Author Archives: TheRoadScholar

About TheRoadScholar

Laurie loves all things travel. She's visited destinations all over the U.S. and Canada, as well as Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Asia. She is a past president of the Society of American Travel Writers and is editor and publisher of American Libraries.

Hiking to the Eagle Hacking Tower

 

The 1985 hacking tower at Lake Monroe.

Bald eagle. CC.

Bloomington, IN–The sky spit bits of snow as temperatures in the 20s made me pull up my hood over an insulated hat. Other hikers were wearing face masks and balaclavas. I decided to take wool mittens that could pull down to expose my fingers for photos, slung a pair of binoculars over my neck, and tightened the laces on my insulated high-top hiking boots. I remembered silk underwear and a “smoke ring” funnel scarf made of ox musk yarn from Alaska. But without a backpack, I had to choose between a spotting scope and a hiking pole as our highlight hike during Eagles Over Monroe weekend. Next time the backpack would be another staple in the car trunk, along with extra mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves.

Our group of 20 slowly snaked along an overgrown field, headed to the hacking tower, built at Lake Monroe in 1985 to reintroduce the bald eagle to Indiana. Jill Vance, interpretative naturalist at Lake Monroe, led the group. We needed her for directions and details, or course, but also because the public isn’t allowed here from October through April because it is a waterfowl resting area.

Soon we were stumbling over sticks, brushing up against brambles, even hopping over a small creek. Unfortunately, one hiker slipped and fell into the water, mud covering his entire leg and coat. I worried he might get hypothermia in the cold weather, but he was determined to see the hacking tower.

When eagles first learn to fly–or hack–they develop a bond to the location. Eagles return to their hacking site to build their own nests as parents, when they’re about 4-5 years old. The hacking tower built in 1985 on the North Fork of Stillwater Marsh on Lake Monroe. This site was chosen for a reintroduction program due to the close proximity to water, so the birds could fish, as well as stands of trees for building nests. The tower accommodated 5-6 week old eaglets brought from Wisconsin and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Using two locations and the average eaglet hacking at 13 weeks, the program could hosted two hacking groups per year through 1989. By then, eagles were coming back to Lake Monroe to nest, and the program was deemed a success. The tower was left to fall into disrepair.

We looked at photos Vance brought, showing the construction of the tower, when telephone poles donated by Southern Indiana Bell Telephone were pounded into the ground near the water. The poles were wrapped in metal to keep predators from climbing up the poles to get at the chicks, and an old staircase stopped several feel above the ground for the same reason. Vance said the biologists would bring a stepladder to get the first tower stairs.

As the eaglets fledge, they often have a lot of false starts, Vance explained, spiraling down to the ground. One eaglet seemed to do a lot of fluttering down without flying back up. A biologist would pick up the bird and take it up the stairs back to the nest. About the fifth time it did this, the bird didn’t wait for the biologist to take it back upstairs–it went up the stairs by itself.

The wildlife biologists hid in this blind during the 1985-1989 hacking seasons to observe the eagles in their nest.

We hiked a little farther down the overgrown road to a tower leaning precariously in the water. This was where the biologists hid and could observe the birds. As we looked at it, an eagle soared overhead. Not far across the marsh, a bald eagle’s nest was visible in the trees. Eagle nests are about five feet across, so they can be easy to spot.

This was one of 12-14 eagles’ nests that are scattered around the edge of the lake. The 1985 program goal was to achieve 20 nests in the state of Indiana by 2020. There are now more than 200 throughout the state.

Vance also pointed out a telephone pole far out in the water. These were brought in by helicopter and dropped into the lakebed to serve as perching poles for the eagles. This is one that still remains, and eagles can be spotted there.

As we stood gazing over the water, the bald eagle returned, swooping into the nest and remained. It was easily visible by binoculars, and some hikers offered the use of their scopes to see the nesting eagle close up. My heart fluttered a bit. Some things are worth the wait.

 

 

Eagles Over Monroe 2017

Bald eagle flies from nest. By U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region [CC BY 2.0

Bloomington, IN–Temperatures in the 20s and low 30s didn’t deter more than 200 people from attending the 17th annual Eagles Over Monroe weekend at Monroe Lake this year. The event, sponsored by Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, brought ornithologists, biologists, dedicated bird watchers, kids, parents, grandparents, and outdoors enthusiasts to learn about eagles in the area.

