By now it should not be news that I like cities on the water. This month I’m exploring cities on the Yonne and the Loire. Nevers is on the Loire, where two smaller rivers – the Nièvre and L’Éperon – flow into it, and where there the Canal Nivernais now flows as well.
Within a ten-minute walk from the train station, you start to see the stunning historic buildings of the town. The Palace of the Counts of Nevers and the Cathedral of Saint-Cyr-et-Sainte-Julitte are huge – and beautiful. There are other significant churches and medieval buildings that testify to an important past. It seems Roman buildings will remain covered up for centuries to come, as just a few pieces have turned up. All in all, I like the look of Nevers, as quite a well-built city. And yes, it has a theatre – although the programing seems to run along popular-entertainment lines.
Like Auxerre, Nevers has a free navette circling the downtown. I hopped on one day and ended up going round many times while talking with the friendly and very informative driver. While he told me about Nevers, and we talked about other towns I’m interested in, he strongly recommended I check out Vichy – so I think I shall.
Yesterday, the day of a national strike ruling out train travel, I toured on foot, and found a cluster of attractive restaurants and gourmet shops by the square Saint-Sebastien (which happens to be around Google Maps’ arbitrarily-placed green marker in the header map image here).
A bar called Le Lord had its blackboard out front announcing Oeufs en meurette as the Plat du jour for 10.50. Sold. This is a Burgundian specialty of poached eggs in a wine sauce, and something I like a lot. It’s different at every restaurant; in fact, it’s different every time I make it, too, changing what stock base is used, and what additions of mushrooms, leeks, shallots, pearl onions, bacon/lardons one chooses. I ate upstairs, just the eggs and a glass of Bourgueil (red). It was tasty, though the eggs were overcooked. And then I gave into temptation and bought a few chocolates at the elegant shop – Au Négus – that you see showing babas, above.
After lunch, I toured the Ducal Palace and the Cathedral. The Palace turned out to have just a very small section open; I think the main part is used for the courts. The part one can tour has several modern and comfortable meeting rooms on the upper floors, so obviously the building is not maintained just as a relic. The lower level was modernized for exhibits, so the only tempting photos were the views out the upper windows. Happily, there was a model to help one imagine what the complex was like when Pierre de Courtenay had it built and fortified in 1190.
The cathedral was consecrated in the early 800s! Of course, it has been rebuilt over the centuries. The last re-building project was occasioned by an RAF blunder when bombing rail lines in 1944, with a couple of 1000-pound bombs causing great destruction. The restoration work looks outstanding to me: I hope Notre Dame will be as well restored.
Nevers is known for faïence, like Gien, Quimper and Lunéville. But Nevers claims to have been the origin of such production in France. Ludovico Gonzaga (the Ludovico who lived 1539–1595) became Duke of Nevers, and brought ceramic artisans from Faenza, Italy. Sadly, the museum dedicated to faïence here is closed until April because the rise of electric service makes running the space too costly this winter.