Tuesday, 31 May 2011

It is Official - Cees is Ancient !

This year Cees received an invitation for the “Repas des Anciens”. A free meal given to all the old folk in town. When you reach a “certain age” your name gets added to the list of participants and Cees’ time had come this year. Interestingly we are members of the group that organise and run this meal (the Amicale de Cormatin) so we were closely involved in all the preparations, but we ducked out when it came to asking for volunteers to do the work on the day.

We had been planning and preparing for weeks, with the usual French style and to us a somewhat chaotic approach, but everything came together on the day despite all the arguments over whether we should have beef or duck and which wine should be bought. As treasurer I was sent out to buy the chosen wine and I was very pleased to note that the white wine brought huge compliments, but the Mayor (sitting opposite me at the dinner) didn’t like the red wine he had personally chosen and insisted we should buy, which made me giggle rather.

We made table arrangements in tune with the time of year and a suitably Easter-ish theme was chosen and doesn’t that little chick that I suggested we buy as a joke look so cute. I really must stop my attempts at humour and sarcasm in French, they really do take me too literally sometimes.

We were treated to an aperitif, terrine de lapin, paupette de saumon (bouchée à la reine for the non-fish eaters like me), trou Bourguignon (cassis sorbet with Marc de Bourgogne the local fire water), cuisse de canette with gratin dauphinois, assiette de fromage or faisselle and Délice de Cormatin a special dessert from one of the bakers in town, all washed down with the appropriate wine. White wine - Mâcon Villagees Clos de Mont-Rachet 2009, red wine - Bourgogne Pinot Noir Buissonnier 2008 and crément - Crément de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs all from the local cave, Vignerons de Buxy and then of course coffee and digestif.

They know how to do free meals round here.

Even though the meal was a month ago, I waited until today to publish this story because now it is official!

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Parking in Cluny

Parking in Cluny is a tricky business. They introduced desperately needed new parking areas during 2010 to cater for the expected rise in tourists and then promptly removed them, recovered them or turned them into paid parking as soon as the event was over. The staff of ENSAM (the Grand Ecole for engineers) have taken over about 150 new spaces from April to the end of August while their own car park is being repaired, paid parking has been introduced in the car park where we normally park on a Saturday, the old car park near the Equivallée has been turned into a bus area and the “brand new” car park near the bus area is nothing more than an old car park with new markings and fewer spaces. In total about 250 parking spaces have been lost since the new year and 60 previously free spaces have become paid parking.

So last Saturday when we arrived to go to the now much bigger summer market and a horse championship was in full flight as well as the ENSAM students still in residence (plus the fact that the place was heaving with tourists) there was nowhere to park at all. As we were waiting for a bus to get out of the way (he couldn’t find a space either) we saw someone nip out of a space, in we went. Phew, that’s that sorted. OK yes I knew it was a bus space but all’s fair in love and parking. Well no it isn’t actually, when we had been to the market we returned to find the road cordoned off by the police who were ticketing everyone who had had the audacity to think they could park in these spaces which used to be car spaces but had now been confiscated by the buses. Blocked in at one end by the police and the other end by a bus, we had no escape. In any case we now know how to pay a parking fine.

So just a little word of warning about parking if you go into Cluny, if there is a big sign saying buses only it will cost you 11 Euros the first time you park there, it will cost 35 Euros the second time, 68 Euros for the third offence and 195 Euros for a fourth, that makes 20c an hour for paid parking sound rather cheap.

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 28 May 2011

How to Wash Your Car in a Drought

There is officially a drought in France and in Saône-et-Loire water restrictions are now in place. That means no watering
the garden with a hose and no car washing. Just imagine my excitement when it rained a couple of evenings ago ! It was 5mm in total and as the rain came thumping down in great big juicy blobs I had a brainwave, why not use the stuff falling out of the sky to wash the car. So I donned my trusty raincoat and set to work with a sponge and doesn’t our new clean car look all the better for it !

La Tuilerie Website

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Le Château de Cormatin

A common “fact” often quoted around here is that the château in Cormatin is the most visited tourist site in our département (Saône-et-Loire). I don’t know what people base this information on and whilst I have happily passed on this “fact” to others as true, I have always had my doubts about it. Even though you often see a whole row of tourist buses outside the château, if you see the number of tourists hanging around in Cluny it is difficult to imagine that more tourists visit our little town than visit Cluny abbey.

