The Chain Gang in Burgundy

A Great Photo Collection From Burgundy, by Sinclair Shuit.

Earlier in April I was delighted to stumble across a collection of photos that I’d forgotten about, taken by Sinclair Shuit in Burgundy in 2013.

The chateau at Chateauneuf
The chateau at Chateauneuf
I think this is a great collection of photos, for two reasons. Firstly, Sinclair took a lot of photos of the Abbey de Fontenay. I think it’s a special place, not only beautiful, but of great historical significance as the site of the invention of the hydraulic hammer, as well as the oldest surviving Cistercian abbey.

The second reason is because Sinclair took a lot of photos of food, and as I’ve blogged before, food is a really big part of any visit to Burgundy. I really like it when a region still has such a distinctive cuisine that you can tell where you by reading a menu. Coupled to that, Burgundy is actually a foodies paradise, so a collection of photographs of Burgundy food is interesting.

I’ve chosen five photos to illustrate this blog post. But I’ve not included any food photographs, because I recently featured some of them on Facebook.

And there are no photos of Fontenay either, because I’ve just done a whole blog about it. So here are 5 photos that I really like, that I think illustrate quite a special collection by Sinclair Shuit. You can see the whole album here.

1. The first photo is of Chateauneuf (see above).
One of my favourite Chain Gangers, David from Tel Aviv, once said to me (as we both slogged up the hill into Chateauneuf!) “Bernard, I used to think that the most beautiful village in France was Loubressac. But now I realise it is Chateauneuf”. And he had a point.


Pressing blackcurrants to make Creme de Cassis

Pressing blackcurrants to make Creme de Cassis

2. Creme de Cassis.
This might seem an odd photograph to choose, but it’s the distillery at Cassisseum in Nuits Saint Georges pressing blackcurrants to make Creme de Cassis.

Blackcurrants have been grown for a long time in Burgundy, but they grew in significance due to the influence of Canon Félix Kir, the Mayor of Dijon.

Stories vary, from Kir serving the liqueur, mixed with a local white wine, to his delegations, to promoting an alternative to the wine confiscated by the Nazis. But the apéritif made from mixing Creme de Cassis with a white wine made from the Alligoté grape, universally known as Kir, is part of Burgundy culture, and is known throughout the world.

I wish I could remember in which guidebook I read that whatever bad experience you’ve had with Kir anywhere else in the world, try one in Burgundy and be convinced.


Cristanne and new friend.
Cristanne and new friend.

3. Cristanne, with new friend.
Cristanne (the lady) is a Chain Gang regular, but I don’t know who the guy is – I know it ain’t Jerold, Cristanne’s husband! Can anyone help? Who are you sir?

The reason I like this photo is that sums up an important part of Chain Gang trips. This photo was taken on a Thursday in La Ciboulette, a lovely restaurant in Beaune, one of my favourites. Cristanne and her friend are clearly very happy, very comfortable, but they only met on Saturday. I love that.


Cycling among vines near Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy.
Cycling among vines near Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy.

4. Cycling through vineyards.
The geography of the Cotes D’Or, between Dijon and Beaune, is lovely. As we head south from Dijon, the hills rise to our right, and the slopes are covered with the vines that produce some of the most famous red wines in the world.

Even more than in Bordeaux, in Burgundy you can cycle among the vines on tiny backroads and tracks, and it’s lovely.

This is a typical example, that’s Pete on the left, Neelam on the right, cycling towards Gevrey Chambertin. It’s very, very Burgundy.


The Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune
The Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune

5. The roof of the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune.
This is an amazing building, right in the centre of the old town of Beaune. It was built in the 15th Century as a hospital to deal with the destitution left by the Hundred Years War.

They accepted their first patient way back in 1452, and it continued to serve as a hospital right into 20th century. These days it’s more associated with very posh wine and charity auctions, but that’s a story for the guide books when you visit. The one thing you will always remember about the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is the roof.

It’s not hyperbole to call it incredible. It’s a colossal roof covered with polychrome glazed tiles. Not the originals – the current roof dates from 1907. But it is an amazing thing to see, and that’s why I chose a photo from Sinclair’s collection. Please, click on this photo to enlarge it and you’ll see what I mean.


Want to see the whole album? You should!

If you want to see the whole album, click here. It’s worth it, so I should say thank you to Sinclair Shuit – thanks.

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