THE GRASS IS GREENER IN MÂCONNAIS
Driving through the gorgeous lush meadows of the Mâconnais region in late fall, you can’t help but notice that the grass is greener in this part of the world. These are the rich Burgundy pastures that provide grazing for the much acclaimed Charolais cattle and supply France with some of the finest beef and cheese.
But in late fall, Mâconnais verdant paysage transforms into a land of contrasts: the emeralds and chartreuses of trimmed grasslands coalesce with the golds and oranges of unpruned vineyards, and the sky turns a deeper shade of blue, accentuating the pinks and reds of Romanesque structures. And although most visitors tend to travel to the region in summer, I find that there is a starker, more dramatic beauty to this place in fall.
ROCHE DE SOLUTRÉ
Iconic Site & Geological Wonder
An iconic part of the Mâconnais landscape and one of France’s greatest prehistoric sites is Roche de Solutré. The unusual limestone formation mounting over Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards has been occupied by humans for 55,000 years. Paleolithic civilizations used it as hunting grounds; Gallo-Romans erected settlements and roads in its vicinity; the site was used as a stronghold in the Middle Ages and as a base of French resistance during the Second World War.
Discovery of thousands of animal remains at the foot of the rock in the 1950s gave rise to a myth that prehistoric hunters used to force their prey off the cliff. Although later research has disproved this theory, the myth lives on.
A climb to the top is a rewarding 20-minute hike culminating in an ascent to the rock’s summit with spectacular panoramic views of the Saône planes, the granite massifs of the Beaujolais, the Alps in the background, and miles and miles of Mâconnais finest vineyards around the rock’s perimeter.
Savor the Wine!!!
On the way down, don’t miss an opportunity to taste delicious Pouilly Fuissé in Solutré-Puilly’s family owned wine stores and co-op cellars! Produced exclusively with Chardonnay grapes, this flavorful, delicate and refreshing wine is amongst the finest in the region.
When French President Francois Mitterrand climbed the rock for the first time, he was so moved by the scenery, that he decided to make it an annual pilgrimage – staying true to his commitment, he returned to Solutré 49 times before his death in 1996.
Idyllic Center of Monastic Influence
The town owes its prominence to the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny. Independent from local authorities and subject only to the Pope, the abbey was able to centralize its rule, introduce monastic reforms, and extend its influence throughout medieval Europe. Until the erection of St. Peter’s in Rome, the abbey church – Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul – was the largest church in the world; the Cluny library was one of the richest and most important in Europe.
Don’t Miss the Stud Farm…
Adjacent to the abbey is the renowned Haras National de Cluny. In operation since Napoleonic times, the National Stud Farm offers guided tours, educational activities, and equestrian shows. It is great fun for kids and adults alike and a fantastic way to complete a day’s visit of Cluny!
Architectural Jewels of Mâconnais
Discovery of the Mâconnais region is incomplete without an exploration of the region’s architectural jewels – splendid Renaissance châteaux, sumptuous Baroque castles, imposing medieval fortresses. Burgundy Tourism Board features dozens of such historic monuments, some of which are free to visit, with maps and practical information; Airbnb and other hospitality sites offer châteaux rentals enticing travelers to take their château experience to the next level. But irrespective of whether you are splurging or traveling on a budget, revering medieval austerity or the opulence of renaissance architecture, enjoying the mystical or the romantic ambiance, Southern Burgundy holds the châteaux experience that is just right for you.