Sunday, 29 September 2013

A round tower and unseen churches

The round tower
Last weekend hosted the annual heritage days that we look forward to every year. For one weekend a year, state owned museums are free, most other museums operate on a reduced price entry but, the fact that there are several places that only open on these two days a year or, as in the case of one of our targets, only open for one morning, is of most interest to us.

Cees had been pouring over the lists of places to be open this weekend for a number of weeks and had come up with a long list of things to be seen. Difficult choices had to be made and in the end we concentrated on the Cluny and Mâcon areas on Saturday and Sunday was in the Brionnais. It would take a novel as long as the Lord of the Rings to describe all we saw, suffice to say, we were exhausted by the end of the weekend, so I will restrict myself to the highlights.

Hotel de Monnaie
Saturday morning we were thrilled to get into the round tower in Cluny. This is one of the remaining towers of the fortifications around the abbey. After a long morning of visits, it was already 11 o’clock when we arrived and as it was only open in the morning, we didn’t have too much time to spare. We rather stupidly started by the tower itself outside the abbey walls. Obviously, for medieval security reasons, there was no door (duh..) but where was the entrance then? The problem is that the old abbey is now split over three sites, the National Stud, the ENSAM (a sort of engineers’ university) and the state-owned part of the abbey site open to the public. We guessed that the tower would be either in the ENSAM or the National Stud, so off we went to the Stud entrance - no not there. We then went to each of the ENSAM entrances - no not there either. By which time it was getting dangerously close to lunchtime and the closure of the tower for at least one year and possibly for ever. Finally at the entrance to the abbey we were told, yes, we could get to the tower that way and we booked ourselves on to the last visit. The tower is actually in the ENSAM in amongst the workshops, but the abbey had permission for visitors to gain access for the morning and we had to march at high speed to meet out visit time slot.

Made for little people
I won’t say the tower was a must-see, the view isn’t all that great, but the fact that it is not normally open to the public, made it a very special visit. While in Cluny, we managed to get into the Hotel de Monnaie, also not normally open to the public and that was well worth it. Check out the door custom made for me!

Baugy church's stunning decorations
During the weekend, we finally managed to see the insides of a number if churches we have visited many times. Sunday’s gem was just one of those churches - Baugy in the Brionnais. The church was beautifully restored and we were lucky enough to meet a couple of the team who had done the work. They explained the problems they had encountered during the long restoration period and the difficult decisions they had had to make. If a wall has medieval frescoes under 19th century decoration, both of historical interest, which one do you “save”? Check out the photo to see what they did.

All in all, a most enjoyable weekend and I am looking forward to next year’s treats - Cees is already busy planning our wish-list.

For holiday accommodation, near to a host of interetsing sites, open almost all year click here.

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