Nièvre- The luminous and discreet lady of the river Loire
Updated: Jan 16
If I had to define Nièvre, I would say it belongs to the river Loire- its energetic source creates thousands of enchanted shades of light that dominate the scenery of the whole region.
Before traveling to Nièvre, I found that the name resonated very melodious and I was quite curious to explore the region which has such a pretty name. After my visit, I acknowledged the river Loire is an unseparated part of the Nièvre. Although Nièvre was called after its river Nièvre, the dominant river of the region is the Loire. Even if it sometimes needs the effort to go and find it,( not always flow in the main center) its powerful presence gives this dynamic and constant lightning change.
In my last review, I explored one of the most renowned regions in la Bourgogne- la Cote d'Or and one of its major towns- Beaune. But Bourgogne is a vast territory, and I had the chance to explore another part of it, rich in sites and treasures but remains more humble and discreet- La Nièvre. (Located between la Bourgogne - Franche Comté.
It was still Autumn, the beginning of November, but the weekend I arrived at the main city of the region- Nevers, the weather tended to be wintery with a gloomy, foggy sky. Therefore, I appreciated it even more when the sun suddenly made a few apparitions.
Nevers is a town that has quite a few stunning historical sites to visit. I appreciated the monuments from the Middle Ages packed with stories and old charm.
The first discovery was the imposing Saint -Cyr and Saint Julitte Cathedral.
It is a Roman Gothic Cathedral. First, it was constructed in the 11th century but experienced some historical changes. It is particularly charming to see the modern colourful stained glasses placed there after some damage caused to the church during the bombing of the second world war. I was told that the effect is more significant with sunlight, but even with the grey sky, these works of art were striking.
The stained glasses were signed by Raoul Ubac, Claude Viallat. Jean-Michel Alberola, Gottfried Honegger and François Rouan
Besides this ancient church, there is an ancient, marvelous Tower Bohier -La Tour Bohier.
Inside it is a museum with many old sculptures of various characters, and climbing to the top,
with many stairs, was definitely worth the effort.When you reach the top, there is a fantastic fresco on the ceiling.
- a sort of Medusa painted like the vision of the Greek mythology. Outside on the roof, you can appreciate the view of Nevers.
Nevers is an invitation to walk along the Loire River, and I discovered The Faience and Beaux Arts Museum", in front of the riverside
The faience is a trademark of Nevers. They are originally handmade ceramic housewares and objects. The unique drawings, with the dominant blue on the white porcelain, are real works of art. in the museum, you can see a great collection of them, from sculptures and paintings to pottery. There is a rare collection of precious objects, and you can spend a few hours there admiring the special utensils.
When I left the museum, the harmonious light effect of the sunset- was created with the reflection of the Loire river. It was a mesmerizing light!
Another important architectural and historical spot was the "Saint Bernadette space."
I was always fascinated by the story of Joan of Arc, and it inspired me to write a novel about this myth.
In Nevers, I learned about Saint Bernadette, a mysterious young girl in the 17th century who studied in an abbey in Lourdes and had apparitions of "The Virgen Marie". She retreated inside the monastery " Sœurs de la Charité" located in Nevers, where she devoted her life to studies.
This place is sacred to believers and pilgrims from all over the world. Whether you believe or consider it as a legend, the site plunges you into an enigma, from the garden to the church where Saint Bernadette is buried and her body remained intact and is exposed in a coffin to the people who are praying.
During your stroll in the city center of Nevers, you will appreciate the sight of the beautiful Palace Ducale, one of the first castles of the Loire.
You will also see on your way, some particular houses and a nurtured park.
Château des Bordes.
If you are fascinated by old castles but wish they would be less crowded than Château de Versailles, I recommend visiting the Château des Bordes. It is a significant site in the region Nièvre and only a short drive by car from Nevers.
It answers the wishes of anyone enthusiastic about seeing old, splendid palaces and castles. It was built in the 11th century but was badly damaged by fire during the war of 100 years. It was redeveloped in the 17th century and became magnificent. The sister of the castle's owner married the future King of Poland, Jean Sobieski.
When I visited this well-preserved castle, I couldn't believe it was abandoned for some years. The Joulie family bought it in 2013 and they invested in its reconstruction and restored it.
I was welcomed by Françoise Jouile who showed me the rooms and explained me their history.
We started by visiting a large room that was once the stables - a lovely and elegant hall that serves nowadays for celebrations.
In the castle- Each room gave a new astonishing perspective of this luxurious castle.
