Burgundy and Champagne: France Nature challenge – Days 3-6

Last week, I shared highlights from my trip to France for the France Nature bloggers challenge here and today, I’m following up with the rest of the adventure!I woke up in a tree house on the Wednesday morning following my previous day of adrenaline-fueled activities. The Château de la Dame Blanche is just ten minutes outside Besançon and is not only a hotel and spa, but a beautiful park with three glam tree houses. I was thrilled to stay in one of them, as I’d never slept in a tree house before. Mine even had its own toilet and steam bath shower! I slept amazingly well in the fresh air and enjoyed a lovely continental breakfast in the hotel.After breakfast, I returned to Besançon where I was treated to a foraging session with a local flora and fauna expert. The activity, called a “Pique et Croque” is basically a hike where you pick plants and snack on them. I learned how to identify, pick and afterward you would normally cook with these wild edible plants, but since we didn’t have time for a cooking session, we had a lovely picnic instead. As we were wrapping up our picnic, a hungry group of goats and sheep dogs stopped by to see what we were eating!Then it was straight to the train station, where I caught a train to Dole, which was a short 20-minute train ride away. In Dole, I was invited to stay on a house boat! I stashed my suitcase in the Nicols boat which was docked in the canal directly in the old part of the city and then I went for a walk. As in Dijon and Besançon, Dole has its own set of bronze arrows embedded in the cobblestones so that you can easily find all the points of interest, only here, the path is marked with cats for the popular French children’s stories, Les contes du chat perché, as the author Marcel Aymé was from this region.Since I was staying on a pleasure craft that is equipped to slowly motor down French canals, I asked the Nicols boats mananger if I could take my house boat for a little spin. We maneuvered the boat between two locks, but if you are planning a trip to France, you can rent the boats for days, even weeks to travel the country by canal.That evening, I dined with Natalia from the Dole Tourism Office at the Grain de Sel restaurant. The meal was great and the restaurant was getting ready for Dole’s gourmet festival which was happening that weekend with many restaurants offering a set menu at affordable prices.The next day, I traveled to Troyes in the northern Champagne region. It was about a 2-hour car ride from Dole, but it’s only an hour and a half from Paris (by car or train). I have to say, that of all the cities I visited on this trip, I really fell in love with Troyes. The mix of old and new architecture, the rich history, the restaurants, the people and not to mention, the champagne! Troyes is even extremely dog-friendly – canines are welcomed with a gift from the Troyes Tourism Board along with tips for a pet-friendly stay. I was hosted at the loveliest bed & breakfast, Le Clos Guivet where I had an entire apartment to myself.I enjoyed lunch at two amazing restaurants during my stay in Troyes. The first day was at the trendy and eclectic, Chez Felix and the following day, we ate at the Aux Crieurs de Vin – a cozy wine bar which also has a great kitchen. It reminded me a lot of Montreal’s Vin Papillon. Dinner on the Friday night at Caffè Cosi was also amazing. Apparently, the owner is a Michelin-starred chef who had worked in Japan and decided to open a sort of Japanese-influenced, Franco-Italian trattoria. The foie gras ravioli was just too good to forget!Now, for the adventures I had in Troyes – I was lucky to be able to go on a hot air balloon ride over the lakes, fields and forests of the area. Friday, I visited a Prunelle distillery (sloe gin made from the prunelle seed) and two champagne wineries in the Montgueux area. The first was Corniot (run by a father-daughter team) and the second, Beaugrand. I enjoyed both, but especially Beaugrand because the owner Hélène Beaugrand is a real #BossLady! Following my visit, I cycled the 13km back to Troyes through the vineyards, a little tipsy. I can’t wait to return one day to Troyes and discover more of the Champagne region!On Saturday, we wrapped up the France Nature Bloggers challenge with a meet-up of all six of us in Paris. After sharing a picnic at our hotel with food and wine we’d each brought back from our regions, we were invited to afternoon tea at Hermès! Set in a former bath house, Le Plongeoir chez Hermès is a great place to unwind from the bustle of Paris and, of course to pick up a Hermès souvenir. In the evening we dined at Flow – a fine-dining restaurant and bar on a boat moored along the Seine.I didn’t leave Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower early in the morning. Nor could I leave the City of Lights without stopping at a bakery for a pain au chocolat! Since we didn’t have much time for shopping, my sweet souvenir from Paris was a box of Ladurée macarons that I picked up at the airport.Did you vote for your favourite region in the France Nature Bloggers challenge and contest? Follow Rendez-Vous en France to find out who won a trip for two to France and for inspiration for your next trip to France.

France Nature was hosted by:

Atout France

Air France

Rail Europe