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Or technically, Revonnas. A compilation of the adventures that have been the most popular with our guests, in day-trip sized chunks.

Cerdon Day 

Why: It’s historically important! The town developed in the Middle Ages when the lord of the region Humbert III granted in 1260 to the inhabitants of franchises and freedoms in exchange for watchtowers (some which exist today). Pre-rail, the town was the midpoint on the post-route between Geneva and Lyon, and saw a surprising amount of traffic. Rail continued the trend into the late 1800s, when more modern lines diverted from the isolated area. Paper, cardboard, and importantly copper smithing took over the area, along with various waves of wine making (taken out by phylloxera in the 1870s, seeing a resurgence in the last 2-3 decades). In WWII Cerdon was the heart of the resistance in the region, taking advantage of the difficult terrain and caves.

**La Vieille Côte (in the center of town) is a real gem – no airs, a rather unassuming facade, wonderful food (menus) and service at shockingly low prices. Make reservations, it’s very small.

From town, we took the excellent, though initially very steep, **Circuit des Vignes in late October – a perfect time for changing leaves. It’s very pretty, not at all crowded, and offers a great vista from the 11th century Eglise de Saint-Alban. Also in town, ***La Cuivrerie de Cerdon is great – while I wouldn’t necessarily rate this the best museum I’ve been to, I would definitely make a major detour to go back again. It’s brand new (as of Oct 2022), thoughtfully tells the story of the town and the copper factory, and sells copper pots made on site (beautiful and quite surprisingly affordable).

The road leaving Cerdon is a beautiful driver’s road, packed with motorcycles and in great condition. **Le Panoramique Restaurant Cerdon is a popular ‘destination restaurant,’ specializing in meat served flaming at your table. Food is great, service is not in a hurry – allow 2-3 hours for your meal on weekends.

The **Grottes du Cerdon is a popular stop above the town and worth a visit for those in good shape (it’s all stairs – you walk down, and then back up). The setting is impressive, I’d recommend it for people who like caves. It’s not as dramatic as the Grottes de Vallorbe in the Jura.

On the backroads to Cerdon, you’ll pass through Saint-Alban (not much of a destination, just a small collection of houses). There’s a hidden brewery inside a barn, somewhat confusingly named Brasserie Grange Noire. Call ahead if you want to buy direct (+33.437.61.04.05), it isn’t really a store and they don’t serve food.

Cerdon is a short drive away (about 20 minutes) and rich with history. I’d do the caves, then lunch, then the Cuivrerie. If you want to make it a long day, throw in the hike as well.


Historic Castles of Southern Burgundy

There’s a long row of historically important castles/cathedrals along the Saone – about 1 hour away. It would be a good destination with a bike as well – it’s an area covered with biking trails. Top spots we’ve seen [there are many more, we have brochures]:

  • The ***Berzé-le-Châtel Fortress is a surprising charmer – you can’t see a ton (people live there), but they let you wander the grounds and explore the outbuildings. It’s super “castelly,” makes for awesome photos. Takes about 30 minutes to tour.
  • **Abbaye de Cluny is a former Benedictine monastery [important Unesco site]. The abbey was constructed in the Romanesque architectural style, with three churches built in succession from the 4th to the early 12th centuries. The earliest basilica was the world’s largest church until the St. Peter’s Basilica construction began in Rome. It’s architecturally important, and the experience does a good job of helping you visualize what was there (because so much is gone now). It’s not the most exciting of tours, and tends towards crowded. I’d put this in the “it’s important” more than “it’s interesting” category.
  • A short drive north of Cluny, Cormatin is a rather pretty small town with several restaurants, and a picturesque castle with formal gardens – the **Château de Cormatin. It’s not huge, quite manageable for a 90 minute visit. There’s an impressive moat. We had a very good lunch at **Chez l’oncle Jules, recommended.
  • The remains of ***Saint-Hippolyte Church in tiny berg Bonnay-Saint-Ythaire are well worth a detour from Cormatin (it’s a very short drive away). Associated with Cluny, the remains of the current fortified church date from the end of the 11th century. The nave collapsed in the 15th century. It’s a very photogenic spot.
  • At the midpoint of the Romanesque road linking the abbeys of Tournus and Cluny, perched on a hill, the village of Brancion & the **Brancion Castle include a wealth of architecture from the Middle Ages: a fortified gateway, a keep overseeing the small village, and a Romanesque church. We visited in mid-April on a sunny Saturday and really enjoyed our visit – low crowds, great views of the surrounding countryside, a very interesting castle tour paired with a good audio guide. I imagine in mid-summer it could be a bit of a zoo, perhaps aim for mid-week. Allow about 90 minutes to tour leisurely.
Berzé-le-Châtel Fortress
Saint-Hippolyte Church

Les Puces du Canal

On the outskirts of Lyon (technically Villeurbanne), ***Les Puces du Canal is a wonderful shopping destination if you want a classic experience – it’s the second largest flea market in France. It specializes in antiques and is packed with amazing finds. Pricing is reasonable, it’s a very orderly (even elegant at times) place, and I never felt hustled. Sunday is the big day for visiting (more limited access on Thursdays and Saturdays).

