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Montreal Burgundy, France

Montréal is a small mediaeval village situated in the Yonne, some 10 kilometres to the north-east of Avallon. Burgundy is famous for its fortified hilltop villages and Montréal (Mount Royal) is a prime example. The village is entered through an imposing arched gateway known as the Porte d'en Bas (Lower Gateway) shown right. Inside the walls are several streets of old houses from the 14th to 16th centuries; some have look-out turrets, pigeonniers, or subterranean dungeons, others, outside stone staircases and small courtyards and overall there are18 wells.

Simply follow 'Grande Rue' as it winds up the hill to a second gate through the ramparts called the 'Porte d'en Haut' (Upper Gateway). Beyond this arch is a large picturesque church and cemetery next to a belvedere (viewpoint) with a 180 degree view along the valley of the River Serein. On this commanding hilltop stood an impressive château until 1599, owned by a succession of ten 'Seigneurs' all called Anseric. Anseric III survived the Second Crusade and built the church of Notre Dame in gratitude. It's a collegiate church of the 12th century in a style combining both Roman and Gothic elements. Older than Notre Dame in Paris, it is still a major attraction thanks to sympathetic restoration in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc. King Francis I of France visited Montréal for meetings with the Duke of Burgundy in the 16th century and gifted the wooden 3-dimentional sculptures of biblical scenes which miraculously still adorn the church pews. Their charming simplicity and humour attract many visitors, as do the medieval figurative panels, the pure white alabaster originating from Derbyshire. Today all is calm in Montréal with pretty gardens and well-kept houses, many of them second homes for Parisians, a scene which belies the village's turbulent history such as the two months Edward III spent laying siege to the village in 1360 during the Hundred Years War.

Although the village is 'très calm' there is a lively Wednesday evening market during the summer opposite Au Quinze the village bar and restaurant. Montréal also hosts during the summer a vide-grenier and an artisan's week-end, where the local talent exhibit their work in barns and gardens. Throughout the year 'Maison Crème Anglaise' stages exhibitions, musical events and a Christmas Concert.

©Graham Battye
Maison Crème Anglaise, 22 Grande Rue, Montréal 89420, tel : 00 33 (0)3 86 32 07 73.

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