I adored the mixture of simplicity and prosperity.
I was surprised to see another important testimony from a fascinating story: Joan of Arc's tower, right by the castle.
It is believed that she was staying there. It is another mysterious connection to Saint Bernadette's space in Nevers. Two heroic important female figures in French history had a geographical connection. They shared a few things in common.
Click inside the photo for the link
Finally, there is a restaurant called "table des Bordes" where I enjoyed a delicious, abundant meal. I assumed it would be pricy, but no, the prices were moderate for a super tasty lunch in a beautifully decorated restaurant and you would benefit from a marvelous view of the garden and the castle. It was such a pleasurable experience.
Cosnes Sur Loire
It is a pretty old village with a significant Cinema monument in an art deco style, and I loved the small bridges over the river. The landscape reminded me of a Dutch town. I enjoyed strolling in the small streets it is a peaceful village and was a nice stop on the way.
Charité Sur Loire
This town is incredible. I am glad I stayed there for the night. It is an authentic town that breathes history and originality. it allowed me to get to know it properly.
It is built around one of the largest abbeys in Europe. The Monastery of the Charité Sur Loire is a UNESCO world heritage, and when you visit it you understand the reason,
I adored this immense Abbey with few interior courtyards, and in the main praying hall, there are contemporary stained glasses from the New Yorker artist- Christopher Wool.
The architecture of the buildings is outstanding.
Wandering in this vast area of the Abbey gives the walker a feeling that he has the key to comprehending the Middle- Ages history.
After my visit in the Abbey, it was lovely to stroll in different paths and discovering how pittoresque the landscape was.
In the town, I discovered two coffee houses and tea rooms that were exactly my taste: Cosy and arty with great coffee. A beautiful English tea room Chariteas and Couleur Café.
The Chariteas tea room has a flamboyant interior decoration, and it has a great location, just facing the river Loire. If you feel like "relaxing in a beautiful tea house in England" while being in the heart of the Nièvre, it is the perfect place to be.
Couleur Café -Creative design, it is like an invitation to sit in a house with few floors. each has its own style.
The town might be small but charged with so many interesting places and surprising sightseeing. The Loire added various perspectives to its landscape spreading its magical spices.
Pouilly Sur Loire
On the last day, I took a train from Charité sur Loire to another charming village in the Nièvre -
to visit a vineyard with excellent local white wine in the Pouilly- Fumé. In this well-managed place, you would watch a movie that explains how this wine is produced.
You would experience the wine's different aromas and their specific qualities. At the end of this session, you are invited to taste the various white wines, and you can purchase them in the boutique.
When one travels, You could always leave a place to spontaneity, I find it more adventurous so instead of returning later and directly to Paris, I had a lift with an amicable Dutch family to Charité sur Loire, (because I felt I wanted to spend more time there and also to see a specific sculpture)
Charité on Loire was on the way to their home. There were very few trains that ran that afternoon.
They have a second house in the region and came to buy a few bottles of the Pouilly -Fumé. Which is one of their favorites. "We appreciate good French wine. When we are in France, we buy a stock of bottles", smiled the tall, bearded man with sharp blue eyes.
I was relieved I could return earlier to beautiful Charité sur Loire
I went for a walk behind the Monastery to find this hidden sculpture located in the Parc of Adam. The Sculptor Joseph Descompes who moved to Charité sur Loire with his wife originally from Nièvre gave the sculpture to his adoptive city as a gift: It is the Goddess Dawn who watches over charite's sur Loire beauty.
It was a pure, poetic moment. The autumnal shades beamed on the Loire, and the white-celestial woman carved in the garden appeared almost alive.
Text and Images- Niva Josef
Other Recommendations: Where to stay, eat and drink and links
Château des Bordes.
I stayed in two wonderful Bed and Breakfast: Both beautifully and originally decorated, they ensure perfect comfort and homemade breakfast. The owners are kind and hospitable.
They invested in every detail in their home. Both have also a well-groomed garden( would be lovely to sit there in warmer days). I felt very welcomed.
Au NOEUD VERT
click on the link inside the photo
La cour du Château in Charité sur Loire
Click on the link inside the photo
I had a lovely dinner in the great restaurant Simplicité in Nevers
and La Pomme D'Or restaurant in Charité sur Loire
For another high- quality coffee shop, do go to Café Vélo in Nevers. It has a very good roasted coffee with bio food.
The decoration of bicycles is a reminder for the many cyclists who pass through Nevers.
Click inside the image for Tourism Nièvre site