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All Roads Lead to Pisy -- Week in Burgundy


100+ Posts
Summer 2006 - Amy and Larry spend a week in a vacation rental in Burgundy during the summer, eating good food and visiting towns in the area to see what there is to see.

Why Burgundy?

My husband and I spent a long honeymoon driving around France the Spring of 1990. We had Frommer's France, the red Michelin Guide, and a great exchange rate. In retrospect, we traveled too far, too fast to get a real sense of what we were seeing.

One of the areas that stuck with us most strongly was Burgundy, the rivers and canals, the grey stone villages and ancient half-timbered houses, the wonderful food and wines. We had returned for a long weekend from Paris some years ago, but when the opportunity to take a trip without children cropped up, we decided yes, it's time.

After our first few days revisiting Paris, we planned to stay at a farmhouse near Semur-in-Auxois. This time, we're armed with the Blue Guide Burgundy, Signpost Guides' Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, the Green Guide to Burgundy and the Jura, the brand new Michelin Red Guide, and some great recommendations from Slow Travelers.


View from Tivauche-le-Haut road


100+ Posts
Paris to Burgundy

We planned on leaving Paris as early as possible Saturday, anticipating traffic after listening to everyone at Le Florimond last night celebrating the start of their vacances. Larry spent almost an hour in line at the Hertz office near Invalides watching the sole clerk get flustered and slog through three people's paperwork. An older woman took over for him, and processed six people in half the amount of time. Larry returned with the car and the renewed conviction that women of a certain age should be running the world.

To our surprise, there was no traffic to speak of. Even more to our surprise, people were obeying the speed limits. When Larry was in Toulouse last month, the people he was working with had told him of some new initiatives where people's licenses get photographed when they speed, resulting in heavy fines and rapid taking away of licenses. They say it's working, and I must say it made for a big change since the last time we've driven in France.

Since we were making excellent time, we decided to get off the A6 and head over to Chablis. We drove through rolling hills covered with vines, and then parked on Chablis' main street. Chablis is a lovely town, with many beautiful old buildings, lots of wine shops, a few restaurants, some touristy stores, but many "real" places selling everyday things. We bought two just-from-the-oven mini quiches and a small container of celeri remoulade from a prepared food store, and walked around the corner to eat on a bench fronting the small canal that runs through town.

We continued on the local roads, through hills, stubbled hayfields, small stone towns closed up till later in the day. We found Tivauche-le-Haut, a hamlet of 6-7 houses on top of a hill outside Epoisses. We met our landlords, Jenny and Bill Higgs, who renovated three of the attached houses, and run a canal boat that makes very cushy, expensive trips. Our house is beautiful, with a huge open living-kitchen-dining room and two large bedrooms. Outside is a stone terrace with a view over the hills. After looking around and chatting, we drove into Epoisses to the "Maxi" for groceries. Epoisses is a small town, with two boulangeries, a charcuterie, a epoisses cheese factory and store, and a beautiful wreck of a chateau in the middle of town. Larry insisted on getting a cheese, which involved a lot of waiting while people discussed when they were eating the cheese and what their tastes were while the saleslady poked each cheese. People were buying several wheels at a time - one for today, one for next week, one for the week after. Larry got one small wheel for tomorrow. We drove up a one-lane tiny road from the house, and found another tiny town atop a hill with a chateau, old abbey, and a half-way ruined formal garden. Someone has been working parts of the garden, and it looked like something out of "The Secret Garden." I'll get back there and take photos on another day.

Dinner at home was bread, cheeses, wine, and tomatoes. The Epoisses smelled like something died inside, but was delicious with bread and wine. Rich, complex flavor that I suspect tastes best in France.


View from Tivauche-le-Haut


100+ Posts
Sunday in the Country

We slept very well in our bedroom under the eaves. We left the skylight and window open for the cool breeze, and were pleasantly surprised to not be bothered by a single mosquito. Bill had told us it's been extremely dry, so that with the elevation must account for the absence of the nasty buggers. In the morning we heard roosters, sheep and cows. Of course, as I was standing on the patio in my nightgown with the first coffee was when I met Michael from across the road, coming over to check on his sheep.

After some apricots and figs for breakfast to atone for the day before (and as you'll read, preparing for the day ahead) we took off for the Sunday market in Chablis. We took the highway up to save time, and it took just a bit more than half an hour. Bill said it's the most lively Sunday market in the area, and it was full of people and vendors. Everything you could possibly need, and some you don't.

