Sunday, 23 August 2015

Theatre in Cormatin

New theatre show for Cormatin?
We used to have a theatre festival in Cormatin “Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin” which took place every year in the chateau grounds in July and August. Sadly the theatre company went bankrupt and whilst they have been saved from complete collapse, they are no longer allowed by their financial monitors to take on such large projects. Sadly that is the end of that.

Every year in January, we receive the “Bulletin de Cormatin” a little booklet issued by the town hall telling us of the most important events coming up in the village that year and we were really excited to read that a theatre festival was planned! This came a as a real surprise to the committee of “Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin” who knew nothing about it. It took a little while to get to the bottom of this mystery, but it transpired that a Le Monde journalist who has a (holiday) home in Cormatin was involved in the organisation of the festival. Why? When? How? Where? All still a mystery.

Things move slowly in our little community and even if rumours do move fast, we don’t get the hot off the press gossip as we are too far from the hustle and bustle of Cormatin city life. Details of the plans for the festival came slowly in our direction.

Finally in about June, when were sure the theatre festival had died a quiet death, we heard what was being organised. There were indeed to be theatre performances, but very small ones in people’s “homes”. There were many who thought this was a daft idea and lots of talk of “no one will want to host one of those”, “who’s going to go anyway” and as none of our contacts showed the least bit of interest we thought that that was the end of that.

Out of the blue, one of our neighbours asked if we would like to go to a performance in their house! I was thrilled to bits. We were to see one of these performances after all. On top of that it was free, all we had to do was take along some food and drink to share as a snack after the show.

The weather has been stunning this summer, but as the day of the show approached it appeared that it was going to rain, I did wonder if it would be called off. The evening before the show, we were sitting outside and we heard some operatic singing coming from Chazelle and applause. On no…. had we got the date wrong? A quick check confirmed the date. Maybe they had brought the performance forward one day and forgotten to tell us, or left a message on a mobile phone that is never switched on. All phones checked - no message.

What would you do?

The play was in the middle of the audience
The next day, I hovered over the phone wanting to phone the neighbour concerned, and yet not wanting to do it. Should we just turn up with food and drink that evening? After a lot of pondering, we plucked up the courage to go round and ask. We were greeted by our neighbour arranging chairs in his courtyard and a cheery “you’re 8 hours too early”. Phew. I clumsily explained why we were there and was told that another house in the village had had a performance the night before and we beat a hasty retreat to go and start on some samosas, my contribution for the evening.

The audience hanging on every word
The evening was a great success. It turned out that the writer(s), the director, the technicians and the actors were all in training and as part of their course they had to organise an event of this nature. They did it with gusto and imagination and it all went very well indeed, everyone there enjoyed themselves immensely. The evening ended with sampling the culinary offerings of the audience and chatting with the youngsters.

Who knows maybe there will be a repeat performance next year, it would be fun if there were.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

In search of Radical Nuns.

Map of Taizé
Sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn’t it? But it’s true, last week I went searching for radical nuns.

These last few weeks, Taizé has been very busy leading up to the major remembrance of Frère Roger’s death, 10 years ago. There has been a week of “reflection on the relevance of a religious or monastic vocation” and this last week has been a “gathering for a new solidarity”. I happen to know one of the speakers, Sister Simone, who is based in Washington DC. I wanted to hear her story; I wanted to hear how she and her organisation had been branded as “radicals” and almost called traitors of the Catholic church.

I went up to Taizé on Sunday to find out more about the week’s programme ands when and where she would be talking. It was heaving with people and the queue for the information centre was out the door and around the block. I left pretty quickly and checked out their website. It appeared that she was talking on Tuesday and Thursday and her talk was called “A nun on a bus”. Intriguing, but no more details than that.

On Monday I went back to see if more information was available and then I saw that “today’s workshops” were posted on the walls at strategic points, so all I had to do was to go back Tuesday morning. Her talk could be at 10.00 or 15.00 so I arrived well in time on Tuesday morning and found the lists for “today’s workshops” posted at strategic points telling me what the talks had been yesterday, not super useful but it was at least a start.

A Taizé kampong
Then I spotted a couple of people who seemed to have got their hands on a copy of “today’s workshop” for today! I asked the two Dutch ladies concerned if I could see their paper and they kindly explained that it was in English, if that wasn’t a problem for me, I could have it. I reassured them that I could read English and they gave it to me. And I could at last see that Sister Simone was to talk in tent/room T at 15.00.

