A Letter From Burgundy

November 11, 2016

Armistice Day 2016

Filed under: Armistice Day,Events and markets,History — Lesley @ 14:36

We joined with locals at nearby Epinac this morning to remember and commemorate the ending of the 1st World War………….. Afterwards, there were drinks in the Town Hall. In France, the cornflower is worn like the poppy is in the UK. The poppy wreath in the picture below was put in place by the British Legion, Lyon Branch, France.

September 19, 2016

Chateau de Germolles – Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine

Each weekend in September France has a Heritage weekend. Many monuments and sites that are normally closed are open for the weekend and other places which are normally open to the public have reduced fees of entry or are free.

This year we went to Chateau de Germolles near Mellecey. It is the best preserved residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. It was built during the second part of the 14th century although there had been a fortress there since the 13th century. Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, bought the chateau from local feudal Lords and gave it to his wife, Margaret of Flanders. The only remains today of the original fortress are the lower chapel and the wine cellar.

Plaque at the Entrance Gate

Ten years of transformations took place – the Duchess wanted a country estate rather than a fortress and the best architects, sculptors and painters of the time were employed. Large rose gardens were planted and sheep and other animals were farmed.

Goats where sheep once roamed

Former stables?

Former stables?

After Philip and Margaret the Chateau belonged to a further three Dukes of Burgundy – John the Fearless, Philip the Good and Charles the Bold. After the death of Charles the ownership passed to the King of France. After the French Revolution it became the property of the Nation.

Parts of the chateau have been lost over time, mainly due to lack of maintenance but at the end of the 19th century it was purchased by a family who still own it today and repair works have been carried out.

The chateau today still has a large collection of medieval floor tiles which are decorated with motifs that were the symbols of the Dukes – roses, thistles, sheep and fleur – de – lis.

Rare wall paintings can still be seen today which date from the Middle Ages – motifs of “P” and “M”, initials of the Duke and Duchess over the walls along with thistles, the personal emblem of Margaret Flanders.

If you are interested in the history of Burgundy this Chateau is well worth visiting. We were not allowed to take interior photos showing the famous wall paintings as great care is taken with light exposure etc to preserve the paintings for future generations.

February 27, 2013

The Saint Vincent Tournante 2014 comes to Saint – Aubin




There are about 70 villages in France with the name St Aubin so if you are coming to enjoy the celebrations next year make sure you get the right one! 2014 will be the first time that St Aubin in the Côte de Beaune has hosted this traditional festival.


As can be seen from the above link the vineyards are mainly located to the west of Chassagne-Montrachet. The AOC Saint-Aubin may be used for white and red wine – production consists of about 75% white wine and 25% red.  The total amount produced corresponds to about 800,000 bottle of white and about 300,000 of red. There are 25 climats (named plots) which are classified as Premier Cru vineyards. It has been announced the vintages of 2009,2010,2011 and 2012 white wines will be tasted and the vintage reds  2009 and 2011.

This year, Châtillon sur Seine hosted The Saint Vincent Tournante and there were 30,000 visitors over two days! The relatively small village of Saint – Aubin  (about 270 inhabitants) may be stretched during the weekend of 25th and 26th January next year! With little extra accommodation in the area you would be well advised to plan your trip early and stay in one of the nearby villages.

Saint Vincent is the patron saint of  wine growers. Not much is known about him and there are many legends about Saint Vincent. It is thought that he could be the saint of wine growers due to his name “vin” and “cent” (wine and one hundred). One of the most famous legends is that Vincent stopped at the edge of a vineyard to talk with the workers and while he was there, his donkey nibbled at the young vine shoots.

When the next harvest came, it was discovered that the vine stock that had been nibbled by the donkey had produced more fruit than all the others. So St Vincent’s donkey had invented the art of vine pruning!

Upon St Vincent’s Day winter begins anew or goes away” –  this used to be the traditional time for winter pruning to begin.

Since 1938 the different wine villages in Burgundy have taken turns to host the famous festival of St Vincent Tournante (revolving Saint Vincent). The selected village welcome all the winegrowers’ brotherhoods. There is a religious service and sermon and then the colourful parade of the brotherhood through the decorated streets.

The cellars are opened up and this gives the visitor an opportunity to discover the village and their vineyards. An entrance fee is charged which “buys” an engraved tasting glass, a carrying pouch for the glass and tokens to exchange at each tasting stand – ” la joie de vivre”.

For a full list of host villages follow this link : www.tastevin-bourgogne.com

 This picture, from bourgogne.france3.fr, shows visitors having a good time at Saint Vincent Tournante 2013.


December 7, 2012

Christmas Markets

Filed under: Burgundy,Christmas Markets,Events and markets,Food — Tags: , , — Lesley @ 14:25

One of the joys of living in France during the festive season is having the chance to visit so many Christmas Markets selling beautiful crafts, fine food, hot wine and lots of pressies.

There is a forthcoming Marche de Noël in Meursault on Saturday15th December from 10 am to 9 pm and on Sunday 16th December from 10 am to 6 pm.

If you are looking for a day out and a market on a much bigger scale try Dijon market which runs from 1st December to 6th January with over 60 stalls and the chance to go ice skating on the rink at Place de la Republique. Copy and paste this link for full details:


For an extensive list of markets in southern Burgundy follow this link:  http://www.americansinfrance.net/Attractions/Southern-Burgundy-Christmas-Markets.cfm

Many small towns and villages have decorating the Christmas tree competition for local children. A bank of trees are placed outside a town hall, in a car park or somewhere similar and each child is allocated a tree to decorate and of course the winner receives a gift from Père Noël. The decorations are then taken off and the trees reallocated to the next age group up for their competition.

