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The Grape News
Volume XIII - Spring 2007 - March 16, 2007

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 "La Maison de La Vieille Vigne" It's a warm and early spring, so our roses are just around the corner


In this issue, you can read about:

  • Le Relais du Vieux Beaune
    Take a photo tour and read guest comments of our new(ish) two bedroom apartment in the heart of medieval Beaune
  • Spa
    Take a trip to a new spa in Meursault which specializes in grape-based treatments
  • Rugby
    The Rugby World Cup 2007 (in France! Chouette!)
  • Sabbatical Years in France
    Dreaming of a sabbatical or long stay in France?
  • Our winemaker in residence
    Marc-Olivier Buffet from Domaine Buffet in Volnay, gives his opinion on Burgundy's 2006 vintage
  • French Favorites
    Three new films to add to the French Favorites list
  • Activities planning
    Introducing our new service of helping you organize activities to get the most out of your stay. Possibilities include private winetastings with our winemaker friends, cooking classes, guided bike and walking excursions, and more…
  • Maud Fontenoy makes us proud to be French!
    Read about the exploits of this 29 year old French sailor who redefines courage and class.
  • Blog & our new website
    Read about our latest adventures in the "The Grape Journal" Blog and take a sneak peek at our new website.
  • Restaurant Review
    Le Conty & Le Cave du Paradoxe in Beaune
  • Grape Seeds
    Useful stuff & tidbits
  • Availability and 2006 Booking
    The latest update on availability for both houses, and contact information if you'd like to find out more or make a booking.

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Bonjour tout le monde,

The fields between Villers-la-Faye and Magny-les-Villers last July.  The smell of the warm wheat at the end of a hot day makes evening walks heavenly!


About three weeks ago, just as I was just putting the finishing touches on this Grape News before sending it out, I wrote a pithy little paragraph about how I wasn't at all superstitious about the number 13, and how I wasn't about to stoop to renaming this Grape News anything besides Grape News #13, unlike cowardly hotels in America that jump right from floor#12 to floor #14.

Then my computer up and died.

Things still aren't completely back to normal, but we are managing to hobble along  sharing Franck's computer. As for me, after many false starts trying to repair mine it finally imploded for good. Problem is, of course, I can't buy a new computer here, as all the programs are in French, not to mention the fact that all the letters on the keyboard are in the wrong place! I'm still waiting for my new one which I finally ordered from Canada and, which is, of course, currently stuck in customs in Paris. 

Pardon the lack of the "Bourguignons de Coeur" column in this issue. We haven't given it up, it's just that the person we chose to profile for Grape News #13 caught pneumonia and has been bedridden for the last two weeks. As for me, I'm off to find my lucky rabbit's foot, but in the meantime, here is the latest in all things Burgundian.


First off, Le Relais du Vieux Beaune, our newest vacation rental, a luxurious two bedroom apartment in the heart of medieval Beaune, has now been up, running, and delighting guests since July 2006.

We couldn’t be happier with it, and some guests have even combined stays at one of the village houses and the apartment in order to get a taste of both country and town life here in Burgundy. To see photos of the end result of all our hard work (and couch pushing through windows – to read more about our "Mission Impossible" check out my July 2006 blog entries here ).

For the photo tour of Le Relais du Vieux Beaune, just click here:

Scroll down with each photo to read the quotes of our guests so far…

“We feel we are so privileged to be the ones inaugurating the “Relais”. The place has made our trip to Burgundy very comfortable because of its excellent location and the prolific homework Laura and Franck have done and arranged for us, and very cozy because of the personal touch of you Laura and Franck. We hope to see you more in the future. Shukran (merci).”
Dr. Aaora Toubi, Michel Zaher, Yanal Zaher - Haifa Israel

“You have truly created an amazing little oasis. Your taste and charm come through in this lovely apartment. Everything was absolutely perfect and you have thought of everything anyone could ever need to appreciate their stay in this beautiful region. Thank you for everything!”
Mia Norrie, Eleanor Norrie, Brett Norrie - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