I was off to a good start, all I had to do was to find tent/room T and I had plenty of time to do it. It wouldn’t be difficult because I was standing next to room S at the time, T couldn’t be far away. Well life isn’t that simple is it? Next to room S were rooms L, M and N. Moving towards the bell tower and I came across tents P and R. At that point I decided a visit to the information centre was in order, otherwise I would miss the talk altogether, after all it had taken me an hour to get this far and I only had 5 hours left.

The map on the wall of the information centre kindly told me where the church and car park were, but no T, not even an S for that matter. So off to Morada (the other information point) to ask. It was heaving with people. Finally I found a map on the wall there that showed where T was. Not too far from F (logical) at the far end of the site where the adult and family area is.

So off I went to find T. I took a wrong turn and ended up in one of Taizé’s kampong areas which in itself was worth the visit, but no T not even an F.

Empty and letterless
Back to the road and the next turn took me to F, just where the map had said it would be, so off in search of T. Finally I found a large letterless tent locked in a field with no access. OK maybe I had to access it through the adult campsite. Back up the road into the campsite and I could see the letterless tent, but still no access. Back down the road and then I read the notice on the locked gate, only open between 11 and 12 and 14 and 19. I went home just hoping that I had indeed found the right venue.

Back to Taizé at 2 o’clock and I walked down to the letterless tent. It looked sadly abandoned. There was however a nice young lady sitting under a tree reading a book, I asked her if this was tent T and she confirmed it was, strange that there were no other people or chairs, it didn’t look like any conference venue I’d ever seen before.

These must be them, it says so on their backs
Then I saw them approaching - the radical nuns on a bus. I just hoped that some other people would find the venue and turn up to listen to what they had to say.

That’s the cliff-hanger folks – you’ll have to wait for another blog to find out what happened next.

For information on holiday accommodation near a letterless tent that is indeed T click here.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

In search of hidden treasures

The path to the chapel with the woods on the background.
We have been known to go to some lengths to find remains of Romanesque churches and chapels but the chapel at Dracy-lès-Couches has proved to be a very difficult one to find.

We have been twice before to try and locate this little chapel, to no avail, mostly because the route to where we thought the chapel should be, was so wet that we just couldn’t go any further.

Is this a wall or just a pile of stone?
With the drought that we are now experiencing, we decided to give it one more go. To be more precise, I decided, I think Cees had given up on the idea of ever finding this one.

The last time we had been to the site, there was a sign up saying chapel 200m, where a path led into a field and a cluster of trees beyond. On this visit, the sign had been removed, but fortunately my memory for places is good enough to know which path we had to take. We walked to where we had last managed to get to which was a cross roads of foot paths in amongst the trees and dense undergrowth. We then we proceeded to walk down each of those paths. All to no avail. This chapel looked like it was going to remain on the never-to-be-found list.

A gravestone - we are on the right track.
A bit disheartened we headed back to the car through the woods when I saw something. It looked like a small wall, it could have been just a pile of stones, but a quick check on the sun’s position in the sky and I could tell this was an east-west pile of stones, perfect as a foundation row for the side of a church. Cees was not convinced and I think he wanted his picnic lunch which was long overdue, due to the amount of walking we had done. He didn’t follow me into the undergrowth.

Finally the apse is in view.
I followed the row of stones towards the east to see if they would curve off and become an apse or not. I had to divert a bit to avoid the undergrowth and then I literally stumbled over a gravestone. I was very excited and called Cees over, and we headed eastwards together, to see if there was an apse or not. Not far from the gravestone and there it was – the apse.

It pays to be persistent and have a good sense of direction. So we can now declare one little Romanesque chapel has been found and it has been marked on Cees’ map.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Landscape photography

First idea - not bad
When I had to make a landscape photo for my photography group challenge, I got on to the internet to find out how the experts say you do it. With landscapes, I am always disappointed with the results. They never turn out right; they never look as good on the photo as in reality.

So what makes a good landscape photo?

Everywhere you look on the internet, there are tips as to how to set out a good, interesting composition and then there is the number one tip on every website, you MUST take a landscape photo in the “golden hour”.

So what is the golden hour?

There are actually two in every day and they are the first and the last hour of sunlight. I have heard of the golden hour before and tried to use it, not too successfully, mostly because I really find getting out of bed that early very difficult. The last hour of the day I have been more successful with, but in general I have avoided this rule as being too restrictive. Rules are there to be broken aren’t they?

