Saturday, 26 June 2010

Wine Tasting

Wine drinkers fall into three categories in my experience. Those who drink what they think tastes good, those who drink what they have been told tastes good and those who know something about the subject and can tell the difference. There are of course sub-categories including the wine snobs (those who will like any wine as long as it is expensive) and wine anti-snobs (those who will like any wine as long as it is cheap). I daren’t say which category/sub-category we fall into but we certainly don’t pretend to know too much about wine. I know what I like and I know what I can afford and generally the two match up.

Since living here I have however, learned a lot more about wine in this area - where to buy good wine, interesting wine, cheap wine, expensive wine and we send the guests in our gites or from the campsite off to the appropriate wine cave depending on what they are looking for. We know where to go for a good tasting with knowledgeable staff and where to go for a wide range of wines and generally that knowledge is appreciated by our guests.

Back in 2007, we had some French campers who certainly knew about wine. I felt overwhelmed by their knowledge and felt inadequate to advise them where to go. They were after really local wine and so we suggested Bray which has a viticulturist – well he is “local” but that was all we knew about him. They came back thrilled to bits with their find and they let us taste some of his wine and we sat by their tent enjoying a glass with some goats cheese from La Trufière in Lys. The wine tasted very different to other local red wines which we find rather thin and boring and we decided to visit the viticulturist, but of course other things got in the way and we never actually went.

Recently we met some Americans who had rented a house in Ameugny for a month and when they came round for coffee and cake, they brought with them a bottle of this lovely wine. After enjoying that bottle, we decided that the time had come to visit Monsieur Lefarge ourselves. One rainy afternoon last week we made the journey to Bray (all 5 minutes of it) and we found Monsieur Lefarge at work in one of his sheds. We asked for a tasting and he set to, collecting bottles for us to savour. The wines were sublime and the chat and local gossip were also very interesting. We had a lesson on making Marc de Bourgogne (the local fire water), he explained how he paid the taxes on his vineyard by giving alcohol to the government - I thought Sarkozy was a teetotaller! He gave us the names and locations of all the expats he knew in the area - he knows of a lot more than us and we chatted about mutual friends. He even let us taste his “homemade” Fine which was delicious, but as he only had enough for his own consumption, we will have to wait until he bottles up the next lot before we can buy any.

We left with a case of wine, which we will save for special occasions or maybe we will just enjoy it out in the garden in the sun with some goats cheese.

For more information about the accommodation we have see La Tuilerie Website.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Marseillaise

As many of you blog followers will have read in the past, we are avid wreath laying ceremony goers. No not just for the free glass of wine…

The highlight of the wreath laying is the playing of the Marseillaise which always used to be done using a crackly cassette player mounted on the boot of Monsieur P’s car which sounded like the marvellous rendition from Casablanca. But last November a brand new CD player appeared. The Armistice Day ceremony passed off with a perfectly clear well played version and it left us with a very nostalgic feeling of days gone by and the crackly old rendition of the national anthem.

Deportees’ day arrived at the end of April and we all carpooled down to the Bois Dernier monument, half way to Taizé. We accidentally left a few people behind who then had to run after the cars to catch us in time for the national anthem, but that was a minor hitch. Although the new CD player was in place, it appeared not to work. The flag carrier (Monsieur N - the CD player expert) agreed with Monsieur P that it didn’t work and with a Gallic shrug of the shoulder’s, Monsieur P announced the end of our little gathering with “No music today. It may not be modern technology, but at least my cassette player worked.” and with that off we went for our glass of wine and recriminations in Café de la Poste.

It seemed that the battery had not be charged properly, so on 8th of May we waited with baited breath at to what was going to happen. This level of high technology is definitely not familiar to Monsieur P and Monsieur N had to say a number of times “click up to number 7 then press play”. Why Monsieur P insisted on twirling all the knobs as well was a mystery to most of the people waiting. Finally Monsieur N put on his glasses and balancing the heavy flag so as not to clunk Monsieur P on the head, he bent down and too started pressing buttons like a madman whilst saying again “click up to number 7 then press play” and right on cue to the word play the Marseillaise blared out loud enough to deafen the inhabitants of Cluny 7 miles away. Monsieur P nearly dropped the whole machine, which was at that moment balanced precariously on his knee, as he stood to attention. Monsieur N shot to attention too and the rest of us desperately tried not to laugh. By the end I had tears running down my cheeks which I hoped no one noticed.

At the Bois Dernier we assumed that things were now in order, the CD machine worked and now Monsieur P knew how to work it. First hitch - at these events Monsieur P likes to play some patriotic songs, but of course when he presented his cassette to the CD player it did not fit. Not to be defeated, he sprinted back to his car opened the doors wide, blocking the road and put the cassette in the in-car player and wound the volume up. All in vain, we really couldn’t hear a thing. So on to the Marseillaise. By now even I could repeat the famous sentence “click up to number 7 then press play”, to no avail, the technology had finally beaten Monsieur P and before poor Monsieur N had a chance to rebalance his flag and get his glasses out, the CD player had been put down and with the French equivalent of “bugger this for game of soldiers” Monsieur P had started singing. It became quite evident that not everyone present knew the words, I think we managed about half of them, the Mayor – none, I’m sure Monsieur P changed key halfway through, but it was a valiant effort, even the Mayor had tears in his eyes by the end and before we went off the Les Blés d’Or for our drinks and nibbles and his final words “I think we need a different flag carrier next time”.

So June 18th arrived and the remembrance of the Appel du General De Gaulle and we were itching to know what was to happen. At the Mairie no sign of Monsieur P but when we arrived at the Bois Dernier monument what a relief it was to see him with his trusty old cassette player, sitting on the boot of his car. And to quote his own immortal words “It may not be modern technology but at least it worked!”

