BURGUNDY, a general introduction:

Burgundy, only about 1.5 hours’ drive southeast of Paris, is a rich combination of ancient pastoral landscape (dotted with medieval churches and castles of the highest artistic and historical value), some of the world’s best wines (available for tastings and direct purchase from famous vineyards), and food (to be savored in the many fine restaurants, cafés and delis).

In Burgundy, there are hundreds of medieval villages and small towns almost completely untouched by the 20th Century, of which one of the most important and beautiful is Vezelay, perched on the spine of a ridge overlooking woods and meadows. Indeed, the entire town of Vezelay is a U.N.E.S.C.O.-designated World Heritage site. In the Middle Ages, it was a thriving and very large (for the time) city of about 15,000, full of pilgrims attracted to what were officially declared to be the relics of Mary Magdelene, which were housed in the Basilica of Saint Magdelene, an 11th Century marvel of Romanesque architecture. From the Basilica, in 1146, the medieval philosopher-abbot, st Bernard de Clairvaux, sent Richard, the Lion Hearted, King of England, and Louis the First (later Saint Louis), King of France, off to fight the Second Crusade. About 50 years later, when the monks of Vezelay backed the "pretender" popes of Avignon, the Pope of Rome declared the Mary Magdelene relics to be fakes, and Vezelay, immediately deprived of its visiting pilgrims, quickly fell into hundreds of years of absolute obscurity

Dijon, Burgundy’s medieval capital when it was still independent of France, under the Dukes of Burgundy, lies about an hour’s drive east of Vezelay. Dijon is still today the largest and most important town in the region, with many fine Romanesque and Gothic buildings and the second largest art museum in France. At Dijon, begins the Cote d’Or, the ridge between Dijon and Beaune where are grown most of the world-class wines of Burgundy. Other not-to-be-missed towns include Saulieu, Semur-en-Auxois, Autun, Beaune, Auxerre, Avallon, Troyes and Dole.

But perhaps even more special is the unexpected pleasure of discovering, while wandering along the tiny roads that crisscross the landscape, an old-fashioned café and perhaps an open air market in a small country town where one can join the weathered-faced local farmers in sipping a mid morning "Kir" (made with a shot of Cassis, the deep, red-violet liqueur of Burgundy, made from black currants, in a glass of dry white wine,usually a sauvignon blanc.

The spring brings vast carpet fields of deep yellow mustard, from which is made the delicious "moutarde de Dijon," and never-ending bird songs. Summers are warm and lush, while autumn brings the wine harvest. Even winter’s deep green meadows and dark purple earth, with occasional dustings of snow, is beautiful

The connoisseur will find truly unlimited opportunities for discovery in Burgundy

If you would like additional information, please contact me.

Thanks for your interest.

Ken Lawson