Second idea getting there - but still lacking something
But with landscapes apparently, you can’t take a decent photo outside of these hours and so armed with this information and all the other tips I went out to find a photo opportunity - not an easy task.

Eventually Cees suggested a vineyard we know which has a lovely cadole (an old stone building) in it. I took a few photos in the middle of the day to find the best angle and then to my dismay I realised that the evening sun would not work for this shot, this was a morning golden hour job.

The vineyard at dawn
On to the internet again to find a site that could calculate the morning golden hours. Adding driving time and setting up time, I needed to leave the house at 05.30. This is art of course, so you have to suffer for it. The next day promised to be clear, so up I was at 05.30. It was 14 degrees, but even so it felt chilly. I was on site in time and I waited for the sun to appear. I was so excited when the sun hit the copse of trees on the hill behind the cadole and at that moment it had all been worth it. However, no sooner had the sun hit the copse than a cloud came in front of the sun and it was gone. An hour is a long time to wait for the sun to come out again, particularly when it doesn’t. I went home at 07.15 and bought a consolatory croissant from the baker’s shop on the way.

Blast - that's as far as the sun goes at this time of day
Two days later and this time the weather forecast predicted sun all the way through H hour. Sure enough the sun lit up the copse and then slowly but surely slid its way down the hill towards the cadole. But then, what I had feared all along, actually came to pass. There is a blooming big tree between the sun and cadole at that time of day and the golden hour sun never lights up the thing. I left at 07.30, bought a baguette from the baker's shop on my way home and had bacon and eggs on it for breakfast.

I then looked through my mid-day sun photos and saw this lovely thing, against all the rules, this is a well lit and not washed out photo of a vineyard landscape.

Let's break the rules and use the mid-day sun

It will be a while before I get up at that sort of crazy hour again to make lousy photographs.  I have to admit though that the copse looks stunning in the early light, pity about the rest of the photo though. I think I am just not cut out to be a landscape photographer.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Citeaux – The Mother Church of the Cistercians

Senanque - a Cistercian monastery in Provence
We are very keen on church architecture, particularly Romanesque (Norman) churches and our first love has always been the Cistercian monasteries. Last year we yet again visited the beautiful trio in Provence and yet again vowed to visit the mother church, Citeaux, which is almost on our doorstep.

We have been to Citeaux more than once, the first time we failed to find anything except the shop selling the monks produce – honey, cheese etc. The second time we found the new church, which is worth a look, but not exactly old (built in 1998) and finally we discovered that you could visit some of the old buildings, but of course the day we went for a visit (last November) everything was shut and wouldn’t open for tours again until this summer.

Quote from the Abbot of Citeaux
Even when the monastery is open, organising a visit is not as simple as it may seem. You have to book in advance as numbers are restricted, so on to their website and try to make a reservation in French - it kept crashing out. Eventually I managed to make a reservation on the English website but that involved having a number of pages open at one time. For instance you have to say what time you would like to visit, but on the order form page, the times are not listed and you can’t just guess, as times are restricted as well. I won’t go on, it took me ages – enough said. I finally managed to complete the form for a guided tour and to see a film about the abbey. But nothing in the reservation system is automated, so you have to wait for an email from the abbey, to confirm that you have been added to the list for the required visit time. That confirmation arrived relatively promptly, within a day.

No good me being a monk, I'm not getting up that early
All that hassle forgotten, we went off to Citeaux, on the allotted day and at the allotted time, excited at last to be seeing the mother church. We knew there was nothing remaining of the original buildings, but we were hoping to understand a bit more about the Cistercian movement and its unique architecture. Our names were on the list, but only for the guided visit not for the film as well, which I only noticed after I had paid. After I queried this error, the nice lady on the till gave us different types of tickets, but didn’t charge us any more money, so I assume we got a bargain. At that stage I didn’t care enough to say anything.

The young girl doing the tour was incredibly nervous, but became more confident as we moved from one area to another. I noticed her eyes kept flicking towards one of the men in the tour and I suspected that she was actually being graded on her performance, hence the nervousness. I kept my eyes fixed on him and I notice the tell-tale sandals. At that point I was sure that this man was one of the brothers incognito. The fact that he kept shutting doors after us everywhere and kept an eye on the movements of all in our group made me more and more convinced that he was not a genuine tourist. So here is our mock tourist “casually” looking at the copies of illuminations displayed in the library.

