The Burgundy-Franche-Comté Region now encorporates the previous Regions of Burgundy and the Franche Comté.
The name Burgundy immediately conjures up visions of superb wines and wonderful gastronomy. Regional specialities range from the classic ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’ and ‘Escargot de Bourgogne’ to the delicious Charolais beef and ‘Jambon Persillé a l’ancienne’, delicious eaten cold accompanied by a glass of Chablis on the banks of one of the many canals or rivers that cross Burgundy, possibly followed by ‘tarte au fromage blanc sucrée’ or a little Bleu de Bresse, both typical of the Saône et Loire. The vineyards are recognised as being the finest in the world. From Chablis in the north via Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune to the Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais in the South. The choice of superb wines is endless. With 96 wines categorised AOC, 33 attract the highest appellation of ‘Grands Crus’.
The history of the region is fascinating. The Archéodrome de Bourgogne is an extensive leisure park with a life-sized reconstruction of the fortification techniques employed by Julius Caesar in the siege of Alesia when he battled against a young Gallic hero, Vercingetorix. A museum documents Burgundy’s history from the Palaeolithic era to the Middle Ages when the two greatest monastic reform movements originated: Cluny and Cîteaux. Both became established political forces and, as a result, Burgundy has many magnificent buildings from this era including the Abbey of Fontenay, the Basilica of Vézelay, and cathedrals such as Autun, Dijon and Auxerre. There are scores of Romanesque churches and one of the most illustrious of the Burgundian vineyards, Château du Clos de Vougeot, renowned as the home of the Chevaliers de Tastevin, owes its splendour to the monks who first inhabited it.
The Morvan, a mountainous area to the west of Burgundy, is the perfect place for walking, sailing and rafting whilst the gentler slopes of the Bresse lend themselves to cycling tours as does the Châtillonnais. There is plenty of scope for fishermen on the many trout streams and lakes or on the Saône, known for its catfish. Riding, rock climbing, pot-holing, micro-lighting and ballooning are also popular. Burgundy is easily accessible whether by plane to Dijon with regular flights from London Stansted, by Eurostar to Dijon or by one of the three main autoroutes which cross the region.
Situated in the Eastern part of France, Burgundy-Franche-Comte comprises eight departments: The Cote d’Or, Nievre, Saone et Loire, Yonne, Doubs, Jura, Haute Saone and the Territoire de Belfort. Besançon, the capital of Doubs, has 123,000 inhabitants and is France’s first garden city. With its imposing fortress built by Vauban, it is also the site of regular classical music and jazz festivals. Overall, the region accounts for 2% of the total French population whereas the surface area is only 3% of the surface area of France. It is an unspoilt region of forests and lakes, mountains and fresh air. There is a wealth of wonderful produce to enjoy from local cheeses including Comté, Emmental and Mont d’or to name but a few and the delicatessen is extensive, including the renowned Luxeuil ham, Brési (dried smoked beef from this land of cattle), Morteau and Montbéliard sausage. There are also a plethora of delightful wines including the justifiably well-known and appreciated wines of the Jura.
As one might expect, leisure activities include a variety of outdoor pursuits including cross country and downhill skiing, snowshoe trekking, dog sleigh riding and, with a total of 80 lakes, there is plenty for ramblers, fishermen and water skiers to enjoy. Amongst these, Lake Saint Point which abounds with fish and extends to 400 hectares, is probably the best known. The dramatic Jura mountains and the Vosges Mountains with the extraordinary still waters of the ‘Plateau des Milles Etangs’ etched out by glaciers are just two of the impressive natural wonders of this region. The town of Gray has a remarkable town hall which dates from the 16th century and Luxeuil-les-Bains is a spa for water-cures. Belfort is famous for its huge stone lion, its Vauban citadel and festivals – all having much to admire and visit.
The Saône Valley is criss-crossed by waters on which myriad barges glide to and fro past museums, abbeys, châteaux, churches and other attractions. The houses in the town of Pesmes, dating from the 12th century to the Renaissance, are delicately balanced on a rocky spur above the River Ognon. In the Valley of the Loue at Ornans, the works of the artist Courbet are commemorated in a museum in his honour. The valley is a haven for fly fishers and the pools of the Doubs and the Rivers Loue, Lison and Lakes of Remoray and Saint- Pont offer an ideal location for water sports enthusiasts and ramblers as well as rock climbers in the nearby Doubs and Dessoubre valleys. In adddition to the excellent wines of the Jura, the region is also famous for brandy and liqueurs including kirsch made in Fougerolles and Mouthier and at Pontarlier, a local aperitif of Anis. Copyright Sarah Francis.
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Les Canets, 71390 Villeneuve-en-Montagne, France