Road Trip through Burgundy Part 2

Vezelay wisteria

If you didn’t catch the first leg of our road trip through Burgundy’s wine country, you can find it here!

Day 3: Vezelay to Paris


Monday morning we rose early in order to get a head start on our busy day. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the medieval town of Vezelay. Vezelay is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the revered Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene and its well-preserved 15th, 16th and 17th century houses, gates and ramparts. In the 9th century, the relics of Mary Magdalene were brought to Vezelay. Since then it has been an important destination for pilgrims.

Perched on the top of a hill, it’s a lovely trek to the Basilica. As we climbed, we passed charming boutiques and galleries, cafes and restaurants with music spilling out of their doors, and alleyways and courtyards burgeoning with geraniums and wisteria. A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, the Basilica was unlike any church I had seen before. Its walls emanated history and holiness. While we were there, morning rays of sun shone through the stained glass windows, casting the most beautiful light over the statues of saints and the altars before them.

View of the countryside in Vezelay, France

Although we would’ve liked to linger in this enchanting town, we were determined to reach Paris by late afternoon. The two and a half hour journey from Vezelay to Paris was so scenic that I snapped pictures out of the window the whole way. I especially loved the enormous wind turbines rising out of the golden mustard fields and the adorable cows dotting the countryside. We were so lucky to be there at this time of year because late spring is the best season to see the mustard fields in full bloom!

Cow in the French countryside

Wind turbines in mustard fields in the French countryside


We arrived in Paris right on schedule and headed to our hotel for the evening, the Plaza Athénée. One glance at this magnificent hotel and I was in love. From its location on renowned avenue Montaigne (the 5th Avenue of Paris), to its stunning facade, glittering lobby, lush courtyard, and exquisite Louis XVI inspired decor, every inch of the Plaza Athénée oozes Parisian glamour and charm. Needless to say, I never wanted to leave!

Plaza Atenee facade in Paris, France

After settling in, we took advantage of the last light of the day to walk around the city. Though I’d been to Paris before, it is a city that you never grow tired of. As I walked down Champs Elysees, alongside the Seine, and through Champ de Mars, I was mesmerized by my surroundings. It was like I was seeing Paris for the first time! Our first stop was, of course, the Eiffel Tower. If you’re planning a trip to Paris, go in the spring when the cherry trees surrounding the Eiffel Tower make it even more picturesque than usual.  

Eiffel Tower framed by cherry trees in the spring Bridge in Paris, France

On the recommendation of friends, we decided to have dinner at the trendy Monsieur Bleu. Since we only had one night in Paris, we wanted to go somewhere special. Located inside the Palais de Tokyo, Monsieur Bleu boasts a stellar view of the Eiffel Tower, delicious food, great service, and a cool ambiance. Go here for a romantic dinner date or to see and be seen, it won’t disappoint.

Eiffel Tower lit up

Day 4: Paris to Basel

For our last day in France, we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible before driving back to Basel. We started our day at the Petit Palais, Paris’ Museum of Fine Arts. If you haven’t been before, put it on your Paris to-do list. In addition to its incredible pieces and eclectic exhibitions, the museum houses a magnificent outdoor garden and cafe. When the weather is nice, the cafe’s terrace is the perfect spot to relax and grab a bite to eat.

Courtyard gardens of the Petit Palais in Paris, France

After touring the museum, I hopped in a cab to meet a friend for lunch. We met at a bistro on Rue Montorgueil, a charming cobbled street in the 2nd arrondissement lined by specialty shops, eateries and the like. It’s the perfect place to grab lunch and then head to the nearby shops on Place des Victoires. This trip I didn’t get nearly enough time to shop, but I hope to be back soon to rectify that!

Roundabout in Paris, France

Our last stop in Paris was the Jardin des Tuileries. Located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, this enormous park is the ideal hang-out spot on beautiful days. Unfortunately, it was overcast when we went but we still enjoyed strolling around, people watching, and relaxing by the fountain.

Eiffel Tower during the day

Though there was still so much we wanted to do, we knew we had to get on the road before it was too late. So we bid au revoir to Paris and set off on the five hour drive from Paris to Basel. We spent the journey reminiscing about all the wonderful things we saw and did in the last four days. All in all, we agreed our last-minute road trip through Burgundy was certainly a success. Now we’re already thinking about where we should go next!


Road Trip through Burgundy Part 1

One of the great things about Basel is that it’s located in the heart of Europe. A ten minute drive and you’re across the border in France or Germany. A few hours by train and you’re in Paris, Munich or Milan. A quick flight and you’re in London, Rome, Barcelona, or Berlin. Last Friday, Julian and I decided to take advantage of our location and do a road trip from Basel to Paris, exploring the beautiful wine region of Burgundy (or Bourgogne in French) on our way.

Like many of our trips, this road trip was a spontaneous adventure. After learning it was supposed to rain all weekend in Basel, we decided to get out of town and head somewhere sunnier. I had always wanted to visit the French countryside and I’d heard that if you’re looking for a taste of quintessential France, you’ll find it in Burgundy. Luckily for us, Burgundy is located right across the Swiss border, so it was the perfect place to escape for a long weekend.

Before leaving, we mapped out our journey (see route below). We knew we wanted to focus on the Cote d’Or department of Burgundy. This part of Burgundy is known as one of the best wine regions in the world and is home to countless historic towns and breathtaking landscapes. We planned to visit Beaune, Dijon and Vézelay, as well as the vineyards surrounding them, and figured one town per day seemed like a reasonable undertaking. After renting a car, we were on our way to our first destination–Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy.