Mystery tourist
So after all this wait and trouble was the visit worth it? Well yes and no. I am glad to say we have finally visited the mother church, but there wasn’t anything really to see and the tour itself was not at all scintillating, the photo exhibition in the waiting room, the “carvings” on slabs along the path leading to the start of the tour and the posters near the parking area were the best bit of the day. It was a missed opportunity in my opinion, no mention of the simpleness of the architectural style, no mention of the fact that the daughter churches were almost identical to each other, following strict rules of sobriety and layout. No real information of why the movement spread so far and wide and only a cursory mention of how they were actually a Benedictine breakaway movement.

Timetable of a monk's day
There is so much that could have been said that wasn’t and that has nothing to do with our young guide, she was genuinely following the set plan and she did a good job at that. I personally think that they should change the script to give a bit more of a background and history to the Cistercian movement, but maybe they thought that everyone who had come to visit actually knew what they were visiting and so they concentrated on descriptions of what the standing buildings are/were. In any case, I am sad to say that the tour itself was boring.

At the end of our tour, the mystery tourist admitted who he was and that this was the girl’s very first time doing a tour for real tourists, which despite the palpable nervousness at the beginning, she had completed very well indeed. Unfortunately, I won’t be recommending this visit to people who stay here.

Monday, 13 July 2015

News embargo lifted

Test version
The post you have all been waiting for !!! The news embargo on what I have been crocheting for the last few weeks, has been lifted. I knew you would be excited.

First design
I think a bit of background info is in order before I give more details.

A few weeks ago, Cees’ son-in-law posted some pictures of a stunning crocheted armband on Cees’ daughter’s Facebook timeline.

 I was asked by her, if I could make something like that and I foolishly said yes, maybe, possibly or something like that – I really can’t remember - but it was definitely a rash comment. Anyway, before I knew it, two tonnes of beads and a thousand kilometres of crochet cotton had been delivered to my house. If that is not throwing down the gauntlet I don’t know what is.

Birthday shock
So I set to, no pattern, just photos and a lot of guess work. My first attempt was a simple one, to get used to crocheting with beads and to see just how many of these beads you need for a bracelet and to see how it was all done. Hence the first one is rather subdued - besides I didn’t think my little wrist would cope with too much more. But I knew that for Cees’ daughter this was not going to satisfy her. So when she was staying with us, the two of us set to, designing something a bit more like the photos. A weekend’s worth of work and I came up with a first design – not bad for a first attempt, but a number of design flaws and boy was it heavy!

I just can't stop.. a little extra for the birthday girl
I have been busily making bracelets since then. The reason for no mention on my blog is that I know that Cees’ daughter follows the blog and I didn’t want to spoil her birthday surprise or should I say shock. Now this is more like it. Colourful and creative, still a couple of flaws, but I am getting there.

But then I got carried away and here is a poppy style bracelet - how many arms does one person have?

This is more my style
I have made myself a less loud bracelet and received a few very favourable comments when it had its first outing to a guitar concert last week.

So onwards and upwards, the sky is the limit - is this a new career move in the making?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Jazz concert in Charolles

Inside the magnificent Basilica - Paray-le-Monial
We are fanatical concert goers, well Cees is a fanatical concert searcher actually. If there is a concert worth going to within about 60km of here, he knows about it. We have been known to travel through blizzards to get home from concerts, not something I would like to repeat, but it is now summer and the concerts are plentiful, they are good and they are blizzard free.

The other week we went to a concert in Charolles. We decided to visit Paray –le-Monial before the concert, a town we really do like. The Basilica can never be visited too many times, there is just so much to see. This time we bought a book called “Les Sculptures Cachées de la Basilique” which you can get at the tourist information office and we checked out all the hidden treasures in the building - there are some amazing carvings there. Sadly my camera’s zoom is not good enough to capture them, so here’s a photo of the inside of the Basilica just to give an idea of the majesty of the place.

A tower - the only thing worth seeing in Charolles
On the other hand, we have never really “visited” Charolles. We have travelled though the town many times and we even visited the offices of our builder during the renovations, but we have never taken the time to actually look around. So this time, we decided to investigate what the town has to offer and to have dinner there. A word of advice to all you tourists or non-tourists for that matter, don’t bother, there is really nothing worth visiting in Charolles – sorry guys to trash your town, but we wandered around for a few hours, from one café to the next drinking coffee to while away the time until the restaurants opened for dinner and then on to the concert and the only thing we found was a tower in park which you couldn’t visit.

