Sunday, 26 June 2011


I didn’t know what a vernissage was until I was invited by a fellow student of my French teacher to attend the opening of an art exhibition. Cees had been to a few in The Netherlands and he said it was a chance to see the paintings, meet the artist(s) and get a free glass of wine. Well how could I refuse, I mean how could I refuse the opportunity to meet great artists etc etc.

Since we have become more involved with the community and the local artists and artisans, we seem to get more and more of these invites. Sometimes the “art”, if you can even call it that, is dreadful and sometimes it can be very interesting, some are tiny events and some are huge, at one we were even entertained by a small theatre group who had created a piece especially for the occasion, in any case they are always interesting and you get to meet more and more of the local colour.

Friday evening was the first vernissage of a new local talent who was showing his work along with seven other fellow artists. I couldn’t refuse to go, after all don’t forget the free glass of wine don’t forget how interesting it will be to meet all the artists and see their work, well actually I had to supply some of the nibbles, so after making nearly 70 mini-samosas off I went into Cormatin.

The Master of Ceremonies Alain Michaud (a well established artist in his own right who held a vernissage a couple of weeks ago in a lovely old Romanesque church not far from Tournus) introduced the artists one by one, explaining their work and then the chap’s work I had come to see was introduced “And here is the work of a new artist who has been painting for less than a year, Monsieur Cees van Alderen”, lots of oohs and aahs and approving nods from the audience and so they should be impressed, his work is quite amazing for someone who first picked up a brush last September.

Then after our free glass(es) of wine and nibbles we left for home and a takeaway pizza to celebrate a successful evening. Now all we have to do is wait for the millions to roll in !

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Wine Bottles

Wine is big business round here. Cormatin itself used to have vineyards on the hillside where the Garage de Bougogne now stands, on the road to Saint-Gengoux-le-National,
and the main street in Cormatin used to have wine makers, wine merchants, a wine barrel maker and a distillery which made Marc de Bourgogne out of the leftovers of the grapes after the juice has been pressed out of them. Even La Tuilerie had its own little vineyard on the other side of the Chazelle – Chazeux road. The wine was made using the winepress that still stands in the old tile drying shed. To hear the stories from older neighbours, Monsieur Martin’s wine was legendary round here for being truly undrinkable ! Maybe it is good that his winemaking technique and recipes were not passed on to us with the deeds of the house.

We buy our most of our wine in the Cave Cooperative in Saint-Gengoux-le-National and we even have a loyalty card with them which they stamp every time we spend 30 Euros.
On the fifth lot of 30 Euros you get a bottle of Côte Chalonaise, on the 16th you get a magnum (1.5 litres) of the same and so it goes on with various gifts increasing in value until with the 50th stamp you get 3 bottles of vintage Premier Cru. Just imagine how upset I was when we got within two stamps of this prize and some nasty so and so pinched my purse in Barcelona with the loyalty card in it when we were on holiday a couple of years ago and all that loyalty was lost in one fell swoop and what is more annoying whoever pinched it didn’t even get the wine.

In the cave in Saint-Gengoux they have a number of the larger bottles lined up near the cash desk and I always look at them and wonder what they are called and how big they are, whilst waiting in the queue to pay. When we made a visit to the tiny Musée du Tonnelier (a museum about barrel making) in one of the little cobbled back-streets in Saint Gengoux the other day, I saw on display a row of all the sizes of bottles used around here and I was quite thrilled to finally see all their names and their sizes; so here is the list:
Melchior, Nebuchadnezzar, Balthazar, Salmanazar, Methuselah, Jeroboam, Magnum, Bottle, Fillette, Chopine. Respectively 24, 20, 16, 12, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2 , 1/3 of a bottle. How the heck one would pour a Melchior at 18 kg of liquid plus the weight of the bottle is beyond me. When I was checking the English spellings of these bottles, I spotted that Champagne bottles go up even bigger, right up to Melchizedek at 40 bottles or 30 litres, you would need a fork lift truck to get that one off the ground.

I don’t think we will be buying any of the big bottles very soon, although on our next visit we are due to receive a Magnum of some sort or another, but we still have to wait at least another 20 stamps before we finally get to taste the Premier Cru.

For more information about the holiday houses we have to rent see La Tuilerie website.

Monday, 13 June 2011


Sunday afternoon we went out on another organised randonée in the nearby village of Chissey-les-Mâcon and it was a themed walk similar to the one in Chapaize, only this time the theme was “lavoirs”. Lavoirs are abundant in this region and they are the places where the womenfolk used to do their washing. They are considered to be part of the national heritage and are mostly well maintained.

There are very big lavoirs like the one in St Gengoux-le-Nationale which could have catered for maybe 80 women at one time and right at the other end of the scale, the tiny one in Chazelle only had space for about four. Each one is unique and a tour of lavoirs is well worth the effort, particularly when you tumble upon ones like the superb little octagonal lavoir in Bissy-sous-Uxelles, quite a gem.