Ladies, you'll meet all your housedress needs here, as there were four stands selling flowered housedresses and aprons. The housedress is alive and well in rural France, and we saw many elderly women looking very comfortable in them. There were also two stands selling really pretty linen and cotton tops and dresses. I looked, held a few up, but walked away. Of course, now I want one.

Several cheese stands; hams, sausages, pates; produce; breads; olives; fresh meat and poultry; dry goods; and a sweet couple selling huge gougeres, the hollow cheese-puff pastry of Burgundy. Of course, we had to get one. It was the size of my hand, crisp outside, and worth every calorie.

We bought a huge head of frilly lettuce, a tomato, a mixture of olives, and a fresh chevre. (Tip for summer travelers - bring along a small nylon insulated cooler and an ice pack for your perishable market purchases. Well worth the luggage space). On the way home, we got off the highway early to take local roads to Noyers. The town retains many 16th century half-timbered houses, and is a beautiful place to walk around. We followed the cobblestone street through the stone gates and wandered up to the ramparts and back down to the river. Pretty, pretty place. The town has figured out that tourists visit, so there are a few gift shops in between the more everyday stores and cafes. Very quiet on a Sunday morning, and I suspect otherwise during the week.

We took more tiny roads home, many only one-lane tracks through fields and up and down the low hills. There seem to be far more cows than people in these hills. The towns are quiet and turned inward, with closed shutters and the occasional elderly woman sitting on a bench or child playing. The only other vehicle we met was the bread van, who visits each hamlet once a day, toots her horn, and the customers run out for bread, croissants, and the few groceries she carries.


Gougere, Chablis Market


100+ Posts
Sunday Lunch

Some time ago, I had been told of a farm in the area serving Sunday lunch. Upon arrival yesterday, I realized that the Auberge is just across the main road, two kilometers away. We had made reservations yesterday, and were told to arrive at 12:30. Dave, I owe you.

Ferme-Aberge La Garande is in Jeux les Bard, a tiny crossroad. It's a working farm that also has a few rooms for bed-and-breakfast, and serves family-style Sunday lunch. There were several cars parked outside, and we followed the signs to a patio out back. A large group was sitting outside chatting, and we sat down nearby. More people arrived, all of whom seemed to know people in the group. Every now and then someone would come over, say bonjour, and shake our hands. Maybe they thought we were long-lost cousins?

We were all ushered into a stone-walled dining room, and Larry and I were taken to the only table set for just two. The huge group (which probably had 30 people) were seated at a long table, and other large family groups had their tables. This seems to be the place to take grandma out for Sunday lunch. Wall decorations were cow and sheep posters from the France Meat Association or some such. I want a cow poster now.

The menu had a country salad, a choice of roast lamb or chicken with a lemon cream sauce, potato Dauphinois, and choice of dessert or cheese, or both. The food started coming, and didn't stop for almost three hours. There's a very nice wine list, and we ordered a half bottle of Burgundy. Most people began with a kir (wine with a bit of cassis), and then went on to huge amounts of wine. The salad arrived in a big bowl for us to serve ourselves from. Greens topped with lardons (crisped strips of ham), garlicky croutons, and perfectly poached eggs. The runny yolks mixed with the dressing, and the whole thing was delicious.

After a breather, a platter of roast lamb slices arrived, with a bowl of Dauphinois. Rosy lamb, and the richest, most over the top Dauphinois I've ever had. Real heart attack on a plate, but you'll die happy. If you dared finish your serving, you were offered more. You're kidding, right? Another breather. I began flirting with the toddler at the next table, who was eating amazing quantities of potatoes when she wasn't sitting on the floor playing. The owners and their sons just stepped around her, carrying platters and bowls. These were just the warmest hosts, working hard and still joking and smiling with everyone. I felt like I'd been to Grand-mère and Grand-père's house.

Dessert or cheese? I chose dessert, Larry cheese. We noticed most people ordered dessert, and then somehow, managed to eat cheese. Dessert was a huge slice of apricot tart, and Larry was brought a daunting wedge of Epoisses. A little coffee afterward somewhat revived us. By this time, the large group had begun singing, everyone looked flushed, and I knew I didn't want to be anywhere near some of these folks behind the wheel of a car.

