“My Unparalleled Adventure”
I have always considered myself an independent traveler. My husband and I have traveled to Europe many times, and, each time, we planned our trips with “Let’s Go Europe” or online sites. We booked our own trains, planes, and automobiles, hotels, meals and excursions.
In October 2018, I decided to join Carolyn on her “Your Key to Burgundy” trip that she designs and leads annually, just for women. This trip was a bit different for me in that I was traveling with a guided group and I had never met any of the other travelers. Knowing Carolyn, however, made me feel that this was a good decision, and after returning from my trip, it turns out it was one of the best decisions of 2018!
Carolyn cultivates her trips with exacting care, a spirit of adventure, and enough space to allow for spontaneity. From well before stepping foot on a plane, it was clear that every detail was well thought out, and everything provided and offered for my delight, comfort, and fun. A welcoming and friendly hotel in Paris is always a good place to start a trip and our group found respite at a gem in the Opera district. The next day, our driver delivered us to Pommard and our adventure began!
A welcoming flat awaited when we arrived and it was lovely to get the chance to really inhabit the village. Carolyn extends her social capital to provide introductions to the chocolate makers, winemakers, bakers, and restaurateurs. This was one of the things I treasured on this trip – I didn’t have to feel like I was peering IN on life on the French countryside, I was right there, woven in to the fabric of it!
There were so many high notes of my trip, it’s difficult to point to just one. And, I encourage anyone who wants an adventure like no other, to discover for themselves the surprises and delights that await in a “Your Key to Burgundy” excursion.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Spoiled for the Rest of My Life”
From our first contact at Cafe Limonata to our farewell in Paris on October 27, this trip was perfection. Every detail: Arbor’s wonderful Joie de Vivre book that Carolyn sent several weeks before the trip; the pre-trip get together with delicious wine and yummy food, and a fun, thoughtful take-on-trip gift bag filled with all kinds of cool and very useful stuff. All that before even stepping on the plane!
In looking back, “vraiment” (truly) “Women in Burgundy: Life, Laughter, and the French Paradox” was a trip that worked in every way: The accommodations in Paris and in Pommard, every single meal, the dinners “Chez Carolyn” and every meal out – especially Loiseau des Vignes, après our morning at the spa. And the wonderful places we visited: Our walk to the healing waters site in the Ouche Valley and our misty-morning journey to the source of the Seine. And the wine – OMG – I am spoiled for the rest of my life!
I could go on and on. I cannot imagine there is anyone better to plan a trip to France than Carolyn. Many thanks for all of it!
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Walter and Denny
“A second honeymoon…better than the first”
We had been wanting to return to France since our honeymoon in 2011, a trip that was not focused on wine, but included three cellar stops and a tasting at a Beaune negociant. The enthusiasm of some wine-loving friends, Robin and Sheldon, and the knowledge that they would accompany on us a “Your Key to Burgundy” tour sealed the deal, but it got even better before we left – another wine-loving couple we knew filled our tour card.
We spent a night in Paris before taking the TGV to Avignon. I am 72 and have been drinking Rhone wines since I was in my early 20’s. It was fabulous seeing this area, visiting wineries and merchant tasting rooms. A special highlight was Denny dancing on the Pont d’Avignon, remembering a childhood song about dancing on the bridge which we learned when we first started studying French in 7th grade.
We also soon learned that Ken & Carolyn had really carefully planned out our days, including some wonderful meals in a variety of restaurants, but generally adhering to what the French considered the proper way to dine, slowly with the right wines with each course at lunch and dinner. The wine selections were always first rate.
There was much more to the tour than just wine and food. Just about every day we sampled the local culture with stops a chocolate factory, museums, churches and other places of our choosing on our free times.
In Pommard we stayed 5 nights in a condo with the Odenwalds, but we were not crowded. It was a 3 bedroom, 2 ½ bath apartment with loads of room. The kitchen was pre-stocked with lots of foods for the few meals we were on our own. There was also some wine and snacks for happy hour. We became even closer friends with our tour companions.