The day’s outing was really to see a concert of course and fortunately that was superb and well worth the whole trip. It was an Aretha Franklin homage concert – not my favourite type of concert as they tend to not be up to the original (how could they be?) and they are not innovative either, so they are usually the worst of both worlds, but this lady could sing and I mean SING and the band could play as well. I couldn’t understand the names of the songs as she spoke them in her French announcements, but her articulation when singing was magnificent.

Superb concert
The only negative point about the concert was the venue itself. It was far too small for the number of people in the audience and yes I know I am excessively safety conscious after my years in industry, but I don’t think that anyone can say that squashing 120 people seated into a room of 8 by 10 meters (which included space for the band and the bar) with only one exit that was blocked by chairs during the concert, is the safest of environments. Sadly for the organisers, I won’t be going to that venue again no matter how good the band is.

Claim to fame - my poster
But there was a real piece of excitement that I noticed in the bar. When we entered, I looked at the wall and couldn’t believe my eyes, my very own artwork was pinned up on the notice board! As I am not an internationally renowned artist, you must be wondering what I am talking about. A few years ago, I made a poster for a friend of a friend who plays in a rock band – Drugstore Rock . To be fair there was no artistic skill required in making this poster, just good Photoshop skills and there you have it - a poster for a rock band.

Anyway it is my claim to fame and fortune, I even felt like signing the poster, but didn’t dare of course – what a wimp!

For information about holiday accommodation near to a summer full of concerts to meet every taste click here.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Xi Xi Hu in the park.

Call to actioon
For a number of weeks, I have been following a course in Xi Xi Hu. What is that? I hear you say, well it is a Chinese “walking for health” technique, based on Qigong principles. On demonstrating the technique to Cees, when I got back from my first lesson, he said it looked like the Monty Python sketch “ministry of silly walks” and I must say, I tend to agree with him!

Whilst you do look a bit daft when you do it, the technique is proven to have many heath giving benefits and besides that, I am not adverse to making a bit of a tiddlywink of myself every so often. So when the call to action came to do these walks in public in the Parc Abbatial in Cluny, I was prepared to be there.

Here we go - heart health
Last week, just about to set off for the first event and we had a flat tyre. Changing tyres is not one of my strongest points and neither is it one of Cees’, but we set to, book in hand trying to figure out how it is done. It all looks so simple in the pictures, but where the heck is that dimple the jack is supposed to go in, or even before that, where the heck are the jack and the spare tyre? Three quarters of an hour later, tyre changed, and filthy dirty, we headed off to Cluny to get the puncture repaired, non-reparable, great, now it is two new front tyres - ouch. Undeterred we headed for the park only to meet a friend coming the other way. Game over. So we went for the only other healthy option we could think of and we had a kebab instead.

The liver next - all hu-ing in time
This Sunday was the second public display, fortunately on a Sunday morning, less chance of spectators than on the previous Saturday with the market going on just below the park. It was a beautiful day and whilst the five different walks are all very daft, they are fun to do and it gets you out, about and moving. Cees sat on a pole in the park taking photos and laughing his socks off, whilst the rest of us tried to remember which was a Xi and which was a Hu and try to keep in time with our “leader” Sabrina. I did feel a bit self conscious when a busload of tourists stopped and started taking pictures, but for the rest it was good fun and great to be outside on such a lovely sunny morning.

Looks daft, but this one is great for your kidneys
Sabrina has threatened to organise more of these events, so for all of you out there interested, keep an eye on the website of her Qi Gong and Tai Chi school where they will be announced.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Art comes to Chazelle

Our village
I have mentioned the numerous artists and artisans that have congregated round here, making it one of the most densely populated areas for such people in the whole of France - so they say. But up until recently our little village was not one of those locations. The silk and textile painter Pascale Ponsard, did live here for a while, but her studio has always been in Cormatin. This time last year an artist opened a studio just up the road from us and he has been giving lessons and working in his studio ever since. He was born and brought up in Chazelle, but has been living away and has only recently returned to his native soil.

The official opening of his studio was last June, but as we had a concert that evening we missed out on the fun and he has been asking us ever since to come and see what he has to offer. So while we were out distributing the flyers for the Guitares en Cormatinois concerts last week, we decided it was now or never.

