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News and events around the Burgundy region, Bourgogne Franche-Comté
The Sap is Rising
This weekend, March 24 the Beau Marché in Toucy in the Yonne takes place. This is a real country market with livestock - lambs and chicks plus horses, goats, donkeys and cattle and the usual food stalls. At 10.00 the national poultry show will be held, at 15.00 the dog show. The activities continue throughout the day with competitions and parades including vintage motorbikes and cars for the more mechanically minded. There is something for everyone and according to the weather forecast, the temperatures are rising into the mid teens, a pleasing thought indeed.
Across the region, the vines are stirring, the countryside is budding and the châteaux are flinging open their doors for the new season.
the mega rich list
In the April edition of Decanter magazine, Andrew Jefford laments the beginning of the 'era of billionaire ownership' in the Burgundy vineyards. He is talking about the Grand Cru domaines which have been bought up by the luxury brands such as Groupe Artémis which owns Christie's auction house, Stade Rennais Football Club and has controlling shares in Gucci for example. LVMH luxury goods, have also purchased as has Stan Kroenke, Arsenal football club owner. The sums of money we are talking about are eye-watering and local families will not be able to compete. Probably Jefford thinks, the quality of the wine will improve which will have a knock on effect of improving Burgundy wine as a whole but Grand Crus will be out of reach to all but the mega rich. More...
I love this sort of book. It was my constant companion while searching for a new home in France last year. If social media is to be believed, then there are many people from anglophone countries wanting to get their feet under the french ‘residency’ table before whatever deal the Brexit negotiations finally come up with by March 2019. Consequently lots of practical questions are under discussion as well as those preferential ‘tick boxes’ that people come up with on those “Escape to . .“ TV programmes. But for me the most important house purchase ‘box’ is often invisible and yet affects many people – sometimes so deeply that all previous criteria are thrown out of the window.
Broadly speaking it is the ‘feel’ of the house, impossible to define but you know when it’s there, and many people wouldn’t think about buying a new home without it. It encompasses that disgreeable cliché ‘the wow factor’, and concerns ambiance, and includes all the humanities: history, mythology, geography, literature, religion, the arts and cultural society, and contributes in no small measure to the intangible, dream-making factors that really inspire and influence decision-making. No-one can define another person’s ‘wow’. No-one can predict when or why those back-of-the-neck hairs stand up. But Nick Inman’s book, “Mystical France – Secrets, Mysteries, Sacred Sites ” grasps the intangible, and sets out before us fascinating esoteric facts about France; the context and meaning of your chosen location, and its relationship to the broader European heritage. Whatever your personal interests, aspects of this book can’t fail to grab your attention and imagination, and enhance your experiences of France, both present and future.
People have many reasons for wanting to move permanently to France. There are plenty of books that will guide you through wine regions, sport and leisure activities, historic battlegrounds, gastronomic centres, and political influences and trends. Everyone is probably now aware of the reasonableness of house prices and the consequent opportunity to acquire the kind of property which would be beyond their means in the UK. France is still the number one European holiday destination, and those seeking a new way of working life often see themselves as being able to develop new businesses within travel and tourism. All of these contemporary concerns are underpinned and enhanced by the contents of “Mystical France”.
“Mystical France” is visually very pleasing. There are full colour photographs on every page and side bars containing connected information. (Right, we show the pilgrims' boots at St Jean Pied de Port) End Notes provide additional practical guidance and bibliographic and other sources. The Index of Places is particularly useful. The book covers a time line from prehistory to modern day and within the Travel Guide section is grouped into geographical regions. There are also thematic sections linking aspects of mysticism to people, locations and their modern influences such as for example the impact of the Knights Templar on the modern day revival of the apprenticeship system of Compagnonnage.
This eclectic approach makes it a thoroughly appropriate reference book to dip into when travelling around France as a tourist, or a potential resident, or just researching particular topics of interest. Caves and cave art are to be found in many places, as are standing stones and megalithic monuments. France has many historic references to the Romans. Imagine, as I did years ago, finding out that the little road outside your house in Burgundy was in fact the route of the Via Agrippa – an ancient road of great importance stretching from Lyon to Boulogne. Then, through browsing Nick Inman’s book, tracing other important routes exposing the links to the modern landscape, buildings and places of worship, and the connections between art, design and modern mysticism (Millau viaduct; Créteil Cathedral).
Other topics include pilgrimage routes and shrines; sacred springs and ancient religions, monsters and gods; saints and sinners; alchemy, astrology and UFOs. (Did you know, for example that “France is the only country in the world with a state-funded, civil organisation tasked with collecting and investigating reports of unidentified aerial phenomena.”?) There may be some people who would dismiss such themes as far-fetched, but it is important to stress that “Mystical France” is an accessible and broad-based guide which neither promotes nor judges its content. Much of it forms a back story to the identity of France itself; the reason why so many people love the country. It’s certainly a book that everyone contemplating a permanent move should own; one that provides a sense of the overall depth of history and myth, the context and reason why living in France has remained in many peoples’ dreams for decades.
