“Lost in France, part deux”

The morning sun was shining through our French country lodging, for us it was 2:00 a.m. but in France, the morning had broke and we could hear the rooster crowing in the field below.

Jetlagged and hungry, we forced ourselves up, eager to tackle our first order of business, a nice cup of coffee and a croissant.

We had made a rule before we left that we would avoid fast food franchises at all cost and only frequent the small cafes, opting for ambient charm over golden arches.

We decided to drive directly to our first destination because Clomot,  seemingly in the middle of nowhere only had one restaurant we could find, wait for it, a McDonalds.

We later discovered there were more choices available if we had known where to look.

As we drove up the narrow winding road towards Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, our first stop, we weren’t fully prepared for the awesome beauty and character we were about to witness.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is one of the last remaining examples of 14th century Burgundian military architecture. During the Hundred Years War, towers and curtain walls were built to defend the village and the Auxois plains.

High on its rocky spur, the fortified village of Châteauneuf still stands guard over the road from Dijon to Autun. From the canal de Bourgogne, along the ‘voie verte’, its silhouette forms part of one of the finest views in the region. An emblematic place combining modern art and medieval events.

This was our first taste of a true medieval French village and it did not disappoint. The magnificent stone houses and narrow streets, the flowers and vines, the views from the top of this hillside community left us speechless as we walked toward the castle walls.

A side note to all this was that before we left Canada I had done some research and was able to find a small restaurant on the main road called “Auberge du Marronnier“, I had emailed them my name and the details for our reservation.

It would be a nice surprise for my wife.

Its funny how tourists try to blend in so as not to look like tourists, we certainly tried.

But to no avail it seems, I say this because as we walked down the main street we were all surprised when we heard a young lady waving to me and calling me out by name!

“Bonjour M. Smith, nous avons hâte de vous accueillir à dîner ce soir”!

My wife looked at me sideways as if to say “you really get around, don’t you”?

The long and the short of it was that we did, apparently, look like tourist and the young lady spotted us from a mile away, knowing it was us who made the reservation. It was not a busy place after all.

With our meal only scheduled for that evening, we were well overdue for our coffee.

We stopped at a little café further on up the street, a gorgeous stone building with small bistro tables and a statue and flag of France hanging off to the side.

Now, I love cream in my coffee, but that wasn’t going to happen in France. It took about 5 minutes and a lot of pointing to finally clue in to the fact that no cream is used in coffee in France. Its 2% skim milk or black.

When in Rome I thought, I’ll go with the 2%.

As we continued our tour, we couldn’t help notice the history that was seeping through its stone structures like water through our hands.

From the 14th-17th centuries wealthy Burgundian merchants built houses at Châteauneuf-en-Auxois, many of which survive today. It is easy to imagine the history of this once prosperous borough if you are curious and look around carefully. In the narrow streets you can see houses with pediments and stair turrets.

Workshops, night time walks, court music and a medieval market are all on offer. As always, a number of activities are reserved for children. If they want to be real knights, they have to be able to wield a sword!

In summer Châteauneuf-en-Auxois welcomes modern artists. There are theatrical productions and exhibitions arranged by the FRAC (Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain). 2010 saw the introduction of sign language and a Duchy of Burgundy visitor centre is being created.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois provides a truly memorable stop on any trip through the Pays de l’Auxois, which would not be complete without also seeing Fontenay abbey, Alésia and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

Coming from a country (Canada) that is only 150+ years old really brought to life the true meaning of history. Just knowing that the streets we were walking on have been there since the 14th century sent shivers up my spine.

After a long day of exploring it was time for our meal at Auberge du Marronnier. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to unwind, have a glass of wine and reminisce about the day that had unfolded before us. The food was very good, as well as the staff. We felt very welcomed. I had the escargot but burned my tongue, careful, they’re hot little suckers! (Get it?)

If the rest of the trip was going to be like this we were in for a fantastic vacation to be sure. We had Semur-en-Auxois and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain to visit in the next couple of days and my wife already had blisters on her heals.

We ended the day by getting a nice bottle of wine and sitting out on our patio at the Airbnb, we went to bed exhausted but very happy!

Our Cost to Date:

Flights:               $650 CAD each

Car Rental:         $275 CAD  10 days

Gas:                      $30 CAD

Airbnb                 $565 CAD  5 nights (3 bedrooms)

Food                     $30 each (since we arrived)

Castle Admission  $8 each

Stay tuned for Part #3!

TIP* I was always forgetting the details of the trips we had made. Now I carry a really nice travel journal like this one. Im able to keep track of our adventures in a beautiful way. A great investment for under $20 and great way to preserve your memories!

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