The heat’s here to stay. One cannot hide by a canal any longer, pretending it’s a cool day. And then there’s that ferry that’s booked to take us to England from Le Havre. One way or another, it’s time to hit the road again.
Our destination is another lovely Les Plus Beaux Village, a place that will be instantly familiar if you’ve ever enjoy the aniseed sweet it’s famous for.
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain sits perched on the Auxois hills.
Its location has borne witness to centuries of history – earliest records speak of a Roman battle on this site in 52 BC. Attended by none other than Caesar himself. (I don’t know about you, but all I can see is Richard Harris as Caesar and Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, the latter minxing about in some rather spectacular get up. The 1963 epic “Cleopatra”. If you haven’t seen it, do. And afterwards, look up the outrage that her affair with married costar, Richard Burton (who played Mark Athony) spawned. Even the Pope went to print with an opinion. She was the first actress to be paid $1M for a role – this role. She didn’t want to make the film and threw down a price then thought unattainable. They paid, and continued paying with endless delays and truly spectacular budget blowouts. The end result though, is a very fine piece of celluloid history.)
Our drive is a long one, moving us out of Bourgogne, into the Cote d’Or region, robbed of its usual greenery by a long hot summer. We’re driving though cattle country, France’s famous white cows, the Charolais, peer at us with varying levels of interest as we pass, most simply trying to stay cool under the heat of the day.
We arrive by mid afternoon, the heat an oppressive blanket despite our 1,400 metre elevation.
True to its reputation, the scent of aniseed really does permeate the air here. Our entrance to the village is past the Benedictine Abbey where the sweets have been made for centuries.
Centred in the village is its parish church, the 13th Saint Genest.
It’s one of the rare instances where visitors are admitted upstairs to the stalls, made by the brothers in the 14th century.
The church also houses Burgundian statutory from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Elsewhere in the village there are turrets and towers a plenty, architecturally speaking to the village’s prosperity, although I will admit that the heat curtailed my usual nose to tail detailed inspection.
It’s much cooler in the 8th century crypt ruins of the Abbey Saint Pierre. It’s extraordinary, given the time that’s past, that any of the Abbey still remains. What we see today is the work of a mid 20th century dig.
There’s the sweet shop to visit, of course.
Apart from aniseed, the little round hard sweets come in every imaginable flavour, made in a single room to the side. It’s extraordinary to think of how far these little lollies travel – all made here, by a mere handful of people.
The heat eventually defeats us, well short of a usual Les Plus Beaux Village visit. Having crossed the Bourgogne Canal many times today, we seek it yet again, to end the day by.
It’s another peaceful spot offering reflective surfaces and the occasional cool breeze.
Evening sees a family of ducks swim by, checking on the off chance that this morning’s bread might be in the offing. Their luck is in, of course.
Later, swifts zoom by, in little groups, skimming the water ever so delicately, for a drink. They’re very skillful little fliers. Himself thinks they carry water back to nest like this too. Birds – endlessly patient parents.