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pam elson brings you Burgundy Today's roundup of news and events
Fighters in the Shadows, A New History of the French Resistance by Robert Gildea
Hundred Years War Vol 4: Cursed Kings by Jonathan Sumption
The History of Modern France from the Revolution to the Present Day by Jonathan Fenby
sumptuous conservation comes at a price
Architectural Digest has recently featured Château Digoine in southern Burgundy, shown above. The sumptuous photographs by Pascal Chevalier alerted us to this fantastic make-over by French film maker and antique collector Jean-Louis Remilleux. This is his private home but the good news is that during the summer season, it is open to visitors making it one of the most beautiful historic places in Burgundy to spend some time.
This avid aficionado of antiques from the Louis XV and XVI period found just the right setting for his collection. Château Digoine was designed by architect Edme Verniquet and built from 1700 onwards. A later addition in 1842 was the private theatre frequented by Sarah Bernhardt and Offenbach and the neo-Gothic library, built shortly before, around 1825, for the then owner Comte de Moreton-Chabrillan.
Remilleux has spent the last two years saving the château from decay. In the Architectural Digest article by Mitchell Owens he tells how the creature comforts have been installed to make it habitable such as the addition of 150 radiators and carefully concealed new baths: . “I love history,” Remilleux says, “but I want a nice shower, too.” 18thC style with all mod cons.
But of course the renovation has come at a price and in order to carry on the work in the stables, the outbuildings and the theatre, Remilleux is putting part of his extensive collection of paintings, furniture and works of art up for auction. They will come under the hammer on September 28 and 29 when Christies will offer over 1000 lots.
Château Digoine is at Palinges, north of Paray-le-Monial, open to visitors from 14.00-19.00 each weekend from May to October and everyday during July and August.
Architectural Digest article
Bringing Burgundy to You is living up to its name and exporting its knowledge about the local wines. David and Lynne Hammond are giving masterclasses on Burgundy wine both in holiday homes in Burgundy and further afield in the UK and other parts of Europe. The class lasts three to four hours and is tailored to the audience which can be anything from two to 30 people. Ideal for a group of friends, a wine club or corporate event, the Hammonds start off with a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne with gougères, then move on to discuss the wine areas with tastings and an aroma session. A personal information pack and lunch of French cheeses and charcuterie paired with the wines up to Grands Crus is included. This year, venues have included a château in Puligny Montrachet and private homes in Guernsey and Norfolk. For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org
wine news: Read David's report from the vineyards after an exceptional summer for weather
The Railways of Burgundy
Train enthusiasts, this is for you. Patrick Bennett in the first of his Burgundy series, explores the history of the railway in the Nièvre department. From the first horse powered engine used to haul coal to the surface at La Machine to the influence of the Schneider empire and modern day locomotives, this well illustrated book includes timetables, gradient profiles and historic documents. The regional train stations have changed little over the last 150 years as some of the old postcards show.
Local life from the saddle
It's always good to hear of new ventures. Tom Kevill- Davies has recently opened The Hungry Cyclist in Auxey-Duresses where he has converted ' the near-derelict 17th-century water mill and former village campsite into something like a cycling enthusiast’s blueprint' . Andy Pietrasik spent three days with him cycling and sampling local life in the vineyards. Writing in The Guardian, he describes buying the picnic fare and then cycling to a tasting day in Volnay to source the wine. He says: ' We cycled to the village, paid €14 to drink from and keep an empty wine glass, and then walked between two marquees set up amid the vines and sampled around 20 pinot noirs, ranging from vins villages to premier crus. All were smooth and toothsome – as would be expected. But nothing about these tastings was at all elitist. Instead, the atmosphere was more village fete, and a horse-drawn calèche was on standby to ferry tipsy tasters back up the hill. Back in the village square, sitting on a wall overlooking the vineyards and the Saône valley beyond, we set about our picnic before wobbling back home on our bikes to the lodge'. More...
for Early birds
Looking ahead, French Wine Explorers, the leading luxury wine tour company in the States, has launched its 2016 programme with Burgundy and Bordeaux the focus. The Grand Cru Tour of Burgundy is an in-depth exploration of the Côte d’Or’s finest estates and a unique opportunity to taste the 32 Grand Crus of Burgundy, as well as experience special winemakers’ meals and exclusive tastings at some of the best estates of the region. The tour can take 10-12 people.
