Saturday, 29 January 2011

Taxe de séjour

I am not a great fan of paying tax, taxes and other rather cutely called “social payments” are very high in France as it is, but the “taxe de séjour” (local tourist tax) has a real purpose and we have seen the benefits of it. Voie VerteIn theory tourists who come to this area have to pay tourist tax when they stay in registered accommodation. So anyone sleeping on our campsite or renting one of our gîtes has to pay roughly 20 cents per person per night over and above the price we charge. However, the rules around this figure and the way to calculate it, are not as straightforward as one would imagine – this is France after all, why make something simple when you can complicate it? For instance if there are lots of children from the same family, the price per adult goes down according to a non-linear sliding scale, children do not have to pay the tax, it is charged only in the months of May to September, if you are accompanying a youth group you don’t have to pay anything at all and according to the type of accommodation you stay in, the price varies as well.. All in all, if we charged this tax on to our visitors it would be a mathematical nightmare for us every time someone came to pay. So Cees does all the wizardry in the background and we pay the tax out of our profits, not bothering our guests about it and significantly reducing the hassle factor for us.

However, all these little 20 cents add up, this tax generates just short of 20 thousand Euros a year for our “Communauté des Communes entre Grosne et Guye” Balades Vertes (the local cluster of communes) and from the beginning, the president promised that the income would only be spent on things to improve the tourist experience in our area. He has really been true to his word. This money has been spent on maintaining the Voie Verte, the cycle path that spans South Burgundy giving easy access to many attractive towns and villages around here, it has been used to put up the signs which mark out the Balades Vertes, local walking routes that get you to some interesting sites in this area and this coming year it is being used to build a climbing “wall” in an old quarry almost at the end of our road.

Climbing wall We have cycled up and down much of the Voie Verte and we have done the local Balades Vertes, so now it is the turn of the climbing wall. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was an old quarry at the end of our road, it is overgrown and hidden by the dense trees and bushes, but the other day we went out to investigate and we were stunned to see quite how high it was in parts. This area is going to be converted into between 12 and 15 “climbs” with a separate area for children which is described as “acrobatic and fun” with a small climb for them too. We can only imagine what it will look like when it is finished but to give an idea Cees took a photo of me in the quarry. For those of you who know how well I do heights, there will be no doubt in your mind as to whether this photo has been “photoshopped” or not. In any case we are looking forward to the creation of yet another attraction for our guests and I will come back with a photo of the real thing as soon as it emerges from the undergrowth.

Having looked at the photo again, I think I might pluck up the courage to climb a ladder and put the TV aerial up now - maybe not.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Baby Boom?

In 2010, financial crisis or not, France was the most baby-productive nation in Europe, so said the national news last night. The population is growing and that is good news for those of us who will be drawing a pension when these little ones reach in the workplace.

So it was with great disappointment when I read the headlines of today’s newspaper “Pas de Baby-Boom Bourgogne!” Morvan sceneryBurgundy has traditionally been a big baby production unit, it was one way that money was brought into the region at the turn of the last century (18th - 19th that is) not by selling the babies, who were actually just a by-product of the real industry, but by exporting their mothers’ milk. The Morvan was famous for its wet nurses, they were used by the rich and famous all over Europe. The Jersey cow of the human world, their milk was said to be rich and nutritious, it is a pity their own babies didn’t get much of it. The women would have a baby, leave their baby with an old female relative and go and live with their new family for about 18 months, then they would return to their impoverished life in the Morvan for just enough time to produce another baby, then off again back to civilisation.

Leaving Burgundy seems to be as popular now as it was back then for the young. Which is what explains today’s headline. Work is not abundant and as more young people leave, the average age of the population goes up and the area becomes less and less attractive to the young. Without the young, babies will not be produced and even though the Burgundian women do their best and produce way above the national average, they apparently cannot keep up with this exodus.

