HIDDEN BURGUNDY

We are passionate about this region. That is why we have made it our home. Its fine wines are no secret. The smooth and earthy flavours of its Pinot noirs and the crisp oaky hues of its Chardonnays have put the Burgundy firmly on the map. But if you look beyond the vines you discover a fascinating region steeped in history, where true rural France still exists. The people are proud and eager to share the region and its riches with you. The lush rolling landscape beckons you to explore and bike friendly roads and tow paths along the canal offer the perfect way to do it.

Burgundy’s history is long and illustrious. Its Gaulish roots go way back to the rise of local hero Vercingetorix who united and led the disparate Gaulish tribes for the first and last time in their heroically unsuccessful last stand against the invading Roman Army of Julius Caesar at the Battle of Alesia in 52BC. The battle site is now being developed as part of a move to establish Alesia as the heartland of the Gaulish nation. With apologies to the fans of Asterix, Obelix and co.

The middle ages saw the rise of religion in the region where some of Frances most wealthy and powerful abbeys were built and run at Cluny, Fontenay and Vezelay. Prompting the biggest period of religious building that the country has known. Many of these buildings still exist today in excellent condition.

The State of Burgundy run by the powerful and canny Dukes, was equalled in wealth and power in Europe only by Venice. It controlled Franche Comte, Alsace and Lorraine, Belgium, Holland, Picardy and Flanders. This ended in 1477 when the French Kings finally wrested back control following the siege of Nancy. Although defeated, Burgundy remained independent in spirit if not politically. It is this spirit that is still present in Burgundy today. Burgundy has been called ‘un etat d’esprit’ a state of mind. It is said that every Parisian is a born-again Burgundian at heart. Burgundy in the blood presumes an irrepressible spirit, tinged with religiosity and nostalgia but tempered by mischievous gaiety and wit as sharp as (Dijon) mustard.

Nowadays Burgundy is dominated by agriculture. Much of the region is cultivated. To the east it is fairly flat with fields devoted to crops such as maize and sunflowers. To the south it becomes hillier, with the gentle slopes providing the ‘cotes’ for the vines to grow on. The west of Burgundy is the vast Morvan National Park offering forests with all year round colour, low mountains, lakes and rivers. Ever present are the creamy white Charolais cattle which are fundamental to the robust Burgundian cuisine. The rivers and canals that cross the region, including the Canal de Bourgogne, Canal de Nievre and the Canal du Centre and the Rivers, Saone and Loire provide 745 miles of navigable waterways. This also happily provides up to 600 miles of ‘Veloroutes’ which we make some use of on the Hidden Burgundy Bike Tour.