Despite some knowledge of Burgundy wines and a good selection of them in my own cellar, I found I learned a lot more about the history and nature of Burgundy wines during this trip. I finally learned to spit when tasting, during my first morning in Burgundy. Imagine tasting 12 wines well before lunch, each pour about 1.5 ounces! I shipped home slightly more than four cases, primarily premiere crus, at prices below the U.S. market, although many are not available here at any price. We will enjoy them over many years. Now we look forward to another “Your Key To Burgundy” tour, perhaps as soon as 2020.
Walter and Denny Blood
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ralph and Arlene
“Quality that cannot be overstated”
My wife and I have travelled extensively, but we are not fans of group tours and have always made our own arrangements and traveled on our own. When we made the decision to visit Burgundy, however, we decided to investigate a tour because, as wine lovers, we were aware of the complexity and diversity of the Burgundy terroirs, and we recognized the need for some expert guidance. We met a couple who recommended Ken and Carolyn’s Your Key To Burgundy, and after our initial meeting with Carolyn, the decision was easy.
In May of 2018, we travelled with Carolyn and Ken and two other wine-loving couples to the Rhone Valley and then on to Burgundy. After two nights in Paris, we took the TGV to Avignon, where we spent four days touring the Rhone Valley, sampling fabulous Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other blends of the southern Rhone, and then the Syrah of the northern Rhone. All along the way, we enjoyed some truly outstanding dining. There was also ample time to explore historic Avignon.
We then traveled by private van to Burgundy where we spent four more nights in a very comfortable apartment in Pommard, where Carolyn and Ken have their own home.
Pommard is a lovely little village, surrounded by vineyards, just a couple of miles from Beaune, which is situated in the center of the famous Côte d’Or of the Burgundy wine region. From there we were treated to prearranged visits at several vineyards from north to south, sampling fabulous Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and continuing to enjoy superb French cuisine. We would have been unlikely to discover all these places in weeks of exploring on our own. Finally we were transported back to Paris by a private driver, where we spent a few days on our own.
The quality of the entire experience cannot be overstated. Every winery visit, every meal, every travel detail was carefully thought out and was obviously the result of much experience and research, but more important the product of a genuine love for the country and its people, and to us this was the most important aspect. The Thompsons’ affection and respect for their adopted second home and its culture is apparent, every moment. Moreover, they are just delightful people – the perfect traveling companions – which makes for an experience that is at once entertaining and educational.
Ralph and Arlene Odenwald
Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Burgundy in January is ‘Parfait'”
In the middle of a two week trip to France planned with Carolyn’s help, I’m pausing to reflect on my magical experience this weekend at Burgundy’s Festival of St. Vincent, in the village of Mercurey, the last weekend in January. For years it had been my dream to attend this festival in honor of the patron saint of winemakers, but the experience seemed beyond my reach. Carolyn’s many intimate connections with the winemakers of Burgundy has enabled me realize my dream.
I was met in Paris upon my arrival in France to begin the first leg of my trip – a two-night stay in the Champagne region. There we visited two champagne houses, one where the family did everything from growing and harvesting the grapes to making and selling the champagne from their delightful tasting room. Then, we took a train to Burgundy for the big festival weekend.
The St. Vincent Festival takes place over two days, and before sunrise on the first morning, we drove to Mercurey, where we arrived just in time to join one of the three processions of village representatives into the center of the village. Each procession descended from the hillsides and through the vineyards, and one by one we met and joined ranks. Each village has its own carved statue of St. Vincent, some large and ornately carved, some wearing robes, some small and delicate. It was deeply affecting to see the pride of each village in representing its ages old winemaking traditions. After the representatives of all 95 villages met at the Monument to those who had died in the two world wars, a local band played “La Marseillaise’ and we all joined in.
The remainder of the first morning included a solemn Mass in a hilltop church, where new inductees of the Chevaliers du Tastevin were recognized; afterwards, the doors to the church opened and we stood immediately opposite, able to see the priests, altar boys, Chevaliers old and new, and invited villagers exit. The village representatives hoisted their statues onto their shoulders again and passed us one by one— I could have reached out to touch any of the beautiful statues! Down the hill they went, and we all followed, for an afternoon of walks in the vineyards, visits to exhibitions related to the winemaking traditions of Burgundy, and opportunities to taste local culinary specialties (like escargots, fromage, roasted chestnuts, and boeuf bourguignon) in the many food stalls.