“We have had a wonderful three weeks here in Burgundy - the first two in your gite in Villers-la-Faye and the last here in Beaune. We would like to thank you and Franck for your wonderful hospitality and the special Burgundy experiences you have shown us - particularly the Hospices de Beaune wine tasting. 50 wines tasted in one morning in ancient cellars - this tested even my stamina! I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Burgundy in the future!”
Alex Wilson and Jenny Topfer - Bogdod, Tasmania, Australia

“We thank you so much for this wonderful apartment you have---and share with travelers like us! We arrived very tired and found this to be such a welcoming “home” with such comfortable beds. We had the best nights sleep in our week stay. The location could not be better and finding such a wonderful boulangerie jus steps from the door was great. We hope to be back to stay in your apartment where you have though of everything for your guests’ comfort. The apartment in Paris paled in comparison to Le Relais du Vieux Beaune, which without a doubt that was the best part of our trip! It was so very comfortable and lovely. We hope to be able to come back again and stay there. For us it was perfect..location...ambience...convenience”
Steven & Carol Kirson - South Carolina, USA

“What a delicious and delightful week we have had here in Beaune and the surrounding countryside! The Relais is so conviently located and so well appointed we hardly needed the rental car. All of Laura’s recommendations for restaurants have been excellent. Our first night we went to Le Gourmandin and had a very seasonal meal prepared with pumpkin sauce. It was so good that we were just tempted to keep going back night after night! The Wednesday and especially the Saturday markets were fabulous and a great place to find a few delicacies (WONDERFUL cheeses and fruits and olives!) to enjoy with your wine at Le Relais. May all who read these words find in Bourgogne the grace, excellence and hospitality that we have experienced here!
Toni London and Bruce Batten - Eagle River, Alaska, USA

For all you wine freaks out there, a little side note...we also bought a proper wine “cave” underneath the building, with vaulted ceilings and a stone pillar in the middle which dates it to somewhere between the 13th and 16th century. We have to do a bit of excavating and add electricity and proper drainage, but after that is done we’re mulling over several ideas for its use; a reception / winetasting area for our guests? A perfectly temperature controlled place for us and our guests to store their wine between trips?  In any case, we’ll be sure to keep you updated!



For those who are into “Spa-ing” (and if given the choice and a generous enough budget, who wouldn’t be?) there is a new and uniquely Burgundian spa experience which has opened only a few kilometres from Beaune.

Located in the gorgeous little town of Meursault which is renowned for its white wines (and definitely worth a visit during your stay, especially on Thursday which is market day), the “Spa Bourgogne” as it is aptly named specializes in grape based treatments such as the “Massage Premier Cru” which entails being scrubbed and massaged from your neck to the end of your toes with grape seeds steeped in essential oils. Another one of the enticing options is bathing in red grape juice in an authentic winemakers’ barrel. Who can beat that for original?

Rest assured that this spa is not at all hokey. I haven’t visited it yet, as I am still trying to figure out how to arrange for free treatments by saying that I am a journalist or something, but friends who have tried it rave about it. It is minimalist, impeccably clean, and entirely professional – everything a modern spa should be.

To find out more, check out their website at:

III) RUGBY WORLD CUP 2007 (alternative title – “CUTE MEN IN SHORT SHORTS”)

Now something for the guys…or us girls who like watching rugby games almost as much as having spa treatments (and I’m sure I can’t be the only one).

We are huge rugby fans in our household, so the fact that the upcoming Rugby World Cup is to be held mainly in France is big news. The event will take place in September 2007 in various venues all over France, including nearby Lyon, Saint-Etienne, and Paris. Marseille, where other matches will be held, is only about four hours drive South. All in all, 42 out of 48 matches will take place in 10 different French cities. The matches in Lyon will take place on the 8,11,& 15th of September.

To find out everything you need to know about the world cup, including information on purchasing tickets, just click here to go to the official site (which can be read in English):

Also don't forget that every year you can come to Europe and take part in what is unquestionably our favorite rugby competition - the Six Nations Rugby Tournament.  If you haven't heard about it already, matches are played between England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy and they are invariably ferocious and often technically breathtaking.  The tournament takes place in February and March in all six countries, so you can definitely pick up a match (not to mention an inexpensive off-season rate on a vacation rental in Europe!).