He and his partner share a studio which he has created out of the stables of his family farm in the centre of the village. He paints and she makes creations out of wire and both of them run courses in their respective arts.

Arts courses this summer in Chazelle
Patrick does courses and themed painting days all year round. When the weather is nice, we see his students in the village painting the river or the lavoir and now we have seen his studio we know that the students will be very cosy in his warm and extremely light loft when the weather is not so good. This July and August he is giving courses on how to start/create a painting, really concentrating on the basics of composition. If you are interested in any of his courses (too numerous to mention here) check out his site.

Sylvyane, his partner, is running introductory courses in “wire writing” every Tuesday this July and August. I spotted this on her Facebook page so why not check it out if you are interested.

Local artisans market - Sunday just outside the chateau.

Last but not least, every Sunday morning during the summer, a number of artists and artisans display and sell their work in the “High Street” in Cormatin, just outside the chateau.

For information about holiday accommodation just next door to these artists and a lovely stroll from the centre of Cormatin on a sunny Sunday click here.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Vézelay and crochet

The narthex at Veselay
So what has been going on these last couple of weeks? - I hear you say. Cees had his birthday and then his daughter came the following weekend to celebrate it all over again, so I seem to have been rather occupied.

For Cees’ birthday this year we went to Vézelay. It is a fair run from here, but well worth the trip. We set off early Sunday morning and arrived just before the morning mass. All the services in the church are fully sung by the monks and nuns of the two orders that are resident in Vézelay. It was really something special. The nuns voices were absolutely perfect and the whole services chanted in Gregorian style, was a very special experience. This is what the building had been built for and I am so glad we had arrived on time. Having experienced a service like that and comparing it to the sung parts of the service in the Taizé Sunday morning services, I can well imagine why some of the older members of that community greave the passing of fully sung services everyday.

After the mass was over we spent some time looking in detail at the church. The columns and carvings are quite spectacular and I was amazed at how light the church was. Sadly the choir/apse was closed off for restoration and so there was no access to the crypt, I asked at the information desk and it was due to re-open the following week - pity Cees’ birthday was not a little later! We will go back again, but as it is rather a trek, it probably won’t be this summer.
Strange heads to find on a church!
After a wander around the charming little town, which included visiting a small chapel just outside the fortified ramparts and of course a wonderful lunch, we slowly headed home, satisfied with a lovely day out.

Relaxing in the shade of the cherry tree
When Cees’ daughter and son-in-law arrived it was getting too hot to do anything, so we spent most of that week-end under the shade of our cherry tree where I managed to snap a family photo of us all, even Fifi stayed still long enough to be in the shot!

So there we sat, crocheting away for a couple of days. Cees’ daughter managed to master the basics of crochet and she made a very sweet little flower – well impressed, more about what I was making in another blog – that’ll keep you all on tenterhooks!

How cute is that?
Our weekend ended with a visit to our new found “favourite” restaurant La Terrasse. Sadly they didn’t live up to previous experiences, my poulet à la crème was good and the salad starters were excellent, but the duck breast has a seriously overpowering sauce on it and the steak was rather tough - let’s hope it was just a glitch and that they will go back to their previous excellent rating.

It remains hot here, but not oven temperatures, at least we can get on our bikes and get out and about, including a ride into Cormatin to check out the snack restaurant at the campsite, very good value and the chips were excellent. We may well be visiting them again!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Camera cleaning

Blobs in the sky
I took over Cees’ old camera (Nikon D50) when he upgraded a few years ago. I have used it on and off (more off than on if the truth be told) until I joined a photo group back in January. Since then I have learned a lot about taking pictures, about composition, about apertures and exposures and how to combine them to give different effects, not to mention learning about some fun things to do with Photoshop. So since then I have become quite attached to my camera. I may not be very good at making photographs, but I am having fun.

No, they are not UFOs, I've just marked where the blobs are
A few weeks ago, when I was photographing something with a predominantly blue sky, I spotted some marks on the photo. Any decent editor can get rid of those marks, but it is the sign that the sensor in the camera has dirt on it, so I took it off to be cleaned. Cees had it done a number of years ago, so it is no big deal.

