Delicious wine, food to sample when traveling in France's Burgundy, Rhone areas

By K.C. Summers
Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who: Kathy Lanciano, 52, and her husband, Joseph, of Crofton, and two friends

Where: France's Burgundy and northern Rhone regions, capped off with a couple of days in Paris

Why: Gift from the other couple

When: A week in June

Budget: $7,000 to $10,000 per couple

"We like museums, gardens, dining . . . and wine!"

Let's not waste any time being jealous of the Lancianos just because they were given the incredibly generous present of a week in France *grits teeth* and get right to the important question: What should they see and do while they're basking in Burgundy and relaxing in the Rhone Valley? Besides eat and drink, that is. Bike the wine routes? Explore ancient cities and hilltop towns? Visit Roman ruins? Learn to cook? Hike amid some of the country's most spectacular scenery?

Actually, with four days in the region, they can do it all, since most of the above activities are deliciously intertwined.

So we won't worry so much about cost this week, just an itinerary.

Here's the basic plan: The friends will fly to Paris, rent a car and drive 2 1/2 hours south to their first base, the medieval town of Vezelay, west of Dijon. After two days in green and gorgeous Burgundy, they'll head three hours south to the town of Vienne, near Lyon in the Rhone-Alpes, for two nights. Then it's back to Paris for the last two days of the trip.

When in two of the great wine-producing regions of the world, of course, the main order of business is to tour the company towns and sample the merchandise. And even if you think you know a lot, I strongly advise you to hire a guide: A crash course in winemaking, combined with tastings, field visits and some historical and geographical perspective can only enhance the experience. Plus none of you will have to be the designated driver.

Detours in France, for example (011-33-380-220-603, http://www.detours-in-france.com), based in Beaune, has a half-day guided wine tour by car or bike for about $333 for up to eight people; for your group of four, that's $84 each (bike rental is extra). A full day is $600, lunch not included. For a wine-tasting lunch at a winery, with up to 10 different wines tasted and explained over a table d'hote lunch, add $73 per person.

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