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South to Autun

Autun wasn't in my plans, as I had thought it was too far south for a comfortable daytrip from Tivauche. But some time with my guidebooks and a map easily convinced me that the hour-and-a-bit drive time would be well worth it. Autun has a long and well preserved history, and is the largest town in the Morvan. We headed south on a cold morning, watching the car's outdoor temperature sensor dip lower and lower as we rode into the dark forested hills. The Morvan villages looked more deserted than the ones around Tivauche, with more crumbled houses and barns, less cultivated fields. We somehow missed the currect turn in Saulieu for the D980, and wound up on a minor single-lane track heading south. No matter which road we took which according to the map would lead us to the main road, again and again we found ourselves on the tiny D15. So we took the D15 into Autun.

Autun has an industrial zone ringing the city, bringing jobs and commerce along with ugly buildings and billboards. Once you cross the river into the core of the city, you're rewarded. There are two remaining Roman gates, a thriving district of shops and cafes, a Roman Theatre, the wonderful St. Lazare cathedral, and the excellent Musee Rolin.

We easily parked, and walked to the Cathedral. It's a building with hidden gems, crammed into a tiny square. It's had a lot of changes and additions since 1120, but retains the dramatic Romanesque sculptures of Gislebertus. I love the sculpture from this era, which draws emotion and story from stone. To fully be able to appreciate the work, particularly the dramatic capitals, take along binoculars.
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Afterward we began exploring the Museum, took a break for lunch, and then returned. The Roman and medieval pieces are fabulous, and are arranged and presented beautifully. Cases of fascinating Roman bronzes, some good mosaics, interesting sculptures and early Gothic paintings. Well worth the time. The upper floors and the last few rooms are full of later paintings that didn't interest us except to giggle over.
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I had read of a very good restaurant in town with low prices for high quality, another two-fork Michelin Bibb Gourmand. Le Chalet Bleu is near the Hotel de Ville, and seems like "the" place to go for a nice lunch in Autun. Pretty room, exceptionally pleasant waitresses wearing smiles and pastel suits. Several tables of business people, a few French tourists, and two tables of elderly ladies who seem to be regulars. There were several menus, the lowest only 16 euros for three courses. We ate excellent food at a very reasonable cost.

I tried the 16 euro lunch, which was an entree of perfect sliced fruits in champagne (lovely, but would have been lovelier if it hadn't been 13 degrees and raining), followed by delicious rolled rabbit in a dark wine sauce with diced vegetables, then a hot "crumble" of mixed red fruits with raspberry sorbet. Larry had the more expensive menu, which had more choices and courses. He started with a delicate salmon mousse, then went with a pave of beef with mushrooms, then cheese, and finally a beautiful trio of strawberry desserts. All this, plus a half bottle of wine, for 44 euros. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Larry comitted the shocking act of asking if they would kindly wrap up his uneaten macaron, which the waitress did without blinking an eye.
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After finishing up at the Museum, we visited a few more sites in town, and drove home. We had hopes of stopping in Saulieu, but never got there. And once again, the D15 found us.

Fruit and cheese for dinner. And that macaron.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 4, 2006 5:45 PM.

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