Doucement by Barge and by Balloon – Burgundy, France

By Water or Air

Barging and ballooning in Burgundy give new meaning to the expression “living well is the best revenge.” Both serene and leisurely modes of transportation guarantee the appropriate pace—doucement—to savor one of Frances most beautiful regions through the back door. Drift quietly along a centuries-old network of rivers and canals or let a lofty breeze waft your balloon over dozens of pri­vately owned, forest-ringed castles that once housed the powerful dukes of Burgundy in the late Middle Ages.

Glide over the world-class vineyards of Montrachet, Meursault, and Pommard in the heart of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, or “Golden Slope,” which gives the world some of its finest red and dry white wines. This is the heart of viticultural Burgundy that stretches from Dijon to Santenay, whose celebrated vineyards provide idyllic days of wine tasting and châteaux touring. Colorful village markets offer fresh produce and delicious cheeses to accompany the humble vin local—which can assume the magic of a premier cru when enjoyed during earthbound piqueniques or special candle­light dinners in the vaulted chambers of a medieval château. Store up memories and insights into provincial life, with children who gleefully wave you on or a pasture full of blasé Charolais cattle that barely acknowl­edge your passing.

Though its famous namesake chef died prematurely in 2003, Hotel Bernard Loiseau (a.k.a. La Cote d’Or) still serves his daring cuisine legere, a healthy “light touch” cooking style that uses the very best of local produce and little or no cream or butter, and avoids the addition of extra flavors to basic combina­tions. The result—enhanced by any of the 20,000 bottles of wine in the restaurant’s cellar—is sublime.

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