As we came down the road from Macon, we saw the Hostellerie d'Héloïse, a Logis beside the river La Grosne and the road bridge to Cluny. Cluny is a commune of more than 71,000 people in the eastern French region of Burgundy-Franche-Comte. Opposite was a little square with some shops and a memorial to the martyrs of the deportation. Nearby was the old railway station, now a bike hire place, beside the old railway line. Today this offers a green lane for exercise and picnicking and a pleasant stroll into Cluny past a public camp site, instead of walking up the main road. The hotel gave us a very comfortable bedroom overlooking the river and a nearby park. It also offered delicious food, although not served every night, in a split-level dining room overlooking the river. The service was charming and friendly, too. Crossing the bridge, we quickly took a side street past some businesses, a minimarket and a fuel station which eventually helped with our onward journey to Montpelier. A little further along was a pleasant restaurant called the Hotel de l’Abbaye. It welcomed us on May day evening when almost everything else was shut or fully booked.
Central or old Cluny is a fascinating place of little shops and old buildings, some going back to the 12th century. The town developed round the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny which was founded by Duke William 1 of Aquitaine in 910 CE and sacked by the Huguenots in 1562, during the wars of religion, which destroyed many of its valuable manuscripts. The ruined abbey buildings today offer fascinating glimpses into their history and their former beauty. Displays help visitors understand the influence the abbey had across western Europe in the middle ages. The abbey occupies an enormous site in the middle of old Cluny, part of which is now a park. Amongst its ruins is a well-stocked mediaeval herb garden and an interesting museum of art and archaeology about life in the abbey. Outside the abbey on the town side is a huge square which houses the Brasserie du Nord on one side, another old church on another, and a hotel on the fourth. Crossing the square and walking further uphill, is an old gateway that leads out into the town and up passed old houses to the town walls and the cemetery. From here there is a magnificent view across the countryside.
If you turn the other way from the abbey and walk downhill through the old narrow streets past houses and various restaurants of different cuisines, the land emerges on to the flood plain of the Grosne. The skyline here is dominated by a huge round tour with a roof, 108 steps and three floors high, which was part of the medieval defences of Cluny abbey. You can cross the river here, near the Rose Garden and go up passed the town’s equestrian centre and horse racing track, linked to the national stud buildings in another part of the old town, to the green lane of the old railway track. Alternatively, you can turn off along an estate road past the boulodrome and the occasional garage back to the old railway station.
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