Photo of Cote d'Or

Burgundy is a French Mecca for seekers of gourmet cuisine and devotees of wine.

The richness of the culture, history and visual splendor deserves leisurely exploration. Don't rush through the towns and vineyards with a checklist and camera. Instead, take the time to delve into one remarkable and distinctive department of Burgundy: the Cote d'Or.

Stretching from Dijon to Beaune with a blend of grand tradition and intimate features, the Cote d'Or unfolds one new surprise after another.

Street in Dijon, Burgundy, FranceFrom the diverse topography, luscious vineyards, and enthralling history, everything here transforms your trip into an unforgettable delight. Visit cool dark cellars, majestic estates and sunny vineyards. Enjoy simple wine tastings with friends and family, extravagent feasts, and serene nature walks. Give yourself a thrill with exciting outdoor adventure sports.

The name Cote d'Or is meant to invoke an image of golden sun sparkling on vine leaves. With so many vineyards and villages to choose from, it's a good idea to let your hosts guide you to the nearest and most convenient ones. Whether you stay in le Verger sous les Vignes or another bed and breakfast, the owners and staff will be able to provide you with suggestions and helpful information, and in some cases even arrange guided tours and tastings for you.

It's no wonder that the Cote d'Or wine route - the Burgundy route des Grands Crus - has been dubbed the 'Champs-Elysées' of Burgundy. As you explore the villages, you'll recognize names of some of the most impressive wines in the world : Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, Meursault and Vougeot.

Some local Burgundy specialties you wont want to miss include “œufs en meurette'' (eggs poached in red wine), Burgundy snails, parsleyed ham and gingerbread. Even if you know nothing about wine and French cuisine, you'll love soaking in the atmosphere and opening your palette to new tastes and flavors.

As you indulge in the delicious food and wine, don't forget to punctuate your meals with visits to the historical jewels of the Cote d'Or.

Take your pick of more than 200 chateaux, such as the Chateau d'Epoisses. Surrounded by fifteenth century homes and a church, the castle is at the heart of a double ring of fortifications of moats and towers. Inside, drink in the richness of the 17th through 19th century décor. The Chateau d'Epoisses is memorable for the gorgeous antique furniture, oil portraits and tales of famous visitors such as Madame de Sevigne and the Grand Conde. After wandering through the castle halls, you can relax in the beautiful park outside.

vaulted interior of Fontenay Abbey

You should also take the opportunity to see the Abbey of Fontenay, a UNESCO World Heritage site and marvelous example of Cistercian architecture. The Abbey was founded in the early 12th century by Saint Bernard, in a small valley in the marshes. It has endured destruction and abandonment through the centuries, and now can boast over 100,000 visitors. The hour long guided tour is worth doing.

To get a sense of the panorama of Cote d'Or's culture and history, pay a visit to one of the many museums. Themes abound in plenty - choose from museums about World War I, agriculture, archeology, gourmet cuisine, sacred art, pre-history, court traditions and even a planetarium.

If museums and castles aren't your thing and you'd rather enjoy the great outdoors, Cote d'Or offers plenty of options. You can rent a mountain bike and explore the mountains, ramble through the hills and valleys on your own, enjoy a pony trek, or settle in for lazy afternoons on the rivers and canals while sun-flecked pastures float by.

Don't forget to stop and chat with the locals. You can learn more secrets about the Cote d'Or through a friendly conversation than through poring over guidebooks.

Finally, depending on when you visit Cote d'Or, you may be able to partake in the department's many festivals and special events. Music festivals, celebrations of historical anniversaries, and multimedia exhibitions are popular and recurring. Check the bulletin boards around town, ask your lodging hosts, or check the Cote d'Or tourism website for schedules of upcoming events.

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Whatever your fancy in Cote d'Or, this department of Burgundy is worth more than a passing visit. Give yourself at least a few days, if not longer, to discover the delectable wines and cuisines, marvel at the imposing chateaux and other architectural sights, loiter in interesting museums, and get to know the undulating countryside. It has endless appeal, and you may find yourself extending your stay in this lovely Burgundy department.

Le Verger sous les Vignes - recommended place to stay in Cote d'Or

If you want to experience the real Cote d'Or, choose a bed and breakfast on a farm or chateau rather than a posh hotel. Le Verger sous les Vignes comes highly recommended. Under an hour's drive from Dijon, Beaune and Avallon, this lovely and remote lodge in the hills of the Auxois region is a scattering of winemakers' cottages clustered around an ancient terraced orchard.

Each bedroom has a distinctive style and appearance, and most give you direct access to a private terrace or garden. All the rooms have a private bathroom. You can choose a double bed or 2 single beds, and families can request an extra cot if needed. The dining room, lounge and meeting rooms all have stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Once you are settled in, you can prepare for your next move: exploring the wine and cuisine that make the Cote d'Or so well-loved. See booking prices and details for Le Verger sous les Vignes.