begins near Auxerre, a small medieval town with
a beautiful Gothic cathedral, and extends southward to the hills
of Beaujolais just north of Lyon.
The départements are the Yonne, Côte
d’Or, Nièvre and the Saône-et-Loire.
Driving through this region, one seems to be traversing a huge carte
des vins, Mersault, Volnay, Beaune,
Aloxe Corton, Nuits-Saint-Georges,
Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin.
This vast domain of great wines was for 600 years an independent
kingdom, at times as strong as France itself, enjoying its heyday
in the 15th century. Throughout history, however, Burgundy’s
vineyards survived thanks in large part to the knowledge, diligence
and good taste of its monks. Several of the orders owned extensive
vineyards throughout the region, among them the Knights
of Malta, Carthusians, Carmelites and, most importantly,
the Benedictines and Cistercians.
As a result the 210km (130 mile) length of Burgundy is peppered
with abbeys, monasteries and a score of fine Romanesque churches,
notably in Fontenay, Vézelay,
Tournus and Cluny. There are also
many fortified châteaux.
an important political and religious centre during the 15th century,
has several fine museums and art galleries and the Palais
des Ducs, once the home of the Dukes of Burgundy.
There are also elegant restored town houses to be visited, dating
from the 15th to the 18th century, and a 13th-century cathedral.
The towns of Sens and Macon both
possess fine churches dating from the 12th century.
The region of Franche-Comté is shaped like
a fat boomerang and is made up of the départements of Doubs,
Jura, Haute Saône and Territoire
de Belfort. The high French Jura Mountains,
rising in steps from 245 to 1785m (805-5856ft), run north–south
along the French–Swiss border.
To the west is the forested Jura plateau, the vine-clad
hills and eventually the fertile plain of northern Bresse,
called the Finage. The heights and valleys of the
Jura are readily accessible and, in the summertime,
beautifully green, providing pasture land for the many milk cows
used in the production of one of the great mountain cheeses: Comté.
In ths region there are many lovely rivers including Semouse,
Allance, Gugeotte, Lanterne,
Barquotte, Durgeon, Colombine,
Dougeonne, Rigotte and Romaine
(named by Julius Caesar). They weave and twist, now and then disappearing
underground to reappear again some miles away. All these physical
characteristics combine to make Franche-Comté
an excellent region for summer holidays and winter sports.