April 28 – May 1, 2018
In hindsight, it would have been better to have executed today’s planned activities during yesterday’s fantastic weather, but not having an accurate crystal ball, we were left with a day full of rain for our outside tour of Guédelon, near the town of Treigny.
Guédelon was started in 1997 as an archeological experiment: building a medieval castle from scratch using only 13th century technique and tools. I had been watching the progress via their website for the last couple of years and I was excited to make the visit in person. We jumped into the car after another delightful breakfast and made the trek through the wet countryside.
A quick stop in Clamecy to see the canal
I liked the sign behind the car
This bridge rotated to make way for canal boats
Old and new wind harvesting
It was over an hour to get to Guédelon, so of course there were things to see along the way. We made a quick stop in Auxerre to see what it was all about.
Clock tower and city gate of Auxerre
Auxerre has more than one great church and this was the first one that we stumbled across. Part of the charm of this church was that it was dry inside. This was also the first place where we were asked for money by the local less-fortunate.
This was also the first time I had seen explanations of the stained glass
Auxerre is the fourth largest city in Burgundy, but it still only has 39,000 residents in the city itself. Still, that much population made for some densely-built up side streets.
And the jewel of the city, the Cathedral of St. Étienne
An impressive interior
As you can see, it is still raining
The rain (and wind!) were not letting up, so while Auxerre had more to offer for historical exploration, we weren’t up to it at that time. Instead, we retreated back to the car for the final leg to our ultimate destination of the day, Guédelon. It wouldn’t be much better to explore this area in the rain, but at least it was what we had planned on doing.
Guédelon is in the middle of a forest. The last ten minutes of our drive was through a lush, spring-green woods, freshened by the soft rain. We followed two caravans into the parking lot, which was larger than I expected. When I watched the production videos on Youtube, I never really considered that many people would come to see the building of a castle. I just assumed that it was being done “for Science!” and not so much as a tourist destination. Was I wrong! Here, at the end of April on a very wet Monday, the parking lot was mostly full. Apparently this place was more popular than I thought.
Workhorse on the grounds
The premise behind Guédelon is that it is a working construction site. The staff and volunteers are building the castle, but they are also willing and eager to share their work with visitors. There are different work areas, each dedicated to a particular skill. Tile making, stone masons, dyers and paint making are just a few of the many work areas that it takes to build a castle. Dan and I started off by immediately signing up for a beginners stone carving class.
Waiting for the class, so we looked around the area – tile drying house
Garden (possibly for dye production)
We were early for the class, so we stood around in the (light rain) while waiting for the twenty or so school children to finish up their own carving pieces. I wondered how many children would be in our class, feeling a little self-conscious about the idea of being the only two adults in the class. Instead, we were the only ones in the class! It was just Dan, me and the instructor; nice!
Getting stoned together
After our class, we took our prized carvings back to the car. It was still drizzling, so we decided to have a snack and a nap, hoping that the weather would clear up as promised. And it did, somewhat.
Learning how to make rope
Rope was made by materials found locally
The three chicken-teers
This little piggy went to market
Making wooden shingles
Tile production hut
Stonemasons at work
The grounds were fairly extensive and while we had a map of the various work areas, we were free to explore other areas as well. We followed paths and found more secluded buildings, mostly for volunteer orientations and instruction. Then we found this cut-out board – with room for four faces! Well, Dan and I only had two faces and one set of hands to hold the camera, so we did a little planning and I did a little computer magic when we got home.
Behold! Our medieval masterpiece
We had seen quite a few of the outbuildings; now it was time to see the castle itself. Of course, it was actually quite visible as soon as you walk through the gate, but now we’d get to explore its nooks and crannies.
Solid walls surrounded by wet mud
Dan for scale
The royal privvy
Rendering the walls of the lord’s private chamber
Ceiling of the chamber
Mmmm – window seats
Paintings based on a 13th C church in a nearby town
Well-crafted details throughout
Looks like the royal privvy gets some use
Naturally, the rain had mostly cleared up by the time we were ready to leave. It was tempting to stick around and see things under a sunnier sky, but not tempting enough to actually do it. I’d like to come back in a couple of years to see the progress for myself. And since I now know what a beautiful area Burgundy is, I have even more reasons to come back (and on two wheels).
Fantastic forest roads
Still no sunshine though
It wants to be sunny!
We had reached Corbigny relatively early in the evening. It was too soon to head back to our B&B, but too late to really start anything. But since Corbigny is one of the gateways to Morvan Regional Park, we thought that we’d take advantage of the existing daylight to do some exploration.
The roads we found were pleasant and the scenery just as nice as what we had seen in the neighboring regions. It really didn’t feel like we were in a park, since it appeared to have the same amount of trees, fields, farms and villages as everywhere else we’d been so far. Dan suggested that we try to find a road to the top of one of the “mountains” nearby and see what kind of view we could find. He poked at the GPS for a little bit and we were on our way.
Near our destination, the GPS showed that the road split for a short bit before rejoining. I figured that we’d take one road up and the other back down. This sounded good to Dan so I took the left fork – and immediately ended up in someone’s farmyard. But I could see where the road continued through the trees and kept on going. It was a two-track road, with lush grass running up the middle. Less than a minute later we had our doubts: the track had become thick mud, the center was higher than the underside of the car and the trees leaned in closer. I did my best to keep one set of tires on the center ridge and drove close to the trees, but periodically the tires would “fall” into the rut and I’d have to work to get back up when the rut wasn’t quite so deep. But that little Audi did pretty good and got us out the other end – into another farmyard. We pulled over to check over the car but other than a fresh coat of mud and a few blades of grass, it was fine.
Farm road from hell – early stages
Just a bit of mud
After this little adventure we retreated down the other road (which was perfectly paved) and into the village of Montreuillon, where we pulled out some meat and cheese and ate sandwiches along the riverbank. Daylight was fading so we packed things up and made our way back to Corbigny.
A much better dirt road this time