Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Half-timbered houses in Dijon, France
The city of Dijon, France may be best known for mustard and gingerbread, but architecture buffs also find it an intriguing destination. Fortunately, Dijon was spared from major destruction during the bombings of World War II, thus much of its ancient architecture survived intact. These half-timbered houses in Dijon are tucked into a narrow lane in the historic old town. They are known as the maison des trois visages, or house of three faces. Look closely, however. Though they may look like three separate houses but they are actually two; one was modified to have two gables instead of one. Read More

Ancient masonry facades and colorful wooden shutters adorn the medieval houses of Beaune, France

Walking through the old stone fortifications that once surrounded Beaune, France, is like riding a time machine back to the Middle Ages. Ancient masonry facades, stone lintels, and colorful wooden shutters adorn the medieval houses of Beaune. Millions of footsteps have polished the stone-paved streets to a high sheen. Drainage gutters still run down the center of the streets, and nearly every house has a set of wooden doors at the street level that leads down to a cool, dark wine cellar. Read More

The 15th century Hotel Dieu in Beaune, France, once a hospital and charitable almshouse, is now a museum

I stepped into the inner courtyard of the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, France, and stopped in my tracks. Across the brick-paved courtyard, half-timbered butter yellow walls soared to gable roofs covered in multi-color polychrome tiles. This was like no hospital I’d ever seen. Hotel Dieu, which translates literally to hospital in English, is one of France’s most revered historic monuments. Also known as the Hospices of Beaune, the charitable almshouse and hospital for the poor was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to Philip III, Duke of Burgundy. Unlike other hospitals of the day, which were grim at best, Rolin was determined to create an environment that would promote peace and healing. First, he established a religious order, “Les soeurs hospitalières de Beaune,” whose members provided compassionate care for the patients and destitute. No one was turned away. Even those who were terminally ill received humane treatment to the very last. Read More

Tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy in the Musee des Beaux Arts Dijon, France

The Musee des Beaux Arts Dijon occupies the historic Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, parts of which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Once the seat of power of the Duchy of Burgundy, today the palace houses an impressive art collection that ranges from Egyptian to 20th century artworks. Of all the works on display, the most magnificent may be the tomb of Philip the Bold.

Philip was one of the four sons of the French King, John the Good of the House of Valois. After distinguishing himself on the battlefield of Poitiers, fellow fighters dubbed him Philip the Bold. In 1364, when he was just 22 years old, the King awarded his son the title of Duke of Burgundy. Philip married Margaret of Flanders, the daughter of the Count of Flanders, who ruled Belgium, Holland, and the region of France today known as Franche-Comté. Upon the Count’s death, Read More

Place de la Liberation in Dijon, France

Place de la Liberation, literally the “place of the liberation” in English, sits at the historic center of Dijon France. It is designed in a semicircle and anchored on one side by the palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. Down through the centuries, the square has had many names. Upon completion in 1686, it was dubbed the Royal Square. During the French Revolution (from 1789 until 1799), the statue of Louis XIV that stood at its center was destroyed and the square was renamed Place d’Armes. It was subsequently named Imperial Square under the Empire in 1804, Royal Place during the Restoration in 1814, and once again was known as Place d’Armes in 1831 under the Monarchy of July. During the German occupation in World War II, it was renamed Marshal Pétain Square. Finally, in 1944, it was given its current name, Place de la Liberation. Read More

Comte cheese may not be a household word in the United States, but every Frenchman and woman is intimately familiar with this semi-hard cheese from the Franche-Comté region in Eastern France. Comté holds the coveted PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status in the European Union, which means that only farms, dairies, and aging cellars located in the Jura Mountains are allowed to use the brand name, and then only if they follow a stringent set of procedures.

No two samples of Comte cheese taste exactly the same, because it is produced from milk given by cows who feed on different grasses in the winter and summer, farms that exist at different altitudes in the Jura Mountains, and slight differences in aging processes. But there is a certain “something” that defines a Comte cheese. It always has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor, though it can have overtones ranging from Read More