We had plans of going over to the Abbay at Fontenay, but never made it. Digestion came first. From Tivauche, we took a long walk up the hill toward Corsaint. Fields, more fields, forest, sheep, those white cows, two horses, two friendly cats, and three donkeys. Donkeys? Why donkeys? Loads of unripe blackberries in the hedgerows.

A bike race was circling the area, and we got to watch the riders make several circuits through Tivauche. Everyone sat in lawn chairs and cheered on the riders. We met several people, and learned that Tivauche is lived in half by the farmers, and half by people owning second homes.

Green salad for dinner.


Apricot tart, Ferme-Aberge La Garande


100+ Posts
Avallon to Auxerre

Monday can be a slow day in Burgundy. Most of the chateaux and museums are closed, many shops take the morning off, and small towns can seem empty. We headed over to Avallon, just 20 minutes away. We last visited here on our honeymoon 16 years ago. Memory is a funny thing--I perfectly remember our hotel, the church, the restaurant where we ate . . . and Larry might as well have never been there.

We walked around town, which as expected, was fairly closed up. It's a lovely place, full of ancient buildings, of half-timber and stone, up on the ramparts, a pretty view down to the river Cousin. We stopped into the tourist office for a bunch of brochures on events in the area. There was a large show of the work of artists and craftspeople of the neighboring Morvan, some really beautiful pieces, especially pottery and paintings.

We took the road heading up to Auxerre, getting off when we could to travel the smaller roads running alongside the river and through "blink-and-you-miss-them" towns. We took a road across to the west, to where another road follows the Cure. Ancy-sur-Cure was particularly beautiful, with what looked like thousands of flowers in pots and baskets in front of the stone houses. There's a tiny chateau in town, which according to the Blue Guide, is chiefly known for the obsessiveness of the guide in detailed explanation of a doorway carving. We passed.

A detour toward Joux-la-Ville led through an area of cherry trees and vineyards on one side of the slope. Back on the main road, we stopped at a sign for "Cerises" and bought small bags of three different types. So dark they're almost black, and wonderfully sweet-tart.

We made lunch reservations at a restaurant along the river, and I'll describe our rather odd experience there in my next entry. Short story -- food and setting wonderful, service dreadful. We continued up to Auxerre, another town we had visited before. It's much larger than Avallon, and the old part of town rises from the wide Yonne riverbank. This time we both remembered the place. Another visit to the tourist office for bathrooms, brochures, and maps. We got a nice walking tour map, where you follow a trail through town (somewhat like the Freedom Trail in Boston). We did most of the trail over two hours, skipping some buildings after a while as our feet began to complain and our eyes glazed. Many beautiful large hotels (grand 16-17th century houses), interesting timbered houses in the old "Quartier de la Marine." Auxerre was waking up from the Monday nap, and many people were walking around, sitting in cafes, and in stores for the last of the summer sales. Lively, pretty place that looks like an appealing larger town to live in.

Headed for home, stopping for some water and wine in Iancy. Dinner was cheese and figs, cherries, and apricots.




100+ Posts
Lunch On The River Yonne

As we were driving along the river routes between Avallon and Auxerre Monday, I had seen in my Michelin a restaurant in the small town of Vincelottes that looked like a nice stop for a good lunch. It was a "two fork" Bibb Gourmand listing, which typically means excellent food at a good value. Not inexpensive, but worth the money. We made a lunch reservation.

When we arrived, we found the restaurant across from the river, with a pretty patio dining room set up right above the riverbank. Several tables were filled with couples or groups, all fairly casually dressed and speaking French. The food looked wonderful. The owner came over, switched to perfect English immediately, shook hands, and handed us enormous menus. After that pleasant beginning, things progressed somewhat like an episode of "Fawlty Towers." Monsieur came back to ask if we'd like an aperitif. We said no, but would like a carafe of water. We were then treated to a five minute lecture on the evils of tap water, and how he never uses tap water for any of the cooking, buying many huge bottles of good water for the restaurant's cooking needs. OK. (Sorry we asked!) Can we have a bottle of water then? Monsieur asked if we were ready to order. (No, since we've spent the past five minutes listening to him.) He made a face, said he'd come back in 10 minutes. We waited. And waited. And waited more. That was the last we saw of him.

Finally, one of the waitresses came over to take the order. There were several complete "menus" of varying prices with one or two choices for three or four courses. We both ordered a three course menu, and chose a half bottle of wine. We were told that we had to order dessert now, so the kitchen would know. OK. I quickly chose creme caramel, Larry the cheese. Larry, who was sitting facing the other tables, noticed other tables getting an amuse bouche (little bite of a dish from the chef). None arrived for us, since we had not ordered an aperitif. This seems to happen in some (but not all) restaurants.

