Hotel du departement de l'Aube -- the capitol of the local area --
on the edge of the central part of the city, which is referred to as "le bouchon" (a wine bottle cork) because of the shape on a map of the streets that surround it. Enjoy the shops, restaurants, churches, and timber-framed houses.
Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul
Link the the official web site of the town of
Link to the official web site of the City of
Auxerre is the capital of le departement of Yonne. There are a number of shops and restaurants in the center of the city, and many of the streets are pedestrian zones. The old buildings are half-timbered, and there are a number of modern sculptures in the streets. I found it convenient to park in front of the cathedral and to walk around. Edith's Tea Shop on the main street leading away from the cathedral is a great little place for a light lunch or an afternoon snack.
One of the principal tourist sights is the Cathedral of St Stephen, an early Christian martyr. There has been a cathedral here since the 5th century, and the present building is the fifth. It was begun in the early 13th century and retains a large number of vivid stained glass windows. Some of the colors are reflected on the columns of the nave in my picture. Be sure not to miss the early 11th-century crypt from the fourth cathedral. The chapel, which is a good example of Romanesque architecture, is beautiful in its simplicity and surprisingly light. It is well known for its fresco of Christ of the Apocalypse. The attendant in the shop will open an old wooden door with an ancient key to give you access to the crypt.
Tapestry of St Stephen
In September 2000 I stayed at Troyes' Royal Hotel near the railroad station. The owners, M and Mme de Vos, provide a warm welcome, and the rooms are comfortable. The hotel has an elegant 19th-century dining room that serves gastronomic meals at reasonable prices. The (Best Western) Hotel de la Poste in the center of the city is also recommended.
Gothic cloisters of the St Germain Abbey
The other principal tourist attraction in Auxerre is the (former) Abbey of St Germain, which is now the local museum. The saint, who had been an official of the Roman Empire, was the local bishop in the 5th century. The abbey buildings give the visitor some sense of what the core of an abbey complex was once like. The museum's collections include Gallo-Roman objects from local archeological digs. Be sure not to miss the crypt, which was begun in 840. It is a Merovingian necropolis and is famous for its rare Carolingian (9th century) frescoes, which are some of the oldest in the country. You will need to take a tour in French to see them.
Noyers sur Serein
"un des plus beaux villages de France"
One of Burgundy's most famous products is, of course, its famous wines. The photograph above is of the harvest outside of Auxerre from that city's web site. Below is my photograph of the village of Irancy at the start of the 2000 harvest. Each particular area generally produces only red or white wine. Irancy is well-known locally for its reds.
Bar sur Aube
The church of St Peter dates from the late 12th century and used to be the abbey church of a small monastery as well as the parish church. The exterior wooden gallery is from the 16th century and is called halloye in French. It was originally a covered cemetery and later a covered market.
I was only too happy to be able to stay there for several days in September 2000. M and Mme Collin have lovingly restored old stone farm buildings in the center of the tiny village. Madame frequently prepares a delicious dinner for the guests, and the family-style meals are very convivial. Be sure to save room for her cheese and dessert. A selection of good local wines are available to accompany dinner.
The photograph above is of the village of Molay, which is south of Chablis. The B&B is seconds away by car in the hamlet of Arton. Turn on rue de la Fontaine. The "fountain" is actually the old village washhouse.
One of the gates to the Medieval hilltop village. The town asks visitors to park outside of and below the gates and to get some exercise walking up, but you may be able to park in the village if there are not too many other tourists.
In the US the name Chablis was once used to refer to any light, generic white wine. However, in France it can only be used to refer to the high-quality, rich white wine made entirely from chardonnay grapes in a small specific area around the village of the same name. The best wine comes from the slopes just north of town. Some people believe that centuries ago the local monks were the first people to cultivate this variety to produce wine.
Chablis is an easy drive east of Auxerre, and the area is fairly central for much of the Burgundy region. The major producers all have outlets in town. The local cooperative operates a tasting room across the street from the helpful Tourist Office. There are several hotels and restaurants.
is a market town east of Chablis. As is often the case in Burgundy, good chardonnay wine comes from the local area, including the adjacent village of Epineuil. The principal tourist attraction of Tonnerre is its Medieval Hotel-Dieu (hospital or hospice), located in the center of town. The poster to the right is a representation of its founder, Marguerite of Burgundy, the Countess of Tonnerre. She had the hospice built between 1293 and 1295. Much of the town was burned by the English in 1359, but the hospice was spared because King Edward stayed in it. The original wooden roof was partially destroyed by a bombardment on June 15, 1940. A modern hospital and elder service complex is connected to it, and the tourist information says that the legacy of the Countess still provides funding for today's facility.
Noyers is a charming old village located south of Chablis and Molay east of the freeway exit at Nitry. The name is the same as the French word for walnuts, which were once grown locally. This Medieval village is authentic enough to have been used as a location for period movies. It still has towers from the old defensive walls on two sides, although the ramparts themselves have generally been turned into the fronts of houses. One of the gates is pictured below. All of the towers are in private hands, but one local character opens up his tower "museum" to tourists, gives in hearty tour in French and in costume. The tour includes a small taste of wine, and he will gladly sell you a bottle of the white wine that his cousin made. The village has two main squares, one of which is arcaded, and a few shops. One of them belongs to an American woman who makes reproductions of Medieval illuminated manuscripts. The real pleasure of your visit will be to simply stroll the old streets.
A terra cotta street sign for Town Hall Square
The lavoir (public washhouse) such as the one shown above is a typical feature of older French villages.
The 18th-century Fosse Diane in Tonnerre pictured to the right is a natural spring that has been developed into a pool and was probably once used as a public washhouse.
The oak-roofed Grande Salle was the single, large ward of the original hospice between 1295 and 1650. When in use there were about 40 alcoves along the two long exterior walls. Each patient had a bed that was partially separated from the other patients by a wooden divider wall.
Vezelay is well known as the site of an important Romaneque church. The religious history of the village dates back to the middle of the middle of the 9th century, when a nunnery was established. Benedictine monks built the first hilltop abbey church when the nunnery was destroyed by Normans later in the same century. Early in the 11th century St Maximin brought relics of Ste Mary Magdelene to the abbey, which soon became a major pilgrimage destination. The Basilica of Ste Mary Magdalene as it stands today was built between 1120, after a fire destroyed the original Carolingian building, and 1215. The facade was altered in the 12th century by the Gothic window above the central doorway. The monastery was sold as national property in 1796, and everything but the church was then torn down. The basilica was restored in the 19th century.
The facade and nave are pictured above. You first enter the narthex, which features a large tympanum sculpture centered around Jesus above the entrance to the nave. The nave, choir, and transcepts consist of two perpendicular tunnel vaults used to distribute the weight of the stones and permit many windows to be built into the nave walls. Vezelay is probably the oldest example of this architectural innovation, which makes the interior much better lit than in older structures. Be sure to leave plenty of time to study the column capitals in the narthex and nave. Most illustrate a Biblical story.