You’ve decided to take a holiday in France, in the region of Burgundy to be exact. It is a land known for its rich history, quaint villages, castles, churches, lakes and forests, and rolling hillsides swathed in vineyards. Burgundy is probably most famous for its wines of the same name, though the countryside of east-central France has that and more to occupy many fulfilling adventures.
Finally in France, you and your companion have rented a car to explore the sights of Burgundy at your own pace. But it’s not going so well. The cities are packed with tourists, the traffic is horrendous, and now that you’ve finally gotten yourself into the countryside you are completely and hopelessly lost. Your companion drives aimlessly as you peer over your French dictionary, map resting on your lap like a foreign object full of runes. You feel the promise of an enjoyable holiday being swiftly swallowed by the jaws of stress.
Now picture this. You’ve made it France, ready to embark on the journey you’ve always sought out—a voyage through the region of Burgundy. It is a place full of charming villages, elegant churches, castles, and vineyards at every turn. If things couldn’t get any better, you find yourself cruising like royalty along the canals of the nation and down the Saône River. Here and there you doze to the pace of the current, wine glass in hand, and wake to distant church bells beckoning your next adventure. On foot, or on bike, you disembark from the river. All of Burgundy is in your grasp, the promise of an enjoyable holiday as sweet as the wine that fills your cup.
The region of Burgundy is a place of wine, a place to be sampled leisurely, slowly and thoughtfully like the sipping of each local vintage. Of course, this is only a suggestion, but if you find yourself agreeing then you might want to consider the “Burgundy by River Barge” cruise, a 10-day National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures trip. Instead of getting thrown into the throngs of tourist crowds, try something different and hop on a boat. The route begins in Dijon, meanders through the region, and ends in Beaune before taking the high-speed train to Paris. For a little more insight on the adventure that awaits, here are some tidbits to tease the palette…
The river barge, or péniche, cruises along its route at a pace of 6kph (4mph). Perch yourself in a comfortable spot on deck and you’ll be able to take in the splendors of lush green riverbanks, rolling fields of wildflowers, farmhouses lost to time, countryside chateaux, and churches dotting the horizon. It is easy to feel at peace, and you’ll find the feeling of general contentment follow you to the shores each time you embark on new adventures by land.
In Dijon, the tour of Burgundy begins with a chance to see the capital city and historic home of the Dukes of Burgundy. Once a center of great power, the city has much to offer in architecture, museums, and gardens. The famous Ducal Palace, local market, and old town are also renowned locations for experiencing the charming culture of the place. While countless villages will dot the shores of the Saône, some of the main stops on the itinerary include Longecourt-en-Plaine, Auxonne, Saint-Jean-de-Losne, Seurre, Verdun-sur-le-Doubs, Fragnes, and Beaune. Each neighborhood has its own quirks, cafés, people, and of course, wine, to occupy time spent onshore.
During each day of the cruise, there will be some designated free time to explore to your heart’s content, grab a bite to eat, or strike up conversation with a genial local. There are also some planned activities on the route, some of which include leaving the river and bicycling into nearby villages to sample some of the region’s best wines. You might explore sights like the Chateau De Longecourt, a typical Burgundy castle with beautiful gardens, as well as engage in activities like expert wine presentations and tastings, a tour of the Hospices of Beaune, and the Marché d’Aligre in Paris—a local market full of history.
Burgundy is as much a region of food as it is of wine, and the two often come hand in hand. Some of the most renowned specialties are coq au vin, beef bourguignon, fondue bourguignonne, escargots de Bourgogne, la matelote d’anguille à la bourguignonne (eels stewed in wine sauce), and gougères (cheese puffs). Dijon, of course, has become famous for its mustard as well as Kir, a beverage made with white wine from Burgundy and blackcurrant liqueur. And as far as sweets go, specialties include things like dragées d’anis de Flavigny (anise-flavored candies), spice bread from Dijon, and “Belle Dijonnaise” pear (poached in wine). Needless to say, the region is also home to a diverse array of cheeses to match every wine vintage.
Whether you are drawn to the idea of a pleasant countryside getaway or the chance to become a connoisseur of the region’s vineyards, a tour by boat to the pace of the lovely Saône River is one that is unique to the usual rite of passage through Burgundy. Many rush in to see and do all that there is, but the way to truly experience the culture of wine country is to consider each step, each stop along the river, as you would a vintage of the land itself—cherishing every taste and getting lost in the pleasant aroma of it all.
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