Medieval Towns – Semur-en-Auxois

I am in love with medieval villages like Semur-en-Auxois where we spent a week this July.    As you can see from the picture below from Flavigny, Ed, not so much. We have been to many such towns (see my post on Senlis on this blog).  One of my favorite memories  was of a tiny village in Italy — I can’t recall its name — which was essentially deserted during the day; the few residents commuted to a nearby city where there was an economy.  We strolled through the town finding not so much as a bar to get coffee until at the top of the town we came to a park occupied by an elderly grandmother with a lace shawl and the tot she was minding.  It looked like we had stepped back in time to an earlier century until her knitting bag began to ring and out came a cell phone.

We spent our week after the two months in Paris in a cottage at the base of the medieval walls of Semur-en-Auxois. Our cottage was just over this ancient bridge, Pont Pinard, and by the river.
We used it as a base for several day trips in Burgundy and in particular to a couple of other medieval villages, Chateauneuf and Flavigny.

Semur is stunning  with ramparts and medieval towers still in place.  I took this reflection shot  just steps from our cottage  by our orchard wall.We have visited Semur a couple of times in the past including spending a night here with Kate 15 years ago on our way from Aix en Provence to Paris.  Like most medieval villages in France and Italy, it owes its continued existence to tourism and there is a culture of summer homes and tourist catering that drives the economy.  Strict laws about preservation prevent dramatic changes in buildings especially exteriors.   Charming architectural detail is everywhere. Here is an original tile roof typical of  Burgundy and Alsace. I love the windows  and the whimsical details. There were a number of small sculptures worked into eaves and window frames throughout the village. In the cottage we rented, the window in the second bedroom is the original skylight with an artful iron device for extending the window.The picture at the head of this post is the entry into Semur; there is a pair of identical towers on the opposite side of the town and our cottage was just below these towers.  We enjoyed local day trips  — but we also spent a few days just enjoying being in this beautiful place.   We had an orchard with espaliered fruit trees, vines and berries along the river Armencon.  We usually ate dinner in the orchard. We also had a riverside bench just outside the garden wall where we spent time reading and soaking up the ambiance.   Our neighbor across the way fished every evening with surprising success.  There were the usual mallards in the river, but also this duck which  is I believe something called a black runner (thank you google). It floats like a duck but on land has an odd upright posture that makes it look like a shore bird at a distance.This was one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed.  It was a long hike up steep stairs into the town for groceries or bread in the morning.  But the walk was just so beautiful that this was a feature rather than a bug.  It was a tad spooky at night. We also climbed these stairs to shop for dinner ingredients; there is a market some mornings and several excellent small shops.  Here is Ed going into the local charcuterie. We love French butchers; they make their own pates and terrines and always have wonderful meats not saturated in the chemicals that makes supermarket meat in the US so gross. (read your ‘fresh’ pork packages some time.) Our first evening we had dinner at a cafe across from a small stage where during the summer the town brought in singers each Saturday night.  This Saturday the singer was Ludovic ben Ahmed and his wife who accompanied him on a violin.  It was spectacularly good chanson singing.We loved our week in Semur.  The cottage was beautifully equipped (we must have had a dozen creuset pots and pans).  We had an American style washer and dryer, dishwasher, endless supplies of linen and garden furniture for the orchard.  And every window looked onto the beauty of the area.And we were located quite near to Fontenay Abbey, St. Thibault, Flavigny, Chateauneuf and the Jura Mountains where we spent one day hiking.  I will share some shots of Flavigny and Chateauneuf in the next post.  And now a last shot of Semur taken from our cottage at night.

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5 Responses to Medieval Towns – Semur-en-Auxois

  1. Pingback: Janet’s Impressions of Semur-en-Auxois | Experience Burgundy Blog

  2. travellersyarn says:

    Thanks for the comments – we will be visiting Semur-en-auxois soon!

  3. Lorie says:

    We’re staying in a Semur house by the river in for 6 weeks this coming fall. We are so excited, so thanks for the blog!

  4. Beautiful sejour! Did you rent a car to go to nearby towns? Thanks for sharing your trip.

    • Janet says:

      I don’t think you can do Burgundy without a car unless you stay in a major city and where is the fun in that? We always get a car when in the Dordogne, Provence, Loire or Burgundy or Normandy. You can see some other spots we drove to from the Semur base in Burgundy in the Burgundy section of the photo journal.


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