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A day’s explore and nights stay between Amboise and Lyon

We wish to take a slow scenic route on our drive between Loire Valley where we are spending 4 nights and Lyon where we have 2 nights before flying to Italy. We have 1 night to give.
We have struck our a few times finding ourselves in a “too touristy” town (Dinan), non-tour catering small cities where we feel like impositions in their work a day world (Reims and Amiens) and tired villages barely holding on to life (St Denis). We love the cathedrals and the chimes of their bells. We enjoy classical and jazz. We soak up the art. The locally appreciated dining are gems we have enjoyed and feel lucky to find.
Please help us. Merci!

Posted by
6907 posts gives you a choice of routes: fastest, most economical, recommended, and discovery among others. You can study all the different routes suggested. Vézelay is one possibility.

Posted by
243 posts

Originally we had planned a night’s in Vezelay. It appears very charming. We would like to hear from travelers who have stayed there. It would be a 3 hour drive from here. Then a 3 hour drive to Lyon the following day. Not bad. Looks worth our time.
So, Vezelay for a night, or add a night in Lyon (making it a 3 nights stay with 2 full days to explore)? That is the question.

Posted by
401 posts

My wife and I stayed in Vézelay a few Octobers ago and had a good stay at an Airbnb -- an apartment in an old building. We also stopped by there with some visitors from the U.S. between Christmas and New Year's day one year on our way up to Paris. Nearly all the businesses in town were closed for the season, so I wouldn't recommend visiting then.

If you plan to head that far east before turning south, you might consider going through Autun (90 minutes by car) and then down to Paray le Monial (75 minutes) before finishing the trip to Lyon (about 100 minutes from Paray le Monial by car).

Autun is an old Roman city (Augustodunum) to which the Romans relocated the inhabitants of the nearby celtic capital of Bibracte after Julius Caesar and his Roman army defeated Vercingétorix and his army at Alésia in 52 BCE. It's essentially a hill town, with medieval ramparts and an impressive 12th century cathedral. It also has some Roman ruins -- an amphitheater on the north end of town and a portion of an old Roman structure on the south end of town inaccurately called the Temple of Janus (experts say it had nothing to do with Janus). Autun (Augustodunum) and Lyon (Lugdunum) were two important Roman cities in this part of France.

Paray le Monial is a small town with a classic 12th century cluniac Romanesque basilica (Basilique du Sacré-Coeur). In my copy of the Larousse dictionary, the definition of the word "romanesque" is illustrated with a photo of this basilica. It's the town where, in the late 1600s, a nun (Sainte Marguerite-Marie) reportedly saw several apparitions of Jesus with his sacred heart exposed. As I understand it, it's one of the series of events that led to the whole "sacred heart" movement in Catholicism (I'm not Catholic, so pardon me for any errors in terminology). Tens of thousands of pilgrims (in French, pélerins) come to Paray le Monial each summer to attend sessions related to this movement.

Within a short walk are clustered three impressive churches:

  • The Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

  • The Chapelle des Apparitions where the visions occurred, and

  • The much more modern (1930s) Chapelle Saint Claude la Colombière, which contains the skeleton of Saint Claude (who was Sainte Marguerite-Marie's priest) and some small but pretty impressive mosaics

Posted by
6907 posts

Since Bob has mentioned Autun, I agree, as it’s a favorite, in one of my favorite regions. This is traditional, old France, off the beaten foreign tourist track, though teams from all EU countries are excavating at Bibract. Great Gallo-Roman museum and Roman ruins thrown in. Excellent wines not far away. We spent a week there.

Vézelay is more touristic with its magnificent, restored abbey. It’s also a major stop on the pilgrimage route to Compostelle in Spain. I used to go there yearly when my in-laws lived an hour north. Hope one of these fits the bill. Bonne route.

Posted by
401 posts

If I recall correctly, two of the Crusades were launched from Vézelay.

Posted by
4125 posts

Vezeley is a knockout destination, and the way to visit is to spend the night.

It does get a lot of tour buses during the day, and it's a little off the most direct route. But it is truly lovely.

Lyon pretty great too.