Having said that, the women of Cormatin are made of much sterner stuff. The great announcement in the “Bulletin de Cormatin” (the annual review of all things important in our great metropolis) and also at the Mayor’s annual “meet and greet the population” last weekend, was that Cormatin is getting a new school. The infant/junior school which is split over Cormatin and Malay, is too small for the current number of school-age children and the projected numbers are even higher, so a new school is being built.

Cormatin's new school

So our own little Baby Boom is bucking the Burgundy trend and long may it continue.

Visit La Tuilerie Website for more photos of what this area has to offer.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

It's Official!

Photo by Michelle the Journal de S&L journalistIt is official! I am the new treasurer. I am not sure that the exiting treasurer who has done the job for about 10 – 15 years will be too pleased to see that she is my deputy, but hey all’s fair in love and journalism or maybe it is a case of don’t believe everything you read in the paper.

Here’s a link for all those who want to read the full details and I have stolen Michelle the journalist’s photo as well.

My claim to fame in Cormatin society!

Our website: La Tuilerie de Chazelle gites and camping à la ferme in Cormatin near Taizé and Cluny.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Annual General Meeting Time

Around the New Year (December and January) all the local clubs and societies have their annual general meetings. One way to fit into the local community is to join these societies, show your face and sooner or later you become part of the scene. Cormatin Guitar FestivalFrom the beginning we wanted to be a part of “Guitares en Cormatinois” (a classical music festival in and around Cormatin) and we also tried to join in with the Amicale (the group that fund raises all year to pay for and organise the old people’s lunch and the kids’ Christmas party) but both of these wishes proved more difficult than one would at first imagine.

For a small community of 552 people (in the 2010 censor), Cormatin has a strong and relatively large group of volunteers and fitting in, when you don’t know how things work or you don’t understand the protocol, can be difficult. We have had a couple of false starts, but I am thrilled to say that we have finally made it into the inner sanctum of both the guitar festival organisation committee and the local Amicale.

The Amicale was the first group to open its arms to the two foreigners from La Tuilerie and we have been heavily involved in all events for the last year, most people “tu” us now and the vast majority can even pronounce Cees’ name! Cormatin Guitar FestivalOur acceptance into the “Guitares en Cormatinois” group was finally sealed with us making the “mâchon” (an after meeting small meal) back in October and the samosas, chicory salad, selection of Dutch cheeses from Paula and Suus at Cluny market, the Dutch apple tart and cheesecake must have been up to standard because we were formally voted on to the “Connseil d'Administration” at the annual general meeting just before we disappeared for the Christmas break.

However, having poor French political skills and having a tendency to smile and nod a lot when asked a question can get you into trouble. Last summer Cees inadvertently stumbled into the “tent-putting-up-group” for the theatre festival “Les Rendez-vous de Cormatin” - a large theatre festival held in the Chateau’s two theatres (one open-air).
Chateau de CormatinThis honour involved him in hours of tent-putting-up over the space of about two weeks and seemingly endless tent-taking-down over about another week or so. But through that he has made friends in high places, none other than the Secretary and Treasurer of the “Guitares en Cormatinois” who very thoughtfully nominated Cees for a place on to the “Communication” committee and he is now charged with making all the publicity for the festival. I was a little quicker to see what was going on and I managed to just smile and duck at the right moment!

However, after being ambushed one day in November by one of the Amicale committee members when I was out for a walk and then after being almost bludgeoned into submission during the Amicale Christmas dinner in December by some other committee members, I have finally been outmanoeuvred by these French pincer-movement tactics. At the Amicale Annual General meeting last night, I think I have been made the treasurer, I say “I think” because I wasn’t given the books to study or given any explanation of what I would have to do, because I need to be made a formal signatory of the society first. I don’t know whether this will involve me in putting a knotted hanky on my head and rolling up my trouser legs and chanting or not, but I am sure I will find out soon enough. After the compulsory glass of Crémant and Galette des Rois, my photo was taken by the visiting journalist and so I await the newspaper article with interest to find out what I have let myself in for!

For information on the gites we rent out click on La Tuilerie Website.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

6th January

And two of them thoughtfully left their camels outside!

Happy Christmas to all Orthodox Christians.
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