Monday, 26 April 2010

The Season Starts Again

Although we are officially open from the beginning of April, our renting season normally starts about mid-April and this year was no exception. A gentle start to the season with just one rented out, but now both are full. It is always nice to have people return and both last week’s guests and one couple this week have stayed here before. It is like welcoming friends back again and it is this mix of old and new faces that keeps us enjoying the work we do. My Dutch gets a bit rusty over the winter as Cees is too good to me and speaks mostly English, so I need those chats over a glass of wine with our guests to get me back up to speed.

Henk chopping woodBut last week’s guests always keep us on our toes when they are here. I am exhausted after a week with Henk. He can’t sit still for one minute and he is always looking for things to do. He spotted a pile of logs that were too large for our wood burning stove and which we have miserably failed to split into smaller logs and he found a large axe, and with a quick “do you want these spilt?”, he was away. Just one skilful whack with the axe and these stubborn pieces of oak gave way, leaving us to run around and stack our new ready to burn logs.

It is not only wood chopping, but Henk is a fanatical gardener. He helped me enormously last year to get the vegetable plot into some sort of order and this year, he came to inspect what I had done over the last year. Henk in the garden I think he was rather disappointed that I had managed to keep it going as he had little digging to do, but he was kept happy by setting up a new bed for me, making the garden complete, well at least until next time he comes.

After planting a walnut tree, a rose and clematis that will grow through the dead apple tree in the orchard and helping me sort out the wild flower area in the front garden, he was done for this year. He even had time left over for long walks and cycle rides with his wife Gerda. So thank you Henk and Gerda for a most fruitful and enjoyable week. I’d better keep the garden looking nice now in case they come back again.

So I am relaxing after a busy week, feeling charged up for the new season ahead and looking forward to the first campers.

More information about are gites and campsite are here

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Les Conscrits

Every year since we have lived here, we have seen a large banner across the street in March in Cluny, announcing that the “conscrits” of a particular year have their reunion on a certain date. The only thing we could think of was some sort of reunion for people who have done their national service. As I have never done it and Cees would rather forget his, it was never something we were particularly interested in.Me in my tophat Then one day in December last year there was a little notice popped into our letterbox announcing a pre-meeting to prepare for this event in Cormatin for the conscrits of year zero. This intrigued us. So we started asking questions and it appeared that it had nothing to do with conscription, it was just a party for everyone who was born in a year ending on the same number as the current year. So in 2010 it was the zeros and guess what, my birth year ends on a zero (yes I’m thirty again this year!).

So off I went into the snow in January to the first meeting to discuss our party. We were joining up with Ameugny, Taizé and Malay and all their little hamlets and basically it turned out that we were having a lunch to which we could invite friends and family as well. Sounds fun, I thought. No one on the organising committee realised of course that I had no idea what this was all about, so at each meeting a new little twist to the story was revealed, first it was marching up the main street, then it was hats and rosettes, then it was a six course lunch, then it was a cabaret act, then it was music till dawn, then it was onion soup before you went home and to be honest it all sounded rather complicated. To cut a long story short, My Day was yesterday.

At the allotted hour I arrived at Cormatin Chateau car park ready to set off. Everyone was issued with top-hats and rosettes in a colour according to their age, each age-group linked arms with the others in the same colour and off we went in age order, the ten year-olds at the front and the 90 year-olds at the back. The wave of Amity A car in front of us played suitably jolly music to walk to and a car at the back carried a couple of 80 and 90 year-olds who felt they couldn’t make the walk up and down the main street. The traffic was stopped by guys in fluorescent jackets as we did the traditional wave-walk up the street. Each line of people zigzaged across the road right to left, then left to right, creating a “wave of amity” as we flowed up towards the road to Chapaize where we stopped for breath and to let the traffic through. We then turned round and walked back up to the church and the war memorial where a wreath was laid, then on up to Salle St Roch for kir and nibbles, all the time making sure your hat and rosette stayed in place.

After photos, we went for lunch, by which time it was 2 o’clock. The six course meal rolled on, quite superb food was laid on by the restaurant at La Place.Menu I’d warned them of my fish allergy earlier in the week and they coped extremely well, getting me a very similar looking dish at the same time as the other 70 odd guests were fed, very unlike many restaurants who make you feel two inches high for daring to be allergic to anything and making sure everyone notices you have something different. In-between courses there was dancing and then the cabaret act arrived to entertain us. The cheese course (which come before dessert in France) arrived at 6 o’clock and as we had gîte guests arriving, we had to skip dessert and coffee. So who knows what time the coffee arrived! One person we bumped into today said she had left “early” at 3.30 in the morning, maybe the youngsters managed dawn and their onion soup, I don’t know!

So what was it all about? We were right with our original assessment that it was something to do with conscription, albeit very vaguely. Young men were conscripted at the age of 20 and the evening before they went into the army they had a huge party and then marched out of town en-masse arms linked. This tradition seems to have started not so far from here in Rhône, possibly Lyon, but most probably Villefrance. As conscription disappeared, the party was not forgotten, it has been extended to include young women as well as men and to include not only the 20 year-olds but also everyone who’s age is a multiple of ten years. Apart from laying the wreath at the war memorial, its military origins are long forgotten.