After the usual interval, our first courses arrived. The waitress came with the bread basket, and we were each given a different kind of bread, according to what we were eating. And I'll happily report that the food was wonderful. Larry had a galantine of lapin (OK, cold composed salad of bunny rabbit and vegetables), and I had fresh chevre with smoked salmon. Everything delicious, and very pretty.

Humm. Water never did arrive, did it? First we asked our young waitress for our water. We never ordered water, she said, frowning. Um, yes, actually we did. No matter. Could we have a bottle of Evian, please? Five minutes went by. Ten. We asked again, feeling like we'd somehow sinned. Finally an older waitress came with our water.

Our plats arrived, with still different bread. My rouget was fillets of pink-skinned fish with dollops of an intensely flavored tomato and herb mixture, and a tangle of buttery spinach. Larry had extremely tender veal, very subtly perfumed with Asian spices and served over delicious short-grained rice. We ate very slowly. I'd love to figure out how to make that tomato-herb mixture.

After we finished, our plates and silver were taken away. We noticed the waitresses would "decrumb" the tables of other diners, but we were left with our crumbs. Only after Larry motioned at his crumbs did the younger waitress huff over to scrape them off. Our table was set for dessert, and the waitress came over with two enormous cheese trays. There must have been 20 kinds of cheese on each tray. She asked me what I'd like. Oh, I had ordered dessert, I said. No, you told me you were taking cheese, she said. Um, no, sorry. (Were we going to argue about this? Why am I the one apologizing?) She gave another dramatic huff, (by now, we'd been treated to two -- or was it three?) tore away my settings, and was very obviously annoyed with us.

Larry chose three kinds of cheese, and my creme brulee arrived in a tureen so I could serve myself. Or could, if I had some spoons! Again, two tries until we got spoons. By this time, the younger waitress had disappeared.

We didn't linger for coffee. A strange experience, but boy, that food was good.


View from restaurant


100+ Posts
Dijon, and East in Auxois

On Tuesday, we drove over to Dijon, a city we remember liking very much. It's filled with fine old houses built over a several hundred year span, interesting public buildings, museums, and a huge old covered market. Dijon was a very important city for a long time, and its citizens treated it well. It's a little gritty, as I think a city needs to be, and feels vital and alive. We walked and walked through a bit of drizzle, had a fun lunch in an alleyway cafe, visited one museum, and were disappointed to find another closed. (Bad Amy for not checking the closing day)

Wednesday, we stuck close to home, exploring the area just to the east of Semur-in-Auxois. First, we stopped in Semur to explore a bit more. My first impressions of Semur stick -- it's almost most appealing at a slight distance from the Pont Joly, where you can appreciate the fairy-tale view of towers and ramparts. The inner core has been stuck with cafes and gift shops for the tour bus crowds, but there are still many lovely old buildings and quiet streets to explore.

After our stop in Semur, we headed to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. This is a tiny town high up on a hill dating from the middle ages. It now seems known chiefly for the little anise-flavored candies you can smell as you walk through the town gates. The little factory store in the old abbey was busy! It's an attractive little town, with many houses featuring turrets, weathered sculptures, and other interesting details. One reason I wanted to get to the town was the Maison de Matieres & du Design Textile. It's a wonderful little museum in an old house that explores facets of textile design and production. Each floor focuses on a method or material, and beautifully mixes ancient techniques and contemporary. There are also some fabulous textiles to buy, for those of you with more euros than I.

From Flavigny, we drove down the hill, passing the side of the hill where grapes are cultivated, and went up another hill to Alise-Ste-Reine and Mont Auxois. This was the battle site where Caesar defeated the Gauls. Alise is perched on the hillside, with many buildings seeming to cling to the rock. The view down was staggering, and the drive down even more so. May I say that I'm a tremendous fan of brake pads? By this time, it was almost 1:00. Eat now, or you're not going to. There were two expensive restaurants in town, and a rather scary looking "grill" presided over by a man waving his hands in the air. In any case, there was no parking to be had.

We continued down into the plain, and chanced into the modern town of Vernary-Les-Laumes. This is a new town with the train depot, apartment buildings and recently built houses, and lots of small business and light industry. There's also a very pretty arboretum where people were walking. We found a little restaurant on a side street. I walked in the door, and 20 men looked up from their meals. We'd found the local "lunch ticket" place, where workers can go to redeem the lunch tickets they get from their employers. Of course in France, your employer pays for your lunch!

