Tag Archives: barge hotel

Barging through Burgundy, Day 5-6: Walking Tour of Dijon’s Old City

The Caprice finishes its cruise of canals and rivers of Burgundy in Dijon © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Thursday: Arrival in Dijon

We are only a few miles to the last lock before Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, and the French landscape, though still predominantly countryside, becomes more and more populated and commercial as we come closer.

After breakfast on board the Caprice, our charming barge hotel, we take bikes and explore a village.

Back on board the Caprice, Chef Herve treats us to a cooking demonstration – he is preparing salt-encrusted salmon, which is the lunch entree, along with a variety of salads.

The Caprice, one of France Cruises’ luxury hotel barges, floats up a canal in Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wine is a 2010 Musadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie, from the Loire Valley, with a fresh, sharp, neutral flavor to compliment fish; and a 2010 Burgundy red, Saint Armour, named for the village which was named for a martyred Roman soldier, with a fruity flavor of currants.

The last bridge before we enter Dijon’s port is one where we all have to duck – it seems the barge uses every inch of space above.

We come into the port of Dijon, where we will stay overnight.

Caprice’s Chef Herve serves the salt-encrusted salmon for lunch; earlier in the morning, he provided a cooking demonstration © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guy, who has been our guide and bus driver throughout our journey, takes us for a guided tour into the Dijon’s old city, the climax to an incredible week-long journey into Burgundy’s countryside. Dijon is the crowning jewel.

The historic district is just a 15-20 minute from where the Caprice is docked, so we can return on our own and have a couple of extra hours to explore.

As always, Guy, who is a former journalist, is fascinating, illuminating with stories and anecdotes what we can appreciate visually.

He reminds us of the popular Burgundy drink, Kir, which was named for a mayor who served from 1946-1960, was a priest, a canon, and a member of Parliament- the famous drink is named for him. “He did nothing in Dijon – that was reason it is well preserved.” The current mayor, on the other hand, wants to modernize, and is constructing a street car (light rail).

The magnificent architecture of Dijon’s Old City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dijon is a household name because of the mustard, which is still produced here, but these days, they import seeds from Canada. It is also a center for artificial flavors and fragrances.

Dijon is the capital of Burgundy – hospitals, university, administrative services (government), and the main stop between Paris and Lyon.

Burgundy was an independent state, and allied with Britain against France. The last Duke was killed 1463 – his enemy was King Louis XI of France, known here as “the Sneaky One” because though France had a treaty with Burgundy but the King still invaded Dijon.

One of the highlights is the main indoor market – a marvel of steel architecture that goes back to Eiffel, though his colleague finished the project.

The Caprice squeaks under the bridge as we float into the port of Dijon © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is just across from the church of Notre Dame with a marvelous bell clock. “The King of France tried to bribe a town in Burgundy to rebel, and when it did, the Duke besieged it and as punishment, in 1673, took the clock. At the time, it only had a man with the pipe; then in 17C, the people of Dijon (who have a good sense of humor), added a woman so the man wouldn’t be lonely, and in 18C, added two children.” The man strikes the bell on the hour; the woman on the half, and the children on the quarter hour.

Notre Dame has stunning gargoyles, but Guy tells us that a usurer was killed when a gargoyle broke off and fell on him. As a result, the “corporation” of loan sharks demanded they all be taken down; but finally, they were cleaned and replaced in 18C. Notre Dame was defaced during the 1793 Terror, and the anti-religious furor that swept through.

The Church of Notre Dame provides a dramatic backdrop at the end of the Rue Musette © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The owl is symbol of Dijon, and there is an owl on Notre Dame that legend says, you touch with your left hand to have a wish come true (it’s been rubbed smooth over time).

Here we come to the Maison Millière, the charming shop we had first encountered on our first afternoon in Dijon, which specializes in hand-crafted owls.

There are fabulous buildings – stately majestic public buildings, grand mansions that served the noble members of Parliament – through Dijon.

Many of the grand buildings have been “re-purposed” after the Revolution.

Guy, our guide from the Caprice, explains the legend of rubbing the owl that is on the side of the Church of Notre Dame, with your left hand: wishes come true © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Plaza Royale was renamed Place de la Revolution, and the avenue renamed Avenue de la Liberte.

What is astonishing is how many famous people are associated with Dijon: the architect of Versailles, Jules Mansart, also designed the Plaza Royale; Francois Ronde, who designed the Arc d’Triomphe in Paris, is from here.

I wander on my own, and am fascinated with the street names, many with biographical information

In the square of Dijon’s Old City, buildings from the Renaissance flank a carousel from 1865 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rue Danton was named for “conventionnel organisateur de la defense nationale, ne en 1759, mort sur l’echafaud en 1794.” I am fascinated and subsequently learn that Georges Danton was a French Revolutionary leader and orator, often credited as the chief force in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic (September 21, 1792). He later became the first president of the Committee of Public Safety, but his increasing moderation and eventual opposition to the Reign of Terror led to his own death at the guillotine.

The clock above the church of Notre Dame, with the man who strikes the hour, his wife who strikes the half hour, and their two children who strike the quarter hour. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I come upon Eglese Saint Philibert, originally built in 12th century, and destroyed in the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution. It is now undergoing a restoration.

I am so happy that I will have two extra days in Dijon (see story).

Gala Farewell

I walk back to the Caprice in time for our gala farewell dinner.