Talon of a Great Horned Owl.

Patrick Haulter was holding up a Great Horned Owl’s talon, saying he had been twirling it in his fingers once when it punched a hole in his finger. “Still sharp twenty years later,” he said. Haulter, interpretive naturalist at Brown County State park, entertained and informed the audience in his talk about behavior and anatomy of birds of prey.

“Life for the raptor is tough,” he said. “They’re highly adapted to what they do, but not to us.” He  described the crop, where a bird stores food for later “kind of like my beard does.”

The high-tech tools, such as satellite and radio-telemetry, as well as the low-tech ones like banding and wing tags are some of the ways scientists follow the movements of birds. Dr. Brian Washburn, a research wildlife biologist with the USDA Wildlife Service National Wildlife Research Center described how he goes about his work, which tools he chooses, and how he works with other scientists to learn about bird movements, habitat management, and interaction with humans. Washburn depends on people to call about birds they see tagged or find lost equipment. “Goose neck collars are really easy to read,” he said. “Wing tags can be really helpful to figure out who’s who.” Each band has a unique 9-digit code, but they are hard to read at a distance, even with a spotting scope. Eagles require a special band that is riveted on “because they’re so good at popping them off.”

Working with birds of prey can be dangerous, even when a handler wears leather gloves and jacket, eye protection, and limits their interaction to a half and hour. Washburn showed a photo of himself with hands bandaged from an encounter with a bird being banded. “The Cooper’s Hawk is like holding a running chain saw,” he said. “And if an eagle clamps down, it will not let go.”

Cost of the more high-tech tracking devices deter scientists from attaching them to all birds, and the transmitters are often just lost. “Sometimes we get them back, like when a Canada Goose walks in front of a car,” he said.

Will Schaust, assistant manager of Eagle Creek Ornithology Center talked about a variety of birding apps. Once, while walking with family on a hike, a cardinal landed in a maple tree ahead of the group. He was very excited to tell the kids that this was the state bird, how it was also the state bird for six other states, and more. When he asked them if they knew what the bright red cardinal was, they replied, “Mr. Will, it’s an Angry Bird!”

Since technology is enmeshed in our lives, we may as well take advantage of it when we can, he said. Schaust then demonstrated several of his favorite apps that help in bird identification.

  • The Sibley eGuide to Birds has the largest variety of calls–some five to seven for each bird–and can be worth the $20 if you want to id them by their calls.
  • Birdsnap an app for iPhone or on your computer, uses real photos of birds, it’s free, and you can take a picture and id a bird. But storage for large files can be a problem.
  • Merlin Bird ID, which is free from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides five questions to narrow down a bird by size, location, color, and more.
  • The Warbler Guide, for $13, offers 58 species of warblers from any angle. “I can spin that bird like a bad 90s DJ,” he quipped while rotating the bird photo.
  • eBird, also from the Cornell Lab, is free, and can help birders search for hot spots and keep checklists.
  • The Audubon Bird Guide apps range from .99 cents to $8, but it covers the entire country.

As 130 people “ate like raptors” dining on fish, venison, and turkey soup at Saturday’s Lunch with the Eagles, the Indiana Raptor Center falconers brought out several live raptors who had been rescued. Center director of education Laura Edmunds and described their characteristics. Attendees saw a kestrel, barn owl, two peregrine falcons, a bald eagle, and a golden eagle. “There’s something special about birds of prey,” Edmunds says. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I still can’t say what. I don’t have a tattoo yet, but one day I’m gonna take the dive and maybe get a golden eagle right here,” she says pointing to her shoulder.

She says you can tell what type of bird a falconer uses by what car the falconer drives. If they

Falconer from Indiana Raptor Center holds a red-tailed hawk.

have a small Kestrel, they might drive a Mini-Cooper. Those who fly Red-Tailed Hawks drive pick-up trucks. But the ones that fly Peregrine Falcons need a bid vehicle like a Navigator. “If you lose a Peregrine Falcon, a bad day means driving 80 miles to get it. If they fly a Cooper’s Hawk, though, they might not have a car at all, they might drive a scooter.”