First Day at School

Christmas in Paris

Exploring rural France

On a trip to Brittany

We have noticed a real surge in people who are interested in extended stays in France, anywhere from three months to a year or more. Personally, we can’t recommend this experience enough – nothing can help you learn a new language, integrate into a new community, and have a truly intense life experience than an extended stay in a foreign country. France is often an obvious choice; amazing food, rich culture, a completely different quality and pace of life, a beautiful language…OK, I guess I am a bit biased…

The newfound popularity for French immersion programs in schools has also motivated a lot of parents to consider spending an academic year in France to reinforce the French their children are learning in school, and as an adventure for the entire family.

While so many areas of France are fascinating, in my experience the Burgundy region of France is a wonderful place to have a base. Not only is it a culturally rich and beautiful in its own right, not to mention renowned for its sublime food and wine, but its geographical position means that it is also very central for discovering the rest of Europe.

Since living here we have taken trips to Tuscany (1 day by car), Piedmont (6 hours by car), Spain (1 day by car), and the UK (you can leave Dijon in the morning and be at London’s Waterloo station by 1:30 that afternoon). Future trips include Germany (3 hours away), Belgium (4 hours away), Switzerland (2 hours away)…the list is endless. 

This, of course, doesn't even count our jaunts within France - four hours south to Marseille and the Cote d'Azur,  two and half hours drive to Alsace, three and a half hours by car to Paris (less than two hours by train), seven hours to Brittany...and we haven't even scratched the surface of all that we want to do and see!  

Franck and I have experienced moves to foreign countries many times ourselves, and one of the things that we most enjoy doing is facilitating things for others to help them have an adventure of their own. We both feel very strongly that nothing opens peoples’ minds, whether they be a child or a retired person, like having to adapt to another way of living.

When we bought the house we currently live in here in France, La Maison des Chaumes, shortly after our arrival in 2004, I already had the idea in my head of renting it out to people interested in longer-term stays or sabbaticals. We are beginning work on it over the next few months (and you can follow the ups and downs of that on my blog ). When all is said and done it should be very much in the same style as our vacation rentals, but much more adapted to long-term stays. Here are a couple of salient features;

  • Our house has a small yard, enough to be able to get outside and have the kids play, but not enough so that you have to spend your sabbatical year slaving over it when you would rather be discovering France and Europe. It has a huge deck (which requires absolutely no mowing!) which overlooks the valley between Villers-la-Faye and Magny-les-Villers and is great for eating outside.

  • When the renovations are complete the house will have either five bedrooms or four bedrooms and a den, depending on how you want to use the space – enough for the inevitable visitors when they arrive!

  • The house heats exceptionally well during the winter, and is very easy maintenance and snug.

  • There is a new school being built just a five minute walk away, behind us on “Les Chaumes” (hence the name of the house). This school amalgamates eight village schools and will have preschool (2 years old and up) to Grade 5 (inclusive), as well as a daycare, cafeteria, and out of school care for vacations. Older children are bused to Nuits-Saint-Georges or Beaune for school. I can’t say enough about the school program here in France for preschool and primary levels – it is truly extraordinary. And, seeing as we’ve experienced it ourselves with our own daughters, we can provide you with lots of practical information.

As it stands today we’re planning on moving back to Canada (although retaining all of our vacation rentals here, of course, and making frequent trips back here every year) in the summer of 2008. This means that La Maison des Chaumes should theoretically be ready to rent around that time.

We are a wealth of information and like doing nothing better than helping people organize such things. Don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll do everything we can to help you make your dream of living in France come true.


Make your life a dream, and make the dream reality.”
Maud's motto by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Today both Charlotte and Camille trotted off to school with a newspaper article about the Frenchwoman Maud Fontenoy for show and tell. Franck and I noticed that their teachers hadn’t mentioned this phenomenal French role model yet, so we took it upon ourselves to correct the oversight!

Maud Fontenoy is a 29 year old Frenchwoman who is currently making headlines by completing a solo circumnavigation of the globe...against the winds. This comes after crossing the Atlantic in a rowboat in 2003, and the Pacific in 2005. But Maud doesn’t race against anyone else; she says that she considers herself to be “neither in a race nor a competition.”

She adds, “I do what I do to send a message to children, to teenagers who are going through difficult times, to women, to anyone anywhere who has the courage to fight through difficulties. We can all get through rough times, even when we feel as through we’re sailing against the winds in life.”