Into Darty, near Mâcon, and as we always go there during lunch hour when virtually no one else goes into the shop, we had the sole attention of two very friendly and competent young men who decided to try and clean the camera themselves, for free. Filter off, clean the lens, lens off, clean the inside, on and on they went, with me popping in and out of the shop to take pictures of the sky to see if the blobs had gone. They finally admitted defeat and agreed to send it off to the service centre for cleaning.

I had to pay 40 Euros up front, then it will take a month to prepare a cost estimate for the cleaning. I would be contacted, to agree the price of the work and then it could be another two to three weeks to do the work. I would receive the difference back or pay the extra when the camera came back to the shop, but I was going to be without my new found friend for possibly two months!

Darty - Crêches-sur-Saône
Having said that Darty are always very pessimistic with their timing and things usually go a lot quicker. They did go a lot quicker, within a week I had a phone call from the service centre. From the story he had to tell me, the camera was full of broken bits and Nikon no longer support such an old model so spare parts were not available - bye bye camera. I was stunned, I had only sent it in for a clean! I managed to persuade the guy to clean it while he had his hands on it, which he reluctantly agreed to do, saying it would do no good. The only bonus was that he would only charge me ten Euros, so I would get a thirty Euro refund.

I was so upset by the conversation that I forgot to ask what was wrong with the camera, so I had no idea what to expect when I went to collect it from the shop two days later. In the shop, they had no idea either what was wrong with it as the only comments from the service centre were that spare parts were not available, so I got my refund.

Blobs gone!
I carefully unwrapped by "dead" little friend, steeling myself for what I might find, but it looked OK to me. I went outside and took a photo of the sky, low and behold the camera worked just as always and what’s more, the spots had gone!

That was several weeks and many hundreds of photos ago and it is still working. So thank you Mr Darty a camera clean for only 10 Euros! I am keeping my fingers crossed it will stay working for many more photos to come. I suppose I will have to face the inevitable one day - just not yet I hope.

For holiday accommodation where the skies are (almost) always blue click here.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Poulet à la crème – to order or not to order?

Oh no - not chicken in cream sauce
As I have mentioned before, after every wreath laying (of which Cormatin celebrates five every year) one or other of the bars/restaurants organises the vin d’honneur. This 8th May (VE Day) had a massive turnout, more than 50 people joined our little band as we walked down the middle of the road to the war memorial.

We have our preferences as to which place to go to for the vin d’honneur and we had our fingers crossed that La Terrasse would get the job this time. So we were not disappointed when the Mayor announced our wine drinking destination. The snacks that La Terrasse provide are quite delicious, not just a bunch of peanuts, real yummy delicate delices. Sadly the town hall had only thought 25 people would turn up, so there was not so much to go round, but what there was was excellent.

Huge turnout for 8th May
After a glass of wine and chat, we usually stay in town for lunch and as Cees and I last ate at La Terrasse when it first opened, and I had only eaten there once again with a work group made up of representatives from all the regions tourist offices, we decided to see how they were doing now that they had extended the restaurant into the next-door building and they had to cope with more customers.

I ordered chicken in cream sauce - a Burgundy classic. Actually, I don’t know why I order it in restaurants because it is rarely done well, the last time I had it on the Tourist Office day out, it was a specatacular disappointment. Despite being a simple dish, poulet à la crème is difficult to get right. There is a balance to be had between nice and creamy on the one side and not too sickly on the other, few places manage that balance.

La Terrasse on a sunnier day
It is a bit like boeuf bourguignon, another supposed local speciality. A lot of restaurants put it on the menu because they think a Burgundian restaurant should serve it , but most fall way below any reasonable standard. I suppose we were spoiled by Monique, the previous owner of La Terrasse, her boeuf bourguignon is the gold standard to which all others are compared - most come up lacking.

So I waited for my poulet à la crème with a little bit of trepidation, would the cream balance be right, would the meat come off the bone without me having to hack it off?

We ate our meal and then we went to pay. As I handed over our cheque, I was asked by the owner/chef if I was the person with the blog on Cormatin. Fame at last, even the French locals have found my blog!

I then had a momentary thought that I had better be careful what I write about restaurants and businesses round here from now on - it was only a momentary though, because I have always and I will always tell it as I find it.

So how did I find La Terrasse?

I can safely say that the new owner of La Terrasse receives my accolade for the gold standard poulet à la crème, even better than Hotel De Bourgogne in Cluny, at a fraction of the price.

In summary La Terrasse is excellent and I don’t care if I offend anyone with that remark!
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