Digging Deeper into a Family Winery
One can’t talk about Burgundy without talking wine. Beginning in an offshoot of Champagne, bisecting the Cote d’Or, and then onto the Bourgogne with a finish in Nuits-Saint-Georges, traveling along the wine route in this part of Frnace will make one’s mouth water with excitement. Along the way in the off the beaten path village of Massigny is a unique way to learn more about wine, viticulture, and tasting. Here, the wine specialty is a Cremant de Bourgogne, a sparkling variety. Perhaps not as well-known as the Burgundian wines south of Dijon, this wine is a balance of the Champagne and Burgundy. The Oenocentre Ampelopsis itself is a tiny vineyard and museum established in 2003. The vineyard itself, however, began one hundred years earlier. The center offers rudimentary exhibits, videos, games, and sensory experiences focused on exposing kids and adults alike into the local nature of growing wine. It is the interactions with the winemakers, however, that truly make this a wonderful experience. Sure, conversing with the wine maker in France is not an altogether unusual experience. But in a context of education, this becomes an exceptional site. The Board of Governors of Wine Tourism in Paris presented the center with its inaugural prize for wine tourism in 2011. Now it’s your turn to discover this oenophile experience in the Bourgogne.
Hotel Chateau de Saulon
France is famous for its unique lodging opportunities. The vineyards of the Cote d’Or offer an even more breathtaking experience that is characterized best by the Chateau de Saulon. Located just ten kilometers south of old Dijon and a mere five kilometers east of the nearest vineyard, the Chateau is situated in an idyllic and almost surreal setting. The manor house was constructed over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries and situated in a park-like setting of 27 hectares (66 acres). Immediately, an aura of restful relaxation strikes the lucky traveler as they turn off the Rue de Dijon and onto the long drive lined with wonderfully large trees that perfectly frame the 3½ story chateau nearly three hundred meters away. Crossing a small bridge, I am giddy with excitement at this historic chateau that comes complete with all the accoutrements that include two pigeonniers guarding the house. And yet among all this charm, the façade neatly incorporates modern glass additions that in compliment rather than detract from the integrity of the historical character. On the inside, the Chateau is just as charming. With a stylish mix of old time charm and new age modernism, the Chateau is unlike anything you could have pictured. Among the hotel’s thirty-two guest rooms, I stay in a cozy space overlooking the unassuming but pristine rear terrace. On a sunny day, the windows open wide to let in the quiet air of Bourgogne. Grab a bite to eat in the elegant restaurant featuring the chef’s favorite local seasonal products or sip on an aperitif on the terrace while watching the sun go down over the pool. In all, this 3-star Michelin hotel rating is not only magnificent, it is a downright bargain at only 129 euros for a standard room. At this rate, the Chateau de Saulon may be the best deal in France.
The Origins of the Seine
I am fascinated by the notion that major rivers originate as streams. With the Seine playing such a prominent place in French history and society, this fact is all the more impressive. As one creeps further upstream, the river’s importance to these small town becomes more evident and we begin to see towns named Mussy-sur-Seine, Châtillon-sur-Seine, Nod-sur-Seine, Aisey-sur-Seine, Saint-Marc-sur-Seine, Quemigny-sur-Seine … the list goes on. The latter is only twenty kilometers from the source of the river and more than two hundred kilometers from Paris. In total, the Seine flows for 776 kilometers. Further downstream, the Seine is wide, measuring 118 meters at the Eiffel Tower and 200 meters just south of Rouen. At La Havre, the Seine empties into la Manche at 700 plus meters wide. For comparison, the Seine at Aisey-sure-Seine is a mere 7 meters wide, nothing really more than a stream or creek. Of course a river’s width and depth have tremendous implications on transportation and therefore, development which is why such places downstream never grew more than smaller, more intimate, and rustic settlements. The Source-Seine itself is more like a religious grotto than a natural landmark, perhaps due to the importance placed on this site by ancient Romans and Gallic tribes. The site is so important today that the city of Paris purchased the property in 1864 which was quickly followed by the construction of the grotto and nymph statue protecting the source today.