With the use of a car and the better part of the afternoon, we had all we needed to explore Bourgogne a little more on our way back to Paris. I often rely on my Rick Steves’ guide books to get a general lay of the land of an area I am visiting. These two sights were listed on his suggested route back. Although neither of these sights are “must-sees” in my opinion, the charm of this journey for those who have time is getting to soak in the French countryside.
Anyway, who doesn't love a good road trip? (Especially for me, who wasn't driving.) A little while in we discovered a club-mix version of Pirates of the Caribbean that pervaded numerous French radio stations. What better soundtrack than for a countryside adventure through winding roads and open fields? Go ahead, you know you want to listen to it now to set the mood. And someone please educate me in pop culture that I’m lacking - is this from the Lego Movie?
We reached our first destination, Château de Châteauneuf, just before it opened for the afternoon at 2pm. We took a few minutes to walk around the town and admire its sweeping view over the surrounding area.
Then we moved on to the château where we had the pleasant surprise of gaining free entrance because it was the first Sunday of the month. I suppose I’m getting a bit spoiled by all the châteaux and castles France has to offer. This one was not particularly impressive in comparision, especially its interior. (If it’s not free, I would even suggest possibly skipping it and just enjoying a walk around the tiny town.) It was a nice stop though, and the price was right.
Next stop - a short break along part of the Canal de Bourgogne. We paused to take a few pictures on this stunning day and then moved on.
And back in the car to head to attraction #2. I love passing through tiny villages like this one on a road trip in France.
The last stop of the day was at the Abbey of Fontenay. The UNESCO site is important as one of the oldest Cistercian abbeys in France (founded in 1118). The abbey was founded by Saint Bernard to reform monastic life by living a life of solitude and poverty in contrast to the more extravagant Benedictine abbeys. The monks here were completely self-sufficient and were prosperous from the 12th-15th centuries. However, by the French Revolution the number of monks living there had dramatically declined. Eventually the abbey became property of the state and was sold off.
Though the entrance fee seemed a bit steep for a site in such a location, the attraction of the abbey is getting to see it as it was, featuring the entire set of buildings that comprised the abbey hundreds of years ago. Without the famed location of picturesque Mont St. Michel, this abbey offered a serenity that perhaps sheds light on what a monk’s life was really like back then.
And with those threatening clouds, it was time to get back to Paris. Though our weekend adventure came to an end, thankfully we still had a few more days to spend with Dawn.
Do you have a favorite area in France to drive around?
PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Château de Châteauneuf
21320 Châteauneuf, France
Admission: €5 adults / €3.50 children ages 12-17 / Free for children under 12 years old
Free admission to everyone on the first Sunday of each month, October-April
Closed on Mondays and January 1st, May 1st, November 1st and 11th, and December 25th
Hours - Jan 3-May 14 & Sept 16-Dec 31: 10:00am-12:30pm / 2:00pm-5:45pm; May 15-Sept 15: 9:30am-12:30pm / 2:00pm-6:45pm
Abbey of Fontenay
21500 Montbard, France
Admission: €10 adults / €7 those under 26 years old (prices for individuals without guided visit, prices as of April 2014)
Hours - Open daily, From Palm Sunday-All Saints Day 10:00am-6:00pm / Rest of the year from 10:00am-12:00pm / 2:00pm-5:00pm