The last night of our cruise is a gala dinner (we “dress” in our finest, that is what we have with us) – the table, in a U-shaped banquet formation, is set magnificently, with fresh lilies and zinnias.

A fountain provides respite during a walking tour of Dijon’s historic district, spanning 97 hectares © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The menu consists of foie gras with leek salad with a sweet fig jam; filet de boeuf with red wine sauce, potatoes from Noirmoutier and mushrooms.

The 2007 Sainte Croix du Mont, a Sauvignon Blanc, Tina tells us, is produced at a vineyard on right bank of Bordeaux in southeast France, where there are early morning mists (usually not good for wine) is difficult to produce. “You need a lot of luck. The grapes have to develop a ‘local rot’ – a fungus – which actually produces a bursting sweetness. The yield is small – you have to pick the grapes by hand when ripest – a lot of work. It’s lighter than a dessert wine but full bodied.”

The red is a Grand Barrail Larose St Emilion 2009, a Bordeaux.

Three houses dating from the 1400s in Dijon’s Old City: the middle one is propped up by the two on either side © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The cheese tonight is a Roquefort – the quintessential sheep’s milk blue cheese from Avignon in the south of France, owes its distinctive character to a mold found in the soil of local caves

The second cheese is a Brie de Meaux, from the Ile de France, a creamy cow’s milk similar to Camembert. “King Louis XIV had 3 passions: poetry, wine and cheese,” Tina, the general manager, says. “He would send a damsel a cheese with a poem”

The dessert is a Chef’s surprise (actually a birthday cake for one of the guests).

Lunch onboard the Caprice always features red and white wines as well as cheeses © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Friday morning, after breakfast, we depart the Caprice. The whole crew, wearing their Barging Through France shirts, line up to greet us and bid us farewell. It is that most amazing and gratifying feeling that only travel provides when you get to realize how everyone has bonded and formed friendships in just a week’s time.

Incomparable Value in France Canal Cruising

In reflection, I think this is as perfect a trip as it could have been, vastly exceeding my expectations – in terms of the sights we have seen, the interesting attractions and excursions, the quality of the wining and dining, the cruise experience – France Cruises, the American agent for Barging through Burgundy which owns and operates the Caprice, really offers superb value for money.

The gala farewell banquet onboard the Caprice features a beef filet with red wine sauce © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The passengers onboard have really bonded – gives you plenty of opportunity – we are not on top of one another, but the meals, where you basically sit where you want or where there is room, so the table groupings always change, and you get to know one another, or when walking or biking along the canal, or on the bus or walking through the villages during our excursions, or in the evening sitting around in the lounge or on deck… people came from all over and many different backgrounds, but shared an interest and eagerness to learn and experience things, and we each shared from our own experience and knowledge base.

The immersion into French food and wine – especially with the selection of wines and cheeses at lunch and dinner – has been very satisfying and also interesting, since food and wine are so inextricably linked to culture and heritage of a place.

The size of the boat and the service makes it ideal for families, family reunions and groups of friends traveling together. There are barge boats that a single family can hire and guide themselves , though it seemed to me to be tricky process to go through the canals – some were automatic, operated by sensors, some had attendants, but some involved hand-cranking the bridge or pulling a chain to activate the doors.

Many people have the concern that you can get bored on a barge cruise or feel confined, but we are never bored or stir crazy – because of the opportunity to go off the boat and explore, especially by bike, and also the excursions. Those who want a more sedentary experience can have it, as well.

This size boat and the itinerary are perfect for us – not too small that you are forced to be on top of people or lacking in level and quality of service, and not too big.

The crew of the Caprice at the farewell gala banquet © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The daily excursions are marvelous and interesting and take you to places you might not have known to visit, and into the essence of what the region is -particularly the visit to the Chateau Rully with the Count – just seeing the portraits on wall of his ancestors, the very mug his 14th century ancestor had drunk from (that he still uses), the personal artifacts of the family were amazing.

Considering all that is provided, and the high level of service, the experience fulfills France Cruses’ boast that this cruise affords some of the best value in canal cruising in France (particularly with the special offers and packages that are available from time to time). I am a believer.

For information, contact France Cruises, Inc.,9901 IH 10 West, Suite 800 | San Antonio, TX 78230, 866-498-3920 or 210- 775-2184; Email:Marketing@FranceCruises.com, visit www.FranceCruises.com orwww.FranceCountryTours.com. Visit the blog The France Insider.

The cruise aboard the Caprice is now completely updated for next season:http://www.francecruises.com/barge-354-Caprice-742.html

Dijon is such a fascinating city, our exploration continues (see A Walk Through the Centuries in Dijon, France).

(Originally published in 2011)

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Barging through Burgundy, Day 3-4: Hotel-Dieu, Beaune, Clos de Vougeot

Panels of the Polyptych, completed in 1445, attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden, at the Hotel-Dieu, Beaune © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Caprice barge hotel take us through some of Burgundy’s most important attractions

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

These next two days aboard the Caprice barge hotel, we cruise to a spiritual center, which is in the capital of Burgundy’s wine region, the Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, and the next day to the “mother church,” as it were, of Burgundy wine, the Clos de Vougeot, seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the Burgundy wine society.

Tuesday.

I get up early enough to have another walk in this picturesque village of Chalon sur Saône, before the barge pulls away at 8:30 am. We sail down the River Saône as we enjoy breakfast.

