IN THE AREA
Auxerre lies just off the A6 autoroute and the N6 main road, which makes it easy to explore the surrounding area by car. Getting around by train is straightforward, too, as the railway station has regular services to neighbouring towns, with TERS reaching even the smallest villages between Auxerre and Avallon further to the south.
The Auxerrois region is one of Burgundy’s major wine-producing areas, so a visit to wine villages is a must. Nine kilometres south of Auxerre is the aptly named SaintBris-le-vineux, a small village tucked away among the vineyard-clad hills. A walk up through the surrounding hills offers some of the best views of rural Yonne.
Attached to the commune are the Caves de Bailly (bailly-lapierre.fr), an impressive site where a sparkling crémant is produced within cool caves dug deep into the limestone overlooking the River Yonne.
Wine enthusiasts should also visit Irancy, which is known for its reds, and Chablis, the home of renowned chardonnays.
Keen cyclists will find excellent routes along the river and the Canal du Nivernais, offering bucolic scenery and teeming riverside wildlife. It is possible to cycle from Auxerre, but you might find quieter routes further south towards Vincelottes or the medieval village of Cravant.
The highlight of the area’s historical attractions is the Unesco World Heritage site of Vézelay, 50 kilometres south of Auxerre. The medieval basilica in this hilltop village is the largest Romanesque building in France and marks a starting point for pilgrims on the Chemins de Saint-jacques-deCompostelle in north-west Spain.
Going back in time even further, a linked group of caverns in the village of Arcy-sur-cure, contains spectacular prehistoric paintings.
ABOVE: The hilltop village of Vézelay and its Unesco-listed basilica
ABOVE: A chilled glass of chablis