Experience the Champagne and Burgundy regions in all their historical and cultural glory in Linda Kelly’s upcoming class “History, Culture, Food And Wine In The Heart of France.” We visited with Linda to get all the details.
WIH Reporter: What do we need to know about your class?
Kelly: The aim of all my classes is to help people become informed travelers. This particular class will spotlight the historic monuments, museums, culture, and gastronomy of Champagne and Burgundy. Both regions played a major role in French history.
WIH Reporter: Can you give us some examples of the role these regions played in French history?
Kelly: The Gothic cathedral at Reims was the site of royal coronations for over a thousand years. The town of Troyes prospered in the Middle Ages, thanks to its trade fairs created by the counts of Champagne. The walls of the city’s many churches glow with medieval and Renaissance stained-glass. Among the many châteaux featured in the course, the most fascinating ones belonged to the flamboyant Count Roger de Rabutin, who decorated the interior with portraits of kings, royal mistresses, and ladies of the Sun King’s court.
WIH Reporter: What can you tell us about the Burgundy region and about Dijon, its capital city?
Kelly: Burgundy was the cradle of the monastic movement which spread from Cluny and Cîteaux all over Europe. The Cluniac monks promoted a flowering of the arts-architecture, sculpture, and painting. To the Cistercians, we owe advances in agriculture, metallurgy, and the cultivation of the vine. The historic center of Dijon boasts a wealth of medieval, Renaissance, and neo-Classical buildings. Among the city’s many treasures are the ornate tombs of two dukes of the Valois dynasty on display in the former ducal palace (now the Museum of Fine Arts). The course will feature masterpieces of painting and sculpture commissioned by the dukes, who were great collectors and patrons of art.
WIH Reporter: What do you consider to be the most interesting events occurring in that region that still reverberate today?
Kelly: The death of Charles the Bold, the last Valois duke of Burgundy, during the Battle of Nancy in January 1477 was a decisive event in European history. His defeat put an end to the threat of the formation of an independent kingdom of Burgundy stretching from Burgundy to the North Sea. The map of Europe would have been different had the duke succeeded in uniting his northern and southern territories.
I have always been fascinated by the critical role played by the Valois dukes of Burgundy during the Hundred Years’ War. During the reign of the mad king, Charles VI, the second Valois duke, John the Fearless, had the king’s brother killed. Duke John lusted for power and control of the royal treasury. His cousin, the king’s brother, stood in his way. The murder of Louis d’Orléans triggered a civil war between Burgundians and followers of the dead prince. Henry V of England took advantage of a divided France to inflict a humiliating defeat on the French on the battlefield at Agincourt.
WIH Reporter: What more should we know about your classes?
Kelly: Showing the historical background of a region makes travel more meaningful. Anyone planning a trip to the area covered in the class, will benefit by the research I have done in planning my own trip. I think that armchair travelers, who may not have immediate plans to visit France, will find the class intellectually stimulating & visually exciting. My lectures are illustrated with hundreds of photographs taken during our travels by my husband, architect Frank Kelly.
Although I tend to focus on history, art, and architecture, I also talk about culture, cuisine, places to stay and restaurants. Frank and I are fascinated by the French food culture. We love to visit and photograph markets. The market at Dijon will be featured in the class.
We will also go south of Dijon to the fabled wine road of the Côte d’Or leading to Beaune, renowned for its Hotel-Dieu, a 15th century charity hospital with a spectacular multi-colored glazed tile roof. Southern Burgundy is a land of picture-postcard scenery, villages with lovely Romanesque churches, stone-walled vineyards, and fields of grazing cattle.
WIH Reporter: What other advice can you give us as armchair travelers?
Kelly: To experience the pleasures of the table in France, one doesn’t have to spend a fortune at a three-star restaurant. We have had outstanding meals produced in less-renowned kitchens. In short, Frank and I are unabashedly Francoholic. I try to communicate this enthusiasm for France to the students in my classes.
Linda Kelly’s 6-week class begins on March 21st at 1:00. For more information or to register, click here.