And rough times she certainly had, besides the stark reality of being alone in the middle of the ocean in at times horrific weather. She broke a finger and thumb, and, even worse than that, her main mast in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She nevertheless managed to cobble together a solution and complete the challenge she had imposed upon herself.

To read about Maud’s adventures and courage in English, including a weekly diary of her trip, just click here:



We meet up again with our winemaker in residence, Marc-Oliver Buffet, who shares his opinion on the 2006 vintage which is currently being bottled all over Burgundy, and his thoughts on the year to come...

by Marc-Olivier BUFFET

Domaine François Buffet, Volnay

"The 2006 grape harvest began around September 20th. The year turned out to be a very complex one due to tricky weather conditions. The winter was very cold and long, and the spring was so rainy that for long periods of time work in the vineyards was made difficult, if not impossible. Summer was strange as well; July was very hot but August was very rainy which, of course, encouraged rapid growth of all the vegetation (including, unfortunately, weeds!). Finally, the harvest was small in quantity but very high in quality. In my opinion, 2006, despite its mercurial nature, will nevertheless give birth to a fine vintage.
Now a new year is underway. Winter has gone and we have finished pruning and burning the excess growth on the vines. And so it goes…one year follows another, and each year gives birth to vastly different wines, especially here in Burgundy where the Pinot Noir grape and our rigorous adherence to “terroir” mean that our wines always have a unique personality that cannot be duplicated.
The 2007 wines will no doubt contrast sharply with the 2006 wines, for the weather so far this year has been completely different. The winter has been unbelievably mild with only 1 week of snow which means that nature is quite a bit ahead of schedule. Right now we are in the middle of attaching the branches and working the soil. From what I have heard, 2007 is predicted to be a very dry year, although it must also be remembered that at least the weather has always been consistent in one way - doling out surprises! On verra bien! "


Here are some new additions, all movies this time, to our “French Favorites” recommendations and affiliated store.  Just hover your cursor over the photo of each movie or the red title to go to the site.

Ma femme est une actrice (Original French Version)

Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of celebrated drunk and musician Serge Gainsbourg and British actress and singer Jane Birkin (or, as I refer to her, the one with the terrifically annoying fake accent), is quickly becoming an icon in her own right.

Her quirky charm is cherished by the French, and it is perfectly drawn out in the hands of her husband in real life and director of this film (he also plays the husband in the film) the very talented Yvan Attal.

This film is adorable and oh-so-very French. Watch it!

L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)

This film, directed by Cedric Klapish, has now attained cult status in France.

It stars his favorite and oh-so-very delectable actor Romain Duris, and is about a young Frenchman's life-changing year as an ERASMUS student in Barcelona. It is hilarious and at times strikingly true, especially the scene where the foreign students all file out of the university’s administration office in tears (this really did happen to me on my exchange year at the Sorbonne, and the scene had Franck and I reminiscing fondly).

Also stars Audrey Tatou of "Amelie" and "A Very Long Engagement".  A classic!

Les Poupées Russes (Russian Dolls)

For his follow-up to the incredibly beloved “L’Auberge Espangole” Cedric Klapish made the wise decision not to try and rehash the original film (à la “American Pie”) but rather takes a different tangent altogether as we follow Romain Duris’ character Xavier’s quest for true love.

This film is, of course, fun to watch in conjunction with “L’Auberge Espanole” but it is also great by itself. Thankfully, it doesn’t end like most French “romantic comedies” with one of the main characters going crazy, throwing themselves in the Seine, or sailing off in a boat never to be seen again.


"Have another gougère, my dear!" Franck, our friend Martial, and Alex and Jenny from Tasmania, Australia who were staying at Le Relais du Vieux Beaune and joined us for the legendary tasting at the Hospices de Beaune in November.

Due to a multitude of requests from guests at our three vacation rentals, we are now providing the service of setting up tailor-made activities in the area to help you get the most out of your stay in Burgundy. Possibilities include;

  • Bike tours

  • Walking tours

  • Private guided winetastings with winemakers we know and like

  • Cooking classes

  • Scenic airplane rides

  • Antiquing

Just let us know if any of these possibilities interest you and we’ll take it from there. Also, if you have any other things you are interested in doing, just let us know and we’ll see what we can do to set it up.


