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Thônes, La Clusaz and a return to Annecy

Day 24 — July 24, 1996 (Wednesday)

Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the Mysterious castle

Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the Mysterious castle

Lots of wind, thunder, lightning and rain last night. We awoke to a wet world — but the tent was dry inside except for Ed’s sleeping bag where the bottom was against the tent. Hopefully it will dry by tonight. Had breakfast at camp and headed north along the lake to Annecy, across the top of the lake past my favorite building in town — the Prefecture — and on up to Thônes. On the way we passed a real Fantasyland-type castle. It could be the model for Disneyland, only it was real. Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard web site

*****

Downtown Thônes

Downtown Thônes

Thônes wasn’t on our list of things to see, but it looked like an interesting town so we parked and started to explore. One of the first things we found was a tiny museum of the area with a wonderful diorama of an early Savoy village. We walked past all manner of little shops with wondrous aromas escaping. There was a lovely little church that we photographed and then changed some money at Credit Agricole — since the Swiss had taken all our cash yesterday. We still think the Swiss Customs lady cheated us. Thirty-five dollars to go into Switzerland for three or four hours is ridiculous! [As noted earlier, we later discovered it is a one-year road tax for the superhighways.] Museum of the Countryside of Thônes

Église Saint Maurice in Thônes

Église Saint Maurice in Thônes


Hotel du Midi in Thônes

Hotel du Midi in Thônes

Restaurant de Savoie in La Clusaz

Restaurant de Savoie in La Clusaz

Decided to stop in the next town for lunch, but St. Jean d’Sixte didn’t have much in the way of restaurants so we drove on to La Clusaz and actually found a parking place. Naturally we had to check every restaurant in town. Ended up going back to Restaurant de Savoie in the Hotel Les Airelles right by the parking lot. It was très chalet and done in Provençal colors (blue and yellow). Our very nice waitress knew about ten words of English but really tried hard to please. She was terrific and even helped us with our French. We ordered the 78F menu which was a crudité, plat du jour and dessert. Two waitresses couldn’t explain what the plat du jour was, but we decided we’d take a chance. Good choice! The plat turned out to be breast of chicken between two thin slices of ham and baked in a fondue-like cheese sauce. Ed had a fruit tart and I the Marquis au Chocolat for dessert. Add a great cup of coffee and we voted this our second favorite meal in France. Hotel-Restaurant Les Airelles and Restaurant de Savoie web site

We had a seat by the back window so Ed watched the ski lifts serve summer tourists until it started to pour and all outside activity ceased. We stayed dry in our cozy little restaurant with our very pleasant meal and waitress. As we finished, the sun came out as if on cue.

*****

Restaurants along the Thiou Canal in Annecy

Restaurants along the Thiou Canal in Annecy

There were more rain clouds above us and it was starting to get foggy, so we decided to retrace our steps to Annecy and avoid the higher mountains. Ed parked at the Château again while I whined, but it is free so you can’t argue about the price. We walked down (and down and down) into the old town, and it soon started to rain ever so lightly. We appreciated the medieval habit of building the second story out into the street to create a covered walkway even if it was just to save on taxes. It keeps you dry when it's raining too. Wandered around for a while, but the tourists were pretty thick so I suggested the park by the lake. Just as we got there, it started to pour — with thunder and lightning. Up went umbrellas as everyone ducked for cover. We were all either at the boat ride office or under large trees — not too smart in an electrical storm. The rain let up a bit and quite a few people left. Ed and I found a dry park bench and swan- and people-watched for a while.

Annecy

Annecy

A cool breeze came up so we went in search of a very elusive salon de thé. We found Notre Dame Cathedral — not nearly as impressive as St. Pierre around the corner — and heard a nice little group of students playing Rossini on a street corner — violin, cello, bass, clarinet and accordion. I’m sure Rossini would have approved of the accordion. It was great fun and drew a good crowd.

