When is a Chateau Not a Chateau?
When Ted first forwarded me a photo of Château Chalon, located in hilly terrain in the eastern French wine region of Jura, I was excited to find yet another Chateau to visit in a different part of the country. I hadn’t realized at the time that this was the name of a small village located on a cliff on the first fold of the Jura Mountains in France, not a castle in a beautiful garden. It was not too far from Bourgogne-Franche-Compté and not so distant from the cutoff from the Autoroute to Dijon. The
famed Vin Jaune wines of Château-Chalon are known for their nutty flavors and aromas and sometimes develop additional curry notes as the wines age. The wine's yellow color ranges from pale to deep gold. It is often paired with the local chicken from the nearby town of Bresse.
I remembered that fabulous foul from our visit to Lyon in 2018.
The drive from chez nous in Paris navigates through lush farmlands and forests and is a joy to drive. As we began to
meander through wine country we approached what is known as one of the most beautiful villages in France, particularly for its spectacular views. Here even the cows were content and friendly and the horses were romantically inclined. The ride was four and a half hours by car, twice as long as our usual day trip. So we decided to arrange for a place to spend the night at the foot of the cliffs, amidst the beautiful landscape, a mix of the wild and the cultivated. Hotels of the caliber we usually choose to rest in during these times of Covid-caution are non-existent in this kind of small village, so we chose a highly recommended B&B called
Maison Bélénos in Nevy-sur-Seille. It offered a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a bar, a
shared lounge, a garden, and a terrace. The room we chose came complete with an ensuite bath, providing a picturesque view all the way up to Chateau Chalon. The relatively modest price included a full breakfast fit for royalty, with local fresh cheeses, local yogurts (the richest I've ever tasted), butter like no other, and loaves of bread and croissants of the highest quality and the most unique flavor. Owners Sebastian and Crystal were lovely, welcoming, and helpful hosts. They
readily accommodated us when we desired a change of date from our original booking due to the
the forecast of rainy weather. We chose to move our trip up to the 10th of May, which promised to
be beautiful, one day partly cloudy and one with full sun. And so it was!
After settling us in, our hosts recommended a lovely restaurant with a terrace for supper in Lons- le Sonier, the village next door. Even the stroll through the Place was magical, and the restaurant was named Comedie!
At breakfast we four had a convivial chat, Crystal and Sebastien advised us on a route, one that might not show up on our GPS, to navigate around a slide that had occurred the week before during the rains. They steered us through a cheerful village where even the birds were formally invited by a field of colorful birdhouses. We also stopped by a small winery to buy some local spirits, wine, and Jura honey.
Our hosts also directed us to the village of Baume-Les-Messieurs, passing by the ancient ruins improperly called Charlemagne's Tower. This was a fortress built by a Burgundian count in the 12th century in order to defend the town and the Abbey of Chateau Chalon, as well as to guard the salt route. All that remains is the dungeon and a corner turret. With walls two meters thick, the tower appeared to have once been covered with small oak shingles, and the arrow slits, windows, and chimney areas were still visible. The Fortress was dismantled around 1470 by Louis the XI.
Near the lovely Abbey, we found brooks and streams all announcing the appearance of an awesome Grotto, complete with waterfalls
skipping down from the mountains higher up. We were utterly mesmerized by the beauty of this natural phenomenon.
Once we were able to tear ourselves away from these magnificent falls, we continued our
climb to the summit and the little village of Chateau Chalon.
After exploring for a time, we stopped at the tourist office, which had the best public view in town from the large terrace, where they served coffee and other refreshments, and they opened a large parasol to shield us from the burning sun. We sat in the shade with a comfortable cool breeze, enjoying our cappuccinos in wonder of all that was laid out before us: the grapevines, terraced gardens, and all the way down to the many small villages below, and our new home away from home in this enchanting area of the country,La Maison Bélénos.
Before entering the highway to return home, we called our hosts and asked for the location of the bakery that they had chosen as the best amongst the four in their tiny village (and it was at that). We stopped there, conveniently situated right next to the road, to pick up something for our home that evening and to use to make my Sunday pain-perdu (literally lost bread or what we call French toast). And as long as I am on the subject of something lost, I realize that I have lost a part of my story in neglecting to say a word about the stop we made for lunch in the town of Auxerre, halfway to Chateau Chalon.
Auxerre, the capital of the Yonne department of France, is the fourth-largest city in Burgundy. It is a part of the administrative region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.
While there we also took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne d'Auxerre, a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Stephen.It was constructed between the 13th and 16th centuries on the site of a Romanesque cathedral from the 11th century whose crypt is found underneath the present Gothic cathedral. In the photo on the right, you may be able to detect the famous frescoes that were uncovered during the renovation of the church.
We promised ourselves that, on our next visit, we would be certain to plan our trip in early morning when many other religious sites are open and we can take the time after lunch to walk along the river on the Passerela de Liberté.
Of course, as usual, the best part about arriving home is seeing our boy Mickey and knowing that he has been well cared for and is happy to greet us again with a big purr.