Hotel-Dieu a charity hospital founded in 1443, is one of the most important monuments in Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We spend a lazy morning, sailing on river – this part more typical of a cruise. We sit and read, chat with our traveling companions, and look out at the pleasant landscape – riverside homes, and occasional heron or egret.

Before we know it, it is time for lunch – “charcuterie” (a cold meat platter), green bean salad, tomato and feta cheese salad, green salad, and lemon tart.

The wine is 2010 Macon Villages, a Burgundy white Chardonnay that is light, fruity, and perfect for lunch; and Cotes du Rhone, 2010, of Lyon, fruity flavor of cherries and red berries, a blended Gambon Cabernet, light wine for lunch

Hôtel-Dieu has Burgundy’s largest roof of colored, varnished tiles © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We arrive at Seurre, a lovely riverside town with a 16th century church and beautiful brick houses from the 17th century and travel by bus 26 km to visit the famous city of Beaune.

Beaune is the wine capital of Burgundy most famous for the magnificent Hôtel-Dieu, a charity hospital founded in 1443. The most important monument in Burgundy, it boasts the finest Burgundian-Flemish architecture in the world (and I believe it) and the largest roof of colored, varnished tiles, its opulence seemingly contradicting its purpose.

The Hotel-Dieu was built in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, the chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe-le-Bon. Rolin was in charge of finances (collecting taxes), and lo and behold, became extremely wealthy. At the end of his life, he had a great desire to “give back” to community (and buy a place in heaven). In 1463, King Louis XI, said, “This is a beautiful thing to do with all the money he stole.”

Beds separated by red velvet curtains at the Hotel-Dieu, Beaune © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Remarkably, though no longer a hospital, the Hotel-Dieu is still a retirement home – with the longest waiting list in France. It is a wealthy institution from tourist revenue and donations over the centuries in the form of the vineyards and the wine that is produced. The home owns 60 hectares of most prestigious Bourgignon vineyards. At the annual wine auction, the wines typically fetch far more than wine is worth, to give “donation”.

The “new” part dates from the 17th century.

During June and July there are concerts here.

Inside, we see a vaulted gothic ceiling – how the hospital room would have had beds, with red velvet curtains for privacy, lining each side of the room.

The hospital area in Hotel-Dieu, where beds with red velvet curtains line both sides of the vaulted room © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We see where “Seule etoile” is spelled out in floor tiles, an expression of love from Rolin to his wife, meaning “only star,” which comes from the way he referred to his wife, “The only star of my heart.”

The kitchen has a huge dual-hearth Gothic fireplace, with its original accessories; the floor of the hearth is tiled with the “Seulle star” motto. Most interesting is the steel spit, made in 1698, which is turned by a little “robot,” Maitre Bertrand, dressed in the traditional costume of large floppy boots, white breeches, red jerkin with gold buttons and a white cap with turned up brim.

The Hotel-Dieu in Beaune boasts the finest Burgundian-Flemish architecture in the world © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We visit the centuries old pharmacy and can see the machine that was used then to make suppositories.

There are shelves stocked with bottles of ancient remedies from that time, like Teriacr, one of most common remedies of the time, made from venom of viper. I see a jar dated 1777.

In the pharmacy at Hotel-Dieu, the charity hospital founded in 1443, see centuries-old jars of medicines © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The glass bottles still contain “specifics” with names that sound like they have come out of Harry Potter: woodlice powder, eyes of crayfish, vomit nuts powder, elixir of property.

The piece de resistance of the hospice is the Polyptych, kept in a darkened room which you enter through a glass door. These are unimaginably stunning panels commissioned by Rolin in 1443 and completed in 1445, attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden. Representing Last Judgment, it was placed above the altar of the Chapel, but was only allowed to be seen by the sick on Sundays and feast days.

The Polyptych at Hotel-Dieu in Beaune is attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The detail is so exquisite, there is even a large magnifying glass that makes sweeps over the panels. You see St. Michael weighing souls, Christ, Virgin Mary (trying to alleviate judgment), St. John, apostles. The people who are damned are on the right; the left has people who will go to heaven.

Then you walk through a room of tapestries – the largest series of seven tapestries, woven at Tournai at the beginning of the 16th century, tells the parable of the Prodigal Son. Another series of Brussels tapestries dating from the end of the 16th century, tells the story of Jacob.

Our walking tour continues in Beaune – the church of Notre Dame, dating the 13th century, has a magnificent stained glass window, rare for its grey and yellow coloring, dating from 16th century.

Panels of the Polyptych, completed in 1445, attributed to Flemish artist Roger Van der Weyden, at the Hotel-Dieu, Beaune © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This being the capital of Burgundy wine, there is a Museum of Wine (we visit an outdoor display of ancient presses) and walk through ramparts from the 15th century.

After Guy’s guided tour, we still have two more hours to explore Beaune on our own before returning to the barge by bus. It is a bustling city, with loads of wine cellars and shops and cafes, befitting a wildly popular tourism center.

Beaune is a bustling city in Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Back at the Caprice, I go off to explore Seurre, which dates from 1278.

The “new” town hall was built 1771, with neoclassic façade.

L’Eglise Saint Martin dates from the 13 C-14C; it was damaged in 16 and 17C but restored. The chapels were built for the most revered families of 15 and 16 C. The largest chapel was for the Bossuet family, the most influential family in the city. Some were elected city magistrates and mayors of Seurre, but the family had humble beginnings as wheel wrights. (There is a Rue Bossuet in Dijon.)