Because of the thick smoke, we asked to sit outside. There was no menu, just the four-course meal served for €11. We were served by a very nice "mommy" type woman, who first brought our charcuterie entrees. A slice of standard coarse terrine, and two slices of what I called French baloney. Next was a turkey cutlet rolled around a ground turkey stuffing, in a mushroom sauce. Not haute cuisine, but definitely a step above U.S. diner food. And excellent frites. A not bad cheese plate, then a dish of chocolate mousse. We had lots of fun listening to and watching the guys inside, and seeing them all come out, get into their trucks, and roll off. I could not imagine going back to work after a meal like that -- and those fellows were polishing their plates.

We rolled off in our little rental, and went to the nearby Chateau of Bussy-Rabutin. This chateau, which we visited 16 years ago, is wonderful because its owner left such a personal stamp on it. The good Count was a libertine and poet, who had the bad fortune of having some of his naughtier and cattier writings catch the attention of Louis the XIV. A little enforced exile here, a little trip to the Bastille there, and Roger spent a lot of time devising bitter and witty writings to decorate his chateau. There's a lot of wonderfully dreadful artwork in a primitive style, and lots to read. The ticket lady gave us a folder with English descriptions for the rooms and translations of some of the writings. Outside, you can admire the Renaissance exterior and pretty garden overlooking the old town. We really enjoyed this one. Stopped off for a few groceries.

Back home, I unrolled the frozen pastry I had bought the other day and threw together a quiche. Very yummy with some Chablis.


Dining Room, Chateau of Bussy-Rabutin


100+ Posts
South to Autun

Autun wasn't in my plans, as I had thought it was too far south for a comfortable daytrip from Tivauche. But some time with my guidebooks and a map easily convinced me that the hour-and-a-bit drive time would be well worth it. Autun has a long and well preserved history, and is the largest town in the Morvan. We headed south on a cold morning, watching the car's outdoor temperature sensor dip lower and lower as we rode into the dark forested hills. The Morvan villages looked more deserted than the ones around Tivauche, with more crumbled houses and barns, less cultivated fields. We somehow missed the currect turn in Saulieu for the D980, and wound up on a minor single-lane track heading south. No matter which road we took which according to the map would lead us to the main road, again and again we found ourselves on the tiny D15. So we took the D15 into Autun.

Autun has an industrial zone ringing the city, bringing jobs and commerce along with ugly buildings and billboards. Once you cross the river into the core of the city, you're rewarded. There are two remaining Roman gates, a thriving district of shops and cafes, a Roman Theatre, the wonderful St. Lazare cathedral, and the excellent Musee Rolin. We easily parked, and walked to the Cathedral. It's a building with hidden gems, crammed into a tiny square. It's had a lot of changes and additions since 1120, but retains the dramatic Romanesque sculptures of Gislebertus. I love the sculpture from this era, which draws emotion and story from stone. To fully be able to appreciate the work, particularly the dramatic capitals, take along binoculars. Afterward we began exploring the Museum, took a break for lunch, and then returned. The Roman and medieval pieces are fabulous, and are arranged and presented beautifully, cases of fascinating Roman bronzes, some good mosaics, interesting sculptures and early Gothic paintings. Well worth the time. The upper floors and the last few rooms are full of later paintings that didn't interest us except to giggle over.

I had read of a very good restaurant in town with low prices for high quality, another two-fork Michelin Bibb Gourmand. Le Chalet Bleu is near the Hotel de Ville, and seems like "the" place to go for a nice lunch in Autun, pretty room, exceptionally pleasant waitresses wearing smiles and pastel suits. Several tables of business people, a few French tourists, and two tables of elderly ladies who seem to be regulars. There were several menus, the lowest only €16 for three courses. We ate excellent food at a very reasonable cost.

I tried the €16 lunch, which was an entree of perfect sliced fruits in champagne (lovely, but would have been lovelier if it hadn't been 13 degrees and raining), followed by delicious rolled rabbit in a dark wine sauce with diced vegetables, then a hot "crumble" of mixed red fruits with raspberry sorbet. Larry had the more expensive menu, which had more choices and courses. He started with a delicate salmon mousse, then went with a pave of beef with mushrooms, then cheese, and finally a beautiful trio of strawberry desserts. All this, plus a half bottle of wine, for €44. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Larry committed the shocking act of asking if they would kindly wrap up his uneaten macaron, which the waitress did without blinking an eye.

