Monday, 28 March 2011

Getting ready for our guests

The season is nearly upon us, every day we notice more and more tourists in Cormatin and Cluny, the big tents have gone up in Taizé as they are preparing for the huge influx of people for Easter and we are busy preparing our gîtes to receive the first guests this coming weekend. The last couple of weeks have seen us plastering and painting, measuring and mending, hoovering and polishing, gardening and making sure that everything is in working order and clean and ready to roll. The septic tank will be emptied on Thursday and then everything is done (I hope).

It is a busy time, but exciting as well, as our sleepy winter life turns into our busy summer life, meeting new people, many of whom will become our friends and greeting returnees to both the gîtes and campsite.

The last few days have been dedicated to digging out the drainage channel alongside the campsite. It is two years since we first cleared it out and there has been a build up of mud again so that the water has not been running off well. The final stretch through the hedge at the bottom was this morning’s job. When you are bald working in a bramble hedge is a painful operation, so we borrowed a hard hat from our friends Chris and Mary and in Cees went to cut through the hedge and clear the last bit. Done and working - bravo !

By the way this is what happens when you drop your glasses in the mud !

Monday, 21 March 2011

Sunday Drive

The weather was beautiful on Sunday and combined with receiving two free entries to the “Salon des Vins et Produits Régionaux” (a regional food and wine show) in Paray-le-Monial from our friends Suus and Paula van der Linden, it meant we just had to go out and enjoy the Brionnnais for the day.

First order of the day was to visit the food and wine show where we tasted some superb wines that we could only dream of affording - Pommard, Beaune, Mercurey 1er cru just to name a few and where we sampled dried sausage (pork and bison), tapenade, escargot pâté, exquisite chocolates and of course cheese from our favourite supplier! After spending a small fortune to stock up “essential” regional delicacies, we headed off into town for lunch and a chance to revisit the sites.

Paray-le Monial is a nice smallish market town with a town centre well worth a wander around, a very fine Renaissance town hall and a superb Basilica built in the same style as Cluny’s Maior Ecclesia with a well-preserved cloister attached. It is also a place of pilgrimage and people come from far and wide to visit the place where Saint Margaret-Mary saw her visions of the Sacred Heart and the place where she was under the spiritual guidance of Saint Claude de la Columbière. Pope Jean-Paul II visited Paray-le-Monial in 1986, when he visited Taizé as well as a number of other places in France, but of particular note is that his visit to Paray-le-Monial was announced as a “pilgrimage” not just a simple visit. This injected much needed re-interest in Paray-le-Monial and since then the town has seen (and continues to see) a dramatic increase in visitors. The shops in the town are heavily influenced by this label and almost every other shops sells rosaries, crucifixes and statues of the Madonna, but fortunately the religious memorabilia remains tasteful, unlike some other pilgrim destinations I can think of.

After a couple of hours, we left Paray and went into the Brionnais itself. As anyone who has read our blogs will know, we are Romanesque church fans. We have visited almost all of the churches round here, but the enormous number of Romanesque churches in the Brionnais (more than 100) means that we have had to visit those on a carefully dosed basis to prevent overload. Yesterday we went to Neuilly-en-Donjohn in Allier a super little church and worth the trip, one tip though if you do go, don’t miss the exit off the N79 as we found out that now that the road has been improved there are limited exits off this section and missing the right one adds a 40km roundtrip.… Then on to St-Martin-du-Lac, Baugy, Bourg-le-Comte, Montceaux-l’Etoile, St-Yan and the not to be missed Anzy-le-Duc one of our all-time favourites with its superb tower.
Whilst St-Martin-du-Lac had in my opinion a totally out of place Gothic apse and choir, its outside was lovely and all the rest of the churches we saw were little gems.

All in all we had a fantastic day out. The Brionnais is not that far away (only 45 minutes from Cormatin to Paray-le-Monial) and we still have lots of churches to visit, so it certainly won’t be the last time we will visit the area.

Our website has details of the gites we rent out as holiday ccommodation in Cormatin.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Names and Addresses

I can remember an advert in the UK in the 1970s for the Royal Mail and the punch-line was “we know all of our customers by name”. Fancy advertising, but of course it wasn’t true. In the UK post is delivered to an address. The first sorting is on the post code which narrows the property down to about half a dozen houses, then the house name or number and road name are used. The village or town and county are just there in case someone has used the wrong postcode. This is in sharp contrast to around here because our post lady really does know everyone by name and she knows where they live and she delivers the post accurately and effectively to probably about 500 people who live in a dozen or so small villages, every day. What’s the big deal? Well French addresses are not all that specific. Our post code narrows the location down to about 34 small towns who all have dependant hamlets, approximately 7, 000 people. OK so the French post code is not that effective at locating an address, but it gets all so much worse. Most places have no
road names, no house numbers and no house names, most people just live in a town (le Bourg) and the person delivering the post has to find out exactly where.