Clos de Vougeot, seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Testevin, the Burgundy wine society © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dinner consists of a marvelous gazpacho soup with crayfish; codfish in a delicious lobster sauce served with artichoke, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes; and for dessert, a grape tart.

The cheese selection, Comte, is from the Franche-Comte region, and Sainte Maure is a masterpiece of Touraine goat cheese, rolled in black wood ash, recognized for the long straw through the middle (which facilitates handling).

Clos de Vougeot, in Burgundy’s Cotes de Nuits region, famous for its vineyards © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wine this evening is a Montagny l’er Cru (“cru” means it is a superior wine); and a 2010 Chinon from the Loire, which has a sharp, firey, fruity, black currant flavor.

I am thoroughly enjoying these anecdotes about the wines and cheeses.

Clos de Vougeot & The Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin

Wednesday.

We start the day sailing on the River Saône to St. Jean de Losne, where we connect to the canal de Bourgogne.

The Cotes de Nuits, Burgundy’s famous wine-making region © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We see scores of barges here, including many live-aboard barges that people either rent or own. I don’t envy their effort to get through these locks on their own.

Today’s shore excursion takes us through the Cotes de Nuits region, famous for its vineyards, to Clos de Vougeot, where wine has been produced by local monks since the 12th century. It also is the seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the Burgundy wine society.

Winemaking in the Cotes de Nuits dates back to the 12th century © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 12th century monks of Citreaux transformed winemaking, turning their vineyard into a model for “scientific” pruning and cultivation.

In 1790, during the French Revolution, the Abbey and its annexes including the Vougeot vineyard, were confiscated and declared “Property of the Nation”. For the next century, the domain changed owners frequently. It was gradually broken down until 1889, when the buildings and remaining vineyard came into the hands of Leonce Bocquet, a Burgundian owner, who saved the edifice from destruction and spent vast amounts of money restoring it.

The Caprice cruises the picturesque canals of Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Etienne Camuzet, acquired the chateau in 1920 and made it available to the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an association of wine growers, in 1934.

In 1944, it became the “spiritual” home to the Confrerie, which became the caretaker of the Clos de Vougeot, turning the chateau into a kind of Acropolis of Burgundy where pilgrims from the world over come (www.tastevin-bourgogne.cominfo@tastevin-bourgogone.com).

Roger, the first mate, maneuvers the Caprice through the narrow canal lock © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The association wanted to elevate Burgundy wine, which had fallen in prominence to Bordeaux wine. The society was meant to market the wine, but they did something quite clever: they invited popular entertainers (like Maurice Chevalier) and important diplomats to become Members of the Society. It worked, and they brought back Burgundy as a major player in the international wine industry.

On the walls, we see the annual photo of the Society members, looking regal in their sashes.

The motto here: “Jamais en vain; toujours en vin” (“Never in vain; Always in wine”)

From here, we go to a private wine tasting in Nuits St Georges before we return to Caprice.

The Caprice cruises through picturesque countryside of Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Along the way, we see fields of sunflowers browning – used for fuel – and solar panels on “ancient” houses.

Meals are an Event

Meals are an event on the Caprice. The tables today are decorated with colored napkins, beautiful place settings. Tina waits for everyone to be seated, and then makes a presentation of the menu, the wines and the cheeses, telling interesting stories about them.

The lunch menu consists of feuillete de tomatos – sundried tomatoes and goat cheese in pastry; wild rice and tuna; celery root salad; green salad ; and for dessert, crème brule.

The Caprice cruises the canal of Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wines are Cotes Chalonnaise and Cotes de Provence Rose

After lunch, we bike along the tow path of the canal.

The gatekeeper at lock 62 shows us his museum of collections – everything from postcards to wine to coins.

Dinner this evening includes melon with cured ham and St. Croix du Mont wine; Duck breast served with a peach sauce, Provencale tomatoes and sugar snap peas; and for dessert, almond cake with a lemon tea mousse and passion fruit.

Fine dining aboard the Caprice

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wines are a 2009 Saint Veran, a rich buttery white Bourgogne and, befitting this morning’s visit, a Bourgogne Hautes Cote de Nuits, a rich red, fruity wine.

The cheeses today are Morbier, a cow’s milk cheese, sometimes known as night/day cheese becasue one side is made from morning milking and the other is evening, Tina says. “With a good palette, you can tell the difference -stronger tasting side is the morning milking, more flavor.”

Valencay is a goat milk cheese in the shape of a truncated pyramid, with a salty flavor and crumbly texture, coated in wood ash to preserve the flavor. Tina tells us the story of the cheese, which dates back to Napoleon: it was made in his honor in the shape of a pyramid, expecting Napoleon to be victorious in Egypt. Instead, Napoleon, who lost in Egypt, was offended by the point of the cheese, so it is always made with a truncated pyramid “so not to offend his relatives” (it is fantastic).

The Caprice is owned by Barging Through France, and represented by France Cruises, Inc, San Antonio, Texas, 866-498-3920,www.francecruises.comwww.FranceCountryTours.com.

(Originally published in 2011)

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Barging through Burgundy, Day 2: Chateau de Rully

Chateau Rully in Burgundy, France. which has been in the same family for 900 years © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Day 2 aboard the Caprice barge hotel brings us to a castle in the same family for 900 years

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our second day’s excursion through Burgundy, France, aboard the Caprice, a barge hotel, proves to be an extraordinary highlight.

We travel by bus to the Chateau Rully, dating back to the 12th century. Most incredibly, the chateau has remained in the same family for 900 years.