Route from Basel to Paris, through Burgundy

Day 1: Beaune

Chateau de Melin

We spent Friday night at a 16th century chateau 20 minutes south of Beaune on the wine route. Built in 1551, the Chateau de Melin overlooks the hamlet of Melin and its productive vineyards. Saturday morning, we rose to a delicious spread of fresh out of the oven bread, jam, croissants, and fruit prepared by the mistress of the chateau. After exploring the grounds, we headed to Beaune for the famous Saturday market.

Aerial view of Melin in Burgundy, France

Aerial view of Chateau de Melin in Burgundy, France

Beaune’s Saturday Market

The second we arrived at Beaune’s bustling market, I fell in love with this picture-perfect town. Beaune looks just like Belle’s hometown in Beauty and the Beast and as I passed by the vendors selling their wares, I couldn’t help but hum “There goes the baker with his tray like always…” 😄. The market is filled with goodies and we purchased some local meat and cheese, nougat (a special request from my mother), homemade soap, and tablecloths. If you’re planning on visiting Burgundy, do not miss Beaune’s Saturday market. You’ll inevitably leave with a basketful of treasures and a real taste of French life in Burgundy.

Fresh produce at Beaune's Saturday market

The Hospices de Beaune

Around noon the market was winding down so we moved on to the town’s main attraction–the Hospices. Founded in 1443 as a hospital for the poor, it continued serving patients until 1971! Though the original building is now a museum, the foundation and wine estate set up by its founder still finance Beaune’s hospital today. With its flamboyant Gothic architecture, colorful tiled roof, and centuries of history, the Hospices de Beaune is one of Burgundy’s gems and should not be missed. Tip: Go during lunchtime to avoid the crowds.

Beaune and its Vineyards

After lunch at a brasserie on the center square, we spent the afternoon wandering around the town and visiting Beaune’s other attractions. I was especially struck by the town’s massive 12th century basilica, its medieval city gate, and vibrant wisteria. 

As the sun began to set, we hopped in the car and drove to the surrounding vineyards. We got there just in time to snap a few photos and revel in the beauty of Beaune’s vineyards at dusk.

Vineyards of Beaune, France

Aerial view of vineyards in Beaune, France

Dinner at Loiseau des Vignes

For dinner, we ate at Loiseau des Vignes, a Michelin starred restaurant adjacent to our hotel. I started my meal with Crémant de Bourgogne, the region’s delicious sparkling wine. I then ordered the tasting menu to try a few of the chef’s specialities. Venturing far outside of my comfort zone, I dined on quenelle, a creamed fish dish, pigeon prepared with raspberries, and époisses, a strong soft cheese characteristic of the region. On the recommendation of the sommelier, I enjoyed a Pinot Noir from a nearby vineyard and it paired perfectly with my meal. Needless to say, it was a night filled with new culinary experiences and was definitely a dinner to remember!

Hotel le Cep

After dinner, we retired to our room at the Hotel le Cep. Throughout our trip, we used the Château Hôtels Collection of boutique hotels to help us find accommodations and it never once disappointed. We felt right at home at the Hotel le Cep and enjoyed its French garden, 16th century courtyards, and centric location.

Hotel le Cap in Beaune, France

Day 2: Beaune, Dijon, and Avallon

Burgundy Wine

On Day 2 of our road trip, we had a quick breakfast of crepes and cappuccinos at a nearby boulangerie and then hit the road. Our first stop was the Chateau de Meursault winery to sample some of Beaune’s finest wines. Burgundy is one of France’s great wine regions and the best vineyards are concentrated in Cote d’Or, the valley that links Beaune to Dijon. Cote d’Or is famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. These grapes are native to Burgundy and have been carefully cultivated by Catholic monks since the Middle Ages. Today, the finest Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays come from Burgundy and after our weekend there I would have to agree!

Tip: There are over 100 vineyards in Burgundy. So before you go, I would suggest first narrowing down which area you’d like to visit. Then research when the wineries are open and if they offer tours and tastings.

Chateau de Meursault

Vineyards of Chateau de Meursault

Aerial view of the vineyards of Chateau de Meursault

Dijon: Capital of Burgundy

After a wine tasting and stroll around the grounds, we said goodbye to Chateau de Meursault and headed for Dijon. Dijon is the capital of Burgundy and the birthplace of Dijon mustard. It is a magnificent city with elegant medieval and Renaissance buildings and massive cathedrals on every corner. Old meets new at every turn in this city and shops and fast food restaurants appear alongside, or inside, buildings from the Middle Ages. Dijon is a great city to simply walk around in and explore as there’s no shortage of things to see. Don’t miss the Palace of the Dukes and its numerous important churches. After exploring, relax at one of the many cafes on the Place de la Libération, the city’s beautiful square.

Dijon, France street

Burgundy’s Mustard Fields

Though we could’ve stayed longer in Dijon, we were anxious to get on the road before nightfall. We wanted to see the mustard fields on our way to our hotel in Avallon. Luckily, we left at the perfect time. Around 7 pm the light was absolutely stunning over the hills and valleys and we pulled over several times to take photos of the gorgeous green and gold countryside.

Burgundy, France countryside

Burgundy, France windy countryside

Mustard fields outside of Dijon, France

Avallon for the Night

About an hour and a half later, we had made it to the town of Avallon. The halfway point between France’s two major cities, Avallon was once an important stop for travelers. In Avallon, we stayed at Hostellerie de la Poste, a hotel frequented by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Eisenhower and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as they journeyed between Lyon and Paris. For us, it was the perfect stopover between Dijon and Vezelay and we loved being surrounded by history at this cozy hotel.

Hostellerie de la Poste in Avallon, France

Stay tuned for Day 3 and 4 of our road trip, the journey from Vezelay to Paris, in the next post!