On the road to Burgundy – French culture in Châtillon-sur-Seine and Fontenay

Châtillon-sur-Seine is a gorgeous small town with cobbled streets topped by an old church and a castle

After my delicious dinner and my cosy night in the Hotel de la Côte d’Or, I stroll through the old town stretching along the (still young) river Seine.

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A sign points to the source of Douix. It emerges as an artesian well adding ambiance to a small, romantic town park. The Douix then flows into the Seine.

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I climb the hill. The old castle is in ruins. This inscription says that it was destroyed by Henry IV in 1598 – at request of the citizens. The citizens were tired of the armies passing by continuously.

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The church St. Vorles is a few steps away. I find the door locked.

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The church dates from the 11th century and keeps elements from Carolinigan times (Guide Michelin, Bourgogne, p. 508).

I walk through the narrow streets with locked gardens watched by dogs…

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… and with old houses, many of t hem half-timbered.

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Châtillon is proud of their Musée du Pays Châtillonais that hosts the celtic treasure of Vix. The museum has moved out of town. Also not far from here are the Morvan mountains where Cesar defeated the Helvetians and Vertingetorix (Bibracte 58 BC and Alesia  52 BC).

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown around Châtillon. La Route du Crémant invites to visit the caves and taste the heritage of the Châtillonais: The Cremant de Bourgogne Châtillonais. I bought a dry Crémant rosé – I do not remember the name of the winegrower. I liked this Crémant, when we shared it later. Perhaps I will come back and visit this wine region that is off the beaten path.

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 Abbaye de Fontenay

Next I drive to the Abbaye de Fontenay, about 30 km south from Châtillon-sur-Seine. This Cistercensian monastery, located in a valley surrounded by hills, was founded in 1118 and has been restored recently. It is on the list of Unesco world heritages.

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I arrive shortly before twelve – just right for the next guided tour that starts at twelve.

The tour begins with the romanesque church from the twelfth century.

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The inside is not adorned and invites to meditate. Nothing distracts from contemplation.

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The guide is very proud of the statue of Maria smiling at her son. Usually, he says, Maria does not smile at her son, because she feels what his destiny will be, but this Maria smiles.

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Directly neighboring the church (and separated by some steps) is the dormitory with its vaulted wooden ceiling.

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Also the cloister is unadorned – the Cistercensian monks wanted to focus on praying. In the adjacent rooms there were a library, a congregation hall and one room with a chimney place – this was for copying manuscripts.

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This mill drives the hydraulic hammer of the forge. It was the first metallurgical factory in Europe – invented by the Cistercensian monks in 1220.

 

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The garden is well kept with an enormous plane tree that is several hundred years old.

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Source: Guide Michelin for Bourgogne, page 476.

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Continuing to Noyers-sur-Sérein, settling in our apartment and waiting for my friends

After having enjoyed all that culture , I continue my way to Noyers-sur-Sérein. There are many places called “Noyers” or “Nut Tree” in France. My GPS is confused and I take out my Michelin map to find the way, when I noticed that I am going into the wrong direction.

Noyers-sur-Sérein is a pretty tiny town with cobbled streets and woodwork houses. It is a half hour drive from here to Chablis.

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I retrieve the key in the grocery shop and find an apartment on three levels. It is cramped and not really tidy. The three beds are too narrow to be comfortable for two persons, though they advertise this apartment for 6 people (three beds à two persons). The grocery shop looks after the apartment – but I do not really feel welcome, when I retrieve the key. It seems that Julie, the owner of the apartment, is not rewarding the grocery shop for looking after her vacation rent. However, this place serves the purpose, as it is located close to Chablis where we plan to have our wine tastings. I settle and wait for my friends to arrive from Lyon.

 

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