Compte Raoul de Ternay and family greet us at their home, the Chateau Rully in Burgundy, France. The chateau has been in the same family for 900 years © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is a most impressive structure, as we drive up through acres of vineyards to what looks more like a castle than a chateau. We will have a private tour by the current owner.

As we walk up the stone path, we are met by the youngest heir, Comte Raoul de Ternay (the third generation of the Ternays), his wife pushing a stroller, and their young son.

This is the home he grew up in, and which is still the home for their extended family, including his mother and aunt.

The Chateau Rully is surrounded by vineyards © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

He explains that the family name has changed over the centuries, when ownership transferred through the female line. The main family names have been Rully, Saint-Léger (until end of 16th century), Montessus (into the 20th century) and nowadays Ternay. Most fascinating are the portraits of these ancestors that line the walls.

Ternay took over when his father passed away 16 years ago; the family must maintain the chateau without any state support, so 10 years ago, he opened it up to visitors.

This is so much different than seeing a castle, but having some sense of the people who lived in it. But there is no denying, the structure is formidable.

Portrait of Marie Ferdinande Agathonge de Vaudrey, imprisoned during the French Revolution, the local people protested and demanded her liberation. She saved the chateau for the family © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This medieval fortress was built around a 12th century square keep (Donjon), the oldest part of the chateau that remains. It reveals some interesting features of medieval military architecture with its parapet walk, battlements, machicoulis and loopholes.

During the 14th century, the defense system was improved a path round, the battlements, with crenellations for firing weapons, merlons for protection, and loopholes for archers. A dry ditch (moat) was built around the château to reinforce the defense – the only way in was a drawbridge.

As we walk in, Ternay explains that the dry moat was removed by his great grandfather at the end of the 19th century, after he fell in.

Compte Raoul de Ternay hosts a wine tasting in the massive kitchen of the Chateau Rully © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We walk past a statue of Saint Mary. He tells us that the chateau was occupied by Germans during World War II for only about two months before D-Day, but for most of war, his great grandfather managed to keep them out, insisting that the historic building would be bombed if they occupied it. His grandmother installed the statue of Saint Mary, for having survived World War II.

It makes you think about how this building managed to survive through all the tumult over the centuries.

The main building dates back to the Renaissance.

Cote de Nuits, wine region in Burgund © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The current appearance of the chateau was designed in the 15th century with the addition of a small courtyard and North and East wings, turning the fortress into a manor house. Outbuildings, and the great and lower courtyards were added in the 18th century. An 18th century building boasts Burgundy’s largest stone roof.

The Chateau is by no means a museum and very much a private home, he tells us, so we will see a television among other modern accoutrements, and family photos – which to me, makes it all the more interesting.

We enter the home, where he tells us the main staircase dates from the 17th century – the weight is concentrated on the walls, making for an open entry space.

The pleasant dining room aboard the Caprice barge hotel © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The staircase doesn’t creak,” he says, joking that he could sneak into house when he was younger.

We are ushered into a beautiful salon, which he says is used very few times a year because of the fragile furniture. There are two mirrors, made in two different eras: a 17th century mirror made in six parts because that is what the technology allowed (the Chateau de Versailles has same kind of mirror); the second was made in the 18th century, in two parts, because of the technological improvements.

Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Most fascinating to me are the portraits we see of his ancestors – the great grandfather who protected the castle in World War II.

But most interesting of all is the portrait of Marie Ferdinande Agathonge de Vaudrey. Born in 1740, she was 16 when married and had 15 children by the time she was widowed at 32. She was imprisoned as an aristocrat during the French Revolution, but the local people protested and demanded her liberation, and finally, the authorities said, “Take her and get out.”

She spent much of the Revolution in the castle, protected the castle, and was largely responsible for keeping it in the family, he says.

Chalon Sur Saone © Karen Rubin/

news-photos-features.com

Asked how long was she in prison, he says that family tradition said just three or four days but he found documents that showed she was in prison for 8-9 months.

Still, he distinguishes how “there were two revolutions, the one in the cities, and the one in the towns. The Revolution in the countryside wasn’t so ‘dramatic,’ the count says.

Chalon Sur Saone

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

He points to a stunning wood cabinet that was made in 1899 by his great-great-grandfather, a master wood maker and artist, made of mahogany from Cuba.

We are brought into the kitchen – an amazingly massive room with vaulted ceilings built in the original keep, and a massive 1771 fireplace. It was “modernized” in the 19th century with a stove and the fireplace was no longer necessary. The stove itself, is fascinating to behold.

St Vincent Square, unchanged in centuries. The centerpiece is an 11th century cathedral © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here Ternay hosts a wine tasting made from grapes from the Chateau Ruilly vineyards.

Everywhere you look in this great room, there is some fascinating artifact, including a 14th century old mug from one of his ancestors, which he says he still uses.

(Chateau de Rully 71150, 33 (0) – 385872089, chateauderully.com)

Cruising on the Canal

Wood decoration on a tudor building in Chalon Sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We return to the Caprice for lunch: salads of carrots and coriander, lentils cooked in orange juice, a wonderful Quiche Lorraine, chocolate mousse for dessert; and enjoy Pinot Noir – Bourgogne 2009 and Pinot Gris Van D’Alonso 2009.

We float down the canal as we dine. You chat amiably, savor the flavors, and see the scenery flow by in slow motion.

