The heart of Southern Burgundy Cluny is a hidden gem

 

Located in the heart of Southern Burgundy Cluny is a hidden gem.

Only 90km from Lyon, Cluny is easily accessible by car or by any of the many tour buses which operate in the region. All year round this area is picturesque, but during March and April the wild-flowers are especially beautiful.

During the Middle Ages Cluny was a major political and spiritual power, with it’s Benedictine abbey remaining the largest Christian church in the world for hundreds of years. The abbey has now become Cluny’s most famous tourist attraction, along with the collection of medieval sculptures and 18th Century religious artifacts located in the Museum of Art and Archaeology. Many of the abbey buildings were destroyed during the French Revolution. However some of the ruins have been preserved and are now home to a family of local cats, who are more than happy to pose for a photo or two.

The edges of the town were defined in the 12th century and many towers, gates and ramparts still remain, as well as many beautiful Romanesque houses, all of which make strolling the narrow streets of Cluny a fascinating experience.

After you have taken in all the historical attractions, you may wish to indulge yourself in some locally made chocolates or cake. The Pâtisserie ‘Germain’ on rue Lamartine is the perfect place for such indulgences. Owned by the Germain family since 1978, it is definitely my favourite place to eat in Cluny.  They sell all manner of handmade chocolates, cakes, mousses and other types of sweets in their store as well as in their delightfully quaint tea-rooms.  For more wholesome food or the best coffee in Cluny try ‘La Nation’, a café by day and restaurant by night.  The terrace opens out onto the town square, so it’s a great spot for people watching; the interesting mix of locals and tour groups never fails to entertain. The square itself is worth a look for the beautiful murals painted onto the surrounding buildings, which depict various aspects of life in Cluny as well as some moments of historical significance.

If you are a lover of shopping there are no less than five antique shops and brocantes in Cluny, as well as gift and homewares stores and even a shop selling locally made woven baskets. Of those, my pick is ‘Antiquites Valentin’. It is tucked away just off the main street and the tiny store is filled with beautiful mirrors, paintings and large pieces of furniture, as well as old books, musical instruments, silverware and china. The owner, Thierry, speaks only a little English, but his passion for antiques is hard to miss. My favourite item, which would definitely have pushed my baggage into the ‘overweight’ territory, was a set of scales and weights. Though much of the story was unfortunately lost in translation I deduced that the set had belonged to the regional tax-collector in a period a few hundred years past.

If your are staying overnight there is no shortage of places to stay in and around the centre of Cluny. The Hotel de Bourgogne is the perfect base for those who like a little luxury and fine cuisine while being right in the heart of the oldest part of Cluny. The helpful, English speaking staff are very knowledgeable about local events and interesting attractions off the beaten path. Even if you don’t stay at Hotel de Bourgogne the Restaurant is open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner every day. If the weather is fine I recommend the walled courtyard, as it has a lovely atmosphere and a gnome house in amongst the flowers. Remember to save some room for dessert, as the apple crumble is delicious beyond description.

If you would prefer to experience Cluny as a ‘local’ then La Maison Tupinier may be for you. The second floor of a beautiful 16th century building has been tastefully converted into two elegant self contained apartments. Owner Luc, who is a passionate collector of French antiques, completed all the renovations himself. His impeccable taste extends to the colours on the wall and the rugged beauty of the courtyard garden. From the windows of both living rooms you have a view of the main abbey building and can watch the people of Cluny passing by. In true French style the ground floor is occupied by a bakery, so you can awake each morning to the delicious smell of freshly baked baguette.

To truly uncover the wonder of Cluny and the French countryside, you need to dig a little deeper than a one hour stop to visit the most famous attraction. There is a wealth of beauty, history and    culture  to uncover.

Tamsien West

Link for map- (Map of the township of Cluny, if you would like to use it)

http://www.uk.cluny-tourisme.com/pdf/plan_ville_cluny.pdf

Hotel de Bourgogne www.hotel-cluny.com

Germain www.chocolaterie-germain.fr

La Maison Tupinier www.lamaisontupinier.fr

 


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