The other day we saw a little article in the paper with the actual figures for 2010 and here you have it:

1 - Touroparc a zoo in Romanèche-Thorins just south of Mâcon : 190,315 visitors.
2 - The Abbey in Cluny : 152,809 visitors
3 - Parc des Combes a fun park in Le Creusot : 137,000 visitors.
4 - Hameau Duboeuf a wine centre in Romanèche-Thorins : 110,517 visitors.
5 - Paray-le-Monial pilgrim centre : 73,283 visitors.
6 - Château de Cormatin : 60,698 visitors.
7 - Bibracte an archeological park in Saint-Léger-sous-Beuvray in the Morvan : 43,179 visitors.

The figures for Cluny are slightly distorted as there were a huge number of visitors who came to Cluny for the 2010 celebrations. In a normal year they have just over 100,000 visitors.

So there you have it folks, our château may not be the most visited tourist site in Saône-et-Loire, but it is certainly the most visited château in Saône-et-Loire.

This got me thinking about how many tourists actually visit our tiny little town each year, let’s forget the hundreds of thousands who walk down from Taizé for a moment and just stick with the château figures. We have a whopping great 120 visitors for every resident - no wonder you have to fight for a seat on a terrace in the summer!

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Visit into the Bresse

Yesterday we decided to enjoy the wonderful weather and go into the Bresse to visit the monastery at Brou just outside Bourg-en-Bresse. As usual for a Friday morning Cees went off into Cormatin on his bike to get the newspaper and a baguette so that we could enjoy our English breakfast French-style and read the paper before setting off. He did, mention that it was very busy in the newsagent, but further no news from town.

On looking at the front page of the newspaper, I was a little confused about the joyous proclamation that announced that it was Friday 13th. Not something you would see on an English or a Dutch newspaper, there you would read stories of all the awful things that might happen during the coming day unless you were very careful indeed. Not that I am superstitious you understand, but I did think twice about our big day out. On reading further into the article I discovered that there are between one and three Friday 13ths every year and each one is a cause for celebration, all the more exciting this year because there is only one such day. The vast majority of the population in France think that a Friday 13th is a very lucky day indeed, hence the excited article in the newspaper and the queue of people in the newsagent buying lottery tickets on this day, to improve their chances of winning. So maybe our outing was not doomed at all.

In fact we had a tremendous day out, we went to the Musée de la Bresse, Domaine de Planons, part of which is a renovated 15th century farm fully furnished, with all its outbuildings complete, animals in the various pens and vegetables growing in the vegetable plot. We thought we would just “pop in” on our way to Bourg-en-Bresse, but it was so interesting we stayed a long time and we have not even scratched the surface of what there is to see there. We will definitely be going back later this year for a full morning or afternoon to explore the place properly and to see all the exhibits.

After a huge lunch in a Routier restaurant (my first ever!) we went on to the monastery. We had visited this place on our first visit to this area, when we stayed on a camping à la ferme near Villefranche, which must have been 12 – 15 years ago, back in the days when we only dreamed of doing what we now do. We were not disappointed with our return visit. The church is exquisitely decorated and is a perfect textbook example of Flamboyant Gothic. The whole place was built in a record time of less than 20 years, but sadly the commissioner (Margaret of Austria) died whilst living in Belgium three months before it was completed and she never saw the buildings herself. The monastery element (three cloisters and surrounding buildings) are impressive in their size, but they lack the simple elegance of the Romanesque style we are so fond of. But no matter what, this place is really well worth all the Michelin stars it gets.

All in all a very successful day out and a very enjoyable Friday 13th - maybe I will be bit more French about that date now - but it will take a lot more for me to believe that you have to hang horseshoes upside-down for good luck..

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Camping Gauntlet Has Been Thrown Down !