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre in Annecy

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre in Annecy


Cathedral Saint Pierre in Annecy

Cathedral Saint Pierre in Annecy


Restaurants along the Thiou Canal in Annecy

Restaurants along the Thiou Canal in Annecy


Palais de l'Île, a museum in the canal

Palais de l'Île, a museum in the canal


Église Saint-François de Sales in Annecy

Église Saint-François de Sales in Annecy

We bought sandwiches and tarts and headed back to camp in a real L.A.-style traffic jam. Our fifteen-minute drive took nearly an hour!

It had poured rain all day and since there was grass on only three sides of our tent, unfortunately the front was covered with splashed mud. Our experience with mud ruining our tent zipper in Santa Fe two years ago showed us we had to wash the front of the tent before we unzipped it. The only way was to use our Evian drinking water — cheaper than a new zipper! I washed it down and Ed refilled the bottle at the pump and we washed some more — then unzipped to find everything dry except a very small puddle under my air mattress. We were really lucky. Many European tents don’t have floors, so they lay down plastic tarps. The rain runs onto the tarp and right into the tent, so many of our neighbors were digging drainage trenches and putting stones around their tents.

We had a pique-nique inside our tent and are in for the night. Sure wish a wind would come up and dry the tent for our trip to Beaune tomorrow!

Posted by Beausoleil 21:01 Archived in France Comments (3)

Driving to Beaune in Burgundy

Day 25 — July 25, 1996 (Thursday)

Triumphal Arch entering Old Town Beaune

Triumphal Arch entering Old Town Beaune

Checked out around 8:30 this morning. It didn’t rain last night, but the tent was still pretty wet. We rolled it up and stuffed it in the trunk.

Had no trouble finding the N508 toward Bourg-en-Bresse and switched to A40 somewhere around Nantua. We zipped along through pretty spectacular country (including some road construction) and some very long tunnels. Near Mâcon we changed effortlessly to A6 toward Dijon. The countryside changed from mountainous to rolling hills; the chalets were replaced by more typical (to us) French country houses. We spotted the occasional small castle, but the A routes are pretty well insulated from French reality.

*****

Horse and Carriage tour of Beaune

Horse and Carriage tour of Beaune

After bypassing Tournus and Chalon, we arrived at Beaune, exited the A and began our campground search. Oddly enough, we drove right to it. Since it is a Municipal campground, there were signs everywhere. Camping Municipal “Les Cent Vignes” is a gated, shaded campground with a store, restaurant and snack bar. There are tall shrubs and large trees defining very large campsites. We had a reservation and M. was waiting for us. He returned our reservation check and will take MasterCard when we leave. He speaks no English but gave us a camp map and seemed to understand our French. The site is great; the facilities are clean — wow! If only we had two chairs!

We went to the camp snack bar and managed to convey that we wanted a couple sandwiches. Ed discovered the difference between saucisse (hot dog) and saucisson (sausage). The young lady was surprised he wanted mustard with it . . . and this so close to Dijon!

*****

Maison du Colombier in Beaune

Maison du Colombier in Beaune

After lunch, we walked to the old town and started to explore. Beaune is a beautiful little town. They have a weekend music festival, but concerts start at 9:00 P.M. and our campground closes at 10 so we didn’t get tickets. Spotted a horse and carriage so we joined two vacationing French couples for a ride around town. The driver, with beret and pony tail, carefully explained everything in French and we cheerfully waved at people sitting in roadside cafés and didn’t understand 85% of the commentary, but had a great time.

We set out on foot again after our carriage ride and walked all over town. Finally bought some water at Casino (the price doubles if it’s chilled) and found a park bench at Place Monge. Rested and refreshed, we set off in search of a free “Cave.” In Napa and Sonoma at home, the wine tastings are nearly all free. Here it is the opposite! We found the cave and started to look through the shop . . . . très cher. Knowing we wouldn’t pay those prices for wine, we decided to skip the tour and left. [Note in 2017, the tastings in Napa and Sonoma are no longer free. You have to go further east to the Amador wine country near Sacramento for free tastings.] La Maison du Colombier web site

Walked back to camp, bought some soap and Ed is having fun washing clothes while I write.

