QUIET AREA The cottage Les Biches is located in a small agricultural hamlet, Cloiseau, which is part of the village of Crux-la-Ville. This village is located in the Nièvre, a department known for having hardly any industry and other activities. Your gaze is not hindered by buildings when you drive through the region. Wide views are interspersed with forests and small old villages. For those looking for peace and quiet, this region offers vast forests and deserted roads where you rarely encounter other hikers. You can enjoy the piercing silence of the night and the bird sounds in the early morning. In this rural region, where it seems that time has stood still for fifty years, you will find many old villages with Romanesque churches, old cemeteries and beautiful lavoirs (washing places).
WALKING From the house you can walk directly into the forest and go for hours. In the cottage you'll find a folder with maps of the area. Three kilometres away is Étang du Merle, a lake where you can swim and have a picnic. A little further away are two large lakes, Étang de Baye and Étang de Vaux, where you can also practice other water sports, such as sailing, surfing and canoeing. On the Canal de Nivernais you can rent a boat for a day and on the river Yonne you can go whitewater canoeing. The nearby village of Saint-Saulge has more than 500 kilometres of signposted mountain bike trails. It is fun to cycle in the Nièvre anyway: the roads are not too steep.
SHOPS AND TERRACES The nearest shops are located in Saint-Saulge (6 km). There is an excellent butcher, a supermarket, a bakery, a pharmacy and next to the church a café with a terrace for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. In Prémery (12 km) you will find more shops. This town, formerly the summer residence of the Bishops of Nevers, has retained part of its medieval enclosure and the 14th century gate. You will find a bank and a post office, a large supermarket, a garage, bakers and butchers, a pharmacy, hairdressers and a tabac/maison de presse. There are some local restaurants and twice a year there is a large brocante market. Premery has a small museum that exhibits pottery from the Nivernais in the summer months.
Good shopping can also be done in Corbigny (14 km). This town is located in the valley of the Anguison river, in a friendly hilly landscape. Shops, two cafés with terraces, half-timbered houses, a bookshop, butchers and bakers, several restaurants and a pizzeria and a hardware store make the town attractive. In summer, an annual classical music festival is held in the abbey. Every Friday there is a market in the main street and every 2nd Tuesday of the month there is a cattle market. For more specific purchases or fashion stores, you need to drive a little further to Nevers (50 km).
Wine tasting is possible at the many caves in Pouilly-sur-Loire and Sancerre. A little further you'll find the Burgundy wine towns such as Beaune, Mâcon and Nuits-Saint-Georges. In the cottage there is a list of restaurants in the area and information about local markets, where you can buy fresh regional cheeses, sausages, snails, mushrooms and local bread.
THE VILLAGE The municipality in which the cottage Les Biches is located has hardly more than four hundred inhabitants. Since the municipality is very extensive, the population density is very low (9 inhabitants per km²). Crux-la-Ville used to be a bustling village. Around the middle of the 19th century there were more than two thousand inhabitants. The village also had a hotel, a café, shops and workshops. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Nevers - Corbigny railway line ran here, with two stations in Ligny and in Cloiseau (after the exit to Les Biches you can see the little old station on the right). Crux-la-Ville has a nice lavoir (place to do the laundry) behind the church. It has several lakes, including the Étang du Merle (18 ha) which in summer is widely used by tourists and families from the neighborhood. There is a beach, pedal boats are available for rent and fishing is possible in part of the lake. On the eve of the national holiday 14 July, festive fireworks are set off on the edge of the lake.
HISTORY OF THE VILLAGE Crux-la-Ville originated at the intersection of ancient Roman roads, from which the village takes its name: Crucium fondum, later Cruso). In the archives of the Archbishop of Nevers, the village is first mentioned in 1287. The village then consisted of Crux-la-Ville and Crux-le-Châtel, after the castle that lies on the hills outside the village in the current hamlet of Le Berle. During World War II, there were many resistance groups in and around Crux-la-Ville. Between 12 and 17 August 1944, eight hundred maquisards held out against fifteen hundred German soldiers in Crux-la-Ville. Around the village are several memorials of fallen maquisards, such as the stèles Maquis Daniel, Maquis Mariaux and Maquis Camille.
PICTURESQUE VILLAGES Champallement, Arthel and Sardy-les-Épiry are picturesque villages in the area, Tamnay-en-Bazois is a potter's village. A little further away are the medieval town of Montréal built against a hill, and the town of Charolles to which the white-colored charolais cows owe their name. On the other side of the Loire river is the village of Apremont, built in English cottage style, with a beautiful botanical garden. The village of Saint-Saulge was once a Benedictine priory, developing into a trade and art center with cattle and grocery markets. The 16th century Gothic church St. Martin (built on older foundations) is interesting becuase of the stained glass windows. In front of the entrance you can see a cow hanging from the church tower in the summer. Legend has it that in the Second World War there was so little food for the cattle that it was decided to hoist the village cow up the tower because edible moss could still be found there.
MEDIEVAL TOWNS In the vicinity of cottage Les Biches are many cities founded by the Dukes of Burgundy, such as Autun, Auxerre, Clamecy and Nevers. In addition to an impressive cathedral, Autun has ancient Roman city gates and an amphitheatre. In Auxerre you will find spacious boulevards, medieval ramparts and an abbey from 865. The medieval town of Clamecy is beautifully located against a limestone plateau between the Yonne and Beuvron rivers. The town owes its wealth to the 'flottage de bois', the wood transports by water for the wood supply of Paris. This is still celebrated every year on July 14 with wood raft competitions on the Yonne. The picturesque town, with narrow streets and beautiful 15th century half-timbered houses, has a 12th century Burgundian-Gothic church St. Martin with a 16th century tower in flamboyant style. Clamecy is also the birthplace of the writer Romain Rolland (1866-1944). The municipal museum is named after him: Musée d'Art et d'Histoire Romain Roland. In addition to a collection of paintings from the 18th century to the 20th century, pottery can be seen here, and objects from archaeological excavations, including from the Compierre site.
A romantic city is Avallon. The old part of the medieval fortified town has streets with old vowels and well-preserved fortification walls with views of the surrounding valley. You can admire stately merchant houses from the 15th and 18th centuries, including the famous and typical Burgundy house De Sires de Domecy from the 15th century, built against the church Saint-Lazaire. The city has beautiful ramparts, some of which are covered with hanging gardens. There is also the 15th century bell tower and the chapter church Saint-Lazaire, built in the 4th century and enlarged in the 12th century to accommodate the flows of pilgrims. The Musée L'Avallonais offers a collection of geological, cultural-historical, folkloric and historical objects. There are paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec and Georges Rouault.
LA CHARITÉ-SUR-LOIRE This medieval town on the banks of the Loire is built around a monastery complex and surrounded by old city walls. It is not only the book city of the Nievre, with numerous antiquarian bookshops and bookbinders, but also the city of blues and jazz: every year a renowned festival is held here in August. The old houses and narrow streets surround the impressive remains of the priory Notre-Dame de La Charité-sur-Loire (connected to the Monastery of Cluny) which is one of the highlights of Burgundian Romanesque art and is located on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. The priory consists of a church with a hexagonal tower, which was the largest in France after Cluny. In the sympathetic town you find terraces, brocante shops, galleries and restaurants. On saturdays there is a grocety market with local products and in summer, there is a monthly book market.