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[Entry 29] ROAD TRIP!

27 December 201008:00PMepic-triptravel

This morning saw us in another impossibly picturesque town. We hadn't really seen Semur en Auxois properly last night, being as how it was nighttime and we were more concerned with finding somewhere to sleep that wasn't the car. Today we actually got a chance to walk around. And seriously, apart from the cars, this town looks like it hasn't moved (of course it hasn't moved, it's a town - I meant figuratively.) for hundreds of years. It's a brilliant place just to walk through. Probably the best part of the town is the walls. I've said it before, I know, but walled towns are really cool, especially when the walls are big and impressive. Like this.

This picture made my butt wet.


The day turned into a bit of an exercise in driving holidays after that. We picked up some baguettes and salami and cheesethings at the supermarket, along with prunes (because dad's somehow addicted to them...) and spent about ten minutes trying to convince the GPS that it was possible to have more than one place on a route. Actually, abusing the GPS quickly turned into a game, with us shouting "SHUUUUUUUUDDUP!" whenever it (or she, as she became known, because of the voice) gave a particularly illogical direction ("Drive, 14.2, kilometres, then turn, left". As if we're going to remember which way to turn after 14.2km... Or "Turn, left, then turn, left, then turn, left." I don't even know what that was about.)

The first 'stop' as it were was supposed to be a town called Alise-ste-Reine, next to a mountain called Mont Auxois, which is the site where Caesar defeated the Gauls. Unfortunately, mountain means a steep hill, such as the one which the village was built on. This steep hill was pretty much blocked off by traffic signs, and when we ignored them and tried to drive up anyway, we found out why: it was too steep to drive up without chains or something on the tyres, and the car very nearly became a toboggan. We figured we'd cut our losses on that one and skip the town altogether. Which is a bit of a disappointment, yeah, but I'll console myself by supposing that you probably aren't allowed on the actual site anyway, and that the museum they have there was probably crap anyway. And I still got close. I mean, I'm sure Caesare stood pretty close to where I was at some point, right? I can dream... and it gives me an excuse to go back there one day. Not that I need one.

So in lieu of Alise-ste-Reine, we (or rather I, since dad's been bugging me to 'take more of a planning role in this trip' the entire time) decided we'd stop at the Abbaye de Fontenay, which is 'the oldest surviving Cistercian foundation in France', or so the brochure said. What it looked like was a fairly impressive collection of buildings in the middle of a very stereotypical-looking European wood forest. The whole idea of the Cistercian order, as far as I can glean from the combination of the brochure's dodgy English and my even dodgier high-school French, is to eschew material stuff, and was a rebellion against the palatial lifestyle of the Avignon popes. So all the buildings, while architecturally extremely impressive, are pretty plainly decorated. This actually made it easier to imagine monks... doing whatever monks do (monking?), since the entire place seemed appropriately echoey and quiet and solemn. I was surprised by the extent to which these places were almost complexes rather than single buildings as is popular conception (or, more accurately, my conception as gleaned from Age of Empires). It's very well maintianed, which probably has something to do with the fact that it's privately owned (we think the family actually lives in some of the buildings, since a lot of them were off-limits), and they have a trout pond with massive trout for some reason, and a reconstruction of an enormous waterwheel-powered hammer in the forge, which was supposedly Europe's first factory. Really interesting place, actually.

Contemplating the Mysteries of Existence. Or something.

There was another stop in the guidebook, which was the Chateau d'Ancy le-Franc (now there's a good name). Unfortunately, it was the 'fancy-old-house' type of chateau and not the 'cool-older-defensive-structure' type chateau, and we hadn't really planned on stopping there, so we sort of drive-thru'd a little on that one. I think it may have been closed for lunch, too, because the gate was shut. Places in France do that, especially in the low season: Open at 10, close at 12, open again at 2 after lunch and a nap, and close again at 5. Although what a castle needs lunch and a nap for is beyond me entirely.

It occurs to me at this point that a map may be useful, because these names don't mean an awful lot by themselves. Fortunately, Mrs. GPS managed one useful thing, which was to track exactly where we went, so it should be a simple task to superimpose that onto Google maps...

I said it should be a simple task to...

I SAID SIMPLE TASK- oh, screw it, I'll do it by hand. Thanks for nothing, Mrs. GPS.

View Larger Map

There. So where was I?

Tonnerre was the next stop, which I again added on a whim. The thing to see (and I mean the only thing) is a spring, right in the centre of town. It is cold, but fresh, and intriguingly, very very fast. There must be some kind of massive aquifer or underground river feeding that thing, because it was moving very quickly. Too quickly, in fact, for it to have ever been explored, which I like. It's nice to no that even with the entire world mapped by a smarmy, backchatting GPS, there's still some mysteries left. I took a video of this one, so if you've got a minute or two, watch it. It really gives you the sense of how much water is coming out of this thing, plus, it's quite pretty, in a ye olde sort of way.

Next stop was... um. 'Scuse me while I check my notes.

Right. Next stop was Chablis. I don't remember it because it was pretty much a non-event for me. Chablis is supposedly quite famous for it's wine. This was supposed to be dad's reward for trekking around olden days stuff with me all day, but I think he found it equally underwhelming. He had a glass of Chablis at Chablis though, so I suppose that's something.

We finished up spending the night at Auxerre, which is where I am right now. Auxerre has not one, but two big ol' churches, which by this stage dad was just about over but I found pretty interesting, at least from a distance. We walked around a bit, as you do, case it's a good way to pass time and to see sights and find restaurants and really I just get a kick out of walking around foreign cities for some reason, okay? We eventually found a restaurant which sold traditional Burgundian cuisine, since dad's been hankering after a beef Bourginion for like a week now. As for me, I took one look at the set menu, and went 'SNAILS!', and had snails in France. I tried to keep a shell as a souvenir, but the waitress took it when she cleared away my main (also beef bourginion) so I took their business card instead. SNAILS! I ate snails in France! Man that's crazy!

Snails actually do require serious concentration. I lost one because I didn't know how to do it.

Tomorrow is the last full day we've got with the car, and my grandma told me I had to see Chartres (Dad said she said the same thing 25 years ago when he went, which is probably true... but I've never seen it and I want to, so there.) so we're going to Chartres for the day, via somwhere we don't know yet, and staying somewhere in the outskirts of Paris that night, to drop the car off by Midday on the 29th. And then Paris and New year and Cairo-Dubai- Singapore and some old friends and BAM I'm back in Perth... And I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. Part of me is missing the everydayness of being able to hang with my friends and stuff, and yet this has been so incredible that I never want to go home.

Goddamn it, I think I'm hooked.

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