After lunch, everyone ran to their cars to stop at designated driving spots to see if they could spy the eagles. Experienced birders with scopes were at each stop. While we toured several places, the closest we could get was a bald eagle way across the lake, maybe a mile away. It looked like a white dot in the trees. Not a satisfying ending to our Saturday, though the talks were informative.

Sunday morning came cloudy and cold. We bundled up for the one-hour hike out to the original hacking tower for the eagles. When eagles first learn to fly–or hack–they develop a bond to the location. Eagles return to their hacking site to build their own nests as parents, when they’re about 4-5 years old. The hacking tower built in 1985 on the North Fork of Stillwater Marsh on Lake Monroe accommodated 5-6 week old eaglets brought from Wisconsin and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Using two locations and the average eaglet hacking at 13 weeks, the program could hosted two hacking groups per year through 1989. By then, eagles were coming back to Lake Monroe to nest, and the program was deemed a success.

We stumbled over brush and sticks, following a road that was slowly reverting back to the woods. While walking between the hacking tower and a nearby tower that the biologists used to watch the fledglings, we saw a big black nest across the water. This time is was much closer and easier to see with the naked eye. Suddenly, an eagle swooped in, gliding into the nest. Binoculars rose up to all eyes in unison, and ooos and ahs rang out. At last, our eagle was sighted. What a magnificent ending to a weekend devoted to these magnificent birds, home at last.

Eagle about to land in his nest. CC.

 

 

 

 

An Owl Prowl and Eagle Update at Lake Monroe

Special feathers enable owls, like this barred owl, to fly silently. Creative Commons CC0

Bloomington, IN–Clouds obscured the stars Friday night as I walked into Fourwinds Resort on Monroe Lake, but not enough to hide a Great Blue Heron flying overhead, its long legs stretched out behind. A good sign that birds were active for the 17th annual Eagles Over Monroe, a winter event where ornithologists, state naturalists, and other birding experts share tips and knowledge about eagles in the area.

The weekend offered hikes and eagle watching drives, close-up encounters with birds of prey, and first-person stories from wildlife biologists who had worked to help build a bald eagle population.

But first, we needed to get signed up for the evening’s owl prowl by lantern light, as well as register for a hike to a former eagle hacking (where they learn to fly) site for Sunday morning.

About twenty of us gathered at 6:30 p.m. to pick up tiny battery-operated lanterns and head out with our guide, Will Schaust of the Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. We pulled up hoods against the wind as we walked over to a stand of trees at the edge of the parking lot. Here Schaust described the types of owls common to Indiana, how they hunt at night, and played used a birding app to demonstrate their calls.

“Sounds like a horse on helium, doesn’t it?” he said, playing the Barred Owl call. We also listed to an Eastern Screech Owl call and a Great Horned Owl, “like the big owl that suddenly swoops into you in a horror movie.”

While alternating between calls, Schaust told us to look in the trees for owls, because they fly silently, the stealth pilots of the birds of prey world. Seeing and hearing little other than the recorded calls, we hiked into the woods as Schaust played the barred owl call again. Suddenly, several owls called at once. Was it a new recording, or did we actually hear owls in the wild? It was the latter, he confirmed, rather like a “bunch of buddies getting together and laughing nervously. Heh, heh, heh.”

Our owl prowl successful, we headed in from the wind and cold and back to the hotel. We were just in time to hear Rex Watters, Monroe Lake’s wildlife biologist, talk about recent sightings of eagles that were part of the reintroduction program.

In 1985, Watters was part of a plan to reintroduce bald eagles to Indiana at Monroe Lake. None had been born in the wild in Indiana since 1897. The goal, he said, was to get 20 nests in the state by 2020. Today, there are more than 200 nests in Indiana, and an average of 12-14 in the Monroe Lake area alone.

Recent sightings include C-14, so named for the band on its leg that was attached at Monroe Lake in 1987, making it 30 years old this year. Though wild eagles can be up to 50 years old, C-14’s age is not unusual. But half of all wild eagles born do not live past the first year and nearly 80% do not make it to five years old. Understandably, the eagle watching community cheered about the discovery of C-14.

Lantern lit for an owl prowl at Monroe Lake

If you’re interested in taking an owl prowl, there is another hike by candlelight at Monroe Lake coming Feb. 7.

First Day Hiking in Indiana

The start of a “First Day Hike” at Spring Mill State Park.

