After just three nights in Paris, I caught a train to Auxerre, capital of the Yonne, a department of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. I’ve roamed around Burgundy by car a few times, and been thoroughly charmed, but it had been years, and I wanted to see some parts of it again – as well as see how it might be in winter. I’m skipping the Côte-d’Or this year, as I expect any area of interest there to be out of my budget – or too out-of-the-way -, so this time it’s just the Yonne and Nièvre. It’s a mild January, so I’m still not sure what a full winter might be like.
I lucked out with lodging, as I’d decided to take a chance on a hostel – Maison des Randonneurs – that only offers mixed dorms but which seemed to have few, if any, visitors. I ended up with a 3-bunk room totally to myself, with ensuite facilities. And it was on the ground floor, so no hassle with luggage. The reception is manned only from 4 to 7 pm each day, but I still got to have several extended conversations with the very congenial and informative manager.
I went to the tourist office for a bit of orientation, and had a good conversation with one of the staff, who described Auxerre as a very quiet place … and then I had an extended conversation with a gourmet shop’s manager, who spoke of Auxerre as a place with a lot always going on. The center of town feels quite small, but as you see from the photos, there are some charming buildings that testify to the town’s significance in medieval times as well as the 1800s. Today, the town is fairly quiet, but there are a great many restaurants and a lot of shops of good quality – as well as a few funky spots – so it does not seem dead. There are a few cultural events each month; not a constant offering, but something.
The tourist office sold a little folder (2 euros) documenting a five-kilometer tourist trail through town, which is marked by numbered bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalks: “Cadet Roussel” being the label. Not a great hero, but rather an amusing bailiff from the revolutionary era, who was satirized in a song that has stayed popular.
To not slow down this page, I’ve put more photos of Auxerre into a separate photo gallery.
Auxerre has a free bus making the rounds of the downtown area, which gave me a brief tour and showed me a performing arts theater. The navette does not cross the river to offer transportation to/from the train station.
I do like towns with a river running through them – it’s that St. Louis background – and the river Yonne always seems attractive to me, often with a fair current and a good breadth. It looks inviting for boating or kayaking, and it’s very pleasant to stroll along.
I ended up with no strong feelings about Auxerre. “Good enough” might be my conclusion, if some wonderful property turned up. It’s certainly within range of a number of attractions, such as Vézelay, and it’s just an hour fifty minutes by train to Paris (Gare de Bercy; only 16 euros one way with my Senior Advantage card). The old buildings have their charm, and I found restaurant and shop staff friendly – as one would always hope.