Lyon to Dijon via Cluny Abbey today. I have a fondness for the Benedictine abbeys after seeing several in Italy including Monte Cassino where Benedict wrote his Rule, and wanted to see this French mother house, even if there was not a lot left of the original 10th century building.
The current site is quite vast and the entrance from local parking annoyingly signposted so we walked quite some distance before finding tickets. A transept and tower of the original church remain and give an inkling of the size and magnificence of the building and the old granary building, now used as an exhibition hall, has a magnificent boat hull type roof and is a huge space. The grounds are beautifully manicured around the 18th century cloisters. Really most of the place was destroyed during the French Revolution, but it was good to visit.
On to Dijon and a return to Coco’s delightful “My Home in Dijon” and her warm welcome. It didn’t take us long to settle in and take a quick wander round the medieval parts of the town. The next day was set apart for visiting the Musee des Beaux Arts which was closed on our last visit. This is a truly magnificent museum which includes several important bequests from donors and also the extraordinary tombs of the Dukes of Bourgogne. These remain painted and gilded and lie in state in the grand chamber of the Guards Room, supported on marble arcades which house the figures of mourners in amazing detail.
We were very impressed with the exceptional altarpieces with intricate carvings of scenes from the life of Christ and his crucifixion, and some delightful, fresh faces in paintings from so long ago.
The sculptor Pompon was born in Dijon and there was a room dedicated to his art, including other sculptures apart from his famous Polar bear (Musee D’Orsay). His spare, economical lines are very expressive. I was rather tempted to purchase a small copy of either the polar bear or the eagle but in the end didn’t.
We revisited the church of Notre Dame as well, a gothic jewel with beautiful stained glass, a very ancient statue of the Virgin and a carved devil face between the doors, maybe a reminder to the faithful as they left church.
The outside is decorated with more gargoyles than was strictly necessary and some interesting ones at that, interspersed with floral motifs usually, but once by something which appeared to be a murder scene. The profile of the facade with three rows of gargoyles is unusual.
Next day a visit to the market hall, designed by Eiffel to wander among the excellent fruit and vegetables, the meat displays and even the general market in the streets outside. Markets are so enjoyable in France. So we bought bread and an agreeable looking terrine, some fresh raspberries and went home for lunch.
Later in the day we explored the Mangin museum nearby with the private art collection in the hotel particulier of a brother and sister. Lovely panelled rooms and a minor but extensive personal art collection. This was their home, but I couldn’t imagine living there overwhelmed by so many paintings and volumes of furniture.
That night we dined at Le Pre aux Clercs in the square. A lovely setting on the place itself as the sun set and the fountains played. The restaurant has one Michelin star but to me was rather faded glories. Yes, there were little extras but the amuse bouche was stodgy and unidentifiable, the mains we ordered were of very different quantities of food, my cheese dish echoed the tastes of the risotto I had just eaten (dried tomatoes) and Nick’s dessert of a saffron pear with chocolate cone was heavy and clumsy in execution. I have to say that my dessert of a nut and chocolate log was very pretty, tasty and cute, looking a little like a bug with long feelers and being a great mix of crunch and creme. Really, though, the place should do better at the price.
While we were sitting four rows of tables back in the outdoor area, I was reminded how easily things can be stolen. We watched a “petition lady” approach diners in the front row and get shooed away by the waiters. Then, almost at my elbow, I heard a waiter confronting another woman who was making a beeline for me with my purse and camera on the table. Nothing lost, but the distraction technique almost worked. I expected it in Paris, but not Dijon.
Next morning Coco came and assisted us with our luggage. Stairs really are getting too much for us these days.