Sunday, 25 November 2012

Back to School

New school in the fog
This foggy Saturday morning we went to school. Up early to the market and back in time to join the members of the town council and their families to have an official tour of the new school now that it is well and truly up and running. Cees was invited as the official school photographer, to document the event.

Official photographer
Having visited the school to take photos every weekend for the best part of a year, we were quite familiar with the layout of the place, but getting inside the school, now that it is full of little tables and chairs with posters on the walls conjugating verbs and showing you how to count, it all really came to life. It is a lovely school and one this community will be proud of for years to come.

We were amazed that a new sports area had been installed behind the school, with a two lane running track and a basketball court. This is open to everyone, it is not exclusively for the school children, a great asset for the village and I am sure it will be well used by many.

Infants classroom
One thing that fascinated me was the school dinner menu, do you remember soggy chips, over-boiled sprouts and semolina pudding? Well I certainly do, so how does a selection from this week’s menu sound: Fish terrine, followed by roast veal with chives and green beans or maybe lentil vinaigrette with shallots, filet of hoki with lemon and pumpkin purée. All of course followed by cheese then a dessert. French children are taught all the essential things in life - not just the 3 Rs.

Old School
Those who wanted could have a tour of the old school. Interestingly one of the classrooms of the old school has been rented out to the Chapaize Music School which gives music lessons mainly to children, but if you want to learn to play the accordion or the piano, age is no barrier. The gym is still in use, for the weekly gym class for adults in Cormatin. Originally the new Zumba class was to be held in the gym, but with over 60 enrolled members, the class rapidly became too big and has had to move to St Roch. It is a very nice gym though, so who knows what other classes may enticed to come to town, now we have such a nice venue.

No event of this nature would be complete without a glass of wine and snacks, to celebrate the event - then it was home for a well earned lunch.

La Tuilerie Website

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Invasion of Saint-Gengoux-le-National

The army march into town
The townsfolk had been nervous for the past week, as the army undertook manoeuvres in the hills above St-Gengoux. It all came to a head on Friday, when the army finally marched into town, right up to the town hall and they laid claim to the mediaeval city.

Well maybe it wasn’t quite like that.. Let’s start again.

Thursday evening I had a meeting in St-Gengoux with the Office de Tourism and noticed that there were “no parking” signs all over the square outside the town hall, reason given a “Military Ceremony” between 08.00 and 12.00 Friday morning. Whilst there had been a bunch of soldiers on manoeuvres up in the hills round St-Gengoux, no one seemed to be any the wiser about what was going on. Now what is a Military Ceremony when it’s at home anyway? Especially as we never see any soldiers in town - ever.

Nifty footwork
Well we had to go and find out for ourselves didn’t we?

We have learned, over the years, that everything around here starts late, so we went to St-Gengoux at 10.00 in the hope that we wouldn’t have to stand around in the freezing weather too long. Amazingly, there were actually some soldiers, we asked what was going on and we were told there was a military ceremony – ummm yes we can read too – so still none the wiser.

Gradually after being pushed from pillar to post by someone in an official looking uniform and watching the Mayor of St Gengoux being pushed from pillar to post by someone in an official looking uniform, all was revealed. It was the passing out parade for the latest recruits to the Base Petrolièrs Interarmée from Chalon-sur-Saône. Petrol lorry drivers to you and me.

The troop are inspected
I couldn’t get to grips with why they kept doing “attention, present arms, order arms, at ease, attention, present arms, order arms, at ease……” and so it went on ad infinitum. Their drill skills were poor to say the least and the fact that the Colonel of the unit could not even turn through 90 degrees without tangling up his feet did give the show a little bit of an amateur touch. However, when all these young lads and lasses received their official caps, there was a real look of pride on their faces and with one of the lasses in tears, I must admit I felt quite proud for them too.

They then went off to march round the ancient streets, to show off their newly won caps and return to the Town Hall, no doubt for a glass of wine. But by then our feet were so cold we decided to abort mission before frost bite set in and we left them to it.

La Tuilerie Website

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Looking for Romanesque Churches

Any one who comes to Burgundy will not fail to spot the fact that there is rather a lot of Romanesque architecture in this area. We have visited all the really great churches in the area a number of times, but recently Cees stumbled upon a website which details “all” the bits and bobs of Romanesque architecture that there are to been seen in Burgundy. A Dutch chap, living in The Netherlands, has taken it upon himself to undertake this gargantuan task.

In true van Halderen style, Cees has set up a database for all the churches we have seen, he has added ones we didn’t know existed from Mr van Boxtel’s website and we have been making trips around these churches. Some of the descriptions were rather vague and so we have had to have more clarification from the owner of the website and when we have finally arrived in the village, we have met and chatted to many of the local residents asking where an ex-church or chapel might be in their village.

Our very own Romanesque church - Chazelle
In the course of the search, we have been invited into private houses (for instance the oldest chapel in Cluny) and we have seen some lovely buildings that are just not accessible or open to the public and what’s more, we have come to know even more gems of architecture and snippets of local history.

