The last entry in this series, A Barge Cruise on the Burgundy Canal, Day 1, Part 2, Tanlay, October 2013, ended with our first dinner on board the European Waterways hotel cruise barge, La Belle Epoque. Since I am an unapologetic foodie, I will naturally start this entry with another meal: our first breakfast on board the barge.
A breakfast buffet is often included with a room in good European hotels (or hotel barges). You will usually find the same basic components, but the details will reflect the specific country or region you are in. Meats, cheeses and fresh and dried fruit are staples, though the selection can vary widely.
Next, cereals and milk. The cereals are usually “healthy” selections—granolas and such—and it is rare to see the sugary varieties that are (too?) popular in the USA. Don’t be surprised if you see Europeans top their cereal with plain yogurt instead of milk.
Some kind of bread and pastries round out the buffet. Again, the exact types can very widely, but I am pretty sure it would be illegal in France not to have a baguette and croissants as part of the mix.
Because the crew had spent all summer checking out the best bread and pastry shops along the way, they knew exactly where to shop each morning for the very best selections at each stop. You’ll see what I mean in future chapters of this saga.
Chef Katy was on hand each morning to make you a hot breakfast, too. Eggs as you like them, perhaps some ham or bacon. Whatever your idea of a “good” breakfast is—healthy or hearty—you could put it together every morning.
And of course there was plenty of tea and coffee. Lots of coffee. Brewed, cappuccino, espresso…
Stepping out on the deck every morning, warm cup of coffee (tea, if you prefer) in hand, was a treat. The views at sunset and sunup were beautiful almost every day.
There was often a local fisherman out early to catch a meal.
While these idyllic scenes made me wonder if I should move to one of these French villages, I know that I would eventually get bored and Valeria would head back to the city within a couple weeks. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to get away, relax and just enjoy this beautiful, peaceful part of the world. It is (to shamelessly steal someone else’s book title) “chicken soup for the soul.”
After our short walk around the village of Tanlay the night before, we knew it was a picturesque place.
This morning we were to go on our first hike with Eric Bonal, who I introduced in the last installment of this epic series. Eric is a member of The Wayfarers, an organization that specializes in walking tours around the world. Since this particular cruise was designated a “Walking Cruise,” Eric was on board to organize and lead hikes out across the French countryside. So, strap on your hiking boots, off we go!
We started the walk passing through Tanlay. There is a gallery of photos of this picturesque village, like the one of the window and vines, above, in the previous entry in this series, so take a few minutes to scroll through those if you haven’t already. If you have already seen them, feel free to look through them again. No extra charge!
While the village is beautiful, there is one structure that dominates the landscape and the history of this area, and that is the Château de Tanlay.
Construction of this wonderfully preserved early French Baroque castle was begun in 1550 by the Coligny family (more on them below). Work continued through the 1600s, when it was largely completed. In 1705, Jean Thévenin, Marquis of Tanlay bought the property and it has stayed in that family until today—over 400 years! Our walk with Eric just took us around the outside of the chateau. Later that day, Valeria and I returned for a tour of the interior. We’ll take a look inside and discuss some more of the history of the palace after we finish hiking with Erik. For now, take a moment to browse through this gallery of pictures of the outside of the castle and its grounds.
I don’t shoot a lot of video (I need to work in that), but here is a beautiful 2-minute video produced by European Waterways showcasing the Château of Tanlay.
Actually, if, for whatever reason, you won’t be touring Burgundy in person anytime soon, go to the European Waterways YouTube page and watch their videos showcasing the various barges and the locations where they sail. Grab an appropriate bottle of wine and some food from whatever region you are viewing and take a virtual vacation in front of your computer. The videos are advertisements for the company, of course, but they are not like the ads we see every day. No salesperson, no celebrities, just beautiful cinematography and music.