Another company specialising in the American market, the luxury hotel Barge Luciole (above) has the 2016 booking calendar up on its website. The barge can take up to 14 and there are still a couple of places left during the 2015 season too.
A chablis special
David and Lynne Hammond of Bringing Burgundy to You have organised a Chablis Special in St. Omer on Saturday October 24. This is a chance to stock up your wine rack in time for the party season.There will be a tutored tasting to compare "left bank" and "right bank" Premier Cru, where to find the best Petit Chablis and experience Chablis Grands Crus from some favourite growers. This will be followed by a five course dinner at Le Cygne restaurant, paired with Burgundy wines. The price is 125 euros per person. Contact email@example.com See more on St. Omer
a week of celebration
The long awaited news was announced on July 4, Burgundy was successful in its bid for the vineyards of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, the 'Climats' to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is great news for everyone involved in the wine and tourist industry in the area with the possibility of some funding for future projects.
'We are delighted by the decision, which reflects eight years of hard work, raising awareness, and mobilizing communities,” said Claude Chevalier, President of the BIVB. “And we are even more happy that we can share our joy with our friends in Champagne. But this decision is by no means an end. It is a marker in our history, the history of the women and men who have shaped these landscapes, built these walls, constructed these shelters, identified every plot, and constructed towns and villages across the Bourgogne winegrowing region,” he added.
It looks as if the hard work will continue apace. There are two large projects in the pipeline which will enhance the region further. Next June, Dijon will unveil La Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie, an exhibition centre covering 6.5 hectares in the centre of town on the site of the old hospital. And under consultation at present, Beaune is working on the Cité des Vins de Bourgogne project, an information centre devoted to the 'Climats' due for completion in 2018.
Savagnin, not Sauvignon
With increased interest in Jura wines, Jancis Robinson's latest article for the Financial Times is entitled 'Lifting the Veil on the Jura.' Savagnin is one of the five grape varieties grown in the Jura, and is particularly revered because it makes Vin Jaune which is aged under a film of yeast known as a voile or veil for over six years. (The other grape varieties are Chardonnay, Poulsard, Pinot Noir and Trousseau.)
'Until recently , says Jancis, 'the Jura has been an unusually hermetically sealed wine region, with virtually no outside investment – which has perhaps helped to retain the very special character of its wines'. This is changing, - Boisset from Burgundy for example purchased Henri Maire, the largest Jura wine producer, at the beginning of the year. Read the article
'France 1940. As Hitler's armies descend upon Paris, Lucile (Michelle Williams) awaits news from her husband who is being held a prisoner of war. Leading a stifled existence with her domineering mother-in-law (Kristin Scott-Thomas) Lucille's life is turned upside down when a handsome and charming German officer (Matthias Schoenaerts) is posted to live with them. Despite the many taboos, they find themselves drawn to each other, until the realities of war threaten to destroy them'. The book is available in paperback at Amazon
take care at the wheel
New motoring restrictions came into force on July 1. In the Yonne and Nièvre, a trial is being carried out reducing the speed limit from 90 km/h to 80 km/h. This applies to the Auxerre to Varzy stretch of the N 151.
Don't be tempted to put on your earphones, including hands-free phone kits - you could face a 135 euro fine. The new regulations also ban eating at the wheel, playing music too loudly and applying make-up.
And coming up, in 2016 bikers will have to wear high visibility yellow vests.
