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Photography Brandon Presser
When you picture the French countryside you’re probably imagining Burgundy. Sweeping fields of green, hillocks dotted with stone fortresses, and placid rivulets befitting a lily-dotted Monet. It’s the rural France of the tourist brochures, and feels like some sort of fairy tale combustion between Robin Hood’s forest and the Beauty and the Beast’s “little town.”
Spring in Burgundy is a particularly magical time to visit — the grass always seems dewy and the blooming rapeseed splashes radiant bursts of yellow across the otherwise beige-and-green landscape. A springtime visit also promises much more personal time with the region’s main attractions before the legions of tourists file through in the height of summer. The area, though bucolic, is considerably compact, making it a great place to explore by bike.
Over the course of the week we’re laying out a Day-by-Day travel planner of the best things to see, and best places to stop on a cycling tour of what the New York Times called one of the world’s must-see destinations in 2015. This tailor-made trail ensures that you get the best of what Burgundy has to offer: canal-side views, forest-y rambles, crumbling castles, and a generous smattering of good food and wine.
If you’re starting your trip from Paris, then take the TGV high-speed train down to the regional hub of Dijon (about a 90-minute ride).
Pick up your bikes in Dijon if you aren’t bringing them down from Paris, and follow the region’s so-called Burgundy Canal in a southwesterly direction. The only uphill portion of the trip, you’ll gently rise from 70m/230ft elevation to about 200m/655ft while passing a scenic system of locks that helps the small boats pass through. When you reach La Bussière-sur-Ouche you’ll discover a stately Cistercian abbey that has been lovingly transformed into an inviting hotel.
(Dijon to La Bussière-sur-Ouche: 30km/18miles).
Points of Interest
Abbaye de la Bussière
Imagine living inside a grand Cistercian abbey but enjoying all the trappings of luxury instead of the traditionally ascetic lifestyle of a monk. You’ve just pictured Abbaye de la Bussière. Set on a lush estate seemingly lost in the middle of nowhere, the beautiful Relais & Châteaux property sports over a dozen rooms spread out across several formerly monastic structures. The on-site restaurant has garnered one Michelin star and is the brainchild of chef Emmanuel Hébrard. Go for the Bussière or Cîteau suite — both sport giant bathtubs with views of the perfectly manicured grounds below.
To rent a bicycle in Dijon, contact one of the following dealers:
Les 2 Roues Electriques
13, avenue Jean-Jaurès
Tel : +33 (0)3 80 46 12 36
73 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Tel : +33 (0)3 80 73 23 03