If you are more of a Hollywood type (or whatever the equivalent of Hollywood is in France), a film called Angélique, Marquise des Anges (Angelique, Marquise of the Angels) was filmed at the Château de Tanlay in the early 60s. If you don’t want to watch the whole movie, the Château has assembled the clips that were filmed in and around the castle and put them in one convenient 2-minute YouTube posting.
The film was based on one of the books in a popular series of French novels written in the 50s and 60s by Anne and Serge Golon (over 150 million copies have been sold). Most have been translated into English and five of them were turned into movies in the 60s. Angelique is a fictional 17th century aristocrat who’s life is based loosely (very loosely, if you read or view her dramatic adventures) on the lives of at least two real French aristocratic women from that time period. Angelique, Marquise of the Angels was the first book in the series, written in 1957, and it was also the first one turned into a movie, which was released in 1964. Some of the books and all five of the movies are still available. If you are a fan of lavishly filmed, period romantic adventure films, the Angelique movies are considered classics and they give you a (admittedly, somewhat romanticized) look at life and events that occurred during the first century of the Château de Tanlay’s existence.
OK, after that brief cinematic detour, back to our hike with Eric and my humble still photographs. There is a golf course adjacent to the Château grounds that we crossed on our way to a trail through the woods and friends of Burgundy. We took due note of the signs warning up of the danger of balls!
Once safely across the golf course (I am happy to report that there were no ball injuries), we walked along a beautiful stone fence that bordered one side of the golf course as we passed farther out of town and into the surrounding countryside.
As we passed an open field, three deer went running parallel to our path.
We thought we should bring at least one of them down to take back to Chef Katy to cook, but, as it turned out we were weaponless. [Vegetarians, anti-gun and anti-hunting folks, relax! That was a joke. ? Anyone who knows me knows that I shoot everything I see, but only with a camera! ?]
As Eric continued to lead us across the countryside, we came to the Cistercian Abbey Notre Dame de Quincy.
You can follow this link to a concise history of the Abbey. Highlights include the founding of the Abbey by the Cistercians in 1133. It became one of the most prosperous in Burgundy, and, therefore, France, with 6 or 7 mills, large wine cellars and numerous vineyards. That all ended in 1568 when most of the Abbey was burned and the monks massacred. The Abbey fell on hard times for a couple of centuries, surviving at one point as a stone quarry. It was finally purchased in 1822 by the Marquis of Tanlay, the same aristocratic family that has owned the Château of Tanlay for centuries. Happily, they chose to restore the Abbey and that job continues today. It is a beautiful site with a dirt road and stone wall running in front of the complex of buildings that make up the abbey.
A stream, fed by a spring, runs behind the Abbey.
The stream provides the power to run the flour mills (or did, back in the day).
The spring gave us a lovely place to pose for a group photo. Well, everyone but me, since I took the picture. (Yes, I know, I should have had a tripod, but it was supposed to be a hike and I don’t think I would have made many friends stopping very 50 yards (meters) to set up a tripod and take a few shots.)
You can see a pedestal with a statue of a monk (or someone) on top and you might think I cut his head off in the picture. But, if you look closely, you will see that the statue has no head—someone beat me to the whole cutting off the head thing. I have not been able to identify the monk, saint, or whoever is immortalized (if headless) on the column. There was no inscription that I could find. If anyone happens to know who this is, please leave me a comment.
Hiking on, we went by another old building that was not identified. Whatever it was, it had clearly been around much longer than the average American subdivision.
There was no shortage of beautiful scenery as we walked along. I have included more pictures than you see in the body of this blog in the gallery of images at the end.
The last historic site we saw before returning to Tanlay was the Sancto Emiliano Chapel.
I have not been able to find any information on this chapel, but the name, Saint Émilion, is a familiar one to anyone who loves the wines of Bordeaux. Émilion was a monk in the 8th century who settled in what is now St.-Émilion. His followers started the wine industry there. He is said to have performed miracles in that area and was sainted for them. I don’t know if this chapel is named for the same Saint Émilion or if there is another with some association to the Burgundy region.
