Wednesday, we stuck close to home, exploring the area just to the east of Semur-in-Auxois. First, we stopped in Semur to explore a bit more. My first impressions of Semur stick--it's almost most appealing at a slight distance from the Pont Joly, where you can appreciate the fairy-tale view of towers and ramparts. The inner core has been stuck with cafes and gift shops for the tour bus crowds, but there are still many lovely old buildings and quiet streets to explore.
After our stop in Semur, we headed to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. This is a tiny town high up on a hill dating from the middle ages. It now seems chiefly known for the little anise-flavored candies you can smell as you walk through the town gates. The little factory store in the old abbey was busy! It's an attractive little town, with many houses featuring turrets, weathered sculptures, and other interesting details. One reason I wanted to get to the town was the Maison de Matieres & du Design Textile. It's a wonderful little museum in an old house that explores facets of textile design and production. Each floor focuses on a method or material, and beautifully mixes ancient techniques and contemporary. There's also some fabulous textiles to buy, for those of you with more euros than I.
From Flavigny, we drove down the hill, passing the side of the hill where grapes are cultivated, and went up another hill to Alise-Ste-Reine and Mont Auxois. This was the battle site where Caesar defeated the Gauls. Alise is perched on the hillside, with many buildings seeming to cling to the rock. The view down was staggering, and the drive down even more so. May I say that I'm a tremendous fan of brake pads? By this time, it was almost 1:00. Eat now, or you're not going to. There were two expensive restaurants in town, and a rather scary looking "grill" presided over by a man waving his hands in the air. In any case, there was no parking to be had.
We continued down into the plain, and chanced into the modern town of Vernary-Les-Laumes. This is a new town with the train depot, apartment buildings and recently built houses, and lots of small business and light industry. There's also a very pretty arboretum where people were walking. We found a little restaurant on a side street. I walked in the door, and 20 men looked up from their meals. We'd found the local "lunch ticket" place, where workers can go to redeem the lunch tickets they get from their employers. Of course in France, your employer pays for your lunch!
Because of the thick smoke, we asked to sit outside. There was no menu, just the four-course meal served for 11 euros. We were served by a very nice "mommy" type woman, who first brought our charcuterie entrees. A slice of standard coarse terrine, and two slices of what I called French baloney. Next was a turkey cutlet rolled around a ground turkey stuffing, in a mushroom sauce. Not haute cuisine, but definitely a step above U.S. diner food. And excellent frites. A not bad cheese plate, then a dish of chocolate mousse. We had lots of fun listening to and watching the guys inside, and seeing them all come out, get into their trucks, and roll off. I could not imagine going back to work after a meal like that--and those fellows were polishing their plates.
We rolled off in our little rental, and went to the nearby Chateau of Bussy-Rabutin. This chateau, which we visited 16 years ago, is wonderful because it's owner left such a personal stamp on it. The good Count was a libertine and poet, who had the bad fortune of having some of his naughtier and cattier writings catch the attention of Louis the XIV. A little enforced exile here, a little trip to the Bastille there, and Roger spent a lot of time devising bitter and witty writings to decorate his chateau. There's a lot of wonderfully dreadful artwork in a primitive style, and lots to read. The ticket lady gave us a folder with English descriptions for the rooms and translations of some of the writings. Outside, you can admire the Renaissance exterior and pretty garden overlooking the old town. We really enjoyed this one.
Stopped off for a few groceries. Back home, I unrolled the frozen pastry I had bought the other day and threw together a quiche. Very yummy with some chablis.