In spring, Burgundy shows us all its colours
From Dijon to Nevers, the days get longer. The birds awaken and the sun gently caresses the hillsides of the Mâconnais and the vineyards of Chablis. The Morvan puts away its winter coat. A light breeze still buffets our faces, but no matter. By bike, by motorbike, by boat or on foot, all along the rivers and the canals of Burgundy springtime is here and it’s beautiful. From the yellows of the rape fields to the cherry red hues of the trees, it is the perfect time to breathe in the fresh air of Burgundy.
Burgundy at the water’s edge
It’s easy to imagine yourself dipping your toes in the water (or almost in the water!), sitting on a blanket and watching as the natural world springs to life. One thousand two hundred kilometres of rivers and canals: now that’s breathtaking! Relaxing or fun-filled, their afternoon in the sun will surely be charming and idyllic. Wrestling with the lock at Anizy! The children get excited and watch carefully as the barge floats serenely down the canal. The lock-keeper takes care of things. After a few manœuvres, the vessel is on its way once again as other freshwater sailors salute her. They know Burgundy by heart. This year, they are heading for the Canal du Nivernais. Numbered signposts that are placed all along the cycling route guide them on their way: with just one click, they change their route to follow their desires! Their destination is Baye Pond, a remarkable natural habitat, and they will be sure not to miss the Sardy Valley and its unique succession of 16 locks; from beneath the dense vegetation an unlikely 760 metre tunnel appears all of a sudden. A trip aboard an electric boat will allow them to sail beneath its splendid vaults. They drop the anchor and head to La Charité-sur-Loire on electric bikes: visitors never tire of the priory that is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the fishermen that congregate on the banks of the Loire as soon as the season opens, looking to catch something to fry, or the kayakers that splash around on Europe’s last wild river. All the more so because May is the month when the Festival du Mot Mot takes place: artists, writers, poets and creators descend upon the town in order to play with the French language. Next year, our pleasure boaters and lovers of Burgundy will rack their brains once more. Perhaps they will change their itinerary in order to take advantage of the region’s other charms… From north to south, from Yonne to Côte-d'Or, along the Canal de Bourgogne ; or in Saône-et-Loire, along the Canal du Centre, from Chalon-sur-Saône, the birthplace of photography, to Paray-le-Monial, a special place for pilgrims at the heart of the Charolais.
« One thousand two hundred kilometres of rivers and canals: now that’s breathtaking! »
Escape to the heart of the cities
When the first rays of spring sunshine appear, the cities of Burgundy come to life. The parks begin to fill with people and the fountains become playgrounds for young ones. There is no time to waste! In Dijon, the region’s capital, head to the Palais des Ducs and the newly renovated Musée des Beaux-Arts. What would Dijon be without its city centre, which has been almost entirely pedestrianised, and the terrace cafes where it is a real pleasure to enjoy a glass of wine? Enjoying a city break without also enjoying a night out would be unthinkable! Take your pick. The programmes at the Auditorium, the Grand Théâtre – especially during its Théâtre Festival in May – and the Zénith set the tone for the season.
Wine lovers would choose the capital… the capital of wine: Beaune ! An unmissable visit to the Hospices de Beaune and their famous Salle des Pôvres grand hall, which brings to mind the film « La Grande Vadrouille »… In spring, the essential rendezvous is Festival international du film policier.
For those who cannot imagine a holiday without water, there is lots of room at the numerous Burgundian towns that occupy a place on the riverbanks. They are spoilt for choice. To the north Auxerre and Joigny sit on the banks of the Yonne, whilst in the west you have Nevers by the River Loire and then to the south, along the banks of the Saône, there is Mâcon, Chalon or Tournus, the town with 4 Michelin stars! The best time for gourmets to book would be the two days of the music festival that is organised by the great chefs.
An endless supply of fresh air in the Morvan…
The Morvan is Burgundy’s trump card when it comes to nature : àOn horseback across the four departments - Nièvre, Saône et Loire, Yonne and Côte d'Or – this regional nature park spans 3000m² and is also a paradise for walkers enjoying a stroll around the lakes or through the forests. In spring, the Herbularium de la Maison du Parc offers visitors a fresh approach: remarkable species are revealed and medicinal and edible plants are rediscovered. A native plant species is even used to dye the Easter eggs that many visitors enjoy hunting for at Sully. Every year, over Easter weekend, the château becomes one vast children’s playground.
…or among the vineyards.
When the fine weather returns, seasonal products are once more in full colour. A tour of the market at Chagny will be enough to fill your shopping basket! A picnic in the Maranges, an appellation to the south of the Côte de Beaune is always pleasant: straw hat, gingham tablecloth, marbled ham, Mâconnais goat’s cheese and, to finish off in style, the first apricots of the season. What a treat! The afternoon could be a bit more studious, with a detour to Puligny-Montrachet, the paradise of chardonnay. An impromptu tasting session in the vaulted wine cellar of a cru wine producer will leave a lasting memory...
Burgundy on two wheels
Spring is also the time for a spring clean: the Burgundy fondue set is put away, the bike that was starting to gather dust at the back of the garage is back in service. The main objective is to relax! The towpaths, far removed from all the traffic, provide the perfect place for this. The cycle paths and the green ways of the Tour de Bourgogne à Vélo® allow visitors to combine their pleasures. The fruit trees that line the route will already be in blossom, the first buds starting to appear, the meadows covered in violets, primrose and wild daffodils. And what about that field of small yellow flowers? What are they? They are, of course, rape! The peloton makes a much needed stop: Medieval châteaux, picturesque villages or the chance to taste local products? Do what the pleasure boaters do: take your time and let beautiful Burgundy carry you along…
Is that the end of the journey? Of course not! The motorbike was made for the Auxois: from the road you can see the fort of Châteauneuf, perched proudly atop its hill. Butterflies flutter by and your stomach starts to rumble. So, to satisfy your hunger, what could be better than a stop at Semur-en-Auxois? The artisan biscuit production at this medieval town is the envy of all France. The troops can now march on to Charolais-Brionnais along the country roads. The fields are carefully marked out with rows of trees that stretch as far as the eye can see, and there are around one hundred Roman churches to discover! Don’t forget the famous Charolaise cows that live a pampered life throughout the region.