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07 January 2014

Burgundy Canal : Setting a course for the Renaissance chateaux

Spending your holidays in a self-drive boat (no licence required) is a different way to explore the history and heritage of a region. If you set off from Joigny or Montbard, the cruise offered by Locaboat will enable you to discover two wonderful châteaux that stand on the banks of the Burgundy Canal. Just step aboard and go with the flow of the water and of history...

Burgundy is a land of vineyards but also a land of culture. In the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance period, the dukes of Burgundy were so powerful that their lands extended all the way to the frontiers of Flanders and Artois. There are relics of this wealth of history: many châteaux, little manor houses or sumptuous residences, either hidden away in the landscape or standing proudly in the centres of the towns. If you up anchor in Montbard or Joigny, your canal boat cruise will take you to two sumptuous châteaux that are listed as national historic monuments.

The first, Tanlay, in the Department of Yonne, is like a mini-Chambord standing by a lake in the midst of wooded grounds. It was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and was owned, first by Admiral de Coligny during the Wars of Religion and then later by a friend of Cardinal Mazarin. Its ceremonial gallery is painted in trompe-l’œil, whilst the frescoes in the Tour de la Ligue (Tower of the Huguenot League), in a Pompeian style depict important personages at the court of France. One of the delights of this canal cruise : is to tie up and then go by bike or even on foot to one of the sites, since they are so close to the Burgundy Canal.

Ancy-le-Franc, that other jewel of the Renaissance, is actually hemmed in on all sides by water. This majestic château, built in the 16th century by an Italian architect, Sebastiano Serlio, is in itself a journey into a Burgundy that looks like a green version of Tuscany. Its walls are decorated with remarkable frescoes and paintings and it contains works by major Italian, Flemish and Burgundy artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.

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