While France is well known for Paris and fashion, its food and wine are also well known worldwide. Wine producing regions like Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy have produced world famous wines enjoyed by all. Continuing on our visit to France, this blog post is about Burgundy. Dijon is the capital of this region and is also famous for its Dijon mustard. You can read about Paris and Mont St. Michel which we also visited. Dijon is easily accessible and is only 90 minutes by TGV train from Paris. The train leaves from Gare Lyon station in Paris and connects to Dijon Ville station. TGV tickets vouchers can be bought online in advance from Rail Europe and collected in Singapore through their agent.
After the hustle and bustle of the crowds in Paris, Dijon was like a breath of fresh air with the slower pace of life and smaller crowds. There were many Chinese tourists here. I suppose they could be here to buy some vineyards, and then maybe not. Our stay in Dijon was only for a night and we decided to stay at the Sofitel Hotel as it was within walking distance to the train station.
We arrived in Dijon before 12pm and checked into our hotel. Taking a short rest, we waited near a bus stop beside our hotel for our tour guide. We had booked a tour with Authentica Tours which organizes food and wine tours. I found them through recommendations on TripAdvisor and decided to try them out. A few other tourists were also waiting there for our guide, Mr Ivan who soon showed up with a mini-van. Off we went with Ivan explaining about the history of Burgundy, Dijon, and it’s famous wines.
Dijon dates back to the Neolithic era and later became a Roman settlement along the route from Paris to Lyon. Dijon was also home to the Dukes of Burgundy from the 11-15th century. These days, Dijon and Burgundy are more well known for their fine foods and wines. Dijon holds an international Gastronomic Fair every autumn with over 500 exhibitors, and it’s city center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015.
The wine producing regions of Burgundy are south of Dijon, along the western escarpment (named Côte d’Or) of the valley that runs parallel to the Saône River. So what makes this region so special for growing wines? It’s the soil which consists mainly of limestone which gives the wines here it’s characteristic taste. Ivan was soon rattling off terms like Côte de Nuits, Terroir, Grand Cru, Pinot Noir in quick succession. And if you are like me who doesn’t really know much about wine, here is a good website to get you up to speed on Burgundy wines. Looking at the amount of history and information available, I think you could probably write a whole thesis just on Burgundian wines alone.
We stopped at a family run vineyard to look at their operations and have a little wine appreciation session.
After our short wine appreciation session, we were off to see the various vineyards in the Côte d’Or.
The final stop for our half day tour was the medieval village of Châteauneuf and it’s castle built on a hilltop 475m above the countryside. If you like fairytale castles then this is one place you should visit.
We chose the short half day tour and by evening we were back in Dijon and our hotel. Authentica Tours offers different types of tours depending on your preferences and tastes, so you could end up with a longer tour. Our guide Ivan had grown up in Burgundy and he certainly was informative on all aspects of the region and it’s wines.
The next day, we had the whole morning to see Dijon town as our train was leaving only in the afternoon.
After visiting Dijon Cathedral, we went back to the Dijon Notre Dame since we couldn’t enter it the previous night.
Before long we had to make our way to the railway station to catch our train back to Paris. Our stay of 1 night was too short and I do think that a longer stay of at least 2-3 nights will be better to enjoy all that the city has to offer. We didn’t have enough time to see the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and the Museum of Fine Arts inside it as they were closed on Sundays, as well as, many of the historical buildings which are scattered throughout the city. There is also the Owl Trail, a self guided walking tour where you can follow the guide map and owl signs to learn more about the city and it’s history, which we were also not able to do due lack of time.