The campsite is not yet officially opened for the 2011 season and yet there has been a very brave attempt to smash the record for the longest number of tent nights in one stay! Janine and Mijntje have managed to clock up 31 tent nights by using all of their strategic planning skills. Their record breaking attempt was slightly thwarted by one of their party who dived into a gite at the last minute thus losing them an extra 4 nights and their careless removal of one tent for the last night, lost them another. The way they managed this feat will not be revealed in this blog so that other campers cannot ride on the back of their ingenuity, but it must be said that bribing the judges with corenwijn and peanut butter was a masterstroke of genius. It was however, with great regret that we had to inform Janine and Mijntje that they had slightly misunderstood the rules associated with category 1 of the camping championship, these tent nights need to be consecutive. So the record of 25 consecutive nights set by Marilou and Niek and held by them for 4 years, still stands.

Having said that it was felt that the incredible effort put in by this pair needed to be rewarded, so the first ever “Judges’ Discretionary Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Camping in Cormatin, Taizé and Surroundings” has been presented to Janine and Mijntje! Congratulations!

The judges are a little disappointed that the girls are not building on their success by holidaying in France this summer and in view of the fact that they now only just share the lead for both the most cumulative tent nights (category 2) and the most number of separate visits (category 3), they are unlikely to head either of these categories by the end of the season.

Marlotte, Jan-Luuk, Annaloes, Jeanine and Johan are returning this summer and with their world famous ability to clock up tent nights, they will most probably retain their lead in Category 2 but there are others who could also charge ahead with the right strategy. Category 3 is the most open category at the moment, Hans and Joke were the leaders last year and only have to visit once this summer to re-take the outright lead, however there are others who could move up to pole position with a little effort. So this could be the category to watch this year and records could be broken by the person or persons who really put their mind to it.

In any case the competition is hotting up in 2011 and we are looking forward to seeing new and old campers alike rise to the challenge.

For those interested in the results of last year's competition click here and for more information about the campsite and more pictures go to La Tuilerie Website.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Sarkosy Calls for more Rain

It rained last night - 5 mm- the first real rain for 28 days, we had half a millimetre fall out of the sky a couple of times last week as thunderstorms rolled by, but no real rain. The ground has cracks the size you normally see in August and France is entering a drought. We shouldn’t get too excited of course this 5mm does not come very close to making up for the 50mm shortfall in April.

Having said that it has been a fantastic April for the tourists to the area and the people in our gîtes have enjoyed sunbathing in temperatures of 27 degrees. I think the campers this morning were less grateful though. But one man is jumping with joy this morning and that is our wonderful leader Mr Sarkosy.

Why? I hear you say, because he is worried about the farmers? because he is worried about water shortages? Of course not – now he can try out his new umbrella. Yes the President has a new umbrella delivered at the end of March and it has hardly rained since.
But this is not just any old umbrella, this one cost €10,000 (yes, ten thousand Euros) and he didn’t just buy one either, he seems to have bought a whole bunch, but who he bought the others for was not reported in the papers.

The umbrella even has a special name to go with the special price it is called a ParaPactum. It weighs in at 2.2kg as opposed to 500g which a normal everyday umbrella weighs and it is made from Kevlar ! It is designed to protect our leader not only from the rain but from “falling rocks, knives, ice-pick blows and acid” according to news sources.

For the moment though, he will just have to be content with our measly 5mm of precipitation.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Wedding

I just can’t miss a royal event, they really know how to put on a show. So as The Wedding approached, I definitely had to find a way to see it and not just a couple of dubbed clips on the news, no I wanted to see the whole thing.

To my amazement, France 2 was dedicating a full day to The Event, so a little piece of England was going to be filtering its way into Cormatin on Friday.

But just watching The Wedding on TV on your own (no, Cees was not going to watch) didn’t seem all that exciting and when I bumped into an Australian family that were in their maison sécondaire in Chazelle for the Easter week, my day was made. I’d supply the crément and cucumber sandwiches and they would supply the Pims jelly. We were all set.

In the lead up to The Big Day, I saw this video clip which inspired my Australian knitting friend. It was sadly too late for the Archbishop, but a couple of corgis would be fine.

So there we were Friday morning and late into the afternoon, all the female members of the Commonwealth present in Chazelle on that day, complete with a couple of corgis, sipping our crément and cheering on the happy couple.

Congratulations to William and Kate !

La Tuilerie Website
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