Driving along the A6 in Burgundy, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois stands supreme in the distance on the rocky spur. The château was donated to the state in 2008 and the Regional Council has spent the last year restoring the great house at the château, once home of Philippe Pot at the time of the glorious Dukes of Burgundy. The visitor centre in this 'logis' opened last week to a huge fanfare by the choir Arsys Bourgogne.
During the summer months musical events are planned, there are workshops, night-time visits and overall, the place has been given a new lease of life. See programme. Châteauneuf is labelled one of the most beautiful villages in France.
a charm all of its own
Last week we spent an action packed time exploring the Franche-Comté. Over the next few months an eclectic mix of articles will be appearing on burgundytoday about this region to the east of Burgundy in time for the merging of the two areas at the beginning of 2016. We visited a salt mine, Comté cheese factory, Vauban forts, Le Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp, discovered Courbet and Ledoux and the meadows of the Haut Jura, ate a lot of cheese and of course tasted the delicious wine around Arbois. The town of Ornans, shown above, on the river Loue, was one highlight of the trip.
We found Franche-Comté to be a gentle place, with very friendly people, beautiful scenery and good roads (lorry runs best avoided). As is the case with all the proud regions across France, the locals are concerned about retaining their identity. 'We are worried about being swallowed up by Burgundy. For example will Besançon university get taken over by Dijon?' said one spokesman. This area has been used to fortress tactics throughout history but if they embrace the new regime, it seems likely that Franche-Comté could gain much from its more outwardly affluent neighbour and visa versa.
Coinciding with this visit, the New York Times published an article 'Exploring Franche-Comté, France's Well Kept Secret' majoring on Besançon and the surrounding area. Read the full article to get a taster of things to come.
A quick recharge
The first recharge point for electric vehicles in Burgundy has opened on the A31 motorway at Dijon-Brognon at the 'aire de repos'. The full recharge will take half an hour. By the end of the year, there will be 45 points on the motorways which have been co-financed by EDF electricity, the EU and the car manufacturers.
lighting up Sens
The light show on the exterior of Cathedral St-Etienne in Sens proved so popular last year when the 850 year celebration took place that it is being repeated again this year. On Friday and Saturday nights until September 19 at 21.30 a son-et-lumière will light up the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world telling of its history and of the famous people who were involved throughout the ages.
In the blue zone
Many towns across France have blue zones for parking. From tourist offices and newsagents you can buy a disc for 2 euros allowing you to park for up to two hours (excluding 12.00-14.00.) Simply set your arrival time on the clock and place in the windscreen saving time, hassle and money.
A splash of colour in the orangerie
Vibrancy, freshness and vitality are the keywords for France Wagner's paintings which go on show in the newly restored orangerie at Château d'Ancy le Franc. Lighting up this beautiful space throughout the summer months, her work depicts nature and people's expressions with warmth and iridescence. This well-known artist born in Alsace, now works from her studio in Paris and exhibits frequently all over Europe. Recent commissions include artwork for the liner Queen Mary II.
Entry free of charge. Open daily 10.30-12.30, 14.00-18.00 every day except Monday. In July and August: 10.30-18.00 and Mondays 13.30-18.00. The exhibition runs from June 13 to October 4.
renting a car on a UK driving licence?
On June 8 driving licence changes come into force in the UK. As it stands at present you need to take the paper version (counterpart) of your licence as well as the photocard driving licence with you when renting a car. The DVLA website says:
'From 8 June 2015, you may wish to check with the hire company what they need to see when you hire a vehicle. If you’re asked for evidence of what vehicles you can drive or confirmation of any penalty points, you can request a unique code from GOV.UK which allows you to share your driving licence details or you can download a summary of your driving licence record. The code lasts for up to 72 hours and will allow the hire companies to make any necessary checks. You can also request a code by calling 0300 790 6801. This also applies if you have a paper licence that was issued before 1998'. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/driving-licence-changes
Sweet dreams for cyclists
After an exhilarating day in the saddle, a good meal and a comfy bed are called for. The Logis hotel chain offers 16 bike friendly hotels in Burgundy for the independent traveller. A bike store is provided, your luggage can be transported for you to the next hotel (for a fee), the hotelier is knowledgeable about routes, repairs, bike hire and the weather, and will provide a hearty breakfast for the early bird. You never know when some back-up will come in handy. Here is the list of bike friendly hotels, each one bookable online.
