Travel Bulletin

Western Europe


Bonnie van dorp experience­s some of the best burgundy has to offer

Burgundy’s capital, Dijon, invites the curious -- but not those who are in a hurry. There are treasures to discover here, but you should amble at a leisurely pace with the locals so as to not miss a thing. My first stop is Palais de Ducs, or the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, which is situated right in the heart of the city. Comprised of multiple buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, the preserved palace is very much the pièce de résistance of the historic quarter. For those looking to walk off a few croissants, a climb up to the 46m terrace tower comes highly recommende­d.

The tower was erected under the rule of Philippe le Bon in the 15th century, and at the top, gorgeous views await.

After the palace, I continued along my way with my guide in tow. Our next stop is the

If you’ve ever wanted to step into a working time machine in the hope of exploring a bygone era, a visit to Burgundy, France, is about as close as you’re going to get, writes Bonnie van Dorp.

famous Church of Notre Dame in Dijon. On the path, I notice a number of markers in the shape of small brass owls. My guide Carmen explains that the owl is the unofficial symbol of the city and each of the markers -- 22 in total -- lead tourists around a 3km loop to a historic monument of note.

The final marker can be found in front of the Church of Notre Dame. Not that it’s hard to miss. Fifty-one gargoyles are perched on the church’s facade, representi­ng different monsters, animals and people. There’s a lot of detail to drink in.

I’m led around to the north side of the chapel, and there, carved into an unremarkab­le corner is a small stone owl. The owl mysterious­ly appeared one day several centuries after Notre Dame was erected. Legend says that if you rub the owl with your left hand and make a wish, the owl will grant it. Once the evening set in, I departed on foot to Loiseau de Ducs. The one Michelin star bistro is housed in a 16th-century building; its interiors modern and inviting. 35 year-old chef, Louis-phillippe Vigilant, heads the kitchen here along with pastry chef (and fiancee) Lucille Darosey, who is an expert at working with chocolate.

Together, they designed a degustatio­n with locally-sourced ingredient­s for me to enjoy. Each dish was balanced and paired perfectly with a regional wine. The most memorable course was the perfect organic egg with creamy Jerusalem artichoke and black truffle. I left the restaurant with a happy heart and a full belly.

I walked back to my hotel, Maison Philippe le Bon, which blends right into the UNESCO heritage listed town. The property was formerly owned by a relative of King Louis XI in 1490. Today, it encompasse­s three private hotels, with an original Gothic courtyard serving as its magnificen­t centrepiec­e. I stayed in the tower suite, which overlooks the courtyard and is located in the oldest quarter of the property. The room is cosy and it doesn’t take long for me to drift off to sleep. In the morning, I head off to sample another Dijon specialty – gingerbrea­d. The House of Mulot and Petitjean is about a 10-minute drive from my hotel, and I am told that their gingerbrea­d is renowned in the region.

Despite its name, Mulot and Petitjean’s gingerbrea­d recipe -- which has remained unchanged since 1796 -- doesn’t actually contain any ginger. Instead, the secret ingredient is honey. There’s an excellent museum on site where visitors can learn

more about the history of the company and how they came to perfect the local delicacy.

After a 20-minute train journey, I arrive in beautiful Beaune, a region famous for its wine. There to greet me at the station was a tall gentleman in a tailored suit by the name of Monsieur Jean Claude Bernard; the proud owner of the Hotel Le Cep.

Hotel Le Cep is the pinnacle of luxury.

The 64-room hotel is comprised of several interconne­cted historic mansions boasting a bygone opulence, complete with priceless relics. In the courtyard, Monsieur Bernard shows me examples of sacred geometry uncovered during an expansion, and I am told an alchemist used to call the property home. There’s a lot to do at Hotel Le Cep. It’s a destinatio­n in itself. Unwind at the awardwinni­ng spa on site, Spa Marie de Bourgogne, or perhaps indulge in a gastronomi­c experience at Michelin-star restaurant Loiseau des Vignes. For wine enthusiast­s, Hotel Le Cep also has a cellar with a prized vintage collection.

Just around the corner from the hotel is the crown jewel of the city, Hospices de Beaune. Founded in 1443 by a wealthy chancellor, the hospital provided much needed medical treatments for the poor. It continued to serve the community until the late 1970s. Today it is a museum, with its chapel, apothecary and wards preserved for the public to discover.

The medieval hospital also hosts perhaps the most famous charity wine auction in the world, Les Trois Glorieuses, which is held annually in November. All the proceeds from the auction go into funding the modern facility which is located on the outskirts of Beaune. The bidding can get heated. Last year alone, a single barrel of Batard-montrachet Grand Cru sold for AU$220,000.

If you took away the historical monuments, the medieval castles and the art – Burgundy’s thriving gastronomy scene is reason enough to visit. The Burgundian passion for food and wine is near impossible to escape. And why would you want to? My advice: Give in, arrive hungry, and bring a pair of stretchy pants to wear on your way out.

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Loiseau des Vignes

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