Every so often when you’re on a road trip you come across places that are surprising in all the good ways. Unexpectedly and accidentally places that you could spend so much longer than you can there.
Chateauneuf en Auxois was like that – so was Cluny. Accidentally and unexpectedly fabulous.
When we arrived there was a horse thing on. Some very accomplished looking riders prancing around – ok, they weren’t prancing, the horses they were on were prancing – around a dressage ring. Cluny is big on horses – Haras National, the national stud farm, was founded here by Napoleon in 1806 and houses some of France’s finest thoroughbreds. Well might they prance. You can do tours of it, but we didn’t have that long. We were there for the Abbey.
Cluny’s abbey, dating back to the 11th and 12th century, was the largest in all of Christendom when it was built. St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican took that title when it was constructed.
Back in the 12th century though, it was all about Cluny. The abbey, answering only to the Pope, had such great wealth and political power that it controlled over 1100 priories and monasteries not just across France, but as far afield as Portugal and Poland.
Of course, there are only ruins here now, but you can still get a fair idea of the scale and, if you close your eyes, it’s possible to picture what it must have been like.
As always, I was drawn to the gardens.
Just outside the abbey, we found an artisan glacier or home-made ice cream shop – the blood orange gelato finally took away the taste of the andouillette hubby had taken a bite of at lunch.
This town isn’t, however, just about the abbey. Full of restaurants, art galleries and cute little boutiques, this is one of those towns that you could wander for more hours than we had.
This menu certainly sounded nicer than what we’d had up the road in Saint-Gengoux-Le-National… It was a pity we didn’t stop here for lunch.
Cluny is in Burgundy 92kms north of Lyon and about 425kms south of Paris. The closest TGV (train) station is at Macon.