From Tournus to La Chapelle de Guinchay
By Michael Edwards
This Guide was last updated on 25 April 2011
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The eponymous town is the anchor and main centre of the region. Stretching along the western bank of the Saône, it has a southern feel, with its round Provençal roof tiles and lively waterfront cafés. The Musée Lamartine, dedicated to the Romantic poet and politician, is housed in the 18th century Hôtel Senecé and has an interesting collection recalling the career and literary output of Mâcon’s most famous son. (See also Maison d'Enfance de Lamartine in 'Other Interesting Attractions'. For shopping: five minutes walk from the central Mâcon-Ville SNCF rail station, Rue Carnot (now a pedestrian walkway) in the centre of town is a good place to buy charcuterie and excellent Charolais beef from butchers and delicatessens, also leather and other luxury goods in a choice of boutiques. Afterwards, take a glass from a good choice of Mâconnais wines in the stylish Bar de l’Hotel de Ville just off rue Carnot with a fine view of l’Eglise St Pierre, an interesting 19th century revival of Romanesque style. Mâcon is the established venue for an important Wine Fair and competition held annually in April (see ‘Events’) and it is also home to the Maison des Vins, a showcase for Mâconnais wines (see ‘Wine Attractions’).
On the banks of the Saône, 40km north of Mâcon, the historic town of Tournus is a must-visit. The ancient Abbey Church of St-Philibert is one of the loveliest in France, its tall white nave a very grand example of Romanesque architecture. Step inside the great green door to the Verger de l’Abbaye, where you take a basket and make your choice of super-fresh local fruits and vegetables from spotless stalls manned by friendly staff. The best-known restaurant in the town is named after Jean- Baptiste Greuze, the 18th century portrait painter who was born here in 1725.
Around 25km east of Mâcon towards the Charollais hills via the D17 and D980, Cluny is an elegant country town for the discerning visitor. It is of course the site of the most important Benedictine Abbey of the medieval world. Although large parts of the Abbey were desecrated and destroyed following the French revolution of 1789, about a fifth of it remains, notably the fine bell towers and spires of L’Eglise Notre Dame which dates from 1200; also much of the excavated foundations which extend deep into the town show the massive scale of its original conception. A good view of the town can be had from the Tour des Fromages. For the best town walk, start in the Place du 19-Août, take Rue de la Tour and Rue Bourgeoisie, then right, through Rue Romain-Rolland and Rue de la Monnaie into the Rue Grande Marché, returning to the Place where you started.
The ‘Montrachet’ of the Mâconnais, Fuissé is arguably the pre-eminent village of the five communes entitled to make Pouilly Fuissé. It’s a particularly agreeable place of handsome stone houses owned by wealthy growers. And you can understand why the wine is great when you see the village nestling in an amphitheatre of perfectly sited vineyards.
In the lee of Les Monts du Beaujolais, Juliénas is the prettiest large village in the northern Beaujolais sector. There’s a delightful atmosphere of Clochemerle country on the bustling little main square, where sometimes on a Sunday morning a brass band plays slightly off-key. In the Cellier de la Vielle Eglise (an old deconsecrated church) you can taste the wines of Juliénas at no charge every day throughout the year (tel: 04 74 04 42 98). At the edge of the village take the D137 to the Maison de la Dîme, a fine 16th/17th century tithe house with an arcaded façade.
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