After finishing up at the Museum, we visited a few more sites in town, and drove home. We had hopes of stopping in Saulieu, but never got there. And once again, the D15 found us.

Fruit and cheese for dinner. And that macaron.


Dessert, Le Chalet Bleu, Autun


100+ Posts
All Roads Lead to Pisy

For a few days, it seemed that all roads lead to Pisy.

The roads just northwest of Tivauche are a tangle, leading up and down hills, through one-street towns of stone and stucco buildings of various degrees of flower-decked repair. Around fields of cows, hay, corn, sunflowers, and crops I can't identify. We often found ourselves behind our old friend the slow-moving hay truck trailing hay, risking life and limb as we dared pass it without careening into the roadside ditches. Larry was always trying to find the perfect road, looking for more direct routes that in fact took more time as they wound through the towns and landscape. Three times, we found ourselves in Pisy.

Each time, we stopped at the tangle of roads that intersect in the small hilltop village, puzzling over the map. This is what passes for a major intersection in these parts, yet there isn't the little sign you usually find, pointing the way toward the next town. By the third time, we finally learned which road led to Coursaint, and which to Guillon. I wonder why Pisy merited so many roads connecting there? At the edge of town is a falling-down fortress or rough chateau with sheep grazing in front. There are no shops, no signs of activity during the day. In the center of town is a small plaza with a war memorial and some green plastic lawn chairs stacked up. I wonder how many of the houses are lived in, what the people do up there on the hill? Why did so many roads lead here?


Old Chateau, Pisy


100+ Posts
Semur-in-Auxois, Revisited

I had written that I was somewhat under whelmed by Semur. It has this glorious, romantic look to the place, especially from a slight distance. When you visit during the day, the overall impression in the village center is of tour bus refugees milling around the few gift shops, patisseries, and cafes in the tiny streets inside the old town gates. But when you return, it's another story. I think I've changed my mind.

It took me a few visits to appreciate Semur. I was visiting it like the tour bus folks, hopping out of the car, sniffing around, and zooming off again. The advantage of living temporarily a few miles down the road is that your visits can layer over each other, giving a more textured view. Here's what I learned by taking several walks.

Yes, people do live in the fairy-tale town. There are streets winding out of the ancient center, filled with houses, shops, and people going about their lives. There's a very pretty 18th-century district just past the old ramparts, and even the newer houses extending the town are attractive and look like a pleasant place to live. There are three supermarkets in town, making Semur a necessary excursion for those living in the many villages in the area without stores. We particularly like the ATAC, which has a very nice butcher who hand slices meat to order, and always has a line of people waiting for his attention. Come to think of it, I haven't seen an independent butcher's shop in Semur. I wonder if there had been one? Outside, there's a reasonably priced gas pump with a real live person who will take something other than the chip-embedded European credit card. If you arrive off-hours with only cash or your U.S. issued card, you're out of luck at these pumps.

Within Semur's center, there's a wonderful charcuterie and traiteur right next to the pharmacy across from Notre Dame, and if you continue down the same street you'll get to a pizza and simple plat place our landlords like called Entre' Act, and a fancier place called Le Calibressan. Of the four or five patisseries in town, we like the first one you pass on the right as you leave Notre Dame, heading down rue Bufon. As I learned from Gavin, their Dome is to die for. A few doors down is the clothing store where I ran into a Tivauche neighbor, buying pants on sale.

In the evening, residents retake the cafes.

There's an interesting detail on a corbel from the 13th century Porte Guillier, at the entrance to the old town. Squint a bit, his back is towards you. No, that's not his other leg. Yes, that is what you think it is. Hey, the Blue Guide told me to look! Moving on, let's visit Notre Dame, just down the street from that happy guy.

It was begun in 1220, enlarged several times over the years, knocked about during the Revolution, and is now needing serious roof and drainage work. There are engineering plans for the structural repair to study (not surprisingly, Larry loved these) just past the entrance doors. Stop just outside the main door, and you'll see all the destruction done during the Revolution. Find two remaining details -- an elephant and a camel, just on either side of the doors.