Lavoirs are often used for events like this one. When we first came to Burgundy, one weekend in May, there was a driving tour of local lavoirs organised by “Les Belles de Mai”
(a group of female artisans) who had decorated about 12 of the larger lavoirs around here and they had exhibited and were selling their work - great fun and a pity it was never repeated. Sunday’s walk passed quite a few lavoirs and similar to the other tour, local artists had decorated the lavoirs and were selling their work and amateur gardeners had constructed little gardens near them with descriptions of the plants in the little beds. Quite a lot of forethought and organisation went into this event and it is so nice to see these interesting buildings still being used even if is not for their original purpose.

The walks were rather unusually graded by the amount of time they would take rather than their length in km. The short walk, which was half the length of the medium walk, was said to take 2.5 hours and the medium walk should take 3 hours but in fact it took us only 1.5 hours, obviously we didn’t spend enough time admiring the artwork !

La Tuilerie Website

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Walking in Burgundy

Walking is a very popular sport in this area. There are many small, safe paths, the terrain is not too mountainous that it puts you off starting, the views of the vineyards and the forested areas are well worth any effort you have to put in, but above all else on most Sundays from April to October, there are organised walks. These walks (randonnées) are laid out by the village and they range from the super slick huge walks like Chardonnay, where many thousands take part, to the tiny village walks which probably attracted a dozen or so.

The first walk we did this year was in Chapaize a couple of weeks ago, we were mainly attracted by the fact that it was a walk that went past a number of interesting sites and we were promised a lot of historical detail about those sites en-route. Sure enough when we arrived to start we were given a little booklet filled with lots of interesting information about the things we would see along the way and a map to show the route. The walk was 15km mostly off-road with the farthest point being Chappelle-sous-Brancion and because of the terrain it should not take much more than 4 hours. We started later than we would have liked, meaning we would have to have a very late lunch, but that would be more than compensated by what there was to see. Things started to go wrong less than 1km into the walk when we could not find the correct path into the forest, but we know our way around here and rather than walk up and down the road too many times looking for the hidden entrance, we would just go into the forest, find the lake and go from there. That worked
and we found the trail again. When we reached a T-junction where it was quite clear on our map that we should turn right, the indicators said left. We were confused to say the least. We turned right assuming that the left-hand indicators were for the shorter walk. Not a good move as we ended up in brambles and stinging nettles and even had to crawl on the ground to get under some overhanging branches, it was at that point we decided we might not be going the right way. Back to the T-junction and follow the indicators, which showed no sign of following the map we were given. When we came to the road and the indicators said to turn right (direction Brancion so they were probably correct) we decided to abort mission and go home. We had taken 2 hours to cover about 3km of a 15km walk and had by now lost faith in the indicators, the clinching factors were that it was lunch time and it had started to rain. It appears we were not the only ones who had not found the path into the forest and when I said that the map and the indicators did not match, the guy in charge said “Oh we know that, we decided to change the route”. Ummm. One person had made it back after completing the whole walk but I am not sure how many others did the whole thing.

So when some friends came round and told us they had been setting out new walks for their village walk this weekend, we thought we would give it another a go. With a bit of a giggle we were told that the short walk would surprise some people. The short walk (between 5 and 10km usually) is normally walked by the serious wimps and is a doddle, not so in this case we were told.
So off we set on Sunday morning to see how little of a doddle it was. Well the walk started as it meant to go on, up hill and up hill and up hill with the final haul being the notorious climb near la Moutonnerie that used to be part of the Cormatin 20km walk. As we all know "what goes up must come down" and boy did this walk go down, at one point I thought I would have to go down on my bottom it was so steep ! So we made it to the other side of the hill, yes the OTHER side. That meant we would have to do it all again to get back to our car. Back we went up and up, then down the final haul into town to be rewarded by some absolutely delicious pizza pieces.

We did not get lost once, at no time did we ever feel that we didn’t know which was the right way to go and apart from the road in the village and a small stretch in Blanot, we spent all our time exclusively off-road on some beautiful paths through forests, fields and vineyards. The views were stunning and even though my legs are regretting it today, it was well worth it. Bravo to the Foyer Rural de Cortambert for a superbly organised event and where did you get that pizza ?

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Baby Booties

We do our supermarket shopping on a Tuesday and then we go on to have lunch in Cluny town centre. The place we have eaten for the last year and a bit, when our favourite Cass' Crout' shut down because the owner retired, is La Petite Auberge run by a relatively young husband and wife team who have managed to come up with a different plat du jour every Tuesday we have been there except on about 3 occasions. Not being too observant, it took us sometime to notice that the usually very slim wife was getting fatter and fatter around the middle and then some more time to figure out she might, just might, be expecting. When the restaurant was shut on a Tuesday a couple of weeks ago with a notice saying it was closed “due to exceptional circumstances” and would reopen in a couple of days, it was not too difficult, even for us, to figure out that a baby had arrived.

We were treated to a visit of mother and child the following Tuesday and given a glass of Crémant to wet the baby’s head.
Well I couldn’t resist it I just had to make some booties, never having had kids of my own so no chance of grandchildren, this was my opportunity!

So here they are the lovely pink booties taken from this website Mon petit Violon crochet and kit designs. So thanks Vita for sharing your pattern, let’s hope they fit.

La Tuilerie Website
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