Visiting Autun (Bourgogne)

AutunI think Autun probably holds one of my favorite markets; one which has pretty much remained the same over the years. The lady from whom I bought my first ras-el-hanout and tarragon many years ago is still there selling her spices, lavender, and in the summer, her dried fruit covered in wasps! The cheese lady with her assortment of regional goat’s cheeses is still there as well, and a while ago, a stand selling Dutch cheeses also joined the market.
The city of Autun has many nice shops, restaurants and cultural attractions. Worth a visit are the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre (built by Emperor Augustus and known to have been the largest in the Roman world) as well as the city’s two ancient gateways (the Porte d’Arroux and the Porte St-André, dating back to the 1st and 4th century respectively). Both attest to the Autun’s Gallo-Roman origins. Also worth a visit are the Musée Rolin where one can admire a variety of artifacts, sculptures and beautifully preserved mosaics. The museum is housed in the Renaissance hotel built by Nicolas Rolin, the man also responsible for L’Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune. The Cathédrale St-Lazare, located on that same square, dates back to the mid-12th century and is famous for its magnificent sculptures and exquisite tympanum executed by Gislebertus, one the best Romanesque sculptors.
There are many good places to eat in Autun, but we always seem to stick to the same place – Brasserie Le Commerce. During the afternoon, the brasserie is  filled with the local lunchtime crowd. Always a good sign. If you want to stop there for lunch, it is best to arrive before 12:30 in the afternoon as tables are quickly taken. Especially in the summer. The dishes served at Le Commerce are simple but always wonderful. I’ve had the creamiest blanquette de veau and the most rustic (and stick-to-the-ribs!) choucroute garnie in the winter, richly-filled seafood salads in the summer… and well, words cannot describe how irresistible their cocotte de escargots in garlic sauce really is!

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