“Certain places have an effect on us at crucial times of our lives. They can, if we let them, wake us up".
© Marilyn Floyde, Author “King Arthur’s French Odyssey – Avallon in Burgundy”, BSF Publishing
Three important buildings in Burgundy's history will be celebrating anniversaries this year, the Abbaye de Fontenay, 900 years; Château de Bussy-Rabutin, 400 years since the founder's birth; and La Grande Forge de Buffon, 250 years. Under the heading 'Epiques Epoques' the Côte d'Or Tourist Office will be announcing a variety of events over the summer to celebrate these monument's coming of age.
You could not get three more different men who first established these properties:
Bernard, the Cisterian monk who founded the abbey; the philandering Roger Bussy-Rabutin, expelled from the court of Louis and the naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count de Buffon. This week we look at the Forge de Buffon in Montbard.
Head for the fairway
It's an important year for golf in France with the Ryder Cup in Paris in September, only the second time that the championship has been played on continental Europe. If you are coming to watch the champions, extend your trip and try your hand on Burgundy's excellent golf courses, all within easy reach of the vineyards.
At Golf Hotel Château de Chailly (above) near Pouilly en Auxois, you can step out of bed and onto the golf course. The hotel is now under the new management of Tobias and Marco who built up a very successful business at Les Roches boutique bed and breakfast nearby. They have turned this into a holiday home for rental, available on HomeAway. With 45 rooms to manage at the château, two restaurants, the spa, tennis court and pool, plus the golf facilities, it's a new challenge. Check out the offers on the website - a golf and lunch package, for example, costs 79 euros per person when booked direct.
Stars shine in Burgundy
Hotly awaited this week has been the announcement of the 2018 Michelin Restaurant Guide for France. Top of the list comes Masafumi Hamano (left) from the 'Au 14 Février' in St.-Amour-Bellevue in Saône-et-Loire. Michelin has granted him a prestigious second star in the guide. Japonese chef Takashi Kinoshita (centre) wins his first star at the Château de Courban, as does Sébastian Chambru at l'O des Vignes in Fuissé. Le Charlemagne in the Côte d'Or and Château de Germigny in Franche-Comté have both lost their star.
In a surprising turn of events, Jérôme Brochot who said that he wanted to renounce his Michelin honour last autumn because his customers in Montceau-les-Mines could no longer afford the prices required to adhere to the Michelin standards, has retained his star in his restaurant 'Le France'. Brochet reduced the prices dramatically to about 30 US dollars a head and describes this as the first 'populist' Michelin star (in France) says the Robb Report.
say it with flowers
Château d'Ancy-le-Franc has been glorifying the gardens around the château with spectacular results. The garden on the east side was inspired by the Chambre des Fleurs in the château. Taking four of the pictures from the room, the images have been enlarged one hundred times in the garden and these have been translated into planting with pathways leading to a
There will be plenty more news of events at the château over the following months, starting now with the programme of classical concerts by Musicancy over the summer. At the concerts there is a chance to visit the house and the gardens and see the new additions.
In France, if you want to use your mobile while in the car, drive to a designated parking area, proper car park or private driveway reports Connexion magazine. The Court of Appeal has ruled that a stopped car is still considered to be 'in circulation' even if it is pulled over at the side of the road with its engine off and hazard lights on. This doesn't apply to cars fitted with hands-free sets.
Each year as the St. Vincent Festival concludes, the venue for the next year is announced. Dates for your calendar are January 26 and 27, 2019 and the chosen location is Vézelay, granted AOC status in 2017. Following in the footsteps of Chablis in1976 and 1999, and Irancy in 2016, Vézelay will be the third village in the Yonne to welcome the festival.
There have been vines at Vézelay since Gallo-Roman times at the end of the first century. In the 18thC, the vineyards covered 500 hectares but the arrival of phylloxera in 1884 almost wiped out the vines entirely. By the end of the 1960s, only one or two meagre hectares remained.
More than two decades have passed since a group of twenty or so winegrowers began cultivating vines again on the hills dominated by the famous basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vinified exclusively in white, the appellation’s one hundred hectares are planted between 190 and 330 metres on steep slopes facing south- south east.
The winegrowers and villagers of Vézelay have secretly been preparing for the festival for several months now. In this wonderful setting, picture the stately procession of magnificent banners and statues making its way through the vines to the summit of “la colline éternelle”, the eternal hill.
