Charolais-Brionnais: A bountiful territory
In exploring Charolais-Brionnais country, you've made your way to a land of bounty showing multiple faces. A region of cattle breeding and pastures, lush landscapes where rolling prairies blend with rounded hillsides, ponds, watercourses and vast stretches of grazing land at the edge of compact towns and fortified farms.
Gastronomic at its core, Charolais-Brionnais is home to some prestigious food appellations (Charolais beef, regional goat cheese) and plenty of tasty specialities. As for culture and heritage, here again the area is well represented: a bastion of Romanesque art, with an incredible density of period churches and chapels dotting the territory around the celebrated basilica of Paray-le-Monial.
As if that wasn't enough, Charolais-Brionnais also shines in the culinary arts tradition, showcasing its earthenware (Charolles, Digoin) along with hundreds of kilometres of hiking itineraries embracing its gentle and welcoming topography.
The area offers a host of opportunities for amusement, discovery and exploration; whichever way you turn, you're bound to return overwhelmed.
A land where all roads lead to Rome-anesque
Renowned for its art and history, Charolais-Brionnais is one of France's centres for Romanesque art and architecture since the area encompasses over 100 churches and chapels either fully or partially Romanesque.
Spanning out from the movement's hub at the Paray-le-Monial Basilica, considered to be a "reduced-scale model" of the Cluny Abbey, the churches of Anzy-le-Duc, Semur-en-Brionnais, Montceaux-l’Etoile and Bois-Sainte-Marie constitute a small illustrative set of the marvels found here.
For those seeking a more exhaustive exploration of the region's religious monuments, 2 discovery tours have been specially designed leaving from Paray-le-Monial: the 120-km long Brionnais circuit (plan on a full day outing), and the Charolais circuit (220 km), best covered in 2 days if you're eyeing the entire route.
More information: http://www.tourismecharolaisbrionnais.fr/circuits-chemins-du-roman.html
A gourmet and food-oriented territory
Birthplace of famous Charolais meats, Charolais-Brionnais also features a wide array of outstanding meats and produce, output from farming and breeding techniques that associate tradition with meeting strict requirements.
Besides Charolais beef and goat cheese (both of which have recently received the AOP appellation certification), this zone is replete with resources and gourmet recipes (e.g. pig rind cakes, the cacou cherry tart) sure to please any palate. Moreover, many producers sell at the farm in addition to hosting a stand at weekly open-air markets.
A layout appreciated by outdoor enthusiasts
Whether on a bicycle saddle or in hiking boots (or alternating between the two), the opportunities for outings are in no short supply. Several types of itineraries on the Charolais-Brionnais Greenways and Cycling Routes are proposed along the Loire banks and canal towpaths.
The Greenways bordering the Loire get real close to France's wild-flowing river for a leisurely bike ride on the designated itinerary "Itinerant Destination Loire" from Cronat to Iguerande. Also note that Charolais-Brionnais is crossed by the renowned EuroVélo 6 (EV6) itinerary connecting the Atlantic Coast with Alsace over more than 1,300 km, which happens to be one of France's easiest and most enjoyable cycling routes (depending on your objective, be sure to leave on the right side).
For those who prefer hikes, the territory contains 200+ marked hiking circuits for all levels, affectionately known as:
the “Green Trails”
Whether biking or walking, all these circuits provide a plethora of opportunities to head out and discover local heritage and panoramas, promising a return with plenty of great memories.
Spa stays and well-being in Bourbon-Lancy
The Spa is the ideal spot to focus on health thanks to the therapeutic benefits of its waters, whose natural temperature reaches 60°C. On the other hand, the CeltÔ complex offers 3 relaxation spaces for all-comers: the Vitalys facility with its thermal pool and all accompanying pleasures (jacuzzi, sauna, entertainment, etc.); the Nymphéa space (dedicated to personal care); and Aqualia, oriented around more conventional fitness treatments (clay, whirlpool, modelling, water mass, etc.).
Another discovery will take you to the outdoor natural SPA shaped like a Celtic cross (tribute to the city's origins), whose temperature remains a constant 34° all year round, or else to its CeltÔrium: an extensive Turkish bath left in total darkness.