Tapestry in St Vincent’s, Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I am relishing the benefits of a cruise style of trip: you have all the relaxation and comforts of a resort-style vacation, with all the interest and variety of a sightseeing-style trip, and without the packing. We are, after all, immersed in a foreign country with a storied history. But the character and size of this barge makes it all the more special, and river cruises are particularly special because of the pace of the journey, and the fact you are always seeing interesting landscapes on both sides.

The 12th century cathedral, St. Vincent Square, Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

You notice everything: now we are going through the lock and going down. Lock 28 has the date in stone: 1862.

I am enjoying lunch so much, I lose track and realize I have just five minutes to prepare to get off at lock 28.

The Caprice barge hotel, tied at the steps to Chalon sur Saone © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Tina tells us we have to get back on by Lock 34 or else the towpath turns away from where the Caprice will go on to enter the River Saône.

The route here is gorgeous pastoral scenery of farms and fields.

We bike up to lock 34, have more time, so go back to 33, then walk back to 34.

It’s Lock 35 that has the severe drop, 55 feet, which brings us level to the river.

Biking along the towpath adjacent to the Canal du Centre © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We float into Ville Chalon sur Saône: you really appreciate arriving in the city by water: the view is stunning, dramatic, with the ancient city on both sides of the water, spanned by an elegant bridge.

Chalon was built alongside the Saône about 3000 years ago. It was a naval base even during Antiquity, hosted large fairs during the Middle Ages, and was a trading center into modern times. It has a magnificent old town, which is so revealing for the way the street names, etched in stone, have been replaced.

The magnificent scenery along the Canal du Centre, Burgundy © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We tie up right at the city’s stone steps that lead from the water.

We arrive mid afternoon. Guy leads us on a walking tour of the old town just after we arrive.

The picturesque scenery as we float along the Canal du Centre, Burgundy on the Caprice © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Chalon was important during Roman conquest of Gaul – Julius Caesar, 52 BC. This was last navigable port from Mediterranean. Roman ships carried wine northbound; that’s when the vineyards were started.

Chalon was part of Burgundy, which in the 12 C was an independent realm governed by a Duke (Dijon was the capital). Burgundy allied with England in the Hundred Years War. this brings up the story of Joan of Arc: in 1429, Joan of Arc began her quest to unite the French behind the future Charles VII and drive the English out of France. Joan was captured by Burgundian troops and handed over to the English, who burnt her as a witch (for wearing men’s clothes), at English-held Rouen in 1431. English Henry VI was crowned king of France in Paris.) We see what remains of a fortress.

The Caprice cruises the Canal du Centre © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

During WWII when Germans invaded France, and the Demarcation line was drawn between Fermany and Vichy, it went through Chalon. Jewish resistance fighters went through (to get to Switzerland).

Just up from the stone steps where we tie up the barge, we come up into the square, where we see a statue to Nicephore Niepce who invented photography in 1765 (he was a colleague of Daguerre’s).

The beautiful Burgundy countryside beside the Canal du Centre. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guy guides us through the town for the first hour – his commentary is absolutely fascinating and the town has wonderful architecture. Soon we are in front of Niepce’s house, where he lived in 1765, looking probably much the same as when he left it, on a picturesque narrow street he would have loved to photograph.

We see how street names have changed with political tides – there is Rue Voltaire, named during the Restoration, in the 1820s.

The beautiful Burgundy countryside along the Canal du Centre © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We come upon the St Vincent Square, unchanged in centuries. The centerpiece is an 11th century cathedral – the façade has been replaced after it was destroyed, but even then, the “new” facade dates from 1780. The base of the tower dates to the 12th century; the base of the Church is Romanesque; the gallery is Gothic; the organ is Baroque. There are some magnificent examples of centuries-old tapestries.

After our walking tour, we still have an hour more to explore on our own before returning to the Caprice for dinner.

This isn’t just an old city, it is a bustling town of 80,000 with a vibrant shopping street, and if you cross the bridge, you get to a modern residential area.

The Caprice cruises the canal

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The dinner, Monday, is another extraordinary event: escargots a la crème d’ail (snails in garlic sauce); breast of guinea fowl served with a honey and saffron sauce, baby vegetables.

The cheeses tonight are Brillat-Savarin, developed in the 1930s in the north of France and named after a renowned 18th century food writer Brillat Savarin.

Also Epoisses, a local Burgundy unpasteurized cheese from the village of Epoisses in the Cote d’Or, halfway between Dijon and Auxerre; the rind is washed with Marc de Bourgogne, a local pomance brandy.

Chalon sur Saone at night

© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wines are a Petit Chablis and the red is a Moulin a Vent, a Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape which, we learn, has a thin skin and is low in tannins.

The desserts are an assortment of traditional Burgundy sweets.

Chalon is such a beautiful city, after dinner, we walk down the gangplank, up the Medieval stone steps back into the town to walk about the old city. Yellow lights hit the stone of the buildings, making the most stunning shadows, shapes and textures. (We need to return by 11 pm, because they take up the gangplank.)

The Caprice is owned by Barging Through France, and represented by France Cruises, Inc, San Antonio, Texas, 866-498-3920,www.francecruises.comwww.FranceCountryTours.com.

(Originally published 2011)

____________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Barging through Burgundy, France: A Visit to Chagny Market

 

Cruising on the Caprice barge hotel is a marvelous way to experience the French countryside © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is late afternoon when we get our first glimpse of the Caprice, the barge hotel that will be our home for the next week as we cruise along the canals and River Saône through Burgundy.

