We will have several days 5-6 to spend in France before going to Basel to take a Viking Cruise. Can someone recommend a good town in which to base from where we can then take day trips out to enjoy great (the best) food and wine? We prefer burgundy wines or dry whites, so not somewhere the wines tend to be sweet. We will have a rental car that we pick up outside of Paris.
What time of year? What landscape do you want?
If you want a base specifically in Burgundy, stay in Dijon and day trip from there. However, my suggestion would be Lyon (especially for the food). From Lyon, make a trip to Valence, and have lunch at Three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Maison Pic, or in Chef Sophie Pic’s less pricey restaurant, Andre.
Rick included Lyon in his new French Alps video (filmed in 2019). Take a look and see what you think.
Can't go wrong with Beaune as you will be in the heart of a wonderful wine region. Perhaps you may be able to find a guide who specializes in wine tours to accompany you and have made reservations at the wineries for tastings. Also, Chablis is a lovely town for a couple of nights with excellent wineries around and a wonderful cooperative for the area offering tastings. We spent 9 days on a private tour in the Chablis, Burgundy and Provence area a few years ago and were extremely pleased. We had preconceived notions about Chablis which were quickly changed when we had the ex cellent dry white wines from the area. There are also wonderful historical sites, chateaux, and small towns that are delightful in this area. We used a private wine guide in Bordeaux a few years earlier and it was money well spent. One possible source would be to scan the Tours by Local website.
Hi dwarren2, agree that Beaune would be a good base for your travels in France. We did the Viking Rhine River cruise a few years ago and really enjoyed it! As you probably know, wine and beer is included with lunch and dinner. If you’re a wine connoisseur, consider the reasonably priced Silver Spirits package. You can also purchase local wines, bring them on board, and enjoy them with no corkage fee. Hope you have a great trip!
The Route du Vin in Alsace is another option - best wines are white. Colmar is a good base and about an hour from Basel.
I spent the summer of 2013 in a commune about 20 minutes outside of Chalon-sur-Saone. I would not recommend the commune to anyone because there was nothing in town but a pharmacy and a traiteur though I have heard that a tattoo parlor recently opened in town. While I would not recommend that commune, the Bourgogne region was absolutely amazing. I visited several towns or communes that I would definitely suggest as launching points for a visit, especially for a visitor who prefers Burgundy wines. Take a look at Autun, Chablis, as mentioned before, Auxerre, and not to be overlooked Dijon. It sort of depends on if you want to base in one place or spend two days in one and place and 3 in another. For example, I really liked Cluny and found its restaurants and "downtown" delightful but I would not spend a 5-6 days there -- it's more of a one-day place. Maybe do 2 or 3 days in the more northern parts of Bourgogne such as Chablis and the do 2 or 3 days further south. You didn't ask but I highly recommend a visit to Chateau Corton C. in Aloxe-Cortin and if you get to Chateau Cormatin, it will be worth your while to visit the caveau that is right across the street and finally if you get to Dijon, check out the market and the nearby La Route des Vins.
Lyon is the French city considered to have the best food and wine, particularly if you are willing to spend a bundle. Those things are not at all my priority when I travel, so I do not have any personal advice.
Thanks for all of the input. This is our first trip to France. We will be there mid-May 2022 and just want to experience some of the smaller towns and good wine and food. Beaune looks pretty central and Lyon and Chablis are not that far away for day trips for lunch and a little sight seeing.
Beaune is a great call. Nearby and not mentioned yet, you have some excellent restaurants in Tournus (including Restaurant Greuze), easily accessed by train and itself a pretty town (even though its heyday seems long gone).
A little further west, the Loire Valley is also a classic area for a first visit to France and for using the freedom of a rental car. I’m confident that you can find good food and wine all over, with the particular restaurant mattering more than the region. Alsace will offer some sweeter wine styles, as well as more local beer than other parts of France, but they won’t be the only option.
If I were in your shoes I would take the TGV from Paris to Lyon (~2 hours), spend a few days in Lyon, and then rent a car to go up to Beaune. You'll go through parts of Beaujolais before entering Bourgogne, and there are sites to see on the way, such as La Roche de Solutré, Tournus, Cluny (a bit of a detour to the west, and then Beaune. Having the car in Beaune would allow easy access to the various wine towns and other historical sites in the area.
Having a car in Lyon, as in Paris and other large cities with excellent mass transit, is more of a hassle than an asset.
And driving from Beaune to Lyon (1 h 45 min one-way, counting on the miraculous chance there's no traffic jams while entering Lyon from the north) would hardly be a pleasant lunch visit, in my opinion.