We returned on Sunday for a second day of strolling and enjoying the decorations throughout the village as well as the wine, food, and French families all around us. In arranging my participation in this festival, Your Key to Burgundy made it possible for me to enter the special world of Burgundy itself. Merci, and a bientot, Carolyn! I cannot wait for my return visit to this beautiful place!
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Robin and Sheldon
“On the Wine Trail”
My husband and I had been wanting to go to Burgundy for some time, so we were thrilled to find Ken and Carolyn of Your Key to Burgundy. They sat down with us and completely tailored the trip to our wishes.
We went to Paris for three nights before beginning our tour of Burgundy. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Paris, with one day free of charge arranged for us by Carolyn. We then were driven to Burgundy. We stayed at a spacious furnished apartment adjacent to the Thompsons, with a completely stocked kitchen and washing machine.
Carolyn made reservations three months in advance for the restaurants we went to. Two restaurants were Michelin starred, but all of the restaurants were comparably fantastic. The Sunday brunch at Abbaye de la Bussiere in the Cote-d’Or was particularly memorable, and the grounds were spectacular.
We had a cooking class at the beautiful country home of a hospitable British couple. When we returned home to the USA I immediately made the delicious gougères for company!
We met Julio the truffle dog, and following our truffle hunt we enjoyed an assortment of truffled pates for lunch.
We requested that our experience in Burgundy concentrate on wine, and Carolyn and Ken accompanied us to Domaine Drouhin, the Chateau de Meursault, and many small wineries whose owners have close relationships with Ken and Carolyn. We sometimes had two wine tastings in a day plus wine with lunch and dinner. We fell in love with the wines of Burgundy and couldn’t resist sending back a few cases!
Our week was absolutely fabulous, and we quickly came to understand that we could not have had such personal experiences with wine makers, chefs, restaurant owners, and even local residents, without the knowledge, connections, and expertise of “Your Key to Burgundy.” Thank you for introducing us to this wonderful region!
Robin and Sheldon
Roxanne and Henry
“Bucket List Dream Achieved!”
France has been on my bucket list since I was 20 years old! Carolyn opened up France to us in a way that we could not have experienced on our own. Before our trip, she took the time to meet with me on several occasions to learn about our interests and travel preferences. The, she completely took the stress out of planning the trip and travelling on our own. We began our trip by visiting Paris. We then traveled down to Burgundy and stayed in Carolyn’s lovely town home in Pommard. She even helped us plan the :third leg: of our time in France with a visit to the Loire Valley.
Burgundy is exquisite! Carolyn worked with us and made suggestions about where to go and what to see, including wonderful restaurants where the owners have become friends of the Thompsons. She gave us lots of options to choose from and then helped us to make all of the reservations for travel and restaurants, and even cooking classes. Pommard was a perfect location, and our stay at their town home was so convenient to Beaune and all of the small towns around the area.
Carolyn’s suggestions on where to eat and what to see were perfect! Because she knows Burgundy so well we were able to visit markets, restaurants and sites that we would not have known about without Carolyn’s local knowledge and connections.
Merci mille fois Carolyn!
Roxanne and Henry
Ann and Tracy
“20th Anniversary Dream Trip”
The scenario was our 20th wedding anniversary trip to France. The goal was to make it as stress free as possible with the logistics and to have it be the perfect trip for my husband and for me, thus making the trip unforgettable. Enter, stage right, Carolyn Thompson and her incredible business, Your Key to Burgundy.
The process started early on with Carolyn meeting with us – over some great wines from Burgundy – Bien sûr! – to get excited about the trip and to go over our wish lists, which she also helped us create. She then led us through the entire logistics process, from recommending specific flights (“Take this one, not that one.”), to actually making our train, hotel, and restaurant reservations for us! For the rental car, she even had directions on exactly where to go to pick up the car in the train station (“Go down the stairs and turn right”). Amazing!