PARAY LE MONIAL
POUILLY SUR LOIRE
LIGNY LE CHATEL
VOUTENAY SUR CURE
More on Cycling in Burgundy
art across borders
Charolais, the hefty white cattle, are a feature of the Burgundian countryside. Shortly they will become just as symbolic in New Zealand when Paul Day's sculptures go on view. Made at a foundry in Hangzhou in China, they are the work of a British sculptor, who lives near Dijon.
Day is famous for his high-relief sculptures in terracotta, resin and bronze. The Battle of Britain Monument on the Victoria Embankment in London, and The Meeting Place at St Pancras Station are two of his most famous and much discussed works in the UK and previous commissions include work in Europe, USA and Canada. Nearer to home, he has sculptures on display at the Abbaye de la Bussière in the Ouche valley and there is a permanent exhibition at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Beaune.
Your little bit of France
A pretty village house in a medieval village may be a dream but for a week or two it can be yours. Petit Crème in Montréal near Chablis is a self-catering holiday home which has recently been revamped and offers beds for 6-7 persons. The essentials of modern living such as WiFi, a DVD player and TV with English and French channels plus a garden and use of a pool ensure that all the family can have a relaxing holiday, home from home.
fine dining in the Franche-ComtE
Gradually over the course of this year we shall be adding information about the Franche-Comté which joins up with Burgundy on January 1. There are 11 Michelin starred restaurants in this mountainous region which have now been added to the 2015 list making a total of 43 for Bourgogne Franche- Comté. More...
When metal comes alive
The Château d'Ancy le Franc is set in the extensive parkland of 50 hectares with noble trees, a lake with a folly, water features and a formal French and English garden. This is the perfect setting for Peter Meyer's 30 metal sculptures which are on show this summer, dotted throughout the park. Meyer, an award winning Belgian artist, lives and works in Roussillon en Morvan where he creates his human, animal and bird sculptures. 'La Méditation', above, is one of our favourites. The exhibition runs until October 4.
Le Corbusier and the Vezelay connection
This year sees a host of exhibitions about the life and work of Le Corbusier on the 50th anniversary of his death. The Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Musée Pablo Picasso in Antibes will be honouring his work along with other museums around the country, as will the Musée Zervos in the medieval village of Vézelay where Le Corbusier spent time between 1936 and 1942. 'Le Corbusier à Vézelay' exhibition will feature some of his watercolours and drawings.
La Corbusier's timeline conveys the energy of this man. Famed for his ground breaking architecture and urban planning ideas, furniture, drawings and collages, sculpture and publications, throughout his life this Swiss born innovator travelled all over the world from the USA to India, South America and extensively through Europe, designing everything from buildings to chairs, tapestries to dinner plates. He hobnobbed with the famous artists, writers and thinkers of the era including Albert Einstein (above right), Josephine Baker, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso.
So, where does the medieval village of Vézelay fit into the frenetic schedule? In 1926 Christian Zervos launched a modern arts magazine called 'Cahiers d'Art' in which he featured prominent artists of the day. He and his wife set up a gallery and exhibitions in Paris and both showcased Le Corbusier's work in their publications and exhibitions. Zervos was a great enthusiast for Vézelay and bought a farmhouse in the hamlet of Goulotte nearby where Picasso, Fernand Léger and Le Corbusier were guests. Architect, avant-garde critic and friend Jean Badovici built two houses in Vézelay where La Corbusier stayed.