There’s a decent burger place, **Oscar, onsite, and food carts and charming little cafes/bars scattered throughout the site. **Le Broc Cafe is a less formal, older spot – good energy, okay food.

I haven’t included Lyon itself on this list, as it really deserves more than a day, but it’s doable to drop in if you’re in a rush. Full notes here.


Rochetaillée-sur-Saône

A suburb of Lyon, Rochetaillee is a hidden gem with an excellent museum and very good food. The ***Musée de l’automobile Henri Malartre is really, really good – historic cars made in Lyon, a wonderful and charming bicycle collection, some truly astounding rare cars in driving condition. It’s also empty and you’ll likely have it all to yourself.

Just down the hill, ***Histoire sans faim is an unassuming, extremely well done, restaurant. Setting is very low-key, but it’s a true find. We also walked down to the river and there’s a stretch of restaurants that look fun (along with a 2 km walking path).

This would be a nice afternoon addition to a visit to Les Puces du Canal.


Arbois & the Wines of the Jura

Louis Pasteur’s home town of Arbois is sleepy and quiet, packed with historic buildings and wine tasting shops. It’s also the epicenter of the Natural Wine scene and increasingly popular with tourists (though I don’t want to oversell it – this is definitely still an “in-the-know” place with very little tourism).

There’s a lot to mix and match in the area. Your day will likely center around lunch – for a casual experience in town, in the summer, we loved **Domaine de la Tournelle: through the gates of this winery is a lovely riverside restaurant. Menu is limited but if you’re in the mood for cheese and a salad, it’s perfect.

Just outside of Arbois, Pupillin is also a great choice for starting the day with lunch and wine tasting – it’s packed with wine makers, and there appeared to be quite a few tasting rooms of varying degrees of formality (unusual in this part of France). **Auberge du Grapiot is a fairly high-end dining experience in the center of town, in a modern setting. The food is creative and seasonal, and they offer wine pairings from the region (and town.). On a Saturday (2022), the lunch tasting menu ran €30. Closed Sunday and Monday.

For entertainment:

  • **House de Louis Pasteur is very cute. It’s not incredibly science-focused, it’s just his house, where he enjoyed his family life, with everything perfectly preserved. It’s a 20 minute, worthwhile sop. 9:30-12:30 and 2-6.
  • ***The Cathedral of Arbois: do stop and visit. It’s very old, tilting to the side, and quite wonderful. One of my favorite cathedrals in France.
  • In nearby Poligny, if you really love cheese, **La Maison du Comté is a highlight – it’s new, modern, ambitious, informative, and ends with a tasting. Give yourself at least an hour. We found the content interesting, and the staff charming.

Dole

Dole was the capital of Franche-Comté until Louis XIV conquered the region and shifted the capital to Besançon. It’s of manageable size and one of our favorite day trip destinations – architecturally impressive, with a “mini Venice” stretch along the river, and a major cat theme. The walking tour (marked by a cat icon) covers 4 kms and is extremely pleasant. In the summer, it’s a central point of several major biking and hiking routes.

**La Demi Lune is one of several restaurants that face the former canal of the tanneries, housed in the tanneries themselves. The menu is fairly vast (local dishes) and quite delicious. Friendly servers, and in the summer there are several outdoor tables.

**La Petite Venise is next door to La Demi Lune, nearly identical setting and slightly fancier French cuisine.


Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne

The charming medieval town of Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne is a great Saturday stop in the middle of the Doubs. The downtown features a large collection of timber-framed houses, a functioning 17th-century wooden market hall, the original Saint Vincent de Paul House (Saint Vincent himself worked in the town), and the relics of the old castle. The floral bridges and riverbanks of the Chalaronne are quite pretty in the summer, a major point of pride for the town.

The **Traditions and Life Museum, about rural life in Dombes and Bresse in the early 20th century, is now in the Ancien Hôpital de Châtillon, a former hospital (affiliated with the Hôpital in Beaune). Built in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 18th century, the Ancien Hôpital de Châtillon is organized around the chapel which opens onto the two sick rooms. Its Apothicairerie, renovated in 1814, houses a unique collection of 120 earthenware jars from Meillonnas. In the tisanerie there’s a triptych completed in 1527. It’s not always possible to see everything – we’ve seen the apothicairerie and the rather small but cute rural life section. It’s not a long stop, worth it if you’re in the area.

The traditional market full of local produce takes place every Saturday morning in the covered market. It’s a big, traditionally French market packed with rabbits, chicken, veggies, and cheese.

The **Miniature Train Museum is great. While including trains, it’s a big landscape spanning Switzerland and France, with highly intricate scenes of daily life. People walking dogs, skiing, riding bikes, dancing, eating, working on construction sights, typing in an office, you name it. It’s charming and impressive.

For lunch, **Auberge de Montessuy is very good, about a mile outside of town. It’s very classic food of the region, well executed, with reasonably priced menus. Assuming you come via car, this would be my pick of the restaurant options for lunch. **Le Clos De La Tour Restaurant is a good second choice, very good, very rich food. The hotel looks pretty nice too. Note there are two locations for La Tour on opposite sides of town. 


The Revermont

A relatively rural part of France with a long history (pre-Romans, Romans, Burgundians, Savoy), the Revermont is peaceful and lovely, with a surprising abundance of impressive architecture (we call the Revermont Valley “castle row”).

The east-facing hills of the Revermont once had a vineyard whose extent was comparable to that of Mâconnais or Beaujolais. The railroads, and phylloxera (1873-1891), destroyed the wine industry and the area shifted to dairy – cheese in particular – though this is a growing wine production area today. More on the history here.

Driving from Revonnas (or eBike – this is a nice day-sized round trip, about 60 km), from Revonnas, your first stop is Meillonnas, a pretty historic town. Clays and limestone marls of exceptional quality have been used since the Middle Ages to make carrons, glazed earth, earthenware and sandstone – scattered throughout the municipality of Meillonnas and its surroundings.

In 1760, Baron Marron de Meillonnas created in his castle, a “factory in fayence” whose production enjoyed great prestige throughout Europe. He repurposed a former property built as a Tower, similar in dates and style to La Tour de Deaul in Revonnas (built around 1350). Take a walk from the main parking area (right beside the main road) to the factory, and back to the church with historic frescos. Most of the church of Saint-Oyen was rebuilt in the 17th and 19th centuries but the chapel of Notre-Dame inside is a remnant from 1382, as depicted by the inscription engraved into the keystone. The decorative frescos are in surprisingly good shape. Consider having lunch at **Au Vieux Meillonnas. Dining is indoors and fairly formal, overlooking a garden with peacocks and an old hound dog. Food is great, with rotating regional menus based on the season.

Stop 2: The castle of Treffort. If you have kids, this could be a long stop, as the castle is tuned for smaller children. For adults, take in the view from the ramparts. The origins of Treffort remain uncertain, but it dates back at least the 10th century.

Stop 3: Near the end of the Revermont Valley, Cuisiat is one of three towns that make up the municipal district of Val-Revermont. In 1944, the village was partially destroyed, burned by German troops with Eastern Legion auxiliaries during their withdrawal on July 18, 1944, to punish it for its acts of resistance (which were significant; it was one of the more active towns of the region in the resistance).

The **Revermont Museum in town is good – high production value, clearly well tended and cared for. Focus on the economy of the region (wine, other agriculture) and children, including the historic school room and a large collection of historic pictures from the area. In the back is an impressive and picturesque heritage garden, dedicated to historic foods of the region.


Cremieu

Cremieu is just to the east of Lyon, a bit in the middle of nowhere, but not far from where we live (about 45 minutes). The town developed in the 13th century, initially around a benedictine priory built on the cliffs, then later around a castle. I was surprised by the amount of tourism – tour buses! – and it has a lot to see, enough to fill several hours. There’s a walking tour (get the map at the TI), with emphasis on pointing out the historic buildings and stages of renovation. It’s interesting, educational, and not precious – lots of “see this building, with windows showcasing 13th, 15th, 16th, and modern styles.”

The original 12th century benedictine priory, long since abandoned, is a significant ruin on the Saint Hippolyte hill. The walk up isn’t incredibly long, and worthwhile for the sweeping views. 

Wednesday is market day in Cremieu if you want to do some shopping in their 500-year-old market hall. 


Villars-les-Dombes

A smallish, a bit down-on-its-heels town midway between Lyon and Bourg-en-Bresse, Villars-les-Dombes is best known as the home of the Parc des Oiseaux

We had a very good, traditional lunch at **Hostellerie des Dombes – Bresse chicken, grenouilles, white asparagus. It’s just adjacent to the impressive, private Château de Bouligneux.

The **Park des Oiseaux exceeded our expectations – it’s very large, and well situated for migratory birds (storks seem to love it). They do “bird shows” that are well done (various birds flying very close to you), and the exhibits include a wide range of flying creatures as well as a petting zoo, a very cute wallaby area, butterflies, and a huge kid play area. We liked it and would return with children; the exhibits are definitely geared towards entertaining younger visitors.

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