Mitchell, IN–While late night revelers from New Year’s celebrations were sleeping in, many early risers headed to Indiana State Parks on January 1, 2017 to participate in an annual “First Day Hike.” Across the state, parks welcomed visitors to a guided hike, led by a park naturalist. At Spring Mill State Park, wildlife naturalist Wyatt Williams led a group of adults, children, and one small leashed dog on a challenging 2.5-mile hike through the park’s major highlights.

Evidence of a beaver gnawing on a tree

The hike began at 10 a.m. with an easy trek along Spring Mill Lake, created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Williams stopped to point out evidence of beavers, which had gnawed a sizable portion of a big tree, and lopped off many smaller saplings. Williams said there were also a noticeable number of river otters in the park, a result of a reintroduction program begun in 1995 after the otters were wiped out by 1942.

First we stopped at a worn monument to Alexander Wilson. Wilson, called “Father of American Ornithology” by George Ord, preceded John Audubon in cataloging American birds. The monument was carved 150 years ago by George Donaldson, who owned the property of Spring Mill State Park, and unfortuantely very little remains of the likeness carved in the stone. A short walk past the monument, Williams stood in a small area of the creek marked by small stone rectangles.

Remains of Carl Eigenmann’s fish ponds

These were fish ponds created by Carl Eigenmann, an Indiana University ichthyologist from the late 1800s and early 1900s who explored Donaldson Cave and studied the blind fish there.

As a karst landscape, the park features caves and eroded limestone topography. Our trek led us right to one of the more well-known features, Donaldson Cave. It was too wet and we did not have time to explore the interior, but it is open to visitors at various times in the year. Instead, we headed up a cough-inducing set of stairs towards Hamer Cemetery. The trail followed a ridge that led to former quick lime kilns and an overlook of the 1800s Pioneer Village, before heading down past the village and up another hill to complete the loop to the Nature Center. The last owner of the village–Jonathan Turley–acquired it in the late 1880s from the Hamers. On our hike, we were stopped by a couple who wanted to know what our group was. They were relatives of the Turleys, on an annual genealogy hike.

Past the village, Williams pointed out black walnut, persimmon, and sycamore trees along the route, which could be identified by their distinctive bark (for example, the persimmon bark is very “pebble-y” and seeds were scattered around it.)

Hot chocolate and coffee supplied by the Spring Mill Inn greeted the returning hikers. Even better than the champaign toast for a happy, healthy new year.

View of a ridge at Spring Mill State Park.

 

 

Eagle Watching at Lake Monroe

Boat ramp at Allens Creek, Lake Monroe

Bloomington, IN–The ice over Lake Monroe at Allens Creek shimmered in the late afternoon sun. A female belted kingfisher chirped nearby, clearly annoyed at the visitors to her fishing spot. Soon, she ignored them and returned to diving in a small break in the ice, seeking dinner.

Spotting a belted kingfisher at Allens Creek, Lake Monroe

Most visitors to the 10,750-acre Lake Monroe usually come in summer for boating or relaxing on the beaches. The lake is actually a reservoir, created by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1965 for flood control and is now a water and recreation source for the city of Bloomington, Indiana.

In winter, though, the lake’s few visitors find peace, calm, and sometimes bald eagles and golden eagles. A “Citizen Scientist” program sponsored by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources recruits local volunteers to look for eagles along the lake and record activities. In the first 20 days of official spotting in 2016, volunteers recorded 62 sightings.

While Paynetown SRA off SR 446 is the biggest summer recreation spot on Lake Monroe, it is not the spot with the highest eagle sightings. Aptly named Eagle Pointe on the lake’s south end near The Fourwinds Inn yielded the most spottings—9 eagles—in December. Two volunteers reported on December 9: “Two adults in nest. One, presumably the female, arranging large sticks. At one point both birds gave us the direct eagle eye visible through the spotting scope! One adult flew to our side of the bay and perched in tree about 200 yards away.”

While four sightings of eagles had also been made at the Allens Creek boat ramp early in December, the clear day later in the month yielded just the kingfisher and a heron wading at a far edge. After an hour in the warm setting sun, we loaded up our car and started to head out when a big bird flew low over the water, seeking prey. It looked a lot like an eagle, but was more likely an osprey, and positive identification wasn’t possible at such a quick glance.