Le Corbusier came to Vézelay in 1936 and he painted a collage for Badovici (above left and centre). It is recorded of Le Corbusier: ' he is not interested in the basilica, but the houses of the village, extolling the human qualities of their builders, masons and modest local architects'.. Maybe Le Corbusier found the Burgundian air and lifestyle relaxing, working here on his publications.
When Christian Zervos died he left his modern art collection to Vézelay and the Musée Zevros opened in the main street in 2006. The building had previously been the home of Romain Rolland, one of Burgundy's famous sons (this French writer received the Nobel prize in 1915). The modern architecture, mixed in with the original stonework is a perfect canvas for the modern art exhibits and includes works on permanent display by Picasso, Dufy, Magritte. Miro and Kandinsky.
'Le Corbusier à Vézelay' at the Musée Zervos runs from April 29 until November 15 showing watercolours and drawings by the architect. Open daily from 10.00-18.00 except Tuesday. July and August every day. Entry 3 euros.
jura wines in the spotlight
At the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards, just announced, Wink Lorch has won the award for the best wine book. Wink has taken the wines of the Jura region in the Franche Comté to her heart and as well as writing about them, she has been spending time abroad spreading the word. Man Booker-winning novelist Julian Barnes, who was this year's assessor for the wine books, said: "Jura Wine is the first proper book in English about the wines of Jura. When its author took her first-ever glass of it, she thought it was 'weird'. It is a reaction many of us have shared, and perhaps not got beyond. Happily for us, she did, and has produced a personal and deeply committed guide to this often intractable region." See Wine Guidbooks
Flavours of Burgundy
Get away for a weekend of Burgundy wine - talking about it, tasting it and visiting the vineyards. In May, June and September, Bringing Burgundy to You, together with La Borde Maison d'Hôtes are offering a complete immersion in the luxurious surroundings near Chablis. There's also a weekend on Grands Crus this month, and the Hospices de Beaune wine auction in November. More on the Gourmet Weekends Programme
france at its best
This is what France and Burgundy are about, and it really gets the taste buds going. It's the provenance of food, prime produce with that special quality from the best sources.
Get out to your local market for the sights and smells of glorious food.
Our picture of the week, shot at the Beaune market, comes courtesy of Château de Villette luxury bed and breakfast near Autun. Sample Catherine's acclaimed food, using the best local ingredients. More...
Meeting today's exacting standards in holiday rentals, Penelope Sai asked the help of interior designer Sophie Seeger to decorate her cottage. The result is Desjardins' Cottage, pure French country style. South-west of Auxerre, it is a great place to relax, experience village life, as well as a good base from which to explore northern Burgundy from Chablis with its wines to the medieval village of Noyers-sur-Serein. Wifi is now an essential requirement for all holiday accommodation, a good kitchen and bathroom, and home comforts - all on offer here. More...
|Songs of Peace and Unity
Music can be a good antidote in this turbulent world. Deutsche Grammophon has just brought out a CD entitled “Taizé – Songs of Peace and Unity”. This recording, the result of an unprecedented collaboration between the religious community and an international label, presents songs performed by a choir of young people and instrumentalists from various countries, some recordings made during the community's prayer in July 2014 and also psalms and responses sung by the brothers alone. Available on Amazon. More on the Taizé community in Southern Burgundy
Sailing on a sunny afternoon
No sails required on a self-drive cruiser on the Burgundy canals, life goes at a leisurely pace on board. But to make the most of what is on offer in this region, rich with speciality foods, wine and heritage, some new ideas of what to do when you moor up come from Locaboat, the boat hire specialists. Visit the Chagny market then return to your boat and have a cooking class on board your vessel, go on a wine tasting tour in a château, or take the kids to an archaeological workshop. The trips are available from
departure points at Saint Léger sur Dheune and Mâcon
and advance reservation is required. More information
News In brief
Politics: With the run up to the fusion of Burgundy with the Franche Comté region in January 2016, a website is up and running with the latest developments within the corridors of government. www.bourgognefranchecomte2016.fr
Travel: It's so easy to get caught for speeding and fined on the French roads. For the latest update showing the speed cameras in Burgundy in each department, follow this link
Business: Marc Meneau's restaurant L'Espérance in St Père sous Vézelay has got into financial difficulties again and has been placed in receivership. Restructuring is taking place in the hope that the son, Pierre Meneau can take over the business.
