France is perhaps best known for its exceptional variety of wine and delectable cuisine. The country’s Burgundy region offers the best of both. Easily accessible by river boat cruises in France, the cities of Dijon and Chablis are renowned worldwide for their signature offerings – unmatched mustard and locally-made wine, respectively. While these can also be easily bought from a supermarket almost anywhere in Europe, there’s nothing that can match the opportunity to savour these specialities in their own hometowns. For a gourmet, visiting these cities will be a palate-pleasing adventure.
Dijon’s Magnificent Mustard
In the Middle Ages, the Romans introduced growing mustard to Dijon and the crop flourished in the area. They soon fashioned their own recipe by grinding the seeds and vinegar together. While this is a far cry from the popular sauce we know and use today, it was how the condiment first originated in the area. In fact, this method was even described by early modern period cookery writer Robert May: ‘Have good seed, pick it and wash it in cold water, drain it and rub it dry in a cloth very clean; then beat it in a mortar with strong wine-vinegar; and being fine beaten, strain it and keep it close covered. Or grind it in a mustard quern or a bowl with a cannon bullet.’ Eventually local Jean Naigeon perfected the recipe by replacing the vinegar with verjuice, the sour juice of unripe grapes, which is the taste we recognise today.
Chablis’ Wonderful Wine
The heritage winery that best defines the region’s passion for wine-making is the Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard enterprise. Its stunning vineyard is great for a relaxing walk through the fresh greenery. While touring their cellars, you can discover the secrets of the Chablis tipple through an interesting tasting session. The company’s motto, ‘Look, be quiet and learn,’ is exactly how you should experience the process so you can properly get to know everything from how the connoisseurs choose the perfect grapes from the vineyard to how the drink is finally prepared. An ideal stop on many popular river boat cruises in France, Chablis is a must-visit haven for every wine lover. Besides the winery, the gorgeous sights of the vineyard itself offer a peaceful, rejuvenating sanctuary.
While river boat cruises in France may seem like just a laidback getaway, they are also a great way to discover a plethora of hidden gems in the Burgundy region. You will be able to visit both of the above cities in good time, through a relaxed waterway cruise rather than an exhausting land trip. It also saves you the effort of extensive planning, as you won’t have to worry about finding accommodation or meals for your trip. This makes it a convenient way to visit several towns in the Burgundy region, during the same holiday.
Once you get back from your trip, every time you pick up a tube of mustard from your refrigerator, or pour yourself a glass of French wine, you’ll be reminded of the excellent experience of visiting the cities from which they originated.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury river boat cruises in France. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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