*****

Ladies shopping in Beaune (my favorite photo ever)

Ladies shopping in Beaune (my favorite photo ever)

Later — Got the 68F menu at our campground. I ordered paté and it was good, but liver is not my favorite. We both ordered the escalope of turkey which was excellent, but came with a huge serving of french fries (frites) that we couldn’t begin (or want) to finish. This was followed by cheese and we both ordered cheese du pays and were both sorry. The softer cheese was pretty edible, but the hard cheese tasted like manure smells — not good. We got flan for dessert and that was fine. [We have since developed a real fondness for smelly French cheeses.]

Ed met a fellow from the Netherlands in the laundry and he and his family were also at dinner. We had a pretty French two-plus hour dinner.

Collégiale Basilique Notre Dame in Beaune

Collégiale Basilique Notre Dame in Beaune

Posted by Beausoleil 16:55 Archived in France Tagged annecy beaune 1996 Comments (1)

Cluny Abbey

Day 26 — July 26, 1996 (Friday)

Ancient building near Cluny Abbey

Ancient building near Cluny Abbey

Up early to fight with a shower on a chain. We survived and got reasonably clean. The French are not seriously into shelves so you get to be a pretty good juggler taking showers here.

Left Beaune headed south on N74. Meursault is a pretty city. Chagny is not. Drove through Chalon-sur-Saône with all its ugly apartment buildings and finally picked up the D14 at Tournus. This took us into beautiful farm country with some very high hills and forests and the occasional picturesque village. At Cormatin we took the D981 to Cluny — a beautiful drive. [Keep in mind that around 2012 or 2013 all these road numbers changed so if you try to follow this, use town names, not route numbers.]

*****

The Fabry tower at Cluny

The Fabry tower at Cluny

Parked the car — for once there was plenty of parking — and bought tickets to the Cluny Abbey Museum and Abbey. We spent the morning wandering the grounds — and being gently chastised when we accidentally wandered into an unmarked “forbidden” area. The lady announced it was, “interdit — strictly forbidden.” Oh well . . . . a small sign would be useful.

We had a light lunch at a sidewalk café in the shadow of the Abbey, then walked around town (literally) to our car and started back to camp. We took the D981 all the way to Chagny, driving through or past one quaint little village after another. You could never choose a favorite town here; they are all so pretty.

Cluny Abbey

Cluny Abbey


Cluny Abbey Church

Cluny Abbey Church


Floor of the Cluny Abbey Church

Floor of the Cluny Abbey Church


Cluny Abbey Church

Cluny Abbey Church


The Cloisters of Cluny Abbey

The Cloisters of Cluny Abbey


Fireplace in the Cluny Museum

Fireplace in the Cluny Museum


Jacques d’Amboise Palace

Jacques d’Amboise Palace

The Round Tower at Cluny

The Round Tower at Cluny

Walked up to the camp café and commandeered a table and chairs to write and read the paper. Took our things back to our campsite and returned to the café for dinner. Dinner was fine until two Dutch couples with a total of four children were seated beside us. Felix (the littlest) emitted shrill screams periodically and somehow four children managed to seem like forty. Their folks got them ice cream before dinner to shut them up — didn’t work. I actually gave up my evening coffee to escape the Dutch terrors. What must the French think; their children are all so well behaved!

Posted by Beausoleil 14:41 Archived in France Tagged abbey cluny burgundy 1996 Comments (3)

Dijon - a gorgeous French city

Day 27 — July 27, 1996 (Saturday)

Rue de la Liberté with flags flying

Rue de la Liberté with flags flying

Decided to get breakfast on the way to Dijon — all breakfasts are the same in France anyway. Only the price varies and that is regional. Loire breakfasts were 15F, Burgundian breakfasts are in the 30-34F range — they just look and taste the same. They are truly saved by the great bread! [Over the years this has also changed. You can get a full English breakfast many places and an American breakfast most places. They have also discovered the breakfast buffet. Personally, I like the old-fashioned bread, confiture and coffee but many people want a more substantial breakfast.]

