From Chablis to Auxerre – A Road Trip through Burgundy

with 16 Comments

The journey, not the destination matters. – T.S. Elliot

Road trips: unpredicted stops, unexpected sights, and unanticipated routes…
Road tripping is like writing. You never know where the next turn/word may take you.

 

As we are leaving the Chateau de Tanlay in Burgundy, Mei is keeping the itinerary and next stop secret. I’m OK with that. In Paris, we used to flip coins to see where we would go next. Now we are kidnapping each other to secret destinations.

 

We drive along wall-to-wall vineyards divided into plots, some of them proudly announcing organic farming. In the midst of the wine terraces suddenly looms a blossoming cornflower field. Stop the car, please!

 

 

Seconds later we plunge into the bluebottle bachelor button field, dotted with sporadic daisies, and the humming of bees. I pick up handfuls of soil and let them trickle through my fingers. This is rich chalk soil. I wonder how many human sweat and blood was necessary to harvest its quintessence? This soil has been exploited for centuries and continues to nourish flora and fauna. A ladybug lands on my shoulder. I imagine how the same insect landed on some Roman shoulder before. How Cistercian and Benedictine monks later picked up the winemaking. They grew the grapes for the church and the dukes of Burgundy. And refined many techniques with their oenological flair.

 

Imagining the honey-herb flavor of the medieval wine, while being surrounded by ripe grapes has made me thirsty. We head back to the car, where I release the ladybug, before hitting the road again.

 

 

A few kilometers further, we stop in Chablis, the “Golden Gate” of Burgundy, famous for its honey-scented white wine usually from Chardonnay grapes. After quenching our thirst, we stroll through the medieval parts of the town.

 

We walk through winding Jewish alleys, and along the river Serein, which is only navigable by small boats and barges. Before leaving Chablis, we stop at one of the numerous wine domains, cellars, and boutiques, where I get to taste and buy several wines.

 

Mei keeps driving on the National Road D965 for about 20 minutes. Then, I spot a huge clock tower and a majestic cathedral from afar. We are heading towards a bigger town: it has to be Auxerre, perched on its hill overlooking the Yonne river.

 

 

The hotel that Mei has booked is located outside of the town center. Hotel Normandie… the name is quite misleading indeed. The actual Normandy is along France’s west coast, a few hours away from Burgundy. But the hotel’s decor certainly emits a relaxing northern beach atmosphere. As we find out later, Hotel Normandie is only a 15 minutes walk away from the town center.

 

The first building that catches our attention is the former Episcopal Palace, which now serves as the Préfecture. The impressive building with a covered loggia that runs along its façade looks grand and reminds us of the Italian style from the times of Mazarin.

 

On the Place du Marché, we pause at a towering structure called La Tour Gaillarde. Most people think that the structure is merely a clock tower, or a belfry. But it’s actually a fragment left from a 15th century building, which used to be an earl’s prison, before it was converted into a clock tower in 1483.

 

 

As the evening is settling in with golden streaks, we head towards the banks of the River Yonne to admire the gothic Saint-Etienne Cathedral and the magnificent Saint-Germain Abbey.

 

I am tempted to buy a rusty “Route 66” sign in an antiquity shop. For a moment, it takes me back to 2013, and to our American road trip with dusty and shady motels. But then, I suddenly realize that there is no need to be nostalgic. This is the present. And we are on the road. Again. And we are still us. Together. The adventure is far from being over…

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From Chablis to Auxerre: A Road Trip through Burgundy, France © Travelwithmk.com

Follow Kerstin:

Traveler - Storyteller

Kerstin is a 30-something French teacher, born and raised in a tiny Luxembourgish village, but who used to live in Bordeaux, Paris, Athens and San Francisco with her wife Mei. Fluent in 5 languages, she's above all a huge book enthusiast, a fervent writer and storyteller, and could never refuse a good old single malt whiskey. Oh, and she also loves coffee and chocolate (not sure in which order though).

16 Responses

  1. Cai Dominguez
    | Reply

    I would love to have the same road trip like this. You gave me a different view of France aside from Paris. truly beautiful. This is like inside a fantasy movie. Hope to visit your country.

  2. Meg Jerrard
    | Reply

    Such a beautiful region – I love the charm and authenticity of the Medieval towns. Also totally love the idea of kidnapping each other to secret destinations!! What a way to make a road trip fun!

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Actually, it’s not always that easy to surprise someone with the next destinations. But I must admit that Mei did it quite well… she even chose not to use the navigation so I wouldn’t know the next stops! haha..

  3. Ryazan
    | Reply

    Awesome! What an epic journey! 🙂 I also would love to explore that part of France. The vibes and the landscape are just perfect! I bet you truly enjoyed your trip.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Yes, we had a wonderful trip! You should definitely have a road trip through Burgundy too! 🙂

  4. Trisha Velarmino
    | Reply

    That road trip was full of surprises and colors! I think I would smile massively if I get to see a huge clock tower and a cathedral with that color. I am a lover of architecture and colors.

  5. Life is a Hotel
    | Reply

    Wow! Europe is so beautiful 🙂 every time when I was living abroad I really missed our beautiful continent. It’s also so easy to travel around. Everything is so close!
    What is your next trip to ? 🙂

    Best,
    Kasia

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      You’re right Kasia: Europe is a pretty small continent, which makes it so easy to visit lots of places during a road trip!
      We’re going to Greece in a couple of days (so excited!!) How about you?

  6. Sandy N Vyjay
    | Reply

    Love road trips. They are fodder to the imagination and let your impulses take over. You can stop where your mind fancies, in the midst of nowhere and revel in the beauty of nature. A road trip through the beautiful countryside of France is on an altogether different level. Loved your writing , it brings alive the spirit of road trips so vibrantly.

  7. Siddhartha Joshi
    | Reply

    I so love the idea of a road-trip where the next stop is a secret 🙂 And when the secrets are as beautiful as the ones you encountered in your journey, they are a great way to discover the beauty of a new place!

  8. Mel and Mrcus
    | Reply

    Such a beautiful area but would have to get someone else to drive. Couldn’t resist all the excellent wines that would be on offer.

    • Mei and Kerstin
      | Reply

      Haha! Well, I’m lucky that Mei doesn’t drink, so she was the designated driver, and I could drink as much as I wanted. 😀

  9. Tanvi
    | Reply

    Wow! Must definitely be an extraordinary experience! 😊

  10. danik
    | Reply

    This part of France looks so beautiful. I would love to get lost in the side streets of Auxerre, I am sure there are some hidden secrets there. Auxerre isn’t too far from me and is easy reach from London. 🙂

  11. Perfect timing. I’ve got a work wine trip to Burgundy in September and I’m looking for ideas to add to my itinerary. It’s been a few years since I’ve visited this region, which is a shame since I live in Paris. Thanks for these suggestions.

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