2018 wine directory
Gear up for Burgundy
Classic car rallies are frequent events on the open roads of Burgundy from spring onwards and the region hosts three events which should not be missed by fans of motor sport.
The first is Classic Days on April 28-29 at Magny Cours now in its 11th year. 2018 features the Porsche 956, particularly the 1982 model in which Jacky Ickx won the Le Mans 24 hour race title and became the racing champion of the year in that class. He will be at the circuit along with the cars which are on loan from the Stuttgart Museum. Track events and activities around it, plus an air display all add to the atmosphere.
Next up is the Coupes Moto Légende at Dijon Prenois, a favourite with vintage bikers from all over Europe. This year it is on June 2-3 and it is sure to attract thousands of leather clad aficionados.
Finally it is the turn of those elegant beauties of the past, the Bugattis, Maseratis, Bentleys, E-types etc. at the Age d'Or on June 8-10. You can mingle in the pit, pick up mementos at the stalls and watch the track action.
The Absinthe Trail
The Lonely Planet Guide highlights the rise in the number of small distilleries in Franche-Comté and Switzerland which have sprung up in recent years. The Absinthe Trail has been developed to encourage tourists to explore the drink, its history and unique production process.
Absinthe is an anise flavoured spirit, high in alcohol, which turns white and cloudy when cold water is added. It is not to be confused with Pastis , also anise based, which is a liqueur and always bottled with sugar. Pontalier is the town in the Franche-Comté famous for the manufacture of Absinthe, a drink which has seen a great rise and fall in its chequered history.
The place was chosen in 1890 for the existence of an underground water source used for the distillation process. Then a stroke a good fortune occurred - the soldiers at the nearby Pareuses military camp were given Absinthe to combat malaria on their tour in the Colonies and when they returned, they had developed the taste for the drink. News of this highly alcoholic drink soon spread across France.
Popular in all strata of society, by 1910, the French were drinking 36 million litres of absinthe per year, as compared to their annual consumption of almost 5 billion litres of wine. It became the fashionable drink of artists and writers in Paris until in 1915 disaster struck - a huge furore broke out - it was thought that the spirit was hallucinogenic with the properties of an addictive drug. In that year it was banned in the USA and much of Europe, including France. It was illegal to distil any anise based products until 1921.
Absinthe has been made in Pontalier by the Guy family since 1890 (with the exception of the banned years). Made from botanicals, the flowers and leaves of grand wormwood, together with green anise, sweet fennel and other herbs are used and it can be green in colour or colourless, with a high alcoholic content.
Visit the Distillery
At the Guy factory the beautiful 100 year old copper stills and the huge oak casks are still in use and you can make a free visit and tasting from Tuesday to Friday and on Saturday morning at the Rue des Lavaux distillery.
The Oscars of the food world, the Michelin star ratings, are only weeks away and as always, they are a closely guarded secret. The Bib Gourmand however, the Michelin guide to good quality and good value meals has already been published. The criteria of the guide is that a three course meal should cost less than 37 euros a head in Paris and 33 euros per person in the rest of France.
In Burgundy seven new establishments have been added to the list, shown below ** for Burgundy as published by France 3 TV:
Le Chastellux, Chastellux-sur-Cure (89)
See the Michelin starred restaurants
conserving our feathered friends
The countryside of Burgundy is a haven for birds and 187 species are known to live in the region. A new part-works in French is now available for reference describing their habits and habitat, reproduction, the wintering, the migration, the number, the geographical distribution and measures to conserve the species. 'L'Atlas des Oiseaux Nicheurs de Bourgogne' has taken four years of research by 60 ornithologists. A sister publication is in preparation for Franche-Comté.
More on birdwatching...
Here's a new website for visitors to Burgundy or Beaujolais who would like to visit a cellar for a tasting along the famous wine routes in the region but are not looking for a full blown guided tour. In Burgundy the wine grower may be a one man band or a family affair and as Jancis Robinson points out in her article on visiting Burgundy's wineries, it is not easy to find them in their cellars to pay them a visit, often they are out in the vineyard tending their plants. In Beaune and Chablis the tourist is well provided for with tastings on offer but drive out to Gevrey-Chambertin or Aloxe-Corton and where do you start? Now help is at hand. Rue des Vignerons is a website which tells you of the user-friendly winegrowers offering tastings and cellar visits. There is no fee for their services, book online, preferably ahead of time but a minimum of 30 minutes before you want to go. Some of the tastings are free of charge, and the website gives full details of tours on offer and the prices plus a map and directions. The domaines' wines are often available at a reduced rate too. This certainly simplifies life and assures you of a warm welcome. Above, Domaine Famille Picard, Chassagne-Montrachet.
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