In truth, the Stuarts were only there for 250 years – time to build a pair of castles – but Aubigny is well versed in public relations when he sees it. The links have been revived and persist. Castles too. One is now the town hall. The haggis is served on special occasions.
Meanwhile, all around stretches the aquatic green Berry, a region that exudes a sense of latent secrecy. It is the country of The great Meaulnes, the novel by Alain-Fournier from 1913 which sold more than 20 copiese-century than any other French fiction, bar The little Prince. Alain-Fournier himself hardly benefits from it. He was killed just before his 28e anniversary, in the first weeks of the Great War. The point is that the work, in which reality turns into mystery and vice versa, is an almost perfect literary reflection of his campaign – campaign which Alain-Fournier himself called “useless, taciturn and profound”. It is on the spot. I would pack The great Meaulnes (in English it is sometimes translated as The lost domain or the Wanderer) for holiday reading. Even if you don’t travel to these areas. It’s a book that cracks.
And so in Bourges, the big city around here. The 12eIn the last century, St Stephen’s Cathedral – “prodigious”, wrote Henry James – is nowadays magnificently lit at night. On its five vast porches, biblical figures swirl as if on a fruit machine. This is spiritual power and glory since, on the other side of the city, Jacques Coeur’s palace pays homage to material success. Also to its fragility. Coeur was the richest banker and merchant in France until he fell in love with Charles VII for being too shrewd. He was imprisoned, the fate expected of overconfident bankers.
Elsewhere, Bourges is a network of wobbly streets with one or two villains of medieval perfection. A bit like Sancerre, moreover, which shares its meaning spanning centuries – but this year surrounded by smiles. Sancerre is, let us remember, number one out of 30,000 French villages. I will not hesitate.
Where to stay: In Chavignol, direction La Côte des Monts Damnés: nice hotel with a good table.
The old “favorite villages” of France
2012 : St Cirq-Lapopie
2013 : Eguisheim
2015 : Ploumanac’h