I literally fall in love with the boat, looking much like a Monet painting on the mirror-still water of the canal. It is absolutely sweet, charming, inviting.

The gorgeous Burgundy countryside on our way to St. Leger Sur Dheune, where the Caprice is docked © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We have arrived where the Caprice is docked at St. Leger Sur Dheune after about 1 1/2 hour bus trip from Dijon. Dijon is an enchanting Old City, just a few hours outside of Paris, that I bless my good sense to have planned to stay over at the historic Sofitel Hotel when we return (the cruise alternates routes; this is the northbound route that ends back in Dijon).

During the course of the next week, the canal and river cruise of Burgundy on the Caprice proves to far exceed my hopes and expectations – everything from the creature comforts onboard, the fine dining and wining, the pleasant company of our fellow travelers, the picturesque landscapes and fascinating attractions, the opportunity to bike and explore storybook quaint villages, the relaxed and casual atmosphere that is eminently more satisfying than lounging on a beach.

The biggest surprise for me are the excursions. Each day we are taken by bus to some really fascinating place, with our own guide.

The Caprice was built as a commercial barge, carrying grain, timber and coal, and converted to a passenger ship 25 years ago. It has a “boatee” shape – not squared off, flat like other barges – designed for rivers as well as canals.

The vineyards of the Cote de Nuits region, Burgundy, France © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The upper deck of the Caprice has a two-tiered sundeck with tables, chairs and umbrellas. and is decorated with pleasing flower pots. The indoor salon has comfortable upholstered seating and large picture windows, and is separated from the dining area by a bar stocked with beverages and ice. The dining area has lovely picture windows that let in light and let you see the countryside float by as you linger over your meal.

We gather together in a comfortable lounge for an orientation to the barge and our cruise, meet the staff, enjoy a welcome drink of the traditional Burgundian Kir Royale and meet our fellow travelers.

Our group is extremely diverse and comes from all over: Colorado, Connecticut; Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan; Ft Lauderdale, Florida; Vancouver, England, Australia, and New York.

Tina, the general manager, is from the UK, who we come to know as incredibly pleasant, efficient, and good-humored, welcomes us with a very helpful orientation to the boat and the program, and introduces the staff: Chef Herve, hostesses Sophie (who is now married to Herve) and Molly, Roger, the first mate and Captain Willy.

Tina gives us a wonderful orientation to what we will experience.

The boat floats so slowly along the canal, “a toddler can toddle at the same speed,” she says, so we can walk along side, and get back on at the next lock, or bicycle the towpath that goes alongside, or take the bike to explore nearby villages. (We just have to give some advance notice to Roger, the first mate, to hand us down the bike).

The Caprice barge hotel, tied up at St Leger Sur Dheune, at the start of a week-long cruise through Burgundy © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

During the course of our cruise, we will go through some 21 locks. Going through the locks is a main source of interest and excitement.

“We make it look easy but there is only two inches of space – so don’t stick your limbs out.” At the point the barge is level with the shore – just a few moments, really – that’s when we can get off and walk or bike along the towpath, or even bike into nearby villages, catching up with the barge further on (they give us an approximate time schedule).

She warns us that some of the bridges we go under are extremely tight space – and may even brush the top of the boat, so if we are standing on the high terrace, “be aware, you may have to duck.”

There are windows in cabins, but we need to close them when we are moving – because water will come in like waterfall.

The stunning scenes along the canal at St. Leger Sur Dheune ©  Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The water on the Caprice is potable, but bottled water is provided, as well, and we can help ourselves to a chilled supply in the refrigerator, where there are also sodas and beer.

Wines – red and white – are served at lunch and dinner, and there is also a bar – you run your own tab by simply marking down what you have consumed.

Coffee and fresh fruit are set out all day long, and a platter of cookies is there for us when we return from our afternoon excursions.

A bell is rung 5-10 minutes before lunch and dinner, and to signal when we need to get ready for excursions.

Breakfast is more casual. We can help ourselves to a marvelous buffet, available from 7:30-9:30.

Biking on the towpath along the canal.

Everything is extremely well organized: Each day, they post the list of the locks we will be going through, with the distances to the next one, mostly half to one-mile apart (that lets you know when you can get on/off), and also post the menu, and the schedule for the day, and each day they tell us what we will be seeing the next day.

Each day, we arrive in our new destination for the night around 4:30-6 pm and dock, giving us time to explore these quaint villages and towns by walking or biking.

We will spend the first two days on the Canal de Sange – traveling about 8 miles – then join the River Saône, spend one full day on river, and then the next day, start on the river and end on the Canal de Bourgogne which will take us into Dijon.

Tina tells us that after 11 pm, the crew goes to sleep and “the last person in locks the door.” If we want to stay out later, we need to take a key to open the door.

The decor on the Caprice is extremely pleasing – nautical with rich blues and polished wood and brass fittings.

Below deck, Caprice has 10 cabins averaging 82 sq. ft. with (big surprise) private bathrooms. The cabins are cozy and comfortable, with warm wood paneling, a window, decent lighting, and good storage.

Our bags have already been brought to our cabin – we spend just a couple of minutes and then rush off. We have just enough time before dinner to explore so we immediately take off on bikes and along the towpath. This turns out to be some of the most picturesque countryside of the trip, and the late afternoon golden light makes it that much more enchanting. The farms dot the rolling countryside, we come upon some of the most contented looking cows I have ever seen, and some donkeys. The evening is picture perfect as the sun goes down.