When you visit someone for the first time, you get a long string of instructions as to how to find the relevant house, mentioning the colour of the gates or the shutters or a bend in the road. One of the first couples to stay in one of our gîtes asked us for the road name and the house number so that he could type it into his Tom Tom, after we stopped laughing at the thought of such silly accuracy, we directed him to the detailed instructions on our website so that he could find us. We have since found out through trial an error on the part of family, friends and other visitors, that as our house has a truly unique name in Cormatin, ours is one of the few properties that can actually be found by a Tom Tom without having to fill in the coordinates, you just use La Tuilerie as the road name and Cormatin as the town and you end up in front of our blue gates. Sadly this uniqueness is soon to be over, Monsieur Sarkozy is determined to “modernise” France and has instructed that roads shall be named and houses shall be numbered meaning that one day soon everyone can be found by a Tom Tom. Of course the real reason is that he wants to privatise the postal service and there is no way all those budding entrepreneurs are going to be able to learn 60 million names and then find the right letter box!

Ah well, that’s progress for you. So slowly and surely in each little village and town round here, road names are appearing and house numbers are being attached to gateposts. Cormatin, Ameugny and even Taizé have all fallen and Chazelle is one of the few still not numbered, but for how long? This is bound to have a knock on effect as to the colourfulness of villages round here, no longer the need for orange shutters or purple gates to differentiate yourself, everyone can be the same, how sad…

So our clients are all having to comply by numbering their "maison sécondaires". In fact that means we have been collecting numbers from town halls around the area. One client living in a hamlet asked us to collect their number, number 15. Simple request, just pop into the Town Hall when they are open and collect. Well the Town Hall isn’t open every day, in fact it is only open for about 4 hours a week, so several weeks went by before we could make it at the allotted time. Not here, they said, Monsieur de la B. has the numbers for that hamlet, go and see him, back and forth to the Town Hall eventually yielded a number 15 from the bottom of a hidden drawer in the Town Hall with the irritated Mayor’s assistant muttering away – hopefully she was cursing Monsieur Sarkozy’s daft little plan and not us.

We put the number up this week and it does look very smart indeed, however, I am convinced that our clients' address will remain “la maison des Anglais à côté de Monsieur C”. And rightly so, that has been their address since they bought fifteen years ago and why should some government directive change all that? I was very pleased to be witness to the fact that the Town Hall mentioned earlier is only paying lip-service to this silly directive as well, they didn’t use the road name or number for Monsieur de la B when telling us how to find him (we asked but they didn't know) they gave us his real address and it was very easy to find “he lives half way up the hill in the house with the straight stone stairs and the wrought iron balcony” – thank goodness some sanity is still around!

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Carnival Time

This weekend is Carnival, celebrated throughout the Catholic Christian world. Everyone is having their last partying fling culminating in Mardi Gras (Tuesday) and then into the fast of Lent starting on Wednesday. Being rather practical the French have an interesting approach to carnival, ie if one village is celebrating this weekend, we will have our party next weekend so we can have two parties even if that does push the second one into Lent - somewhat missing the point I think. I discussed this anomaly with a friend of ours a couple of years ago and she replied that is was in fact allowed to have your carnival celebrations any time up to half way through Lent – very flexible indeed!

Our first Carnival parade was in Chalon in 2006 when we went out in freezing weather to see it, whilst it was quite fun, it was so cold we didn’t stay long. This year the weather was great, still a bit cold but no rain and no frozen feet whilst waiting for the parade. Almost all the same people were there as 5 years ago, they were just in different costumes, but it was fun none the less and we enjoyed our afternoon out.

Chalon-sur-Sâone 2006
Chalon-sur-Sâone 2011

Our second ever carnival was in Cormatin in 2007. It is scheduled so as not to clash with the parade in Chalon (no doubt at the request of the Chalon committee who are afraid it would take away too many spectators) and its timing can vary from two weeks before lent to a couple of weeks into lent, which was the case when we saw the parade in 2007. To make sure we didn’t have problems parking, we walked into town to have lunch before the parade which was due at 2 o’clock. Unfortunately we were a week early, so we had to go back the next week, but at least it gave us two lunches at La Terasse! On the second visit, after lunch, we strolled down to Café de la Poste to bag a road-side table to make sure we had a good view and we waited, and waited, and waited. At about 3 o’clock and getting rather cold, we were still the only spectators waiting in anticipation so I nipped across the road to check one of the posters to make sure we were there on the right day and yes indeed the parade was due and there it was coming down the road ! I will end my description here as my inadequate words cannot do it justice.
Cormatin 2007

We missed the parade this year.

La Tuilerie Website
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...