Day Twelve: Suin to Cluny: Down from the Hills - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

April 8, 2017

Day Twelve: Suin to Cluny: Down from the Hills

We really appreciated that the people who owned the gite left us completely on our own. So we had the run of the entire upper floor of the building, which was scrupulously clean throughout, and very peaceful. In the morning we learned that the lady of the house had been a great cyclist and walker in her day. She wanted a photo of us to put into her Facebook. We were happy to agree.

Dodie and the lady from Gite Les P'tit Loups trade notes
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Then we dove back in exactly where we had left off the evening before, coping with a road that descended into enchanting broad valleys and then crawled (or, we crawled) back out of them. The whole countryside, with its bright green grass, white cattle, little hamlets and isolated buildings on hillsides was reminiscent of the Alps foothills in Switzerland.

It really was lovely, but after three hours of mostly pushing, we had covered less than 10 km. A look at the GPS allowed us to gamble by leaving D17 and giving D152 a try. This turned out to be a good move, since D152 seemed to climb up to the ridge tops but then stay there, rather than descending and climbing in valleys. D152, up on the ridge, ran through forest lands, with lots of evidence of woodcutters at work.

This is a beautiful terrain, but tough on a touring bike
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The Charolais add a decorative touch to the fields
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Silly cow!
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Decorative cows and field
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Up in the hills
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Look violet, do you recognize these flowers?
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At noon we were sitting up on 152, eating some cookies, and having a look at the guestbook. In reply to a message from Sandra Lawn I commented that we had walked up here, did not eally know where we were, but were going to just keep walking. That turned out to be unnecessarily pessimistic. Right after that 152 headed down, and kept descending all the way into Cluny. And contrary to what one might expect with big churches the place was built more in a hole than on a hill. That's good for us.

Arriving at the ungodly hour of 12-2:30 we of course found the Tourist Information and the rest of the country closed. We located a gite, but it was locked tight. So I went crazy and installed us at the Hotel de Bourgogne, which is directly adjacent to the Abbey. It's a lovely place, built on and adjacent to former parts of the abbey itself. And most importantly, it actually had someone on duty at the desk.

After stashing the bikes in the garage we were free to visit the abbey itself.

The thing about Cluny Abbey is that prior to the construction of St Peters in Rome it was the largest church anywhere. Further, it was the mother house for over 1,000 monasteries and became the headquarters for the largest monastic order, the Cluniacs.

As Rick Steves mentions in his guide, a visit here is mainly about trying to imagine the original scale fo the place. The reason is that at the end of the French revolutionary period, in 1791, the monks were dispersed. Then in 1798 was the beginning of the dismantling of the church. This continued for about 20 years, by whcih time about 95% of the place, used as a stone quarry, had disappeared. However preservation began in 1821 and in 1862 it was listed as a historic monument.

What we are talking about here is "Cluny III". Cluny I dates from 927 a.d. and Cluny II refers to one built from 981. Cluny III was built from 1088 to 1130, and was known as "Maior Ecclesia", which means "the biggest church" in Latin.

The cost of admission to the Abbey was 9.50 euros. That's a bit steep. But Dodie especially loves Benedictine stuff. We also bought her a guidebook to the Abbey, which she is poring over right now.

Rick Steves was right to say that the challenge of a visit is to visualize what used to be here. The original site covered 25 acres and the church was almost two football fields long (American football fields that is. Canadian fields would be too long for Cluny.) Models at various spots inside show the original structure in dark plastic and what is there now in light. It's helpful.

Walking around Cluny plus pushing a bike about 12k today took a toll on Dodie's knees. Tomorrow, though, we plan to just cruise over to Macon and hop a train to Lyon. We are glad to be out of the Charolles hills. But it sure was gorgeous.

The outskirts of Cluny look like typical suburbs
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Hey, I didn't travel 8000 km for Quebec burgers!
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The garden of our hotel
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Inside the hotel. The wallpaper in the corridors is fabric, except where it is velvet.
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The hotel was built in 1817, on part of the site of the Abbey. Abbey ruins are directly in front.
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Lots of plates like this in the gift shop
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In this model the currently existing part of the Abbey is in dark
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The two main remaining towers
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Inside the Abbey
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It is hard to keep in mind exactly which Abbey fragment one is looking at.
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Important looking stairs
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Dodie's guide book. Available in several languages it is not just a souvenir, but is packed with historical information.
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Since this could be our last day in Bourgogne, we headed out to a restaurant, where Dodie again ordered Charollais boeuf Bourginan. While this one too had the signature red wine sauce, its flavouring was different from that at Charolles, but also great. This one came with a scalloped potato type side dish that included the descriptor "dauphinois", we think. The layers of thin potato created an interesting texture, and I thought the delicate flavour included a hint of cardamom.

coming back into the hotel we met the true queen of reception, a cat named Chipye, pronounced "sheepie". Chipye was a little freaked tonight because there are two dogs staying at the hotel. I think if she had her way she would put a ban on such guests.

Boeuf Bourginon best when ordered in Bourgogne?
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Chipye, queen of hotel reception.
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Today's ride: 23 km (14 miles)
Total: 600 km (373 miles)

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