In Dijon on a Saturday morning not much was open so we ended up eating breakfast in front of the Musée Rude. We searched a little and found pay parking in front of Les Palais des Ducs — perfect because the Musée des Beaux-Arts was our first stop. We got a ticket for seven Dijon museums which we discovered was a waste because you can’t do seven museums in one day, at least not and do them justice. We did make a very good effort though.

Spent the morning in the Beaux-Arts and had just discovered the wonderful modern art section — even the building design is art — when we were chased out so they could eat their sacred lunch.

*****

Porte Guillaume in Dijon

Porte Guillaume in Dijon

We wandered down Rue de la Liberte to Porte Guillaume with its impressive triumphal arch. I put my life in danger to photograph it from near the center of the road . . . . and lived to tell about it! Walked back to Place Rude and up Rue des Forges to Église Notre Dame — a great square beast of a church sporting row upon row of gargoyles above the portal. There is a totally mismatched clock tower with a crazy mechanical clock — a sight unto itself! [Église Notre Dame is often referred to in guides as Cathedral Notre Dame but it is not the seat of the bishop so it is not a cathedral. The cathedral in Dijon is Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon a few blocks away from Notre Dame and worth a visit in its own right.]

Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon

Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon


Mural near Les Halles in Dijon

Mural near Les Halles in Dijon


Colorful tile roof in Dijon

Colorful tile roof in Dijon

The Grand Theater

The Grand Theater

Museum of Fine Arts - Dijon

Museum of Fine Arts - Dijon


Wandered the back streets with the old old half-timbered houses and finally decided on lunch at an outdoor café across from the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Lunch over, it was shopping time so we bought some mustards and a mustard jar, a new parking ticket and headed back to finish seeing the modern art section at Beaux Arts. At this entrance I was greeted by an hysterical French woman guard telling me I couldn’t take my little backpack purse with me — the one I had worn at the same museum all morning! I took my money, credit cards and passport out and checked the bag — grumpily! She cheerfully let me take my camera bag and paint pen into the museum! I guess idiots come in all nationalities.

We ran back up to modern art and picked up where we left off for the guards’ lunch. The Grenoble museum really boasted about their modern collection and so did a couple guidebooks, but we found Dijon’s collection to be more extensive, far better quality and very dramatically displayed.

The guard stopped us and asked if we had heard the news. No, we hadn’t. He told us there had been a bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Park during the Summer Olympics. How awful!

*****

Rubbing the owl (chouette) on Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon

Rubbing the owl (chouette) on Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon

Remembered we had forgotten to rub the owl on Notre Dame, so we walked back to the church to see a wedding party — tin cans and all — pulling away from the church. After they left, we walked around the left side and watched carefully. Soon several people walked over and rubbed a spot on the church, so we followed. A man laughed at me, but when he thought we were gone, he rubbed it too. [The story is that if you rub the little owl with your left hand while making a wish that the wish will come true. I did wish to return to Dijon and it did come true. The owl is a symbol of Dijon and there is an owl walk you can get at the tourist office and you follow brass owls set into the streets. It's great fun.]
The Owl's Trail web site

*****

Place François Rude in Dijon

Place François Rude in Dijon

So many museums; so little time. We dashed over to the “Rude” Museum (Musée Rude) and were overwhelmed by three things, (1) the immense size of the sculpture you see as you enter, (2) the paucity of other works, and (3) no one checked our ticket — we could have wandered in for free!
Musée Rude web site

*****

Old Town Dijon

Old Town Dijon

Since “Rude” was so tiny (the collection, not the main exhibit), we made a mad dash to Musée Magnin to see what we could before closing. (A rather chatty guard in Beaux-Arts modern had gotten us behind schedule. He told us he thought he heard there had been a bomb in Atlanta — not good news.) In the Magnin we looked at rooms. There were too many paintings displayed per wall (and not very impressive ones, at that) to actually look at the collection so we tore through the museum glancing at walls of paintings and floors of furniture and quickly realizing we would never again buy a ticket for seven museums in one day.
Musée Magnin web site

We walked slowly over to Notre Dame for Mass at 5:30 P.M. They had song sheets but no missals. Got a little homesick when a man in front of us spilled the collection plate on the floor. (Our youngest did the same at Christmas, but since our church is carpeted, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic.)