We had three main goals—bike rides in Burgundy (“No problem, as bikes will be delivered to your apartment and picked up from there as well. And oh, here’s a biking map for you to ponder ahead of time.”); an educational buying trip for wine (“We have wonderful partners in Burgundy who will personally drive you to exclusive meetings and tastings led by the winemakers, themselves.”); and flea market shopping (“Saturday you will go here to the market in Beaune, and on Sunday you will go to the smaller villages, and here’s the website to check where they post new locations at the last minute.”)
We could not have had a better experience. Carolyn’s love of her adopted home of Burgundy is infectious, and with our amazing experience there, we certainly have caught the Burgundy “bug” as well!
Ann and Tracy
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Donna and Stuart
“France at its Very Finest”
Our trip to France in November 2015 couldn’t have been better! Who would have thought that the “slow season” would offer such charm and delight? Thanks to Carolyn and Ken, and Your Key to Burgundy, we were able to experience France at its simplest and at its very finest.
Strolling through Beaune during the weekend of the most famous charity wine auction in the world was an incredible experience. The entire town was in “party” mode! We sampled oysters, escargots, and other local culinary specialties. Being warmly welcomed at small family-owned wine domains was another highlight, and we would never have found them without the marvelous connections of Your Key to Burgundy.
We stayed in the wine village of Pommard and really felt that we got to know this small community. The proprietors of the bakery, the wine bar, and the chocolate shop started to recognize and greet us! Without any crowds or pressure of the high summer tourist season, we felt at times that even we, ourselves, were treated like “locals.”
Carolyn and Ken were expert at matching our special interests and needs with the range and depth of the wonderful experiences that the villages, towns, and countryside have to offer. Their knowledge of the country, its customs, language, traditions, people, foods and extraordinary wines, coupled with their genuine desire to create a unique experience for each individual, is unsurpassed. We absolutely loved every moment and can’t wait for our next Your Key to Burgundy adventure!
Donna and Stuart
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Angela and David
“Most Wonderful Family Adventure Ever…”
Our original plan was to travel to Burgundy for a week, just the two of us. We then invited David’s mum to join us as she is always up for an adventure. Then we began adding additional friends and family, ending up with 22 in all!
People continue asking us, “How did you make that all happen?” Our answer is four words: “Carolyn and Ken Thompson”. Carolyn found the perfect accommodation, a small chateau in a Burgundy wine village. She also informed us of many of the events we could do as a family. With Carolyn’s connections, our family indulged in a fabulous wine tasting experience with local experts that was both fun and educational. From our youngest taster at 18 to our oldest at 83, all had a fabulous time in the dining room of our Chateau learning about the wines of the region and most importantly, how to read the labels!
Our family, dined & wined, truffle hunted, hiked, and dined & wined some more. We enjoyed the fabulous lightshows and markets in Beaune and had the most wonderful adventure our family has ever had. We are still reminiscing of the time we spent with each other in Puligny-Montrachet; from the croissants to our daily ritual of overtaking the wine bar; these are memories that last.
With our heartfelt gratitude to Carolyn and Ken for a most magical adventure in Burgundy, and a final word of CAUTION: Do not travel to Burgundy without the guidance of Carolyn & Ken Thompson!
Angela & David
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Carrie and Steve
“A Week of Wonderful Discoveries”
We just got back from a week staying outside Beaune. Our time in Burgundy was perfect, and Carolyn’s itinerary suggestions and arrangements had a lot to do with that!
Every restaurant had our reservation, and many beamed upon greeting Carolyn’s clients (especially the very friendly owner of Le Terroir in Santenay). All of the meals were wonderful, and the three wineries we toured were great as well, especially the two small producers, Michel Rebourgeon and Michel Prunier.
We also think her suggestion to visit Beaune’s Domaine Joseph Drouhin at the beginning of our stay was a good one, since it gave us a good overview of the local wines, and the underground cellars of Beaune were amazing!
Visiting a cheese-making operation to see how epoisses is made was something we might never have even thought of on our own, and was a true highlight!
