“Burgundy Memory Lane – Part I” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_6104Chateau living is the life for me.  I proclaimed this sentiment as the title of a chapter in “A French Opportunity” where I lived my dream of luxury in the Chateau de Gilly, an atmospheric hotel in the Burgundy region of France.  The name Gilly comes from the Celtic: Guil, Gwil and Gil which signifies horse, pasture or plain and Ly which means water or river.  Gilly thus designates a land, fertile with lush grass where herds could graze beside the river.  Indeed, the river Vouge flows through the chateau’s park and through the village of Vougeot.  A diversion of the river partially fed a large basin for trout and other fish.  Deep moats now without the flowing water surround the present luxury hotel.  A turbulent history spans from the sixth century to the current peaceful, refined and multi-starred hotel.  A brief version of the history will easily cover three pages of a glossy brochure.IMG_6184A sentimental personal history is written in words and in my memory of a solo journey which I took  after a battle with breast cancer.  Jim who is always supportive agreed that I could travel to France and indulge myself in a trip at my own pace, and I ventured forth smiling all the way.  I landed in Paris as my entry like millions of other travelers.  Then I drove south with stops along the way to Burgundy with my returning final days in Paris.  I can’t say that I would do it now, but I did it then on my own!

When I wandered the streets around the hotel almost eighteen years ago I found a window that touched my heart, and still does to this day.  A large, framed photo of the window hangs in my living room.

Quotation from “A French Opportunity”:  “Mother would love the lace curtains in the cottage across the street.  The white lace panels had interwoven an open Bible for each window and a lamp.  As Psalms 119:105 reads: ‘Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.’ I believe I will frame a picture of those lace panels for my mother, although I’m not sure where she will put it since her walls are covered with many pictures of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and many other gifts of love.”  I was correct on those thoughts.  The photo finally came back to me after Mama passed away without ever gracing her walls which were filled with her sentimental photos and objects.

Burgundy was not too far for a quick two-day getaway from the rain which was forecast for three days in Samoëns where we were staying for our autumn visit to France (October, 2016).  We packed our bags and arrived late in the afternoon with golden sunlight streaming across the vineyards stretching as far as one could see.  I was once again on the roads I had traveled on my own.  Would it live up to my memories?  Jim and I have visited this area at least twice since my sumptuous chateau treatment, but this would be our first stay at the hotel together.  Would he fall for the place like I did or fail to see its charm?

We arrived at the front desk, and I handed my business cards to the friendly, professional staff.  One of the men immediately looked up my website and my book.  A big smile warmed us with a generous French welcome and an upgrade to the suite above the entry with beautiful views of the gardens below. IMG_6133

While the room was wonderful, I imagine many Americans would quickly remodel the bedroom and bathroom which is far from the modern suite expected in a top hotel in the U.S.  I’m thankful it has not been ruined with too much modern improvement like some of the outlandish decor I’ve seen in other historic hotels.  A good hair dryer would have made my day.  Don’t look too closely, but the pictures tell the bad hair day story.

We went to explore, starting with the lounge which was years ago the medieval kitchen.  Four vaulted traverses are supported by a central octagonal base, and the two gigantic fireplaces makes one wonder which famous guests may have sat before the flames enjoying wine and what interesting conversations bounced off these walls?IMG_6120IMG_6110I was anxious to venture down the stairs to Le Clos Prieur, the dining room and former monk’s cellar.  It was here that I was surprised by three young gentlemen when I was dining ever so regally years ago.  (No, I won’t divulge that secret.  You must read it for yourself in the book.) IMG_6123 Time had stood still.  The dining room was just as I remembered.  Nothing had changed except my face which has a few more wrinkles, and I must admit to carrying around extra pounds.  But, hey, I’m still here, thankfully!

The Cistercian cellar was most likely constructed during the thirteenth century.  Throughout the centuries, the wines were received here by the convert monks and cellar men.  When the hotel group took possession of the Chateau de Gilly in 1987, a layer of 80 cm (2.6 feet) of earth, leaves and branches was discovered covering the floor.   This rubbish had to be excavated to reveal the pillars.  Be sure to check the Small Luxury Hotel website to discover more information on the hotel and restaurant. No less than 15,000 bottles and 600 types of wine are aged in the Chateau’s cellars.

Don’t miss breakfast in the superb Pierre de Nivelle room.  You can enjoy your coffee and croissants and more while admiring the marvelous painted beams overhead. IMG_6149 The colorful beams were restored in 1988 by Joel Oliveres, Veronique Legoux and Elisabeth Evangelisti under the guidance of an architect from the Historic Monuments.IMG_6151-1 The small adjoining room has very interesting paint decoration with two allegories dominated by a picturesque landscape.  A frieze on the beams with “L A” intertwined likely refers to Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.  Unbelievably, over the years paint and plaster was layered over the beauty we can finally enjoy once again after the hard work of restoration.  One of the hotel staff noticed my interest since I was busy capturing with my camera as many details as possible.  She kindly showed a storage room to me where the walls and ceiling were still not completely restored.  Click for larger image of the walls without restoration:

We wandered in the garden after our large, scrumptious breakfast to walk off a few calories and enjoy the new display of captivating, whimsical artist’s work.  IMG_6181

This was a fun introduction that we approved.  We could imagine showing grandson Daniel the characters in the grass among the dandelions and almost hidden in the shrubbery, or perched on the balcony. IMG_6191

We wouldn’t actually need to show the artwork to him since he discovers more than we ever find on our explorations.


IMG_6173Jim was impressed with my chateau.  It met his exacting demands: a soft pillow and firm mattress for the night and coffee in the morning.  He isn’t difficult to please.

Next on our memory lane in Burgundy was the city of Beaune and more.  Come back next time for “Burgundy Memory Lane – Part II” with the city of Beaune, a chateau visit and another hotel which is definitely not part of the luxury chain.IMG_6170

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I hope you are fine and enjoying a lovely Spring!  The photo is my “Souvenir de la Malmaison” rose which I planted last year.  IMG_8757

I will join my family from my daddy’s side of the family today for a fish fry by the lake.

Oh, I am looking forward to much laughter and good food!  Take care!  Ya’ll come again.