This post comes from our talented and well-traveled guest writers, Laura and Les
The next morning we were headed for a beautiful walled town on the Armacon River, Semur en Auxois. We followed the slow meandering road that follows the Cousin River passing by a number of old mills. From there we drove on excellent country roads over hills and valleys to our destination, a pleasant walled town on the steep banks of the Armacon River. We wandered past ancient half-timbered homes and shops, stopping at a bustling patisserie and later for some tasty crepes, always a quick and inexpensive lunch.
We then headed to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Abbey of Fontenay. What a beautiful place! The Abbey occupies some 2000 hectares of a rugged forested valley and dates from 1118. It is now privately owned and beautifully preserved and restored. The extensive buildings, sweeping lawns and gardens set in the steep sided valley, include a church, cloisters and perhaps most impressively, an iron forging mill. We took a hike past it and the millpond on one of the extensive trails with the aid of a printed guide map.
We then drove on to Noyer-sur-Serein, a village beside a slow flowing small river that looks like a movie set. It is renowned for its old beam and plaster (Tudor style) buildings and made for a relaxed late afternoon stop. Of course, that stop included a visit to a tearoom in an old timbered building; a funky art gallery strung along a line of rooms with the odd table and chairs tucked in here and there. We aren’t sure how our server was able to find us at our table hidden among all the bric a brac and billowing paper lampshades.
We then headed out on back roads before pulling off the road at dinnertime at an attractive country inn, Auberge des Chenets. What a piece of good luck! We were the first to arrive and were warmly received and seated in an elegant dining room with its blazing fireplace. An amuse bouche of cod mousse in a cup with a layer of tomato coulis followed by appetizers of grilled large shrimp and garlicky escargots. The host then came by with little glass bowls of icy granita to clean the garlicky taste before our main course. The granita was flavoured with champagne, vodka and hibiscus (I’m not making this up) and was delicious. Our main courses were sole with asparagus and snow peas in a light white wine sauce and roast duck in a savoury chocolate sauce accompanied by a half bottle of Premier Cru Savigny de Beaune.
We were then treated to the appearance of the cheese trolley. Our hostess proudly lifted the beautiful wicker lid to reveal an incredible array of France’s fine cheeses, including Epoisse and Valencay. A dessert of chocolate fondant cake and homemade vanilla ice cream should have been enough, but then, just as we were ready to ask for the bill, a plate of mini meringues, madeleines, caramels and fruit jellies was placed before us. Perfect end to a perfect day.
The next morning we enjoyed a scenic drive east to the heart of the Burgundy wine region, the town of Beaune. It is also home to the beautiful Hospice de Beaune, originally built in the 1500s as a home for the poor and later served as a hospital. The town is a busy tourist mecca for those visiting one of the great wine regions of the world. For us, on an Easter Sunday when most towns were quiet, a lot of shops and places to eat were open. We had lunch at a busy sidewalk cafe and we picked up sandwiches to take back for a picnic supper. We ate at a park on the bank of the Cousin River near our hotel and then enjoyed a quiet last evening at the peaceful Moulin.
The next morning as we headed for Paris to drop the car off at the airport and head into the city for two nights, we thought that the real secret of the Knights Templars was this beautiful, fertile countryside and what it produces.