Whilst Cluny, Tournus, Anzy-le-Duc and Semur-en-Brionnais, might be some of the classic highlights that everyone comes for, we have visited some absolute gems thanks to this website. Our postcode (71460) has the most churches of any postcode in Burgundy, totalling 44 pieces of architecture and we have found and visited them all.

Finding every little church or chapel has been an adventure in its own right, some are derelict, one is in a field covered in a tarpaulin, some have been turned into something else, others have been so far altered from their Romanesque heritage, that you cannot even see that it was built more than a thousand years ago, but every one has been worth the search.

However, one church did prove very difficult to locate. We were told that there was a wall of a church with a fishbone pattern of bricks in Bonnay - just down the road from here. Well Bonnay may not be very big, but I can tell you when you are looking for a bit of wall it becomes a daunting task. We travel though this village quite often and each time, we searched a different corner to see what we could find, all to no avail. But we were not to be defeated. In the end we went to the Mairie and asked them if they knew where this wall was. The mayor was there and he did indeed know what we were talking about. So here you have it, a photo of the oldest church in Bonnay, not quite what we were expecting - I had visions of something a little bit bigger and a little more obviously church-like, but hey we found it and it is there.

The only remains of the oldest church in Bonnay
All in all, we have visited corners of our Département we didn’t know existed and seen some lovely little villages and met some truly interesting people. But so far we have only visited 173 of the 425 that are listed for Saône-et-Loire, so we still have a long way to go.

La Tuilerie Website showing holiday accommodation - not in Romanesque style.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

An Old Brick

A brick from La Tuilerie
It all started one Sunday afternoon in August when a charming, elderly gentleman stopped his car by our house and asked if we knew anything about Noël Marembeau.  Well as it happens we do - quite a lot actually - he was the guy who built this place.  Noël Marembeau was born in the Auvergne and came to Burgundy to make his fortune by building and running a tuilerie.  Our visitor had come round because he had found an old brick that had been made here, he had Googled Noël Marembeau, Chazelles and had found a blog Cees had written some time ago and so now he was standing in front of our gate.  The wonders of modern technology ! 

We offered him a “tour” of La Tuilerie to explain it all, but it transpired that he had more than a slight inkling about how things worked.  He then went on to tell us that he was part of a small group that were restoring a old gypsum mine and ovens in Berzé-la-Ville and that was where they had found the brick.  He gave us his telephone number saying we must come round for a visit and left.

Berzé-la-Ville gypsum ovens and mill stones
We bumped into him a couple of weeks later at a wedding and he insisted that we make contact to visit the ovens.  Realising he was being more than just polite, we phoned him a few days later, we made an appointment to visit and then met up with two other members of his team one morning in August.  What a superb visit we had!  The site is only open by appointment, although you can see the ovens through the grills.  So we were some of the privileged few who were treated to a fascinating explanation of how everything worked and how the group had uncovered all the treasures that there were now for us to see.

By the ovens, check out our brick in the trolley
There are a total of 9 ovens. The older ones being batch, similar to the way our tuilerie worked, load up, light the fire, cool, then empty.  But 3 were semi-continuous.  In these ovens, the gypsum was put in, in layers, alternating with layers of wood.  The bottom layer of wood was lit and this “cooked” the gypsum layer above it and in turn this gypsum layer lit the layer of wood above.  As the first layer of wood burned the cooked gypsum descended to the bottom of the oven and could be removed, leaving space at the top for another layer of gypsum and wood and so the process went on for as long as required.

Deep in the mines
After the ovens, we were treated to a visit into the mine itself.  The mine was shut down in about 1900 but was used later by mushroom farmers.  It is carved out of the rock and hence no real need to support the roof - unlike a coalmine.  In the 1960s part of the roof collapsed, killing a mushroom picker and so the mine was closed for safety reasons and has been closed ever since.  As we walked into the mine I kept looking up to make sure all was well and seeing the pile of rock that had caved in, reminded us of the dangers that underground workers face everyday.  We felt very honoured indeed to have been allowed in there.

We were so impressed with what these guys had done over the last 30-odd years, they started with the knowledge that the village had had a mine and ovens and they knew roughly where they were, but they have literally dug everything out of the ground, ounce by ounce, by dedicating every Friday afternoon between April and October to this enormous feat.

We spent hours with them and are immensely grateful for the warm welcome they gave us and the time they spent patiently explaining things.  We left with a cheery, you must come and see our tuilerie and that is exactly what they did last week.  All five members of the team arrived on a Friday afternoon (of course) and we spent a couple of hours showing them round and generally chatting. 

La Tuilerie de Chazelle
We show people around all the time, small groups from the Office de Tourisme, people staying in our gîtes, campers, but this tour had the added pleasure of having a group of people who actually understood how things worked and we discussed with them the finer details the construction and of using an oven of this nature, so it was a shared experience and not just one-way traffic.  Comparing their ovens and the cooking process with ours and the differences in the products that the two systems had to cope with, was very enlightening.

I am sure we will be keeping in contact with these people and we are definitely going to follow the progress of a couple of them who are building their own tuilerie, Roman-style, but that is a subject for a later blog.

La Tuilerie Website gives not only details about the holiday accommodation we have, but also photos of the tuilerie and the euqipment that was here in the past.
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