On seeing Lasse Hallström’s film Chocolat, the temptation to move to Flavigny-surOzerain in northern Burgundy is hard to resist. Set in the Côte-d’Or village, the 2000 film is credited with bringing Flavigny-surOzerain’s sweet character to the world’s attention with its story about a woman, played by Juliette Binoche, who opens a chocolate shop during Lent. However, the plus beau village was well known for its sweet tooth long before Hollywood came knocking.
Home to France’s oldest brand name in confectionery, Les Anis de Flavigny, the ancient village is scented with the aroma of orange blossom, rose petals and liquorice; fragrances used to flavour the candies. The sweets’ recipe has remained unchanged since the 16th century and you can get an insight into how they are made at the ancient Abbaye St-Pierre, the only place where the sweets are made.
But Les Anis de Flavigny sweets are not the only thing to stand the test of time in the village; local residents take great pride in preserving its historic features and its medieval fortifications including the Portes du Val. Passing through one of the stone gateways is an enchanted way to enter the village. Inside, the ancient ramparts provide an idyllic walkway that affords spectacular views of the Auxois hills and vineyards below. If you choose, a walk through the Flavigny-Alésia vineyard comes to a perfect end with a tasting of its local wines.
It is the surrounding countryside that makes living in this part of Burgundy so special to Louise Dean who bought a property in the area five years ago. “The surrounding countryside and rolling hills are quite idyllic,” Louise says. “It’s so peaceful and relaxing and it’s a very unique place to live,” she says.
Louise discovered the area after working on the Chocolat film as a chauffeur, and says that she hasn’t looked back since. “I decided (after having worked on Chocolat) that I would like to purchase a property in the area,” she explains. “I am now the owner of probably the smallest house in the village; a square tower that has been completely restored.”
Walk around and you’ll find lots of properties with charming character. The narrow streets wind past medieval and Renaissance buildings and turreted homes housing some of the village’s 338 inhabitants. And along its cobblestone lanes, you’ll find small, traditional businesses: tanners, millers, potters, weavers and winemakers to name a few. In addition, there are a few art galleries and craft shops along Rue Lacordaire.
Just like in the film, the village is rooted in tradition; residents buy from the local shop, eat at the village bistros and attend the village church. And in the quiet of the morning, you may hear the chants from the nearby Monastère St-Joseph. A soundtrack here for hundreds of years, this charming tradition looks set to continue unchanged, much like the village itself.