If you come to Paris, I think you’d be making a mistake not to venture anywhere else in France. For the past couple of days, I have been staying in Bourges, which is about a two-and-a-half-hour car ride south from Paris. Here, life moves slower, much slower than in Paris, but in the best possible ways. The population is tiny (about 60,000 people) and so when I got to Bourges, way past when the bus was supposed to arrive due to traffic and an unexpected collision with a semi, there was no one out on the street. This was a little bit shocking. It was Friday night, so you’d think people would be out and about, right? Wrong. I made the mistake of not getting some necessities back in Paris because on my walk to the hotel (about 30 minutes), there was NOTHING open.
Even at night, Bourges is stunning. With the Auron River and some of the tallest trees I have ever seen, I was immediately in love with the little town. As you may already know from reading my previous travel blogs, I come in unknowing what to expect. I had no idea that Bourges would be so nature heavy and that there would be a camping place not too far from my hotel.
Once I arrived at the Resto Novo, the young receptionist Dariana was beyond relieved to see me. She said, “I tried calling you but your phone just went beep beep beep. We typically close at 22, but I’m still here to do some paperwork.” I was relieved too! How else would I have gotten the keys to my room? Of all the people I have met so far in France, Dariana was by far the loveliest. Energetic, funny, and so animated, she quickly gave me a map of Bourges and even made copies of another map for me. She told me to go the Cathedral because it’s so special to the city. I started walking away and remembered that I needed water since everything was closed. I asked her if they had any. She ran to the back and grabbed a whole liter of water for me. My host was hospitable to say the least.
Since I booked the hotel on a whim, they only had one night available. The next day, I ate breakfast, which by the way was BOMB (croissants, crepes, marmalade), and headed out with my 30 L backpack. Once again, I was surprised, there still weren’t many people out and about. What is going on here, I thought. I’m not really complaining about this after going to three different tourist packed capital cities. Bourges has been a breath of fresh air.
I did follow the sightseeing guide for Bourges, but I do want to mention a couple of places you absolutely must visit here. The first is the place Dariana recommended. Cathédrale Saint-Étienne is just as gorgeous and special as she described. Although the construction of this Gothic masterpiece began in 1195, it wasn’t finished until 1245 and consecrated in 1324. Guys… That’s like really really old! It’s all the more incredible when you realize how much of an ant you are compared to the Cathedral’s size. It’s HUGE!
The inside is just as stunning as the outside. I walked around the whole edifice and stopped at every stained-glass window to admire the art. Every window conveys a different biblical story, but all of them are colorful and oh so vibrant. If you ever come here, make sure you also check out the astronomical clock that was installed back in 1424. It’s on display to the right of the main entrance.
The other magnificent masterpiece of Gothic architecture you should see is the Jacques Coeur Palace. Make sure you get the audio guide because it takes you through every room in the palace and gives you a wonderful idea of Coeur’s life. Born in Bourges, Coeur decided to build his residence here in 1443. Coeur’s biography is just as grand as his palace. Coeur was not noble by blood but built his way to the top instead. Of all French traders, he was the one to acquire the most massive fortune. His motto? “For a valiant heart nothing is impossible.”
However, this did not come without cost for Coeur. Many were jealous of him being so well off and when King Charles VII’s mistress died, he was accused of poisoning her. Once the King’s close ally, Coeur was imprisoned and his fortunes dispersed. Somehow, he found a way to escape to Rome where he was hospitably received by Pope Nicholas V. He was made the captain of a large fleet, but in 1456, Coeur became sick and died in Chios, Greece. Getting the audio guide really helps you imagine the way things were back then. From lavish feasts in the banqueting hall to prominent social events in the two galleries, you will feel as if it’s 1445.
Aside from sightseeing, I also ate and drank in Bourges. Earlier on in the day, I discovered the best coffee I have ever had in all my life at The French Coffee. I picked the Nutella and chocolate flavored iced coffee and OMG was it delicious. Topped with a massive heap of mouthwatering whipped cream, nuts, and sauce, the coffee sent me straight to heaven.
I attempted to have dinner in town around 5 pm and failed miserably. I had no idea that just about every restaurant would open its doors at 7 pm. It was just so shocking! Anyways, I decided to find my new hotel since the GPS indicated that it would be an hour and a half walk. I came to Bourges at the right time of the year since I just so happened to stumble upon the 100th anniversary of the Bourges Fair. Filled with all sorts of merchants—wine, cheese, meat, spice, even car booths—I knew they had to have food.
I was not disappointed when I came to Chez Lulu. As I exchanged translations with my waitress, I learned that this was a traveling restaurant and that it goes all over France. After much deliberation, I ordered the bavette with fries, salad, and blue cheese sauce. I’ve never had bavette before and decided that I should try it. My understanding is that it’s the sirloin tip. The blue cheese sauce was not mild at all whatsoever, but the horseradish tasting sauce on the salad was delicious so I asked for some more. Now, in combination with the blue cheese sauce, the whole meal was BANG and the meat not tough as I was afraid it would be.
If you read my other blog from yesterday, you know that Google Maps screwed me over and that I had to walk 10 km just to get to my hotel. If the walk wasn’t filled with the beautiful countryside, I think I would have been rather upset. I thankfully made it by the time it became completely dark outside. My walk back to the city to catch the bus to Lyon was not as bad I was worried it would be; a gentleman that worked at the hotel told me of a road that took me straight back to Bourges.
Overall, what a beautiful experience—I highly recommend the visit!