Friday 29 June 2012

Bourges Old Town Running Route

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Length 4.8 km (3 miles)

For more running routes, see the Route List

Here's a route that combines the medieval charm of Bourges' old town plus the green paradise of the Marais ("swamp" or "bog") east of town.

If you're lucky enough to find yourself in ancient Bourges, then there's no getting around its medieval character: the narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses and stone palaces, then the gigantic cathedral with its dozens of 800-year-old stained-glass windows, one of the greatest gothic cathedrals ever built, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Half-timbered house in Bourges
On summer evenings, the town has a running light-and-sound show of medieval music and images playing off the walls and courtyards of several palaces.

This route starts with a circle through the old town and cathedral, but that can be done in just a few minutes. So, to make it a real run, we'll then head east through the Marais, along a trail beside a peaceful little river, the l'Yèvre. Those are the kinds of runs I like best.

The run starts in one of the nicest squares in town, Place Jacques Coeur, in front of his palace. Jacques Coeur was a fabulously rich merchant who made a fortune trading with the middle east, and came back to his hometown to build his dream palace back in the 15th century. It is considered one of the greatest medieval palaces in all of France. If you look at the round towers and the foundations around back, you'll see the Roman origins of the base: the old Roman layered stone and brick castle remains.
Palais Jacques Coeur
Standing there next to the statue of Jacques Coeur, turn your back to the palace and run east down the little alley, which turns north.

At the next intersection, on Rue Coursarlon, turn left and run for two blocks, first crossing Rue Moyenne, the main street of town, then turning right on Rue Porte Jaune (yellow-gate street). You are now heading north, towards the cathedral, passing more ancient homes.
Heading up Rue Porte Jaune
You'll come out in the square facing the cathedral's front entrance, with its five porticos. Now run past the front side and turn left to run along the south side of the church, with its delicate flying buttresses supporting the main structure. Make sure to take time later to come back and visit the church from within. When the sun is shining through the three levels of stained glass, the bright colors are beautiful.
The cathedral portals: one for each aisle of the church
To the right is the town hall, and the entrance-way to a nice park, the Jardin de Archevechè. Run into the park and loop through it and come back to this entrance again.
View towards cathedral from the park
When you're back, turn right and run down the steps to the street behind the cathedral, Avenue Eugène Brisson. Just cross that street and run east for one block on tree-lined Boulevard de Strasbourg.

After a block, turn left and continue on Rue de l'Alchimie, with its old houses. The name recalls the times when Bourges was one of the French centers of alchemy, the attempt to turn base metals into expensive ones.

The street ends by merging into the Place Devoucoux.

Turn right onto Rue Chalet, where you run until the first street crossing, where you turn left. On the right side the street is called Rue de Brives. On the left side, where we are running, the street is called Chemin des Prébendes.

Now the run turns into a very different one: instead of the close-built old town, you are now amid little plots of land used as vegetable- and flower-gardens. The air is sweet-smelling and the only sound is the singing of birds.

The street turns to the right then crosses a stream. Right after the stream, turn left into a dusty parking lot for the plot owners. Run through the parking lot and over the pedestrian bridge over the l'Yèvre River, where you turn right and start running along the riverside trail, with the water to your right.
Along the river trail in the Marais
This is where the scenery really gets idyllic, with willows hanging over the water, and flower-bushes adding color.

Run along the river for 400 meters, past the first turnoff to the let, the Rue de Babylone, and continue until it hits the first crossing street, Les Grandes Chenus. Turn around here and follow your way back to Place Devoucoux.

But this time continue straight along Rue Geoffroy Tory. The street then becomes Rue Joyeuse, then runs into Rue Bourbonnoux, where you keep to the right.

After a few steps you come to the nicest square in town, Place Gordaine, a shaded plaza with a fountain, surrounded by restaurants in half-timbered houses.
Place Gordaine
But turn left here, on Rue Coursarlon again, and run just past Rue Porte Jaune, to turn diagonally to the right on Rue des Beaux Arts.

This street comes to an intersection of the main street, Rue Moyenne, again, where you turn left on Rue Jacques Coeur and run back to the palace where you started.

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