Birders can spy eagles on the lake at any time, but the easiest winter sightings have been February through March. Binoculars or a spotting scope are necessary for getting a good look.

Interested in help finding eagles at Lake Monroe? January 27-29, 2017 is the 17th annual Eagles Over Monroe weekend at The Fairwinds Inn. For just $10, you can take eagle hikes, hear from raptor experts—and for an additional fee—have lunch with eagles, which is sponsored by the resort and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Beginning birders and families are welcome to the weekend event, and experts will be posted with spotting scopes along trails to help identify birds.

Frozen marsh at Saltwater Creek observation area, Lake Monroe

Visiting van Gogh’s Bedrooms

Chicago, IL–Vincent van Gogh loved his yellow house in Arles though he lived there only a few months in 1888. He created three paintings of his tiny bedroom there, one while he lived in the house and two after he was institutionalized for mental health issues. Until May 10, 2016, all three versions are on exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago, in a compelling show that helps inform visitors of his complicated life and fascination with Arles.

The final painting of The Bedroom by Vincent Van Gogh

The final painting of The Bedroom by Vincent Van Gogh

Through letters to his brother Theo, side-by-side detailed video comparisons of the three paintings, a digitally enhanced replica of the bedroom and the entire layout of the small house, as well as many van Gogh masterpieces, the exhibit gives an in-depth study of these famous paintings as well as the troubled life of the painter who killed himself at age 37 in  July 1890.

The original bedroom painting belongs to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the second bedroom painting is on permanent display at The Art Institute of Chicago, and the smallest painting, which he created for his mother, is on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. While lines are inevitably long and time slots limited, the opportunity to see all the paintings in one place side by side, is worth the wait.

And if you’re so enamored with the bedrooms that you want to spend the night, check out Vincent’s bedroom on airbnb.com for just $10 a night. Yes, you can really stay there.

The second painting of The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh

The second painting of The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh

 

Land of Lincoln: Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln museum

Lincoln and his cabinet discuss timing of the Emancipation Proclamation at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library

Springfield, IL–Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President, was born in 1809 in Kentucky and spent his childhood in Indiana, but his adult life centered around Springfield, Illinois. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, now in its tenth year, is still drawing big crowds to the small town that is also home to the Illinois legislature where Lincoln once served.

Through November 15, a special exhibit focuses on Lincoln and his relationship with Jews, including many original documents, artifacts, photographs, and Lincoln’s letters, on loan from various institutions.  Unusual for his era, Lincoln had close friends and associates who were Jewish, such as Springfield’s Abraham Jonas and Chicago’s Abraham Kohn.  For more on this fascinating history and review of many of the documents on display, see Lincoln and the Jews: A History by Jonathan D. Sarna and Benjamin Shapell (2015, St. Martin’s Press)

Permanent exhibits  take visitors through an hands-on, immersive experience of replicas and scenes from his early life living in a log cabin, to his job as a store owner, a lawyer, legislator, presidential candidate and president, ending with his assassination in Ford’s Theatre at the age of 56 in 1865, just six days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army to General Grant.

Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield

Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield

The National Park Service runs the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, with tours of the house, as well as other period homes around the block of 8th and Jackson. As was the custom of the time, Lincoln did not travel to campaign for the presidency, but remained at home while others “stumped” on his behalf. He received the news of his election while at his Springfield home. The Visitor’s Center offers an overview of his life, and the home itself features many original furnishings, including a small writing desk Lincoln used, and a hat rack for his signature stovepipe hat.Lincoln Desk

When Lincoln died, a funeral train brought his body from Washington, D.C. back home to Springfield to rest. The Lincoln Tomb and War Memorials Site, run by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is in Oak Ridge Cemetery at 1500 Monument Ave. in Springfield. Lincoln, his 3-year-old son Edward, who died in Springfield, his son 12-year-old son William, who lived in Springfield and died in Washington, and his wife Mary Todd, are all interred in a burial chamber that the public can visit under the 117-foot-tall monument.tomb

Because Springfield is still a relatively small town, it’s easy to imagine Lincoln living and working here.  The old state capitol building with its red roof, and the new one dating from 1868 with a silvery zinc dome, are both open for tours as well.

