In 1433, Jacques Coeur chose Bourges (pop. 80,000) as the site for one of his many chateaux. You’ll see more of the unfurnished Palais Jacques-Coeur than he ever did, since he was imprisoned for embezzlement before its completion. (Open July-Aug. daily 9:30am-5:45pm; Sept.-June reduced hours. 6.10, ages 18-24 4.10, under-18 free.) Inquire at the tourist office about excursions to other chateaux along the Route Jacques Coeur. The ECathedrale St-Etienne, has stunning stained-glass that illuminates the white marble interior with deep reds and blues. The cathedral is free, but tickets are necessary to enter the simple crypt and scenic tower. (Open Apr.-Sept. daily 8:30am-7:15pm; Oct.-Mar. 9am-5:45pm. Closed Su morning. Crypt and tower 5.50, students 3.50.) As you exit the cathedral, head right on r. des 3 Maillets and turn left on r. Moliere for the promenade des Remparts, which offers a quiet stroll past ramparts and flowery gardens.
Trains leave from the station at pl. General Leclerc (02 48 51 00 00) for Paris (212hr. 5-8 per day, 24) and Tours (lMshr. 10 per day, 17). From the station, follow av. H. Laudier, which turns into av. Jean Jaures; bear left onto r. du Commerce, and continue down r. Moyenne to reach the tourist office, 21 r. Victor Hugo. (02 48 23 02 60; www.ville-bourges.fr. Open Apr.-Sept. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 10am-7pm; Oct.-Mar. reduced hours.) Hotel St-Jean , 23 av. Marx-Dormoy, has clean rooms, all with showers, and friendly owners. ( 02 48 24 70 45; fax 02 48 24 79 98. Breakfast 4. Singles 22-28; doubles 26-34; triples 43.) To get to the Auberge de Jeunesse (HI) , 22 r. Henri Sellier, bear right from r. du Commerce on to r. des Arenes, which becomes r. Fernault, cross at the intersection to r. Rene Menard, follow it to the right, and turn left at r. Henri Sellier. ( 02 48 24 58 09. Breakfast 3.30. Sheets 2.80. Reception daily 8am-noon and 5-10pm. Dorms 8.40.) Place Gordaine, rue des Beaux-Arts, rue Moyenne, and rue Mirabeau are lined with eateries. The Leclerc supermarket is on r. Prado off bd. Juraville. (Open M-F 9:15am-7:20pm, Sa 8:30am-7:20pm.) Postal Code: 18000.
What the Loire Valley is to chateaux, Burgundy is to churches. During the Middle Ages, it was the heart of the religious fever sweeping Europe: abbeys swelled in size and wealth, and towns eager for pilgrim traffic built magnificent cathedrals. Today, Burgundy’s production of some of the world’s finest wines and most delectable dishes, like coq au vin and bceuf bourguignon, have made this region the homeland of Epicureans worldwide.