I must say it was one of the silliest things I have done in a long time, but it was fun to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to my next 0th birthday, I think I’ll wear blue that time!

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Burgundy Awakes

primulasBurgundy hibernates in the winter. Even though you can still have tee-shirt weather into mid-November, Burgundy effectively grinds to a halt towards the end of October. The museums, the Château in Cormatin, the caves in Azé and Blanot and other attractions all shut down, the bicycle renter closes his doors and the tourists stay away. That is why our gites are not open after the end of October, very few visitors come and so we drain down the water and tuck up the little houses putting them to bed for the winter.

But just as suddenly as winter arrives, so it ends. This last couple of weeks have seen almost everything in nature coming into action. The forsythia is in full flower, the daffodils, the primulas, the wood anenomies, blossoms of all sorts, even the tulips are flowering, the birds are singing their hearts out and the frogs are almost deafening, everything seems to be bursting with all that energy that has been pent up over the winter months. The Easter week sees Taizé literally explode with people, whereas two weeks ago I had the pick of anywhere I wanted to sit, if you are not in at least half and hour before the start of the Easter Sunday service, you won’t even find a square centimetre of floor area to park your bottom on. Talking of parking, Taizé is sheer lunacy at this time of year, I prefer a leisurely walk over the anarchy of fighting your way through the buses and people with a car.

cockrel at LouhansBut on Easter Monday Burgundy is really shaken alive. It is the first Louhans small animal market of the year. The whole area becomes one great big party. The normally sleepy little town is turned into an enormous market place for the whole day and the fair arrives as well. Literally hundreds of thousands of people flock to enjoy this unique day of the year, which always seems to be blessed with beautiful weather. Don’t even think about trying to get a place in a restaurant for lunch, everywhere is booked up, even the kebab shop has a queue that goes half way down the main road. Just buy something off the market and set up your own little picnic. As you arrive and walk into the town centre, you will be met by hundreds of people coming the other way, carrying twittering cardboard boxes tied up with string in which they are carrying their point-of-lay chickens, taking them home to the newly prepared hen-house. The cycle of life has started again. Chickens are bought at this time of year to give eggs, then they are killed in the Autumn to provide meat, when they start their moult and stop laying. The cycle is then complete.

ducks at LouhansEverything is opening up, Burgundy is bursting with life again, the roads seem to be full of foreign number plates, a sight rarely seen in winter. We are looking forward to a fresh season, meeting new people and welcoming back old friends, sharing stories of the past year and swapping news. The gites are painted up and ready to roll, all the winter maintenance has been done and now life speeds up to a leisurely amble as we stretch our legs and shake off the winter cobwebs.

La Tuilerie Website

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Church in Taizé, Now and Then

Romanesque chruchAs readers of this blog will have noticed, the church at Taizé fascinates me. The last time I wrote about it, I wrote how the church expands and contracts with the seasons to accommodate more or fewer people (see here). But in this blog I am going to attempt to reconstruct its history.

When Frère Roger returned to Taizé after the war, he returned with three like-minded individuals and this was the beginning of the Taizé order. However, the order was not formalised until a couple of years later when the Taizé rule - a “parable of community” – had been written. On Easter day in 1949, seven brothers committed themselves to a life following Christ in simplicity, celibacy and community. This small community celebrated their daily rites in the Romanesque church in Taizé. This church is very small and as the numbers of summer pilgrims increased, the church became too small to house everyone who wanted to take part in the services. So early in the 60s it was decided that a bigger church be built.

1960s churchAfter the war, a German Christian movement was set up, by volunteers, to help countries who had suffered under the Nazis. It consisted of a group of architects who’s intention was to build symbols of reconciliation in places where the war had caused great pain. This group was called Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste, or Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) and it still exists to day. It was in the early 60s that ARSP decided to work with the Taizé community to build the Church of Reconciliation. The monks designed the church and with the assistance of ARSP architects, its volunteer youth workers and other Taizé volunteers, the church rose out of the ground.

1980s church with tentThe floor area of the Romanesaue church was roughly 90 mˆ2, capable of housing 90 – 100 worshipers and the new Church of Reconciliation was about 1,020 mˆ2, well over ten times the size. It was a huge leap of faith to believe that this new church could ever be filled. But by the early 70s it was obvious that the community had in fact underestimated the size of church needed and in the height of those summers it had to erect circus style tents by the front entrance to increase capacity.

2000s churchThe tents were one option, but in the early 90s a more permanent structure was conceived and planning permission was then given to increase the size of the new church. The church has been added to over the years with extra length and extra wings so that the church is now not far short of 4,600 mˆ2. It has to be said though that even now in the height of summer the Saturday evening and Sunday morning services attract more people than the church can hold and many of the faithful have to follow the services from outside.

So in the course of 50 years the capacity of the church has increased from a tiny village church to a huge building which is ¾ of the size of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is now difficult to imagine that this was ever just a small community of 7 monks.

Our website gives information about the accommodation we have available.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...