Leaving the Black Forest behind us, the family minibus headed over the border into the Burgundy region of France, with great excitement as the road signs announced the fact that we were finally “En Francais”.
Cite de L’automobile
Our three hour journey took us through Mulhouse with a stop at a large car museum “Cite de L’Automobile”, where my nephew attempted to photograph every vehicle in the building, from horse drawn carriages to modern race cars.
It was here we enjoyed our first real French pate at the cafeteria – though by French standards I imagine it was like equating takeaway fish n chips with grilled Barramundi.
French village culture
Our home for the next four nights was an amazing B & B seven miles out of Dijon in the quaint village of Ruffey-Les-Echilrey . Ame de la Terre is owned by a French local and his German wife, who is fluent in French, German and English.
Phillipe and Simone have successfully extended their historic 19th century villa with a sleek modern B&B, offering comfortable rooms, amazing breakfasts and outstanding hospitality.
We arrived in Ruffey-Les-Echilrey at around 6pm, receiving a warm welcome from our hosts.
After a challenging day driving on the wrong side of the road, the last thing Philip needed was to drive us all back into Dijon for dinner, so we took up the kind offer of our hostess to put together a platter for us. What a spread it was! Local cheeses, pate, terrine, garden salad and fresh French bread all washed down with a local white wine.
Emerging for breakfast on our first morning, we were greeted with a spread of fresh fruit and cheeses, fresh locally baked croissants, our choice of cooked eggs and a selection of Simone’s mouthwatering tarts and pastries, which were available with tea and coffee all day.
If you are fortunate enough to stay at “Ame de la Terre” on a Tuesday evening, Simone’s “Table d’host” is well worth the small additional cost. Simone prepares a mouthwatering five course feast for guests featuring local produce. Highlights of our menu were home made salmon terrine, Boeuf bourguignon (“It may be hot, but you cant visit Burgundy without tasting real Beef Burgundy,” Simone informed us) freshly made tarts and a selection of local cheeses, all paired with regional wines.
Our fellow guests for the evening were a German couple, visiting for the week to attend French school. This provided some interesting multi lingual dinner conversations – an enriching travel experience one would miss in a larger city hotel. They possibly spoke less English than we spoke French or German, Simone happily acting as translator.
Engaging with the locals
They pointed out an interesting fact I had never realised – they could not believe Kes and I were sisters, having been raised, educated and lived identically for the first 25 years of our lives.
Having lived in Singapore for some 15 years, Kes and Philip tend to speak more formal English, whereas Ian and I apparently have a broader “strine” accent, which acts as a verbal “Aussie Flag” – a fact we encountered many times during our travels in France.
Hence began an hilarious education in Australian English, highlighting the similarities between phrases such as “Good Evening, how are you” and “G’day mate, howya goin”
From our B & B we spent three days exploring the wineries, chateaux and museums of the Burgundy region, from ancient cobblestone villages, to the larger cities of Dijon and Beaune.
Simone and Phillipe were always at the ready each morning to give us useful tips for our day’s sightseeing.
Visiting Beaune and Dijon
We strolled through village markets, sampling the wares of charcuteries, fromageries and patisseries along the way, tasted real Dijon mustard and, of course, stocked up on Burgundy wines to sustain us on our journeys.
Many of the chateaux we visited had survived countless wars, rebellions and revolutions over the centuries and a number had been in the same family for some 1000 years.
Each was unique in its own way, many were still lived in and opened to the public to assist with the massive upkeep, while others had been restored as museums or interactive displays.
The only drawback we found was that many of the smaller chateaux did not have an English guide, so we were limited to the printed English leaflets to read through the tour, unfortunately missing much of what would have been interesting commentary.
Our stay at Ame de la Terre provided us with an insight into the local village culture, lining up for the pizza van and glace vendor in the adjacent village square.
Admiring the abundant poppies as we strolled past the limestone buildings on cobblestone streets.
Relaxing in the cool of the courtyard after a hot day’s sightseeing, sipping French wine or German beer, we could hear the village church bells chime the hour as the villagers went about their business.
Our last evening we enjoyed celebrating the summer equinox with their local folk music from the town hall echoing through the still summer’s night.
We so thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, it was certainly “Au Reviens”, not “Au Revoir” as the family minibus headed off towards Auxerre at the end of our stay.
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