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In Autun; near Avallon; a couple in Paris


Pan
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This is probably my last post on particular places where I ate in France last June. I have the sense that fresh_a really has Paris covered. Never mind: I'll quickly post the salient information about Brasserie Garnier here: It's _right across_ from Gare St.-Lazare, and not cheap (50 Euros for lunch), not beyond criticism (I was served tasty but slightly overripe strawberries), but served excellent and very filling kidneys in Dijon mustard sauce with brandy IIRC. My appetizer, soupe de poisson, which I _had to_ order when I saw it on the menu, as I used to love it and eat it regularly during my two summers spent in Nice, was good but slightly too fishy. We went to the place because it got a write-up in the Time Out guide to Paris: Garnier And here's the other place, which was cheaper and thus, probably a better value, but though I remember liking the food (as did the rest of the family), I don't have as much memory of it. I did like those kidneys at Garnier. Bistro Jef is right across from a lycee on a quiet side street: Bistro Jef

We made the mistake of staying at Le Relais Fleuri in Sauvigny le Bois, 4 km outside of Avallon. It was a non-airconditioned, overpriced motel without screens available for the windows. Its only advantage (and, I believe, the reason why it's a profitable enterprise) is that it's right off the off-ramp from the Autoroute, but we had taken the National Route from Auxerre to the Avallon area, so as to explore many beautiful villages in the region (which is something I'd recommend for everyone to do), and had a hell of a time trying to find the motel.

Anyway, Le Relais Fleuri has a hotel restaurant. It receives mention in Michelin only as a meal that you can get at the hotel, but gets a separate feature as a 13/20-rated restaurant in Gault Millau. I previously mentioned an 18-rated place in Dijon that was not worth going to. Le Relais Fleuri's restaurant is worth going to only under the circumstance under which we went there, if that: We were tired and were guests at the hotel. The food was competent and overly buttery, and that's it. Nothing special, but (as per the thread on haute cuisine) the place had the same pretentions - and prices - as other restaurants that did more than merely execute middling renditions of traditional dishes. The contrast between our meal at Le Relais Fleuri and our outstanding dinner the previous night at Michel Vignaud made the meal all the more disappointing.

When we spent a couple of days visiting the little old Roman garrison town of Autun, we made it our business to have lunch at a restaurant that our Autunnoise hotel manager in Paris had recommended. Its name is Le Chalet Bleu, and it received a bib gourmand in Michelin and a 13 in Gault Millau. I recall that some fish was a bit fishy, but the rest of the food was very pleasant and cooked with love. I particularly recall tasty chicken stuffed with chicken livers, and I also remember the dessert being good, though I've forgotten what it was. We also had some nice wine with the meal, as per the prioprietor's recommendation. The restaurant is owned by a couple; the wife runs the front of the house and her husband is the chef. The wife also served us. She was friendly, and we had a nice conversation with her, but didn't tell her until after the meal that we were going because of a recommendation from a fellow Autunnoise, so we were just ordinary customers who walked in off the street, as far as she knew. I can say without any fear of inaccuracy that not only was the reception and customer service far better here than at Le Relais Fleuri (where we had to wait truly endlessly to get the check), but the food was also a lot better. I think Michelin got it about right: This place does not deserve a star, but it does deserve a mention and a bib gourmand. Our lunch truly was a good value. Both Gault Millau and Michelin are showing their menu as 14-43, but I believe the 14 Euros was the lunch price. Be warned, though, that the restaurant is closed Tuesday, and also Monday at dinner. The wife apologized for the fact that since they run the place themselves, they need to take a day off for themselves. Naturally, we said that of course they have to take a day off, and no apology was necessary!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Pan - thanks for the Autun recommendation. My cousin and his partner - who live in Paris - have a country place about 20km from Autun, in the Morvan. We're off there some time this year. Any other tips - not just gastronomic - about Autun?

cheers

Adam

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You're very welcome, Adam.

I take it you've never been to that region? Autun is a very small town, but truly lovely. It was the Roman garrison town of Augustinium, and its Roman walls are mostly still standing in good condition, complete with several guard towers! Its Romanesque cathedral was one of the most outstanding things we saw on our whole trip, which was primarily devoted to art. The tympanum above the main entrance shows scenes of the Apocalypse and is justly given 3 stars by Michelin: click here The capitals above the pillars are also outstanding, but many of those on the main level of the church are copies. If you go into the Sacristy, where post cards are kept (you'll probably want some of those), you will see a staircase. Take the staircase up to a room where a bunch of original capitals are kept, and look at them. You are fortunate to have the luxury of visiting the cathedral several times during a longer trip.