Wherever you are celebrating Christmas this year we send you Seasons Greetings and best wishes for the New Year. Also, thanks for reading our blog!

November 26, 2012

Out and About

Filed under: Events and markets,Food,Wines and vines — Lesley @ 15:14

After a busy summer and a trip back to the UK for a family wedding in quaint old Whitstable we have had a little more time to be out and about enjoying autumn in Burgundy.

Watching the grape pickers near Volnay

Covering the grapes


We saw this fungi during a walk with the dogs

We visited le Château Couches de la Marguerite de Bourgogne too. (www.chateaudecouches.com) The present owners are reconstructing the history and rediscovering  the architecture of this fortified medieval monument which is perched on a rocky outcrop in a prime position to withstand attack. It has an 11th century main tower, many underground tunnels, 12th century justice tower and a 15th century chapel.  A guided tour enhanced our knowledge of these fine buildings. Wine tasting is available and many activities for children are held during the holidays.

Last weekend we visited Beaune for the 152nd Hospices de Beaune wine sale celebrations. It was a fantastic time to be in this beautiful town. The auction, managed by Christie’s each year is held in the Halles de Beaune and for 2012 was presided over by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy with the proceeds going to various charities. A new cuvèe was offered for the first time by Jean-Luc Bissey – Echèzeaux Grand Cru. The vineyards were planted by his father in 1945 after his return from the war and are located in Les Echèzeaux du Dessus. This is the third Grand Cru de la Côte de Nuits to be offered for sale in the auction.

Despite a poor spring the harvest begun on the 19th September after a month of warm and dry weather and the 2012 vintage is expected to be very good as small bunches of grapes, rich in sugar and flavour were produced. In fact Anthony Hanson, senior consultant at Christie’s, has described 2012 as a splendid vintage for both reds and whites.

44 different wines were for sale – 31 red and 13 whites – a total of 512 barrels.  Prior to the auction tastings and dinners featuring Hospices de Beaune wines were organised in many cities including Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Palm Beach, New York, Boston, Vienna, Paris and Beaune.

The weekend is called “Les Trois Glorieuses” and is a three day festival devoted to the food and wine of Burgundy.


These people were enjoying frog legs for lunch but there was ample choice including meats from the Morvan, snails, truffles and pancakes. We opted for pancakes at Chapelle Saint-Flocel which opens its doors once a year to help raise funds.

Throughout the day there was French country dancing by a group from Dijon and a number of street bands ranging from formal marching bands to the less formal-

If you get the chance to visit Beaune for the 153rd Week-End de la Vente next year (the auction is on the 3rd Sunday in November) make sure you go!

September 16, 2012

Lest We Forget

Filed under: Events and markets,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Lesley @ 19:44

Each year, on a wooded hillside just outside the hamlet of Lavault, near Epinac, there is a remembrance ceremony for the four young RAF airmen who died when their Halifax bomber crashed. They were dropping supplies to the local French Resistance and unfortunately failed to clear the hill in the dark.

The four who died were Owen Smith-Pilot, William Christie-Co-Pilot, Sonny Solomon-Navigator and Alan Laverick-Bombardier. The other two crew members, Royle and Bathey survived despite the plane breaking into three parts on impact.

The dead were given a military funeral with full honours in Epinac despite the presence of German occupation forces.

Every year on the first Saturday after the 11th of September French dignitaries, local residents, members of the ex-pat community and relatives of the airmen meet on the site of the crash to commemorate their sacrifice.

May 13, 2012


Filed under: Events and markets,Gardening and weather — Lesley @ 09:21

May Day – La Fête du Muguet or La Fête du Travail is a public holiday in France and while trade unions and other organisations may choose this day to organise parades in towns and cities to campaign for workers’ rights other people, especially in rural France, will give bouquets of Lily of the Valley to loved ones and close friends. This tradition is believed to have been started by King Charles IX in 1561 when he sent each Royal Princess in France a stem of Muguet as good luck. Around the 1900’s men started giving the flowers as tokens of love or affection to their girlfriends. Today, bakers and florists will usually incorporate these flowers into their displays and individuals and organisations are given special dispensations to sell them without having to pay taxes or work within retail regulations!


Lily of the Valley

Another lovely tradition this month comes from Australia and New Zealand where each year on ANZAC Day families still make special biscuits which were sent overseas to serving soldiers during World War One. The biscuits (Google ANZAC biscuits) have excellent keeping properties hence being able to take weeks to reach their destination.

In our family we have our own little tradition. When a new grandchild is born we plant an acorn and watch the Oak tree grow. Not quite the same as some families do in the Mediterranean where they plant an olive tree on the birth of a child  but  “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”  This is Sasha’s oak tree. She was born in Sydney in January of this year and will be in Burgundy to see her tree this summer.

Sasha's Oak tree after 4 months

Finally, thanks to the rain we have had lately other flowers doing exceptionally well are the wisteria and lilacs which seem to be everywhere at the moment. We have a young wisteria on the front of our house which is yet to flower and we wonder how long it will be until it has flowers like this one on the main road through Couches…..

Wisteria in Couches