Dijon, wealthy, magnificent capital of the Dukes of Burgundy


IMG_0675Impossible to tour Burgundy and miss out on its jewel : Dijon. Like a good tourist I walked the cobbled streets ; admired the imposing old medieval houses ; crossed the clean squares lined with gastro-restaurants,IMG_0666 the handsome Palais des Ducs de Bourgogne and the Musée des Beaux-Arts ; bought my lunch in Les Halles (gigantic indoor market) ; shopped in the two renowned Maisons de la moutarde (Maille and Fallot) and even stroked la chouette (the howl) for good luck!

http://www.burgundytoday.com/towns/dijon.htmIMG_0682 (2)

IMG_0681Apart from accompanying most meat dishes, mustard is said to help digestion…. and became a very fashionable item at the French table in the Middle-Ages. In the Dijon region it evolved with a twist when le verjus (verjuice/ the juice of green grapes, plentyful in the Bourgogne vineyards!) was used instead of plain vinegar, giving it a smoother taste. Today most sénevé seeds (wild mustard) come from abroad, but le verjus is still a key ingredient, and two ancient manufactures remain in town : Maille and Fallot. In their beautiful flagship shops, one can sample mustards with variations on aromas and even refill previously bought pots with a pump. Or buy a pretty new one!


Incidentally, I visited last year the pretty Maison Maille shop in central London (Piccadilly Arcade), small but still smart version of the Dijon one. https://www.maille.com/en_GB/boutiques?sid=london


IMG_0706With my tum full of good mustard and yummy Burgundy cheeses from the market – l’Époisses, le Soumaintrain, le Brillat-Savarin – I had a little drive along the Route des Grands Crus, which goes from Dijon to Santenay ; around 60 kms of vineyards, as far as the eye can see, peppered with the odd demeures (domains) and quaint, as well as impeccably maintained, old villages. I might have had a little dégustation (wine tasting) or two along the way…..



Les Faiences de Nevers

IMG_0646Today I visited the workshop (atelier) of the Faïence Bleue house in Nevers. It was my first time witnessing the process of fabrication of a piece, from start to finish (minus weeks of drying and oven time, which required a “here is one I prepared earlier” piece) and I thoroughly recommend the experience. There is something special in being in the very street where, for centuries, as many as 12 faience manufactures worked and produced exquisite pieces for the local and international market!  Although the first faienciers came from Italy to practise their art in Nevers, in the 16th century, soon many French faïenceries were created and began to flourish, so much so that by the 17th century Nevers was crowned “capitale francaise de la Faïence“! As can be seen in the beautiful “Musée de la Faïence de Nevers“, their art was not limited to decorative items (vases, plates, bowls, etc), but also boasted political, revolutionary pieces. Fascinating! Well worth a visit, not only for the magnificent building, but also for the rare and vast collection of Italian and French pieces. A little film explains the manufacture process too, as you start your visit.


IMG_0643Sadly today only 3 (2 soon) factories remain, but all three have their atelier in town, that can be visited during special open days or by appointment, as well as beautiful shops. The wares are not cheap, as each unique piece requires a special clay mix, expensive paints, baths, ovens and of course the hours spent drawing and painting each piece by hand. Nevertheless, these are not just collectors’ items, people in the area are still attached to the tradition of offering a piece from the well-known Bernard, Montagnon or Georges houses, for weddings, retirement parties, and other special celebrations. Besides, most faienceries, although they have respectfully preserved and reproduced the century-old patterns depicting the main historical buildings of Nevers -le Palais Ducal, la cathédrale, la Porte du Croux- along with flower motifs, they now also offer more modern and sometimes wearable (rings, earrings, necklaces) wares.




Little summer holiday in Burgundy

Bonjour to day 1 of my blog!


After a very long and busy year helping lots of students improve their French, for exams or for travel ; after listening to new phone 148your wonderful stories of how you never cease to enjoy French cheeses, wines, landscapes, people, traditions in France, etc… finally it’s my turn to be here!!! En vacances en Bourgogne!


mirabellesDad used to be a pâtissier, so guess what I really look forward to when I am back? Les escargots, les tartes aux mirabelles, la Cancoillote, l’Epoisses, les viandes de Charolais, les vins de Pouilly et Sancerre…. Miam! I won’t lie, it is great to see family and friends, but the first days are definitely spent re-connecting with the various foods that marked my childhood, and even though you can find almost any French food you like in the UK these days, they are not prepared by Papy!


new phone 183It’s so nice to be back in my hometown as well, Nevers, where time seems to stand still.



NYXThere are minor changes to be seen at each visit, like a nouveau sens de circulation in the town centre or parking gratuit en août -both implemented by the new maire to ease traffic and ultimately attract more shoppers in what has become a very sleepy centre. I remember going shopping every Wednesday and Saturdays with my friends in town when younger (pas d’école les mercredis!) and the rue piétonne being noire de monde. A thing from the past! Now most of the interesting magasins are situated on the zone industrielle ; not a bad idea as you can easily park, but as a result the centre-ville has been abandonned….. or is slowly changing into a museum-town… where one can appreciate, phoen nevers 095I guess, the astonishing 11th century St-Etienne church, the recently renovated cathedral (and with brand new stainglass windows) , the 2 historical manufactures de faïence and their beautiful shops (I recommend the Faience museum!), the Carmel and museum Ste Bernadette (her body is diplayed in a glass coffin in the chapel), the old doors to the city : la Porte St Nicolas and la Porte du Croux, and much much more….






Definitely a must for those of you who like old stones…