burgundy is a get in a car and just wander kind of place. the cities here are some of my favorites in france, lyon and dijon to name 2, but the rolling hills of the countryside are french life at its best. life centers around food and wine, not unlike the rest of france, but here it is almost a religion.
i remember visiting friends who live just outside of burgundy in the rhône-alpes and listening to the heated debate about where to get the best macarons i requested. because it would be a sin-- i mean wasn't even an option-- to buy them from the best baguette bakery, so we must drive 10 minutes away to another bakery to buy the best macarons in town. and then another 10 minutes to the best croissant bakery. obviously. because food quality trumps convenience as a lifestyle. this is something i can easily subscribe to.
the road from cluny to autun, the D980 and the N80, is one of lagniappe. i happened upon it and could have stayed forever. this is where time stands still. i pulled over in every tiny town i passed. i saw beautiful old convents, frenchies out for walks, gardens being foraged for dinner, antiques spilling onto the sidewalks, sheep grazing, grapes growing.
this is slow life.
in beaune, seek out ma cuisine for dinner and insanely good wine. avoid the main square and wander the tiny streets of the city enclosed by 15th century ramparts. you'll likely find yourself almost alone to admire the cobblestones and charming french doors on each address. duck into the romantic hotel le cep for a drink in the cozy bar or back courtyard, or to charge your phone and connect to wifi like i did. and then try so so much wine in the shops around town.
but be sure to get out of town to drive the route des vins de bourgogne-- the burgundy wine route.
get off the freeway and just wander.
on the outskirts of autun, stay in one of the 5 rooms at moulin renaudiots. you'd never know from the outside of this restored mill that the interior is a mix of mid century pieces, french antique glassware and sleek concrete. and don't think about skipping the family dinner served either by the fire or on the terrace. this dinner changed my thoughts entirely on roast pigeon (delicious when cooked right). it was one of those 4 hour dinners with the most interesting group of people from all over the world sharing stories and breaking bread, who kindly spoke english for me, the silly american.
lyon is IT. this french city, the capital of the region, is void of the usual tourists, and chock full of everything i love about france. lyonnaise food is arguably the best in the western world. visit the old town for cafes, patisseries (like pâtisserie sébastien bouillet, bernachon and chocolaterie ginet), boulangeries and shops. venture across the river only to go to la halles market, because why not. any kind of french market is always worth it.
hopefully you'll take him vintage alphabet prints like i did from the antique print shop, le bois debout. lyon is the city for antiques. explore the bric brac shops between the perrache train station and bellecour. i found the most amazing shop either on rue de la charite, place carriot, or rue augustine comte, close-ish to train station. no idea what the name was. if you go, please find it for me.
why i didn't grab some antique linens from un chateau en espagne is beyond me. so get me some of those, too, please. but i did cart home on the train french porcelain from a tiny shop along river, on quai saint antoine, near the palais de justice footbridge: la vaisselle blanche. and i couldn't not pick up french candy, mainly because the packaging is so pretty, at the candy store violette & berlingot.
you must visit the saint antoine market and buy as many sausages, cheese, flowers, pastries, breads and vegetables as you can buy. on the banks of the soanne river with fourvière hill and lyon's version of the eiffel tower in the background, it is full of locals and chefs and breeds some of the best food items in the world . i purchased the best cheese of my life here-- it had no name, and came from a man selling some cheese he made. whole foods does not import this kind of cheese.
venturing further south from lyon, i always meant to stop at the gite restaurant of la colline du colombier in iguerande. it's a restored farmhouse in the fields of the countryside. but i never have. next time.