Picturesque villages along the canal in Burgundy ©  Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Everyone is seated at dinner by the time we return and we take the last open seats. Tina has waited for all of us before she starts the presentation of the menu, describing the courses and explaining the wines and the cheeses with fascinating insights.

This first night’s dinner lets us experience Chef Herve’s genius at combining flavors and textures: a salad of goat cheese with whole grain mustard greens, pine nuts and black current; the entree of Cod with balsamic reduction, red tomato (so full of flavor) and saffron risotto (texture is exquisite). The presentations are stunning – worthy of the finest restaurant. A feeling of absolute contentment rushes over me.

Indeed, the cruise is not just a “heart of Burgundy” itinerary, but a food and wine itinerary, and during the course of our journey, we really take a journey into French food preparation, and wines and cheeses (though I am pleased that the preparations are not as rich as they could be, and overall, you do not feel guilty enjoying the meals).

At lunch and dinner, there are both a white and a red wine and a couple of cheeses – different each time, so during the course of the cruise, we have had an amazing tour of French wines and cheeses.

This first night’s wine selections are Sancerre and Brouilly, served with a flourish.

Scenes out of an Impressionist painting are just beyond where the Caprice is tied up, at St Leger Sur Dheune at the start of the canal cruise ©  Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The cheese is a delectable Camembert, one of France’s most famous, originating from Normandy, where cows graze on rich soil scattered with apple trees. Also, Fourme d’Ambert, from the Auvergne region, and one of the oldest cheeses in France, dating back to Roman times; it is one of the mildest blue cheeses with a creamy flavor and nutty finish. This cheese, Tina tells us, is injected with wine to help with ripening and for sweetness.

In these kinds of trips, the most interesting part is getting to know your fellow passengers, and each meal, we sit where we like (or where there is still an open seat) so over the course of the cruise, we get to spend time with everyone.

We meet Sidney, 90 years old, who tells us that she took her first trip to Europe when she was 16, in 1937, sailing across the Atlantic to Paris on the Bremen, a German war prize, operated by Cunard. She tells us how she arrived the day before July 14, Bastille Day, and stayed with a woman whose fiancé was killed in World War I. In Connecticut, she started a school, became a reading teacher, and then opened a bookstore. “Amazon.com killed it,” she says, and that’s when she started traveling again. At another meal, we learn that Sidney’s aunt married Teddy Roosevelt’s son; that one side of her family came on Mayflower while the other came in chains from Scotland.

Sunday, Market Day in Chagny

Breakfast is served fairly casually – a buffet that is set out between 7:30-9:30 am, satisfying both early and late risers.

We begin our cruise on the Canal until the bell rings signaling that we should assemble for the bus, and we are taken on our first excursion, to the charming town of Chagny, where the weekly Sunday market is underway (each of the cruises visits one of the local markets).

A picturesque scene in the late afternoon at St. Leger Sur Dheune at the start of the cruise on the Caprice © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It seems everyone has come from throughout the region – there is every manner of food – cheeses, breads and pastries, luscious looking fruits and vegetables, meats, plus clothes, CDs, housewares. There are amazing aromas and sounds, colors and textures. There must be a mile of stalls. It is exciting, vibrant, and marvelously colorful.

At one stall, there is a selection of chickens still with the heads on, ducks, and some other unidentifiable fowl.

The Caprice, one of France Cruises’ luxury hotel barges, floats up a canal in Burgundy © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I love seeing the French words on signs, hearing French and feeling my French jog back to memory in my brain.

We return to the Caprice for a delightful lunch of baked ham with Chablis sauce, broccoli salad, prawn and pasta salad, and green salad. The food is all delectably fresh – Herve shops twice a week at markets such as these.

The wine is a Bourgogne Chardonnay, and a Saumur Champigny.

The dessert is a creamy but solid white cheese, doused with a currant sauce that is magnificent.

We notice many live-aboard barges – some are rentals – and have an amazing appreciation for their skill in managing going through the locks, which often are just big enough for the barge. Most of the locks are self-service – some of the locks open automatically but others have to be hand-cranked.

We don’t stay on the barge long – every opportunity we grab the bikes and ride along the tow path or veer off into nearby villages.

In the afternoon, the Caprice ties up to give us time to explore a charming village, where we are able to bike around, enjoying the traditional architecture.

This evening’s dinner: a quail salad (with beet shoot sprout that gives it a remarkable texture), delectable roasted lamb in a rosemary sauce with potato, all with a gorgeous presentation. The dessert, a passion fruit shortcake.

The Caprice barge hotel takes you on the canals and rivers of Burgundy, passing gorgeous countryside and quaint villages © 2011 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The wine selections are a 2010 Pouilly Fume, from the Loire, with a wonderful dry, citrusy, fresh taste, and an Hautes Cotes de Beaune (where we will visit tomorrow), a medium bodied wine from grapes grown on high slopes.

The cheese selections are Chaource, is a triple creamy cow’s milk cheese that melts in your mouth like snowflake, and Cantal.

I am appreciating Chef Herve’s cooking – a young fellow, he is a master at unusual combinations of flavors and textures – his selections are always surprising.

The Caprice is owned by Barging Through France, and represented by France Cruises, Inc, San Antonio, Texas, 866-498-3920,www.francecruises.comwww.FranceCountryTours.com.

(Originally published 2011)

____________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures