Yonne is the first taste of the countryside when you leave Paris, beginning with the Puisaye, a wonderful area and a favourite with a certain Colette and fans of the Middle Ages. The latter will enjoy visiting Guédelon, a medieval worksite where a whole host of various tradespeople are currently building a castle, using ancient techniques.
Yonne is also full of charming towns such as Auxerre, Sens and Joigny. Not-to-mention Chablis! Here are some of the must-sees of this French department.
Exploring the towns of Auxerre, Sens and Joigny
Those looking for heritage sites, the historic centre of Auxerre is classified and the town bears the "Ville d’Art et d’histoire" (Town of Art and History) label. On your exploration of this town, you can expect to see the magnificent half-timbered houses, churches and other remarkable buildings. The river Yonne also flows through Auxerre, and the riverbanks are perfect places to relax and try water sports.
Joigny is surrounded by the Côte Saint-Jacques vineyard and is a town full of gourmet delights. Don't miss a tasting of the great wines and some delicious dishes at the restaurant bearing the same name. This establishment is run by chef with two Michelin stars, Jean-Michel Lorain. You can expect some exquisite cuisine! The art-de-vivre of Joigny can also be experienced in the superb historic centre and on a walk alongside the river Yonne.
Sens is another urban treasure of the Yonne. Gothic-style cathedral (the 1st of many in France!), medieval houses, manors, you're likely to get a stiff neck from admiring all these superb places. If your legs need a break from all the walking, go and relax at the Parc du Moulin à Tan: a remarkable garden with animals, arboretum, greenhouses and even two rivers.
Cadet Roussel was originally from Auxerre!
The star of the famous French nursery rhyme did actually exist: Claude Roussel was a bailiff in Auxerre in the 17th century. The song lyrics mock this excentric, lively character in a friendly way.
Who would have thought that his reputation would go beyond the borders of the town. It was thanks to the locals of Auxerre who would happily sing this song and then it quickly made its way all over France thanks to the army recruits.
Exploring the Chablis vineyards
Venture into the Chablis vineyards, to meet the passionate winegrowers and taste this white wine that is probably the most famous in the world. What makes Chablis wine so special? Its mineral taste, flinty notes as the wine connoisseurs would say. Where does this taste come from? The clay-limestone soil full of... tiny fossil residue!
Exploring the countryside in the Puisaye
Welcome to the Puisaye, a small, somewhat secret, yet fabulous place. Behind this largely unknown name is an authentic little part of Burgundy.
- Just picture a beautiful manor house, superbly decorated and which still bears the mark of its former writer resident, the famous Colette.
- You can also imagine a medieval castle still being built, without the use of cranes or diggers. A stroke of genius that began 20 years ago! The tradespeople in Guédelon are working hard to create this historic monument, using 13th-century techniques.
- There are also some castles that are very much completed such as Ratilly or Saint-Fargeau with a history spanning several centuries.
- Add to all that the ancient professions such as pottery and stonemasonry, hiking trails through a protected natural environment, markets such as Toucy where you can take in the scents and colours at your own pace.