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> French chefs and great wine

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French chefs and great wines

Follow Bill and his wife Helen on the French roads visiting France with their France Rail Pass.


Burgundy is known for great wine and Lyon is known for great food. If you put these ideas together, you construct a virtual image of the best of France. The magic of travel is that going to Lyon, Dijon and Beaune, you can turn that virtual image into unforgettable memories that will stay on your palate.


gastronomy and wine itinerary


Time 2H00 by TGV
Time 22 trains per day*


You’ll have to ask a philosopher why France developed such a great love of food and wine. It did. Every region has its specialties, but a particularly dense concentration of pleasure is waiting in the middle of France.
“Let’s go to Lyon for lunch one day,” Helen said. A food critic named Lyon the capital of gastronomy in 1934, and the reputation has stuck. “We can be there in two hours on the TGV.”
“What about a long weekend?” I suggested. “We can go to Burgundy, too.”
So we did. We left our train under the long glass roof of Lyon Perrache station in the middle of town, above the junction of the Rhone and Saone rivers that made this a town site before the Romans.
Helen knew about the bouchons in Lyon, traditional small restaurants that specialize in Lyonnais foods. They aren’t haute cuisine, but traditional restaurants that began in the 17th century for silk workers. Good chefs began making the less desirable parts of animals into something delicious, and Lyonnais foods include different sausages, dumplings made from ground fish, tripe soup --- and praline pie.
Our challenge was to choose one.
The guy at the hotel was a big help. Hundreds of small restaurants act like bouchons, he said, but many are tourist rip-offs, not really the convivial places with a love of preparing and serving traditional foods. An association for the “preservation of bouchons” labels several dozen restaurants as an Authentique Bouchon Lyonnais, and two of them are on the tiny pedestrian street of Rue des Marronniers. Both Chez mounier and La Mère Jean looked fine. We chose the latter because I have a brother John. I had the traditional tablier de sapeur, which means the fireman’s leather apron but is actually fried tripe, and Helen had the quenelle de brochet, the dumpling made from a Northern pike. Traditional Beaujolais wine, served in a glass bottle pot that holds 46 cl or 15.5 ounces, went well with the rich dishes.
Traditional Lyonnais food is filling, so we walked off lunch in Old Lyon’s medieval streets, exploring nooks and crannies and already thinking of a lovely (lovey) dinner. It wasn’t anywhere near Valentine’s Day, but we chose Au 14 Février, near the Vieux Lyon metro station. It is one of nine Lyon restaurants with stars in the Michelin Red Guide, if you go as far as the three-star Paul Bocuse restaurant four miles out of town.




France Rail Pass’partner:

- Tourist Office: Grand Lyon Tourist Office and Congress

- Bar and Cafe : Eden Rock Café

- Restaurants: Le 110 vins, La Mère Brazier- Mathieu Viannay, Restaurant Christian Tetedoie, The 4 Chabert restaurants « Chabert & fils/ le Bouchon des Carnivores/ Aux 3 cochons/ Mama Caroni), Eden Rock Cafe

- Accommodations: Citadines, Park and Suites (Lyon Part Dieu)




Time 1H40 by regional train

Time 16 trains per day*



There’s a train every hour from the Lyon Part Dieu station to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. Villages with famous wine names like Meursault and Nuit St. Georges surround the town that since 1540 has had a coat of arms with the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her left hand an a bunch of grapes in her right hand.

I had read Peter Mayle’s book Bon Appétit, which has a chapter about being in Beaune for the annual Hospice of Beaune wine auction that funds the Hospice’s beautiful Hotel-dieu since the 1850s. In 2011, the auction of wines – many being grand crus -- made from vineyards given to the hospice over the years raised $7.3 million. We weren’t there at auction time, but there was plenty of wine to buy at the caves, or tasting rooms, of the many wine merchants in town.

Mayle warns everyone not to swallow every mouthful tasted, but to start the day we had a glass each of Meursault with our luncheon eggs poached in Meursault. We walked most of the afternoon, stopping several times to test Mayle’s theory. We learned we didn’t have to feel obliged to buy something from every cave. We couldn’t have carried it all back anyway. The old town is beautiful, with its multicolored tile roofs and Middle Ages architecture, and we had time to look at the Basilique Notre-Dame before catching a late afternoon train to Dijon.




  • Gastronomic specialities: poached eggs with Meursault

France Rail Pass’partner:

- Accommodation: Hotel / Restaurant Via Mokis, Hotel des Remparts 3*, Les Grandes Etapes françaises 4*



Time 20 min by regional train

Time 45 trains per day*



We had called ahead to reserve a Saturday night hotel and dinner, so we were totally relaxed during the 20 minute ride to the Dijon Ville station with its round snuff can entrance. Wine tastings may have added to the détente.

We settled our luggage, now heavier by several Beaune bottles, and strolled to the Place de la Liberation, the center of the former dukedom of Burgundy. During the 14th and 15th Centuries, the Duke of Burgundy and the King of France were about equally important, and the Palace of the Duke’s is now the city hall and the art museum. We dined across the square from the palace, in a classic French restaurant Le Pré aux Clercs. Like the Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge and the Stéphane Derbord, it has a Michelin star, and those three Dijon addresses are among 32 starred restaurants in Burgundy.

This is a town of good taste. Naturally, it is the home of Dijon mustard. It is also famous for its creme de cassis, and the drink combining crème de cassis and a white Burgundy wine, named after Dijon’s former Mayor Kir who served it to visitors in the city hall’s palace.

Burgundy snails, Burgundy truffles and bœuf bourguignon are all local delights.

I said to ask a philosopher about France and food, but maybe we should also ask a geographer. From the top of the palace tower, built by Philip the Good, you can see over the rooftops to the Saone River plains. Maybe there is some tastebud magic in the Saone, which runs near here, and Beaune, and to Lyon.




  • The Rue des Forges and its mansions
  • Shops selling traditional products (mustard, crème de cassis and spiced gingerbread)


France Rail Pass’partner:

- Wine Cellar and tasting session: C comme Champagne (wine store)

- Restaurants: Les Oenophiles

- Accommodations: Hôtel la Flambée, Hôtel Philippe Le Bon 3*, Le chateau de Gilly (near dijon)

- Tourist: Office Dijon Tourist Office




Time 1H40 by TGV

Time 14 trains per day*


* (2011 frequency)


Please discover the other itineraries :


Heritage :

Normandy and the fabulous Mont Saint-Michel

The Loire Valley

The South of France

Major historical sights int the Champagne and Alsace regions


Gastro and wine :

• Incredible Bordeaux

Discovering the Champagne region

« L’Alsace gourmande »



Please discover the other Family’s itineraries:

• Auvergne and its volcanoes

Futuruscope and Poitou Charentes


Young rider 

Please discover the other Young rider’s itineraries:

• Genuine Atlantic coast 

The great Mont Blanc

Marseille and Corsica


Well being 

Please discover the other Young rider’s itineraries :

• Deauville

Beautiful Brittany

Relax on the atlantic coast


Urban Clubber

Please discover the other Urban clubber's itineraries :

3 cities on the go
The french riviera

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2011 15:25