countryside, complete with rolling green hills, vineyards, and medieval castles.
Split your home base between Beaune and a country Chateau, and you will experience the best of both worlds. We stayed three nights at Hotel le Cep in Beaune, and three nights at Chateau De Santenay outside the village of Meursault (only a few miles away).
In Beaune, an ancient walled city, take a leasurely stroll to experience it’s Old World charm found in its cobblestone streets lined with medieval houses. The inviting main square, Place Carnot, is the center of the towns social scene, surrounded by charming cafes and shops. Each street leading from the plaza takes you to the city’s perimeter – the ramparts, and moats with fortresses and watchtowers dating back to Gallo-Roman times. Saturday is marketday so don’t miss the large food market in the center of town. Sites to see:
- Hôtel-Dieu – a hospital for the poor built by Chancellor Nicolas Rolin and his wife in the mid 15th century. The distinctive Flemish Gothic half-timbered building has a colorful roof of geometric patterned tiles and a graceful courtyard. The Hôtel-Dieu now houses a museum with exquisite tapestries and a renowned 15th-century polyptych of the Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden. And of course produces its own wine.
- Collégiale Basilique Notre-Dame – This church is called the “Daughter of Cluny” because it exemplifies Romanesque architecture developed in nearby Cluny, with a three-aisled basilica and a square tower over the crossing. The church possesses a 12th-century statue of the Virgin Mary and splendid 15th-century tapestries.
- The Musée des Beaux-Arts – housed in part of the 18th-century Town Hall (originally an Ursuline convent), displays archeological finds and French and Flemish paintings of the 17th to 19th centuries.
- Edmond Fallot Mustard Factory – family run business, with a warm reception romm displaying more that 24 types of mustard, all available for tasting. If you request it you can have a tour of the factory and museum by one of the family members.
- Wineries – Yes their are wineries in or right ourside Beaune, and quite good ones. You should plan on visiting Domaine Dublere – run by a young producer who makes extrodinary pinot noirs at reasonable prices (3, rue de Martray, St Romain, domaine-rocault.fr), Maison Joseh Drouhin (7, rue d’Enfer) – the family has been making fine Burgendies for over a century, and Maison Alex Gambal (14, boulevard Jules Ferry, alexgambal.com) Mr Gambal, an American, has been making wine since 1993 and has a reputation for ecellent reds and whites.
Plan a day trip to the famous wine villages around the Chateau in Pommard, Meursalt, Chassagne-Montrachet… and one or two visiting the beautiful hilltops to the North (Flauigny sur Ozerain – where they filmed Chocoate, Semur-en-Auxois, Chateaunefu-en-Auxois, Fontenay Abbey, Vezelay.
An excellent tour operation, to help you with your itinerary, is Hidden France run by Diana Williams, Mr. Gambal’s wife (thehiddenfrance.com).
Restaurants – recommend the tasting menu for the first five
Le Jardin des Ramparts (Beaune Michelin 1 Star) – You begin your meal in the garden with an Aperitif with a tray of architected small bites. Then you are ushered indoors to a cozy dining room for the amazing tasting menu. This leisurely dinner was one of our favorite dining experiences.
Loiseau des Vignes (Beaune Michelin 1 Star) – In a beautiful, relaxing setting, Chef Bernard Loiseau prepares modern takes on the specialties of Burgundy, offering 80 top end wines by the glass. Chose the tasting menu, and maybe a wine paring, and let the fun begin!
Le Benaton (Beaune Michelin 1 Star) – Creative cuisine or Burgundy classics cooked by Bruno Monnoi, a young talented Japanese chef. The dining room is contemporary, but inviting, and the service is friendly and professional at the same time. The chef has a playful side as the amuse bouche was a play on desserts with miniature ice cream cones, macaroons, creme boule…all very savory.
La Cueillette (Chateau de Citeaux) – Set in a grand 19th-century chateau surrounded by walled vineyards, this luxury spa hotel houses an restaurant that makes you feel as if you are dining with royalty (though the service is warm and friendly). It is very classical with its moulding, gilding, and a fresco depicting an allegory of love (juxaposed by the hotel with a lovely modern decor). The night we ate dinner an older Japanese gentlemen was dining with a young woman in full Geisha attire…quite the scene!
As for the food, the chef uses all locally produced ingredients and turns them into classical dishes with a very modern, creative touch. There was so many courses, that when it came to the desserts we couldn’t even touch the tray of petit fours that ended the meal. When we returned to our room, there they were, with two glasses of dessert wine. Now that’s service at it’s best (and somehow we did manage to finish them that evening).
Le Chevreuil (Meursalt) – walking in the pouring rain, in the village of Meursalt, we ducked into a wine store for cover. The proprietress was lovely, and offered us some white burgundy to taste. Purchasing some wine, we asked her for a recommendation for lunch. She recommended Le Chevreuil, walked us over, and went inside to make sure they were open and had room to seat us. What seemed like a casual eatery, in a plain hotel, turned out to be an amazing dining experience.
The waiter was extremely friendly, making recommendations and chatting about the village and their wines. The food was delicious and the breads the best I have tasted (the chef baked them all in house). We ended up ordering the tasting menu with more food than we could ever finish (though we surely tried), all washed down with, what else, burgundy wine (white and red).
Le Bistro de L’Hotel (5, rue Samuel Legay, lhoteldebeaune.com) – you must have the famed whole roasted chicken Bresse, served with seasonal local vegetables and drink Burgundies from the region.
Hostellerie Levernois (Rue du Gold, Levernois, levernois.com) – five miles from Beaune, in a impressive Relais & Chateaux, the sophisticated restaurant and riverside bistro (that serves a three course menu for 29 euros).
Ma Cuisine (Passage Ste. – Helene) – lively Beaune spot for wine lovers, serving excellent local dishes such as escargot and pigeon.
La Cueillette Spa Hotel (Meursalt) – A great find, this small hotel (19 rooms), with its old world charm, modern rooms and inviting spa. Friendly, warm welcome, from the moment we checked in, through our massages in the spa, and dining experience where the owner personally greeted you during dinner to ensure you were totally satisfied. Loved the cozy bar in the club room where you can enjoy a cocktail before dinner (or at anytime of the day or evening). And a short walk to the lovely village of Meursalt.
Hotel le Cep (27, rue Maufoux, hotel-cep-beaune.com) – This upscale boutique hotel is within 2 blocks of the Musée de l’Hôtel-Dieu and the Collégiale Basilique Notre-Dame. It is a family run hotel that is affiliated with the Small Luxury Hotels of the World,. The hotel is charming, uniting 2 private mansions with 16th century courtyards. They just opened a spa, and it is worth taking the time to get a massage or facial.
Chez les Fatien (17, rue Ste. Marguerite, Hotel-Fatien-Beaune.com) – secluded four-suite vila close walking distance to the city center. Family owned, and the proprietor makes his own Burgundy wine.
Authentica – went on a private full-day Grand Crus Burgundy tour, and what a fun day it turned out to be. We had three tastings, two at vineyards, a third in a private vaulted wine cellar, and lunch at a family-run estate with wine pairing. Our guide, Leonie, was superb, friendly and knowledgeable. And Authentica helped us out when we wanted to ship home wine from a small vineyard (not part of their tour) where no one speak any English, and they didn’t have the facility or connections to ship wine. Nicolas, the founder of Authentica, was my translator, go between, and shipper. The best service ever, would highly recommend them.
Authentica / Dijon-Beaune , 00 33 (0)6 87 01 43 78, www.authentica-tours.com