To read about our latest adventures here in Burgundy, including losing guests in a blizzard and a restorative quiche recipe, just click here;

For about two years now I have been apologizing profusely for the “look” of our website. While it continues to contain a wealth of useful information, it was originally done up eight years ago and is looking rather rough around the edges!

We somehow could never find the time, however, to embark on the mammoth project of creating a completely new website and integrating all of the information from our existing website onto it.

Our saviour took the form of my little sister Jayne who from her home in San Francisco is now toiling way on the new version of our website, which we’re hoping to get online by late Spring. Here’s a sneak peek at a work in progress.

VIII) RESTAURANT REVIEW - Le Conty and Le Cave du Paradoxe, Beaune

Tanya and I and the wine rack at Le Paradoxe in Beaune

Restaurant Le Conty / Cave du Paradoxe
Isabelle and Laurent Parra
1 & 5 rue Ziem, 21200 BEAUNE

A trip to Burgundy, in my mind, isn’t really complete until you’ve had a meal in a proper wine cellar. When my friend Tanya came to visit in the Fall we tried out a restaurant in the middle of Beaune (only a three minute walk from Le Relais du Vieux Beaune) that fits the bill.

Le Cave du Paradoxe and Le Conty are in fact two separate restaurants, although they are side by side on the rue Ziem in the pedestrian-only part of Beaune. However, they share the same menu and are run by the same management. While the bistro atmosphere at Le Conty is very pleasant, choose Le Cave du Paradoxe if you want the full-on wine cellar experience.

The daily menus are posted outside the door, and the best deal is definitely one of the “prix fixe” menus at lunch, where you eat the same thing as dinner for about two thirds to half the price. The food, prepared by well-known local chef Laurent Parra, is quite refined and the service is extremely “unhurried” so relax, set aside at least 2 hours for your meal, sit down and soak in the atmosphere.

Not surprisingly, they have a great wine list too!

IX) GRAPE SEEDS - useful things & tidbits

  • I’ve heard there is a good pizza place in Beaune that does delivery within Beaune, Caveau Saint Jacques, 3 Place Saint Jacques

  • For those of you that are coming to our places this year, don't forget to take a few minutes and read through the guest books at the houses.  While I try to keep our information binders complete and up-to-date, the guest book is a great complimentary source of recent information about restaurants, winemakers, places to visit and things to do that we haven't covered.   Don't forget to sign it when you leave too!   

  • The  walking and biking around Magny-les-Villers and Villers-la-Faye is truly phenomenal, and now to enhance your enjoyment benches have been added at random intervals around the path that encircles the Mont Saint Victor just above Villers-la-Faye, and along the "chemins blanc" or the "white paths" (white because of the calcium rich soil around here) in the valley  between Magny and Villers.  The "benches" look like big white blocks of stone (which they are, from the local quarries), so feel free to have a seat and enjoy the view.  They're also a great stop for a picnic or a glass of wine .


As usual, even a soothsayer would not be able to predict the pattern of bookings from year to year. For mysterious reasons which I cannot fully comprehend, this year everyone seems to want to come to France in May. However, one thing is for sure; I have never had this many booking this early on in the season. As always, I recommend that you book as early as possible so as not to be disappointed, particularly if you are planning on a longer stay of two weeks or more.

At the time we send out this Grape News, the remaining availabilities for 2007 are as follows;

(2 bedroom village house in Magny-les-Villers)


  • April 5th to April 13th

  • April 23rd to May 2nd

  • June 16th to June 23rd

  • July 10th to July 25th

  • August 7th to August 29th

  • October 2nd through to December 31st


 (1 bedroom village house in Villers-la-Faye)


  • August 19th to September 20th

  • October 11th to November 8th

  • November 22 to the end of December


 (2 bedroom apartment in the heart of Beaune)


  • June 12th to July 18th

  • July 31st to September 13th

  • October 15th through to the endof December


As always, we have flexible starting and ending days to stays.

To find out any further information about any of the properties,  traveling to Burgundy, or making a booking, don’t hesitate to contact me at any time by email at

Or by phone in France at (33)

A Bietntôt!

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