Off to Bibracte

Posted on Jun 03, 2010 in category

Today we travel to Bibracte, the European Archaeological Centre based at Glux-en-Glenne, Burgundy. Our elderly French-Algerian taxi driver gave us a ‘joy-ride’ to Lyon’s Airport where we picked up our new Citroen C5. We were given a brief lesson in how to work a million gadgets; then, I drove out cautiously onto French highways. My first blew was to take a wrong turn as described by our GPS guide, nicknamed Lizzy (she has a British accent!). However, we turned it into an advantage by filling up the tank with diesel.

My second mistake - to attempt to hop into the driver’s seat from the passenger’s side! Wendy laughed her head off. Humble pie!
Any other mistakes in this roadworthy confession? Qui! One more, I find the biggest risk on European roads is the process of turning left at any stage. It’s easy to forget to always look left first rather than right. Automatically and instinctively we look right but this can be fatal here particularly if you have the habit of allowing your car to keep edging into the near lane! Fortunately, Wendy saved my life by alerting me to an approaching ‘Ferrari’ on my left. Merci, merci, Wendy for such big mercies!
Tournus on the Saone was our ‘dejeuner’ stop. It’s a quant, quiet village with an 11th century church. Recently, on renovating the church they discovered under two previous floors remnants of early medieval mosaics. It was designed with the 12 zodiac symbols of which only 4 of the best preserved are shown to the public. The village had a thriving paddlesteamer industry in the 19th century which reminded me of the Gauls and Gallo-Romans who also greatly utilised this river for trade and exchange.
Two unfortunate events occurred in regard to Tournus: firstly, the local museum was closed for lunch and secondly Wendy wiped the photos off the camera. Wendy’s turn to eat humble pie!

The journey through the Morvan National Park in Burgundy to Bibracte was a driving dream. Undulating green hills covered with healthy pastures interspersed generously with thick, forested pine/beech and occasional oak trees were all vista treats. Small villages add a historical feel to the panorama.


In the late sunny afternoon we arrived at the very modern, world-class facility of the European Research Centre at Glux-en-Glenne. We were warmly greeted by Joelle Cunnac who gave us an extensive tour of the facilities as well as introducing us to her fellow workers. Joelle is such a friendly and relaxed person who has gone out of her way to assist us in preparing our itinerary. In fact, Joelle organised our Autun visit today and is still trying to tie up a few ends for us. She is amazing!!

The Research Centre’s facilities are ‘fantastique’. They include separate workshops for metal and ceramic work, an graphic design department, a 24/7 library research facility with special archaeological collections, a conference hall, classrooms for visiting school children including primary students, delegated workrooms for visiting research teams from all over Europe, a large administrative area and an enormous underground archive ‘depot’ where the temperature is kept at the optimum conservation level. An extension to this storage area is currently under way.


In another building complex in the village is located accommodation for visiting researchers and students. In the large cafeteria archaeologists dine alongside visiting primary students. French egalitarianism in practice! Bravo!



The ‘piece de resistance’ of the day was meeting the Centre’s Director/Archaeologist, Vincent Guirand. Over the last year I’ve communicated with Vincent by email. He’d been so generous with his time and support including a written recommendation to his numerous French cultural colleagues and passing on incoming emails. He extended his hospitality by kindly inviting us to his family home for a very pleasant drop of pinot noir (the red grape variety of Burgundy).

We thoroughly enjoyed sitting on their balcony overlooking a mini-Monet garden setting with Mont Beuvray in the background. Vincent’s children kindly provided some entertaining piano accordion music for us. A little ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was included


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