Edwin’s Law is ‘there is always a parking space right next to wherever you are going.’ Years ago we parked at the bottom of the hill near Chartres and walked a long ways to see the Cathedral — with its long row of empty parking spaces. And later when we would go to events, I would say ‘we better grab a spot, people are parking clear back here’ and Ed would say ‘but they have no idea what the parking is like up ahead.’ And we would drive on and 9 times out of 10 find a spot close to the action. Thus was born Edwin’s Law ‘ there is always a parking spot right next to where you are going.’
As you saw at the head of this piece, it worked fine at Fontenay Abbey in Burgundy. We passed lots where people were parking hundreds of meters from the abbey and rolled right on by and up to the entrance and our shady parking spot by a stream.
Fontenay is a beautifully preserved former Cistercian Abbey founded in the early 12th century by St. Bernard. It is located not far from the little cottage we rented in Semur-en-Auxois and the focus of a leisurely day trip that included a visit to Flavigny, the medieval town where Chocolat with Juliette Binoche was filmed. (not worth the trip) Fontenay was for a time in the 19th century a papermill but luckily the mill manager took care not to damage the buildings. It was rescued at the turn of the 20th century by the family that currently owns it and lovingly restored.The Abbey is particularly noted for its cloisters. And they are indeed lovely. The attention to detail is noteworthy. The dormitory roof is supported by chestnut timbers that are carefully shaped and then pegged; these timbers date from the 16th century and the workmanship is impressive.The church contains the charming statue of Our Lady of Fontenay and currently in one of the rooms there is a collection of replicas of important madonas from other churches in Burgundy. This one is my personal favorite.There are also tombs of early bishops and local nobles.Fontenay was founded to be a self sufficient community with extensive gardens and fields for lifestock. The gardens today are maintained as pleasure gardens. The pool at this base of this fountain is filled with large speckled trout. They also pioneered modern methods of iron forging at the Abbey. This enormous hammer was used to pound iron and its use spread across Europe after being introduced here. It is run by a mill wheel pushed by a stream behind the building.The countryside near Fontenay is as is typical of Burgundy, dotted with fields. Hay here–cows there–sheep over here. These sheep were lounging under trees in the hot sun when we paused to photograph them. (Ed has an interest in the pleasant life of French livestock.) Unfortunately when I approached the fence an alert sheep with leadership potential decided people were bringing food and incited the entire herd of about 20 sheep to run in excited anticipation toward us. So disappointed they were. The countryside is also crossed by the Burgundy canal which we had not seen before. The canal was once a major road for transport of goods in the region. Today it is primarily used for pleasure boating; companies run cruises for tourists on canal barges. And the tow path is a nice flat road for bicyclists and hikers.Fontenay was a wonderful day trip; definitely put it on your list if you find yourself in the Burgundy countryside. And in Burgundy, getting there is as much a pleasure as being there.