 

 

 

Laurie’s Six Best Bakeries in Chicagoland

cannoliChicago, IL—It is pretty audacious for anyone to define the best six bakeries in a metro area this size. But after sampling so many bakeries, I’ve come back to a select few over and over. From south to north, each of these have specialties you won’t want to miss.

Apple croissant1. Medici, 1327 E. 57th, Hyde Park. A 50-year-old institution in the University of Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, Medici is known for its restaurant’s pizza and for its famous guests, the Obama family. But come to the bakery and order the buttery, flaky apple croissants that come loaded with thick slices of real apples, and are not too sweet or gooey. Just croissant, generous pieces of apples, and lightly sweet taste.

biscotti2. Scafuri Bakery, 1337 West Taylor, Little Italy. Taylor Street has loads of great Italian restaurants, and good bakeries, too. But Scafuri has the best biscotti of them all. The biscotti de notte, stuffed with hazelnuts and just the right crunch for dipping into your latte, is breakfast perfection. The plain almond biscotti are also top notch, made by baking just once, not twice.

3. Roeser’s Bakery, 3216 W. North, Humbolt Park. Originally a German neighborhood, Humbolt Park is now home to Puerto Rican families, but Rosiers stays true to its German roots. Great linzer tortes at Christmas, pączkis on Fat Thursday, and cakes of all sorts all year round. German chocolate cake, anyone?

4. Kaufman’s Bakery and Delicatessen, 4905 Dempster, Skokie. All sorts of rugulah cookies, cinnamon bobke, and other treats, including some amazing lox. Just don’t walk out without getting a walnut-raisin pumpernickle bread. No need for butter, it’s so sweet and tasty.

bagel and roll5. Once Upon A Bagel, 1888 First, Highland Park. The assortment of skinny bagels will astound you. Yes, get your everything bagel fix here at half the calories. And the challah rolls are perfect for a small Shabbat dinner for two. Once Upon A Bagel has other locations, and delicious meals, but that’s another story.

 

wedding cookies6. Tina’s Italian Cafe and Bake Shop, 1501 Washington, Gurnee. The crowds often flow out the door here, and for good reason. This is the genuine article. Italian wedding cookies, tiramisu, and delicious homemade breads compete with homemade Italian meals for space in your tummy. Save room for the cannoli, though.

 

 

 

 

Touring Burgundy’s Wine Country in a Day

Zooming into BurgundyDijon, France–Really, you’ve come all the way to France and you’re only going to spend 4 hours touring the wine route in Burgundy? Well, if that’s all you have, it’s possible to do it and do it well through Alter & Go. What turned out to be the highlight of our trip to France was a four-hour trip into the terrior and back roads outside Dijon to sample local cheese, wine, and to see vineyards and historical sites.

DSC00167Our guide, Damien, first stopped at a bakery and bread oven built in medieval days that is still used once a year. We drove a short way to a church in Fixin built in in the 10th and 12th centuries and still used today. “If you see a church with two roofs, you know it is Gothic,” he said.Fixey church

 

 

 

Ancient washing wellWe drove by a round washing well, unusual in that most were square shaped. It looked like a lovely fountain. The sky, dotted with clouds, is quite typical of the area, according to Damien. “We have a mystical atmosphere. The sun changes, the clouds change the colors of the vineyards,” he said. What a wonderful way to embrace a rolling cloud day!

After a short drive, we stop at the Gaugry cheese factory to sample various local cheeses. Sometimes cheese production is underway, but today there are just a few workers handling the cheeses. Apparently a slight patting by hand is necessary to make the cheese taste just so, as well as a bit of alcohol in some. The samples, along with a small glass of wine, create a perfect moment of pleasure. There is also time to buy local mustard and cheeses, and a bit of gingerbread, flavored with blackberry.

After the cheese factory, we drive up to view more vinewards. “If someone says they know of Burgundy, they would be lying. We say it would take two or three lifetimes (to sample all the wines)” he says.

Wine tasting at Phillipe LeClercSoon we are heading into a village where Phillipe LeClerc’s winery is located. We tour the cellars, see a bit of his extensive collection of wine and farming equipment, and then settle in for a wine tasting. We try several levels, from village to cru to grand cru burgundys. Each has a distinctive scent and flavor of course, and we rate our favorites. There is time to buy a bottle of wine for the trip home, and then back to Dijon.

Tours with Alter & go can be booked directly through the Dijon Tourism Office.

grapescellar