We also wanted to mention how very touched we were by Carolyn’s generosity in accommodating us after a family crisis required us to reschedule our trip. We can’t wait to return to Burgundy, and when we do, Carolyn and Your Key to Burgundy will definitely be one of our first calls!
Carrie G. and Steve S.
Karen and Jessica
“Mother-Daughter Trip of a Lifetime!”
My daughter and I had been talking about planning a trip to France for a couple of years when we became aware that Your Key to Burgundy was offering a “Treasure Hunting” excursion for July 2015. Having heard about their fine reputation, we immediately signed up.
We were made to feel special, even before we departed the US. Carolyn sent us “Countdown to France” messages during the weeks leading up to our trip, sharing practical information, photos, and descriptions of things we were going to experience. When we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, having our smiling personal driver there waiting to whisk us down to Burgundy was such a luxury. Tired from the journey, we immediately perked up when we entered our hotel room to find personal notes and an abundant “Bienvenue” care package for each of us!
Our experiences were nothing short of enchanting! From the medieval town of Beaune with such amazing architecture and history (not to mention great shopping!), to the numerous “vide greniers” (flea markets), and especially our Gala 4th of July dinner in the famous Drouhin cellars. Every step of the way, Carolyn and Ken were there to share their deep knowledge of and passion for this glorious region. Their enthusiasm was truly contagious, and traveling with them was like traveling with good friends who took delight in creating wonderful surprises for us! I have done a fair amount of traveling, but the quality of every experience made this a trip we will never forget. And, we can’t wait for the opportunity to make a return visit – with Your Key to Burgundy, of course!
Karen and Jessica
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Craig and Terri
“A Perfect Trip”
My wife and I just got home from a 2-plus week trip to France, my first. I was introduced to Carolyn and Your Key to Burgundy through a longtime employee and friend who had done a trip with her before. What a blessing and value that intro was!
After a lengthy phone discussion Carolyn put together detailed suggestions for each leg of our trip – Paris, Burgundy and The Vaucluse in Provence. We couldn’t do everything of course but her guidance was incredibly helpful. Suggestions that we took advantage of that were over the top – the Opera Cadet Hotel in the Paris 9th, a Michelin lunch at the Abbaye de la Bussiere in Burgundy, everything and anything in Beaune, a drive to the top of Mont Ventoux in Provence, a day in Avignon, on and on.
Merci Carolyn – thank you for all of your input into our perfect trip to La Belle France!
Craig W. and Terri G.
Bel Air, Maryland, USA
Sandy and Lee
“Our First trip to France”
We were so delighted to be able to rely on Your Key to Burgundy to help us plan our first ever trip to France. Carolyn worked with our need to fit this trip in a narrow window of time, quickly lining up well-located hotel rooms in Paris and Dijon, fitting us into their schedule so we could stay at their wonderful flat in Pommard, guiding us through securing a rental car and train tickets and even coaching us through the Global Entry application.
The service went far beyond what we expected – checking out a hotel in Dijon in person, making arrangements for us to visit an alpaca breeding operation (our odd passion), having the wonderful Audrey across the road in Pommard for the last-minute traveler questions.
It was a perfect trip. Even the weather was perfect (is it ever cloudy in France?). We are now ready to schedule our second trip using Your Key to Burgundy.
Sandy and Lee L.
Sandia Park, New Mexico, USA
Additional comments from our clients
Here are excerpts from some of the thank-you notes and kudos we have received…
“Thank you, Carolyn, for the excellent and careful planning that went into this trip and tour… Your and Ken’s extensive knowledge of wine with all its nuances and your ability to coordinate it with food was wonderful… I have great memories of the fun we shared and the friendships I made!”
– Carol Bertholf , Albuquerque (July 2015 “Treasure Hunt” Excursion Guest)
“I very much enjoyed my conversations with Carolyn, from our first contact. We corresponded by email and by phone and I felt very comfortable about the arrangements. Carolyn is a great resource on everything from Travel tips, wineries, food, and sightseeing… We were treated like family in Pommard and tasted with at least 12 wineries and met with five Winemakers for several hours. This is the property and Village to call home.”
– Jeff H., San Francisco CA (3 Clos de Pommard Guest, June 2015