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The River Serein
Its source lies in the hills of the Auxois at Arconcey. Then the river dips briefly into the Morvan Natural Park at La Motte Ternant before continuing on through the Côte d’Or. Here three rivers converge, the countryside is gentle and the air, pure – ideal for walking.
Another spot for a country walk is along the river banks below Montbertault. This is undisturbed territory for wildlife; the river is alive with fish and water creatures, there are deer in the woodland, and wild flowers and birds on the banks.
The next stretch of the river brings together all the good things in Burgundy – cheese, chilled white wine, geranium clad villages and an ancient abbey. As the river broadens out onto the plains, Epoisses, famous for its cheese and its 15th C moated château is in the distance.
The medieval village of Montréal stands on hill, a veritable picture postcard with turrets, creeper-clad walls and medieval gateways. The village attracts artists and craftsmen and has an active summer programme of events. From the church at the top of the village there are panoramic views over the Serein valley.
Left to right: Chablis, religious monument and medieval archway Montreal
Isle-sur-Serein on the river is also pretty with a ruined castle and medieval church. The Auberge du Pot d’Etain has an increasingly good reputation.
Noyers with its half-timbered houses
Then on to Noyers with its half-timbered houses and geranium-clad lavoir. This is one of the most beautiful villages in France – a time warp if ever there was one. Walking down the cobbled streets it is easy to imagine the 15thC Dukes of Burgundy in residence in the castle there. Don’t pass by without sitting in a café and savouring the atmosphere.
The vineyards of Chablis were first planted by the monks from Pontigny. Today just about everything in the town is wine related, thriving on its famous name.
The former Abbaye de Pontigny on the edge of the river has been described as the greatest Cisterian church in Burgundy. The building, almost as large as Notre-Dame in Paris, played an important role in the Middle Ages but in terms of a tourist attraction, it can’t compare to the Abbaye de Fontenay. The journey ends north of Auxerre as the river flows into the Yonne.