The Musee Rolin is also worth visiting, mostly because of some Romanesque and Gothic art inside.

Across from the Cathedral, there is a very old building which now houses a bar. When my brother and I visited last June, the bar was one of the few places where there was much activity at night, and we enjoyed a few drinks there.

If you have the time, by all means visit other cities in the area, especially the beautiful, bustling city of Beaune, with its lovely Hotel-Dieu, featuring the outstanding Polyptych of the Apocalypse by Rogier van der Weyden, which gives you another view of the Apocalypse: click here

(We did a bit of an Apocalypse tour, as we also saw the incredible Tapestries of the Apocalypse in the Chateau d'Angers, q.v.: click cliquez) [edited to make a space between the two links]

Another city that's not that far away is Chalon-sur-Saone. We wanted to go to the photography museum but went on the wrong day (Monday), and it was closed. It sounds like you'll be in the area long enough to take the 55- or 60-km trip to Chalon over secondary routes, if you want to.

Further afield are places like Auxerre. If you'd like some more information, just ask.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I've been briefly. We stopped for one night in 2001 (I was about to say last year, but of course that's no longer the case) on our way down to the Auvergne. Christopher's place is in a village just south of Chateau-Chinon (Mitterand's old fiefdom) - right in the middle of Charolais country. About the only concession to tourism in their village is the 'Musee du Charolais' - aka 'The Cow Musuem!'. So we reckon to spend ten days or so exploring the Morvan and making sorties into Burgundy proper - ie Autun and the Cote d'Or.

Were you driving, or getting around by train? We will probably take the train down there and use my cousin's car to get around. So I'm trying to decide whether the ordinary SNCF train to Nevers or the TGV to Le Creusot would be most sensible - their place is almost equidistant from both.

Thanks again.

Adam

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Autun is, according to Michelin directions, about 40 minutes away from Puligny-Montrachet and related regions. As you know, this is a wonderful wine area in Burgundy.

Autun is a 40-minute drive from Chagny (which is connected to Chalone-sur-Soane by train), where one can find three-starred Lameloise (good pigeonneau dishes and more traditional cooking). You are also approx 45 minutes from Loiseau's three-starred La Cote d'Or. I appreciate you may not be looking for three-starred restaurants; I thought I would mention it in case you were interested. Note that from the Chalone-sur-Soane train station (among others) you can access all sorts of places (e.g., Lyons).

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We rented a car in Paris and drove it through Burgundy, the Loire Valley, etc. back to Paris.

Those train stations don't sound close at all. Have you investigated the possibility of a bus?

By the way, the other really great place I didn't mention that you might want to go to is Vezelay (St. Pere in the valley below Vezelay is also worth visiting) - but all of that depends on how much you want to drive. Feel free to post or email me if you want further information about places to go and things to see.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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By the way, the other really great place I didn't mention that you might want to go to is Vezelay (St. Pere in the valley below Vezelay is also worth visiting) - but all of that depends on how much you want to drive.

More than 1 hour by car, but home of formerly three-starred, current two-starred L'Esperance and a revered place of worship (not L'Esperance, that is; particularly for midnight mass on Christmas Eve).

A car is needed; the train is not a substitute for a car in this region.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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Both train stations are about an hour's drive from where we'll be staying. As I say, we'll have a car while there - I'd just rather not drive down if I can avoid it. I think we'll probably take the Eurostar and try to change at Lille, hence avoiding crossing Paris with luggage.

The other good thing about travelling down by train is that it will restrict my wine buying :wink: .

cheers

Adam

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But I'm still curious about the possibility of taking a bus from Paris, perhaps with a change or two somewhere. You don't seem to be interested, but why?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Christopher, my cousin, travels down to the Morvan from Paris and back again, most weekends. And has been doing so for over ten years. He generally takes the train to Nevers, then catches a bus to their village. I figure he's had chances aplenty to investigate the best way to get down there, and if he thinks train is best, he's probably right. Also, since he and his partner have a place in Paris too, we can visit them there quite regularly. So my interest this summer is in finding the quickest (or at least, most hassle-free) method of getting there from England - not necessarily the most scenic. My wife's parents live very close to the Eurostar station in Kent, at Ashford, so it's easy for us to crash with them the night before we travel, and cadge a lift to the station.

And I really don't like long-distance bus journeys :smile:

Adam

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But don't you realize this is the first time you've explained how you planned on getting from the train station to the place where you'll be staying? And if you know how you're getting there, why seem to ask? Do you see why I got that impression?

Moving on then, with your permission... :smile:

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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