I had every intention of visiting the caves at Arcy-sur-Cure, where the prehistoric paintings are second only to those in the Ardeche. Unfortunately the water levels had risen so much due to the recent rains, that it was dangerous to enter apparently, according to the man who told me in no uncertain terms. 1 out of 10 for customer relations.
So, here is a wall in Avallon instead. I rather like it.
The Burgundy countryside in these parts is rolling and intensively farmed. Barley and rape mostly, interspersed with endless herds of fine looking Charolais cattle. As you ride through, the heavy aroma of the rape flower is overpowering. A strange smell. Villages come and go, some with enormous houses on their fringes, just glimpsed through the trees, closely shuttered and past their prime with moss-covered drives; protected by high wrought- ironwork and imposing gates. What stories there.
If you have never visited a medieval construction site, and that time capsule isn’t readily at hand, then a visit to the Guédelon project is as close as you’ll get. If you have the remotest interest in history and you are in this vicinity, I highly recommend you spend some time here. It’s fascinating.
Originally the idea was conceived by a Frenchman who was mad on castles. He had already bought a dilapidated one for next to nothing and returned it to its former glory, but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to build one from scratch, and assembled a team to undertake a preparatory study. Financial backing was secured and the site purchased, an old quarry with good access and most of the materials that would be required. It was even surrounded by oak woodland. A timescale was drawn up, but this will always be a work in progress-a living history lesson.
300,000 visitors a year come to Guédelon, and the project is now self financing, enough to pay a team of highly skilled craftsmen and women. There are masons, carpenters, tilers, blacksmiths, weavers, spinners, millers and decorators and other allied trades. You can even offer to help in some small way, although I chose the sit and watch option.
My main concern was that this would be some glorified theme park, but the work and education go hand in hand. The school kids really seem to enjoy it because things are happening all around them.
I’ll let the photos do the talking, with the odd comment.
Main hall and it’s roof structure.
Beautifully decorated chamber.
My favourite room, the smallest.
The miller making the flour with a water-fed mill.
This gives you a flavour of the place, but there’s no substitute for being there and part of the process.
Talking of flour, this baguette has won the competition, unless something extraordinary manifests itself between now and the channel. Crunchy exterior, soft nutty flavoured interior, and very good with cheese. Parfait.