Montbard is a town about 10 kilometers north of Tivauche, a busy market town with small attractive old core, river and canal cutting through, a power plant, and a modern suburb inching up the surrounding hillsides. The Blue Guide doesn't consider it much worth a stop, but I do. There's a liveliness to the place that many of the beautiful old towns don't have, especially on Friday, market day.
The market was just beside the modern Coin supermarket, interestingly enough. Outside were many clothing and dry goods vendors, and business was brisk. There's a covered market hall for the food vendors. Lots of produce, meats, charcuterie, cheese, bread...we recognised many of the same vendors from the Chablis market. And again, a baker with warm gougeres.
After the market, we explored Montbard for a bit. There's a pleasant shopping street, some interesting old houses, a dull museum, and some pretty views of canal and river. It's the birthplace of the 18th century naturalist and scientist George-Louis Leclerk, comte de Buffon. Buffon is chiefly remembered in these parts for building the huge Grande Forge up the road a bit, a water-powered foundry. So of course, Larry had to go visit.
The Forge has been reconstructed by the family that has owned the property for generations, and it makes for an interesting visit for those with an interest in technology or history. Buffon was inspired by the Industrial Revolution in England, and built a business that lasted for many years, employing up to 30 people. You see the underground furnace with enormous waterwheel-powered bellows that allowed the fire to burn hot enough to melt the iron, the areas for cooling, cutting, and shaping, all using water power. There's also a small house with interesting photos taken during the renovation and reconstruction.
For lunch, we went down the road a bit to a restaurant called Le Marronnier. And yes, there was a huge chestnut tree shading the front patio. It was too chilly and drizzly to sit outside, so we ate in the yellow-painted dining room. This was a pleasant, informal place run by a husband and wife. Country-style food, and very reasonable prices. We both had the 11 euro menu. I started with Bouchee a la Reine, which was yes, a very good chicken a la king in a puff pastry. Larry ordered Museau Vinaigrette, which was slices of mystery meat in a tasty dressing. We both followed with excellent roasted lapin. We've been eating a lot of bunny on this trip. Larry finished with cheese, I managed a dish of berries.
After lunch, we hung out looking at the canal for a while as the weather improved, and then started across to the Abbey de Fontenay.
The twelth century Cistercian abbey grew into a community of 300, and declined during the Wars of Religion. It was a paper mill for a time, and is now privately owned and resored for visits. The church is wonderful, bare and simple, and you are acutely aware of light pouring in from the high windows. You can walk the cloisters, see the room where the monks slept, duck into some other buildings on the grounds. There are plans for an international team of kids from technical schools to rebuild the forge. One jarring touch is the formal English garden where the monks would likely have had their kitchen and medicinal garden.
We ended the day by finding this lovely little spot on the river.