Sens, in Burgundy is a historic medium sized town which makes a great place to spend a half day or more. There are some interesting museums, a cathedral, good food and even better shopping.
The Musee de Sens is an amazing museum with an expansive collection of both archeological and historical artifacts. It is housed in the former Archbishops Palace which is adjacent to the Cathedral. It is not the best museum I have ever been to but it is certainly one of the most interesting.
In 1969 a farmer in La Lucarne in Villenthiery discovered a Bronze Age jeweler’s cache of almost 1000 pieces of fantastic jewelry. Among the items in the cache are 488 pins with beautiful concentric circle designs that were probably engraved with a wheel. This is historically significant because until this time it was not thought that the wheel was used in this manner in the Bronze Age. There are also the remains of a dog’s grave from the same period. It shows that even at this point man was fond of his pet dogs.
They have a very large Gallo Roman section and there are excavations ongoing below the palace which has found a previous Roman building on the site. It was fascinating to be walking into the cellar and go back 20 centuries.
The Treasury of the Cathedral has some true treasures, among them the vestments of Thomas Becket which are 800 years old. There is also Charlemagne’s cross with a piece of the True Cross. Some of the other lesser but equally beautiful pieces are the Byzantine Ivory Reliquary called “La Sainte Chasse” which has carved biblical scenes all around it and the “St Loup” liturgical comb which dates from the 7th century. There are also many other beautiful gold and silver religious items.
The top floor has the art collection. It is nothing to rave about but go there anyway because in that room are the hat and coat that Napoleon wore at Waterloo. These alone make it worth climbing the stairs.
By now you will be hungry, Au Petit Creux was a small but very popular creperie almost alongside the Cathedral. It was crowded with people when we arrived and we were lucky to get a small table near the door. We also were right near the restrooms so people were climbing practically over us for almost the entire meal. But the food here was great so who cares about the table. The decor was simple wood tables and chairs with white placemats and napkins.
Everything was very fresh and served hot. I had the 3 cheese crepe, raclette, chevre and bleu. It had curly lettuce and walnuts in a light and tasty dressing. It was excellent but very rich.
Al and Joe had La Hamburger; it was hamburger, French fries, mushroom and onions with an egg on the top and with a crepe on the bottom. Really unusual but they both cleaned their plate. Bob had a very large salad with jumbo shrimp on it; it also had avocado, walnuts, onion, corn and curly lettuce. It looked great and tasted even better. I was the only one who had a crepe for dessert, the others had ice cream. My crepe was called Quebecoise. It had baked apples and maple syrup. It was a great combination.
This is the perfect place to stop if you are visiting the Cathedral or the Bishop’s Palace. It is a great location, with good service and great food. Since it was totally full almost the whole time we were there it’s obviously no secret.
Sens has the oldest large Gothic cathedral in France. It was built at about the same time as St Denis and is dedicated to St Etienne, St Stephen the first martyr of the Catholic Church. It has a beautiful facade that has retained much of it medieval sculpture in spite of the destruction it sustained during the Revolution.
Amazingly, almost all of its gorgeous stained glass is also original and dates from as far back as the 12th century. One window is even reputed to have been done by Jean Cousin.
There is a very elaborate marble and alabaster tomb of the Dauphin and his wife. What is surprising is that they too survived the desecration that happen to most royal graves during the Revolution. One thing that is particularly nice about this Cathedral is that there is music playing as you walk through. It helps to create a peaceful and religious atmosphere.
After you finish touring the Cathedral, you will want to do some shopping. There is a large pedestrian shopping area with every possible kind of shop.
One shop that I particularly liked was Bois et Chiffons. What attracted me to the shop were the wonderful fabrics in the window. They use these fabrics in pillows, table cloths, place mats and a variety of other items. They also sell candles, soaps, furniture, and all kinds of household decorative arts. What I bought here though was flavored sea salt and tea. I have never seen the sea salt before in these types of containers, and I love to cook, so I thought I would give it a try.
Sens is a great town to shop in, because they have loads of free parking, and anyone who has been to Europe knows how rare that is. You can take your time and not have to worry about your car. We spent half a day in Sens, and there was more that we could have seen if we had more time.