It's a beautiful, soaring space inside, with wonderful stained glass to brighten the stone gloom. Churches usually make me feel as if they're either places for community (shared culture, storytelling as art, pride of place and time) or of prayer (for me, simplicity and quiet). To my mind, Notre Dame is a place of both. The side chapels are interesting; I particularly like the one with 15th century glass panels detailing drapers work, donated of course by the local drapers.

After you walk around inside, head back out the door and turn right, alongside the side of the church to find the North door. Above the door is a wonderful carving, pretty much as it was carved in the 13th century. It shows the story of Doubting Thomas, with images of all the months of the year climbing over the top. Sowing, reaping, fall slaughtering . . . just across the street next to the garage door is a sign in French that helps you find the details. My favorites are two odd men sitting underneath just to the right. And look at the acrobat just above them. For a great long walk (or drive if you want -- but the streets are very, very narrow!) around town, first get the good map from the Tourist Office. Go down rue de Rempart, skirting the old ramparts. They're repairing the walls now, so you can't go down the old stairway, but will have to get down steep rue de la Potrene. Watch for cars, and cross the little pont des Minimes. Turn left, and follow narrow rue Baudon alongside the river, getting a turning view of the city as you travel. This was where the tanners lived back in the day, now it's prettily restored houses. We almost stayed in one of these, and I'll dig out the bookmark for future reference. Continue along, and you'll start to climb. Eventually, you'll get back to where town twists into itself at the bend of the river.




100+ Posts
North to Montbard

Montbard is a town about 10 kilometers north of Tivauche, a busy market town with small attractive old core, river and canal cutting through, a power plant, and a modern suburb inching up the surrounding hillsides. The Blue Guide doesn't consider it much worth a stop, but I do. There's a liveliness to the place that many of the beautiful old towns don't have, especially on Friday, market day.

The market was just beside the modern Coin supermarket, interestingly enough. Outside were many clothing and dry goods vendors, and business was brisk. There's a covered market hall for the food vendors. Lots of produce, meats, charcuterie, cheese, bread . . . we recognized many of the same vendors from the Chablis market. And again, a baker with warm gougeres.

After the market, we explored Montbard for a bit. There's a pleasant shopping street, some interesting old houses, a dull museum, and some pretty views of canal and river. It's the birthplace of the 18th century naturalist and scientist George-Louis Leclerk, comte de Buffon. Buffon is chiefly remembered in these parts for building the huge Grande Forge up the road a bit, a water-powered foundry. So of course, Larry had to go visit.

The Forge has been reconstructed by the family that has owned the property for generations, and it makes for an interesting visit for those with an interest in technology or history. Buffon was inspired by the Industrial Revolution in England, and built a business that lasted for many years, employing up to 30 people. You see the underground furnace with enormous waterwheel-powered bellows that allowed the fire to burn hot enough to melt the iron, the areas for cooling, cutting, and shaping, all using water power. There's also a small house with interesting photos taken during the renovation and reconstruction.

For lunch, we went down the road a bit to a restaurant called Le Marronnier. And yes, there was a huge chestnut tree shading the front patio. It was too chilly and drizzly to sit outside, so we ate in the yellow-painted dining room. This was a pleasant, informal place run by a husband and wife. Country-style food, and very reasonable prices. We both had the €11 menu. I started with Bouchee a la Reine, which was yes, a very good chicken a la king in a puff pastry. Larry ordered Museau Vinaigrette, which was slices of mystery meat in a tasty dressing. We both followed with excellent roasted lapin. We've been eating a lot of bunny on this trip. Larry finished with cheese, I managed a dish of berries. After lunch, we hung out looking at the canal for a while as the weather improved, and then started across to the Abbey de Fontenay.

The twelfth century Cistercian abbey grew into a community of 300, and declined during the Wars of Religion. It was a paper mill for a time, and is now privately owned and restored for visits. The church is wonderful, bare and simple, and you are acutely aware of light pouring in from the high windows. You can walk the cloisters, see the room where the monks slept, duck into some other buildings on the grounds. There are plans for an international team of kids from technical schools to rebuild the forge. One jarring touch is the formal English garden where the monks would likely have had their kitchen and medicinal garden.

We ended the day and our week in Burgundy by relaxing at a lovely spot alongside the river.


Abbey de Fontenay
Amy this is a lovely report. Burgundy is one of our favourite regions and we keep returning. We have already spent eight weeks in various parts and have visited lots of the places you mentioned. We are heading back to France this year and will have another week in a favourite part. So many people do not look past Beaune and Dijon . There is so much more waiting to be savoured and we will do just that.


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