Monday, July 11, 2016

Mon voyage. Jour numéro dix-sept. L'abbaye de Fontenay.

As I was trying to decide what to do for my last full day in Bourgogne I spoke with my Airbnb host about options, and when I mentioned Fontenay Abbey he said he had never been but one person who stayed with him went and said it was the most amazing thing he had seen on his trip.  So I decided to check it out, even though Rick Steves gave it just two out of three triangles (the shape doesn't matter in this case, just the number).  In fact I guess I inspired him because soon after we spoke he decided to go himself!  (This was the day before I went.)

I took the long way there, along the canal, for obvious reasons.

The last stretch is on a main road but there weren't too many cars around, Monday is a pretty slow day in France.

The monastery was founded in 1118, and consecrated by Pope Eugene III in 1147.  100 years later and continuing on until the 15 century there were 200 monks living here, embracing a life of prayer, solidarity, manual labor, and poverty.  

The abbey church is absolutely amazing, unlike anything I have seen.
Knight Mello d'Epoisses and his wife (Mrs. Knight Mello d'Epoisses?), who are Bourgogne nobles, are laid to rest here.

The church is 66 meters wide and almost 17 meters high.

Although altar piece is damaged the church as a whole, along with the entire abbey, is pristine. 

The cloisters, the area in the middle, is where the monks would have spent free time.  I imagine that whatever they did here was mellow, as there were no women, their life was full of prayer and meditation, and they didn't have too much energy with a loaf of bread as their daily ration.

It is hard to believe that this was at one time a functioning paper mill.  In 1790, as a result of the French Revolution, the property was taken as state property and sold, and the last monks were evicted.  It was purchased by a paper mill company but a hundred years later it was resold to an art loving banker who removed the industrial machines.  Although the abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site it is still privately owned, the owners live onsite in areas closed off to the public. 

All of this is closed to the public.

Even the Boiler House is impressive.  This is where the monks did their metal-working, which they were known for.

The monks are accredited with the invention of the hydraulic hammer (according to abbey facts). 

Back on my bike I go!

I had a little time to explore the city of Montbard, where the train station is located.  I didn't need too much time here.  I have been in Europe long enough on this trip to start being hard to impress, especially after the Fontenay Abbey.

I cycled around Dijon a bit as I was passing through anyway, and as I originally planned my Bourgogne experience, staying in Dijon was an option so I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. 

And as it turned out, I was not a fan.  It was hectic, people were rude, there were homeless people and other shady types and, on top of it all, I fell so hard on my bike after flying off a curb looking everywhere but down, and as I was going down I heard someone make a comment in French that I didn't like the tone of at all.  
So, as soon as the shock of the fall wore off, concerned citizens dissipated (there may be a few nice people in Dijon), and some blood got cleaned up, I took the first train I could out of there.  There is nothing grosser than getting Dijon under your skin.

I didn't go far, just one stop actually, to Gevrey-Chambertin.  It is supposed to be a mecca for pinot noir lovers.  

It is Monday so the streets are dead and many places are closed.

What I wasn't imagining was all the porsches and audis driving past me.  And I wasn't picturing finding people in their gardens so I could drink free wine and not buy a bottle. 

Although the bike ride was nice, Gevrey-Chambertin is an appointment-only kind of place, for people with money, regardless of the map that lists the places where no reservation is necessary.

For example, this winery was listed as needing no reservation.  There is a sign that says wine tasting, but the door is closed.  It was really uncomfortable.  In the end, I did not have a glass of wine in Gevrey-Chambertin, especially after my hands were covered in bike grease, which probably meant that my face had oil streaks on it. 

This is where I stayed for 15 minutes or so after my bike totally ceased up.  I am assuming it was from the fall (which wouldn't surprise me considering that my UV lens on my camera shattered the following day for 'no reason.'  After not being able to fix it I carried the bike to a fancy hotel (where I saw a bike on the back of a vehicle) and tried to fix it some more, hoping someone would help.  Eventually, teary eyed, I did get help, enough to pedal on low gear, but it never did work the same as the front derailleur chain was getting stuck in the spokes, which just cannot be good.  
(Sorry Bourgogne Randonnées Bike Rental...)

After returning to Beaune, hungry and defeated, I decided to punish myself by eating escargot.  (Snails are molluscs, as are octopuses, and since I am pescetarian I eat seafood, which means octopuses too, so I don't feel like I should have to give up my pescetarian status.  My diet is based off of phylum, not class.)  
I really thought that they would come in their shells but they didn't.  Instead they were cooked in a special escargot dish with olive oil and pesto.  They were alright.  They do, unsurprisingly, taste like octopus, which has the same texture as certain mushrooms.  
Fungus is better, same texture sans guilt. 

1 comment:

  1. There is so much to comment on this exceptional (and looooooooooooog) post. I'll try to remember my thoughts from reading the beginning. First off, I am so sorry you fell but I'm so glad you're okay. Dijon under your skin can't be good. I remember liking the town but that was 20 years ago and blood free. Brady, thank you for introducing me to the Abbey. It is spectacular. What an interesting history and how incredible that someone is saving it and that they let tourists in.

    Your dinner looked pretty yummy. I know "When in France". I was surprised by all the closed signs and your take on the wine tasting there. Maybe it was because it was Monday?

    Loved the bike storage on the train. Keep blogging. I'm there with you in spirit. Oh to have a fresh baguette.


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