Quality bed and breakfast places at a reasonable price take a bit of finding. Carpe Diem is just such a place, not far from the medieval town of Noyers-sur-Serein. For this year it has received the accolade of being the Tripadvisor Traveller's Choice, the only one in Burgundy. Tasteful decor in a charming village setting with friendly service and the possibility of a delicious dinner too More...
Classical music in a château is a perfect combination. The summer programme of concerts at Château d'Ancy le Franc from the association Musicancy is now available and booking opens at the beginning of April. Among the attractions, vocal ensemble Aedes, classical guitarist Sébastien Llinares and Le Banquet du Roy playing 16thC music. More...
Before the announcement on Tuesday that the Côte St. Jacques restaurant in Joigny had lost one of its three stars in the Michelin Guide, there was talk in the press about the upgrading of the hotel to five star status. Chef Jean-Michel Lorain is not taking the regrading lying down, he will be investing heavily in the hotel in the near future. The Conseil Régional de Bourgogne has agreed to award a grant towards the cost of this work which is proving controversial locally.
The only restaurant in Burgundy receiving a star in this year's announcements is L'Aspérule in Auxerre, run by Japanese chef Keigo Kimura. See the full list
Get away 2015
Make irresistible chocolates with a master chocolatier, chill out with a day's private charter on the river, compare and contrast Burgundy wines with those of another French region on a two centre break, polish up your cooking skills and combine the practical with a wine masterclass... Here are some new additions to popular activities in Burgundy
Lynne Hammond's cooking class, 'Cook with Confidence' (above) has proved a great success. It can now be incorporated with a wine masterclass at the farmhouse near Autun over one or two days for a maximum of four people. The price is 295 euros for one day and 550 euros per person for two days.
If chocolate is your weakness, head on down to La Clayette and have a four hour indulgence with master chocolatier Bernard Dufoux. His afternoon classes take place on the first Wednesday of the month, commencing on February 4 at 14.00. Orangettes, Truffes, pâtes d'amande, Griottes au kirsch and Palets d'Or are just a few of the specialities he will be demonstrating. The price of the class is 80 euros per person.
If wine is the reason for your Burgundy visit, Burgundy Discovery, the wine tour people, are now offering two centre trips. Two days in Burgundy is followed by a further two days in either the Loire, Savoy or Rhone valley with expert guides in each of the regions so that you can compare and contrast the wines. Prices vary according to the region but start at 900 euros per person.
For a total chill out, take The Randle motor barge for a one day private charter from Auxerre down the river Yonne, stopping off for lunch at Vaux and wine tasting in Irancy or Chitry. The boat can take a maximum of six passengers and the total charter price for the day is 1500 euros. Make the most of the lazy days of summer.
Burgundy is a very bike friendly place. Not only are there designated cycle tracks, the Voie Vertes, and the canal towpaths, good signage, maps and tourist information, it is also easy to transport your bike from place to place on the trains, both on the local TER and TGV fast services. There is a special section on the SNCF website with all the information. Also see our Cycling sections.
How is Burgundy Wine Made?
After the harvest, what happens to the grapes to turn them into wine? We look at the intricate winemaking process for red and white wine from harvest to bottling.See our step-by-step guide.
The Top 10 Attractions in Burgundy
Our list of must-see places to visit during your stay in the Burgundy region from the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune (centre) to the Grand Cru wine route (left), Vézelay and Guédelon (right). More...
Pam Elson ©burgundytoday.com
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