One thing that is not obvious from the photos: it had rained during the night before we took this hike and the ground was soaked everywhere we went. Most of the trails were muddy and we we all pretty muddy before the walk was done. Some shoes did not survive the hike and were given a respectful burial in Tanlay. (OK, they were thrown in the trash, but what’s wrong with a little artistic license?) Nevertheless, it was really nice to get out into the French countryside to see the fields, some ancient landmarks and some forest. It was a beautiful day to hike and, even if Eric was sometimes hard to keep up with for some of us, the walk was a good one.
Our hike ended where it began, in Tanlay. Eric and the rest of the hikers went back to La Belle Epoque. Valeria and I wanted to tour the inside of the Château de Tanlay. Anna Markham, the ship’s tour guide and manager, had arranged with the people she knew at the Château to let us in at an odd hour and have a look around.
I’ve already mentioned that the castle was built mostly in the 16th and 17th centuries. The land and the remains of an old fortress were acquired by the Coligny family in 1533. In 1550, Francis Coligny began construction of the chateau you can visit today, which was largely completed over the following 100 years or so.
The early life of the castle coincides with various religious wars (Roman Catholic vs. Protestant) that were raging in France and across Europe at the time, which gives rise to some of its most interesting history and most colorful and interesting architecture. Admiral Gaspard II de Coligny (1519-1572) was a leader of the Protestant Huguenots. He lived quite a colorful life and it is worth taking a few minutes to read the Wikipedia article I have linked to his name.
The Admiral used the Château at Tanlay for meetings of the Huguenot leaders. They met in one tower that was difficult to access. A fresco was painted on the cupola in the ceiling that depicts the Protestant and Catholic leaders as various Roman deities, most of them naked. All of the Protestants were lined up on one side…
…and the Catholic leaders were lined up on the other side.
The leader of the Huguenots, Louis de Condé, who was friend of Admiral de Coligny, was portrayed as Jupiter in the center of the cupola.
The chief of the Catholic party, Henri de Guise, was portrayed as Mercury.
Admiral de Coligny was targeted and killed by the Catholics during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Many of the details around this event are subject to speculation, but one classic interpretation is an old (1916) D. W. Griffith silent film, Intolerance, starring Lillian Gish and Douglas Fairbanks. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray and, if you are a fan of classic movies, it’s well worth viewing.
For a more scholarly, but very readable, history of the French Wars of Religion, take a look at the classic textbook by Mack P. Holt.
Moving on from the colorful 1st century of the Château’s history, you can see the styles and tastes of later occupants as you walk through the main building. One of the most fascinating hallways is painted using the trompe-l’œil (“deceive the eye”) technique at it’s very best. It looks like there are statues and bas relief all over the walls and ceilings but, it fact, it is all just painted on flat walls.
The gallery at the end of this entry contains more pictures of the exterior and interior of the Château, so I will leave you to browse through those as much as you like. But now is time for Valeria and I to get back to La Belle Epoque as she gets ready to sail and, even more importantly, serve lunch. Yes, my friends, more food and wine to come in the next installment of this series.
As we walked back from the Château, through Tanlay, to the barge we passed this classic car.
We made it safely back on the boat, tired and hungry, ready for the real trip to begin. The barge had not even left the dock yet, but we had enjoyed some beautiful countryside, historic locations and buildings and some great food and wine. The adventure continues in A Barge Cruise on the Burgundy Canal, Day 2, Part 2, Tanlay to Lèzinnes, October 2013, which will be published soon.
The gallery contains some images not shown in the blog entry.
All images were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III camera and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens or a Tamron AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD VC Aspherical (IF) Macro Zoom Lens (now discontinued; replaced by Tamron AFA010C700 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD Zoom Lens) using ambient light. Post-processing in Adobe Lightroom® and Adobe Photoshop® with Nik/Google plugins.
The author has no affiliation with European Waterways or any of the locations and products described in this article.