Map of Burgundy
There's evidence everywhere of this former wealth and power, both secular and religious: in the dukes' capital of Dijon, in the great abbeys of Vézelay and Fontenay, in the ruins of the monastery of Cluny (whose abbots' influence was second only to the pope's), and in the châteaux of Tanlay and Ancy.
Because of its monastic foundations, Burgundy became along with Poitou and Provence one of the great church-building areas in the Middle Ages. Practically every village has its Romanesque church, especially in the country around Cluny and Paray-le-Monial. It's hard not to believe that this had something to do with its illustrious Roman past, so visible in the substantial Roman remains at Autun. And the history goes back further: Bibracte, on the atmospheric hill of Mont-Beuvray, was an important Gallic capital, and Alésia was the scene of Julius Caesar's epic victory over the Gauls in 52 BC. In more modern times the rustic backwater of Le Creusot became a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution, with the manufacture of railway engines, artillery pieces and nuclear boilers, using the ample forests and iron-ore deposits to fuel the forges.
For voluptuaries, wine is, of course, the region's most obvious attraction, and devotees head straight for the great vineyards, whose produce has played the key role in the local economy since Louis XIV's doctor prescribed wine as a palliative for the royal dyspepsia. If you lack the funds to indulge your taste for expensive drink, go in September or October when the vignerons are recruiting harvesters.
Between bouts of gastronomic indulgence, you can engage in some moderate activity: for walkers there's a wide range of hikes, from the gentle to the relatively demanding, in the Parc Régional du Morvan and the Côte d'Or. There are also several long-distance canal paths, which make great bike trips. As for the waterways themselves, aficionados rate most highly the Canal de Bourgogne and the Canal du Nivernais, both of which can be cruised by rented barge; contact the Comité Régional du Tourisme de Bourgogne, BP 1602, 21035 Dijon (tel 03.80.50.90.00, www.burgundy-tourism.com/fleuve/index.htm).
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