Why do so many British holidaymakers speed southwards, to Provence and the Dordogne and other holiday destinations in France, when they could be enjoying a holiday in Burgundy, one of France's most beguiling areas? A holiday in Burgundy has it all, space, pure country air, peace, wine, gastronomy, tradition, sophistication, style and the simple pleasures of life.
The Burgundy region has history at every turn. This area of France was once a formidable Duchy that was more powerful than France itself. Burgundy, or Bourgogne as it is known in Europe, is made up of four departments - the Yonne, the Cote d'Or, Nievre, and Saone-et-Loire. Dijon is the capital of Burgundy, a rich provincial centre that remains one of the region's greatest draws for a holiday, as the dukes of Burgundy spent a fortune beautifying their capital. Hilltop villages and market towns are adorned with some of the most magnificent Romanesque structures in Europe. The Basilica of Vezelay, the Abbey of Cluny and the abandoned Fontenay Abbey are among the must-see sights whilst on holiday in Burgundy. The region also boasts some of France's most spectacular castles. Chateau d'Ancy le Franc is styled on the Italian Renaissance; Chateau de Cormatin is a unique survivor from the days before the revolution. And there are scores of other, more intimate castles and chateaux. For wine buffs, a holiday to Burgundy is without doubt a pilgrimage to utopia, with villages such as Chablis, Nuits-St-Georges known throughout the world; rural Burgundy has a great deal to offer the discerning holiday maker.
At Burgundy's heart lies the Morvan National Park, 1,000 square miles of unspoilt wildness. It's dotted with lakes and picturesque villages, many of which have family-run brasseries in their tree-shaded squares. What better way to while away the heat of the day on a relaxing holiday, than with a slice of homemade pate with fresh bread and a glass of chilled Burgundy wine? The gastronomic cuisine is reason enough to holiday in this region of France. In the land where food and wine is an art form, enjoy leisurely lunches and dinners the freshest ingredients prepared with skill and care. Boeuf Bourguignon is the region's signature dish but there are scores of other local specialities. One of France's most celebrated cheeses, Epoisses, comes from a lovely little village of the same name (complete with rambling medieval chateaux). Locals will insist you accompany the cheese with a glass of Chablis.
The only drawback to a holiday in this region of France is that you risk returning home larger and heavier than when you arrived. Unless, of course, you burn off those calories with a brisk hike across the peaks of the southern Morvan or participate in the numerous outdoor pursuits that a Burgundy holiday has to offer.