Walking along the streets of Noyers-sur-Serein is like stepping back in time. Enter the village through one of the three gates set into the thick stone walls surrounding the town and you are transported back in time. There are magnificent stone manor houses and bourgeois mansions, half-timbered houses, wine merchants domains, old chapels and medieval arcaded squares… You almost expect to see costumed characters from the past pop up on every corner!
Hovering over this fortified village is a scent, recognisable for miles around – a mix of sugar and anise: it is the fragrance of Anis de Flavigny, a sweet whose origin goes back to 13th century. Let the aroma guide you through the pretty cobblestone streets of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. As the smell gets stronger, you’ll know you’re close to the old Benedictine abbey where the famous aniseed sweets are still made to a recipe that hasn’t changed in more than 700 years. Visit the factory where they’re made, and before you leave, fill your pockets with sweets which are perfumed with blackcurrant, violet, lemon and rose before continuing to explore this picturesque and romantic village which straddles the Middle Ages and Renaissance years.
On the way to the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the sacred sites of Christianity on the route to Santiago de Compostela, you cross the village of Vézelay, a classified “Sanctuary city in France”. In the narrow streets of this medieval village, Romanesque and Renaissance houses, plus 17th and 18th century buildings, such as the Maison du Pontot or the Hôtel de Ville, sit side by side. On the way, stop at Musée Zervos, the former house of the writer Romain Rolland. Now a museum it houses the art collection of the Zervos family, including works by Calder, Mirò and Picasso. Head to the Basilica at the end of the main street taking in art galleries and artisan boutiques as you stroll.
High on a rocky spur overlooking the valley and the Burgundy Canal between Dijon and Autun, the strategic position of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois ensured it was one of the strongholds of the region in the Middle Ages. It was popular with wealthy merchants who built homes here, many of which survive, alongside a castle which is a fine example of 15th century Burgundian military architecture. In the ancient fortified village, brick buildings contrast beautifully with flower bedecked streets which are the pride of its inhabitants. The impressive homes of wealthy bourgeois merchants built between the end of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with turrets, sculptures and carvings are a legacy of their taste and prosperity. A particularly fine example can be seen at Maison Bichot, named after one of the oldest families in the village, or at the Maison du Mouton with its carved Renaissance style decoration.
This small village in the south of Burgundy is located along the old Roman road, a route which features a hundred churches and Romanesque chapels. Built in the twelfth century, the Collegiate Church Saint-Hilaire is one of the last great Romanesque constructions in Burgundy. It is mainly Romanesque Clunisian style, but there are some early Gothic style features. Semur-en-Brionnais is also home to the oldest castle in Burgundy, the Château de Saint-Hugues. It was the birthplace of Saint Hugues, abbot of Cluny Abbey. Don’t miss the Romanesque church of Saint-Martin-la-Vallée, which is bathed in pale pink hues at sunrise and sunset. A stunning scene at the bottom of the valley.
Find out more:
- Plan your stay in Burgundy (External link)