For our own website click here.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Cluny Botantique

PoemThere is so much going on in Cluny this year, the citizens are using the 2010 celebrations of the abbey as an excuse to clean-up, tidy-up and improve their town and why not? Last week was the week of inaugurating the five new gardens and an orchard. An excellent addition to the town. The whole week was dedicated to a botanical theme. All the shops has botanically themed poems or prose posted in their windows and on each day, one of the new features was inaugurated culminating on Friday with the inauguration of both the Jardin Pédagogique and the Rosarie.

Mid-week, we decided to tour all the new gardens. First stop, get a map off the Mayor’s official website and just follow the blobs. We parked at the supermarket near the new orchard and followed the map. This was actually not the best starting point as the “blobs” on the map turned out not to be too accurate. After 20 minutes of searching for the new orchard, we asked some of the locals. “Never heard of it.” “But it was inaugurated a couple of days ago.” “Oh yes, you’re right I did see something about it in the paper. Don’t know where it is, it’s not round here.” After the third person had been tackled, we gave up. So the first 30 minutes had not yielded one botanical marvel. On to the next one. This time the blob was also nowhere near where the garden was, but as the inauguration party had just happened, there was red and white tape all over the place which gave away a potential garden location. Jardin Pédagogique Again we needed to ask a resident for clarification, yes the zone that looked like a cordoned-off crime scene was in fact the Jardin du Fouettin, possibly a wild flower meadow?

On to the next attraction, Jardin Pédagogique which was actually to be found where its relevant blob was on the map! Actually quite a cute little garden, just opposite the schools with beds themed on the senses, taste, touch, vision etc. It was well thought through and interesting for kids.

Two gardens down, three to go and yes of course that orchard… The Jardin Partagé turned out to be a small set of allotments- enough said and so now only the Jardin des Simples and the Rosarie which we already knew, but which had to be “officially” visited on our tour. Jardin des SimplesThe Jardin des Simples is right by where the entrance to the Abbey used to be and is a small well laid-out garden for herbs and medicinal plants with a few trained apple and pear trees. This garden has been growing for a few months now and is looking very good, well worth a little detour to see it. Finally on to the Rosarie.

Unfortunately the Rosarie had many problems during its construction, not least of which was a lack of people to get it started. To have it looking good for the inauguration the roses should have been planted in November with March being an acceptable second, however digging didn’t start until late February and the beds were nowhere near ready to accept plants until just a couple of weeks ago, which is a pity as many people had put in a lot of thought and time into this project. The frantic activity over the last couple of weeks shows the effort that some have gone to, to get it up and running. Rosarie Anyway, next year this new feature will add a very special splash of colour to the edge of Cluny.

Over lunch we finally found out the name of the access road to the orchard. We got out the map and found the road, almost where we had parked our car, but nowhere near the blob on the official map. After lunch back to the car and one last attempt to find the orchard, you can’t miss an orchard can you? And there it was, in all its glory, three scrawny apple trees and two two-foot high walnut trees, I won’t attach a photo, if you really want to see it you will have to find it for yourself!

The walk through Cluny took us to places we had never been before, like the super park that is on the very steep edge of the hill and has meandering paths down to the river Grosne. It was a fun morning and if you have the time, it is worth it just to see things off the tourist track.

Why not visit the website for the houses we rent near Cluny for more things to see and do in the area.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Organs of Taizé

1960s organIn the Church of Reconciliation at Taizé there is a large pipe organ. I blogged about it last summer when it was installed, but I have come to learn so much more about it and its predecessors and yet now I seem to know so much less! By finding old photographs, I have seen that the organ in Taizé has changed a number of times over the years and it does beg the question why?

From this very old photo probably from the 1960s you can see what I am fairly sure is the original organ. The niche in the wall fits it perfectly, or it fits the niche perfectly, whichever way you would like to put it, but in any case it looks like it belongs. I can’t find out who made the organ, but that will come with time.

1974 organInterestingly, I have found information about what is possibly the second organ in Taizé. This organ was built specifically for the church in 1974 by Jürgen Ahrend a German organ builder, however, that had a very short life in the church because it was dismantled and put into storage in the Bressse in 1979. Via a monastery in Switzerland this organ eventually ended up in Lyon Cathedral in 1996, where it still is today. I suspect it was rather too loud for Taizé if it can be used in a cathedral!

What happened in 1979, I have no idea, but when I first visited the church in 2006 there was definitely an organ, I never heard it played, but it was there. Obviously no one thought it interesting enough to take a picture of because I have scanned the web and can find nothing. 2006 organ However, a friend of mine did find this photo in her collection, rather out of focus, but clearly an organ. Apparently this organ became “unreliable” due to the hot air heating system in the church and so it was removed when the church was refurbished in the winter of 2008/2009.

I personally thought the church was a better place without that organ. An organ of that size seems to be out of place and too overwhelming for the services in Taizé. However, a new organ had been commissioned from Gerhard Grenzing, an organ builder from Catalonia. Rather unusually for a organ, part of the specification was that it had to be “quiet”! When I saw the new thing arrive I thought it looked as if it could blast you out of the church, but apparently the sound is very much in keeping with the quiet meditative nature of the chants. 2009 organ Also interestingly the organist sits sideways on to the church so that he does not have his back to the congregation. This must make it easier for the organist to still feel part of the community of singing.

Finding all this out, has made me hanker for more information. What happened in 1979? Why have there been so many organs over the years? How many have there actually been between 1979 and 2006? Maybe some of our new friends who have been coming to Taizé for years will be ale to fill in some gaps, I don’t know, but I will certainly keep digging. So anyone with any information or any photos throughout the years, let me know!

La Tuilerie Website
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