Half-timbered house by Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon

Half-timbered house by Eglise Notre Dame in Dijon

Interesting bakery in Dijon

Interesting bakery in Dijon

Mass over, we decided to have dinner in downtown Beaune. Drove back and wandered the old town until we found Dame Tartine and settled in for dinner. We had Boeuf Bourguignon and enjoyed it, but the typical French service took forever and our campground is locked at 10:00 P.M. so I had to forgo my coffee.

Feeling like college freshmen, we made our curfew — sans café.

Posted by Beausoleil 16:20 Archived in France Tagged france dijon 1996 Comments (4)

Autun - Vézelay - Avallon, a scenic drive

Day 28 — July 28, 1996 (Sunday)

Burgundy near Vezelay

Burgundy near Vezelay


Ed’s knee hurt and my toe blistered so we decided on a “scenic” drive today. Had a camp breakfast and started out the D973 south to Autun and tried to follow a route given in “France Today.” The place names were great, but the route numbers were not completely accurate. Fortunately Michelin was with us! [Keep in mind that most of these route numbers are different today so use town names, not route numbers if you follow the trip.]

*****

Vézelay from the D951 southwest of the village

Vézelay from the D951 southwest of the village


At Autun we picked up D978 to Château-Chinon, switched to D944 and at Vauclaix to D977 bis on to Corbigny. At Corbigny we followed D985 north to the D951 at Dornecy. We followed the D951 into Vézelay and were glad we did “France Today’s” tour in reverse. You round a curve in the road — having gone though much forest in the Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan — and high atop a hill is the beautiful medieval city of Vézelay. You really never get that view if you come in the other way, and it is truly overwhelming. There is no great wall but it is as thrilling as the first view of Carcassonne.

Same view of Vézelay taken in 2009

Same view of Vézelay taken in 2009

The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay


We parked at the “Parking Obligatoire” and hiked a hundred miles straight up the hill to the Basilique Ste. Madeleine — stopping at several galleries and stores to catch our breath. The hike was worth it; the church is wonderful. They have used two colors of stone — dark and light — to create interest, and the carvings are magical. The windows were clear glass but cast colors on the floor when the sun shone through them.

Ate lunch at an outdoor café near the church. We were a bit annoyed to discover shaded parking behind the church after our uphill hike! Vézelay also has the worst bathrooms in the entire country of France . . . . gaaaaack! I suppose it’s not the fault of the French that many tourists are slobs, but it was truly disgusting. [We've returned to Vézelay any time we were near and have made a point of finding "facilities" in a nice restaurant rather than using the public ones so perhaps things have improved in the ensuing years. It was just a shock since everyplace else had been so clean.]

We walked all over the beautiful village taking pictures of cobblestone houses and streets, enjoying monks and nuns walking around in sandals and looking in tourist / pilgrimage shops. This is still a pilgrimage site so you do see pilgrims on the streets. It's a wonderful village.

The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay


The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay


The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay

Avallon and the Running of the Bulls . . .

Avallon and the Running of the Bulls . . .

On our return we took the D957 to Avallon where, as Ed put it, we saw the running of the bulls. A police car stopped traffic (us) and two men walked through town with about five or six cows followed by another police car. Naturally I whipped out my trusty camera and took a picture to prove it!

Took the D944 south to D977 bis — this time east to Saulieu where we picked up N6 to Arnay-le-Duc. There we got on D17 to Bligny and after one minor unplanned detour on a C road, the D970 into Beaune. Beautiful countryside! Getting lost here is a pleasure. [Years later we returned and rented a farm cottage (gite) for a month in the area so we would have time to really enjoy it.]

Decided to eat dinner at our campground — enough riding for one day. Had Boeuf Bourguignon carte and went to bed early for our trip to Paris tomorrow.

Posted by Beausoleil 13:38 Archived in France Tagged burgundy 1996 vézelay avallon autun Comments (1)

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