Saturday, 21 December 2013

Someone's lurking round the corner

The stable is getting busier by the day.
The Taizé nativity scene is a source of fun and intrigue at this time of year. Even though I’ve been photographing it now for a few years, I can’t get enough of it. I promise myself every year, I will not bore you all with how it pans out, but well…

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this year’s theme is Mexico. As with previous years, if you go on a Sunday you will see some live farm animals. But this year, the sheep and chickens are there all week, it is only the donkey who does just the Sunday shift. So with animals in the places where the main characters in the story normally go, everyone is crowding into the stable in Acapulco.

Who's lurking there?
Mary and Joseph started out alone. First of all, they were joined by some minstrels and this week some multi-coloured sheep turned up along with a cut-out donkey and ox and a little Mary icon next to the “real” thing. But there is one chap I cannot place, he is lurking around the corner, where they keep the chicken feed. I’m not referring to the chap in red, that’s Cees talking to the chickens.

So who is he and what is he doing there? All will be revealed soon I am sure. I’ll let you know.

For information on accommodation near to Taizé's nativity scene click here.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Fog, freezing weather and fancy food.

View of Chazelle with haw frost
The slight thaw last weekend didn’t last. Fog set in on Monday and stayed with us all week. From what we have been hearing on the news, France had been bathed in sunshine, except for the Saône valley – who says we don’t have a micro-climate? We had a few minutes of fog free time on Wednesday morning which was when Cees managed to take this beautiful photo, the sun didn’t stay long, but the haw frost did.

Unfortunately it has been a busy week for being out and about and the freezing conditions have made all journeys very long and tedious.

Fromage blanc with herbs
Tuesday I had to go to a meeting in Verdun-sur-le-Doubs for the Office de Tourisme, which is a good hour and half away at the best of times, but with visibility down to less than 100 meters it was painfully slow, not helped by tractors and road works as well. After the meeting I had culinary treat in a nearby restaurant. Between the main course and dessert, you are normally offered fromage blanc (similar to quark or fromage frais) or a selection of “dry” cheeses. The fromage blanc is served with salt and pepper or sugar depending on your personal preference which I normally reject in favour of the dry cheeses. But this time, the choice extended to herbs as well and so I chose that. When it arrive it was also decked with minced shallots as well as the selection of fine herbes I had been expecting and it was absolutely delicious, I will definitely be trying that again.

How to block the traffic
The journey home was as tedious as the journey there with one added bonus. Small businessmen decided to block the main roundabout leading into Chalon which added yet another hour to the journey. The French have a national obsession with disruptive protests, if it’s not the farmers, it’s the lorry drivers or someone else, you name them and they will block roads, drive slowly or just generally cause chaos. I must say the police didn’t help matters as they turned up in large numbers and proceeded block a lane on the roundabout as well with all their cars and bikes. Anyway, it meant I was given a flyer, with some truly lovely French rhetoric on it. Apparantly all small businesses are being executed by the fiscal policies in place at the moment, haven’t noticed it myself, but hey I’m a Northern European. I love them really, I just wish they wouldn’t block roads I want to travel on!

The week ended with a scary drive into St Gengoux for the end of year dinner with the Office de Tourisme at La Jouvance, a restaurant which changed hands in the summer. Very good food and certainly worth the trip.

For information on our holiday accommodation that is usually basked in sun click here.

Monday, 9 December 2013

St Nicholas comes to Burgundy

Wine tasting with no wine
Two bank holiday fall conveniently around St Nicholas in Spain, which meant the Cees’ son was able to join us for the weekend. Hearing this, his daughter hopped on a plane too and so our first St Nicholas in Burgundy came to be. For those who don’t know, St Nicholas comes from Spain (just like Cees’ son) in a steam boat (not like Cees’ son who cheated and opted for Iberia Airlines instead) and he gives presents on the eve of his birthday, to all the boys and girls who have been good during the year. As an adult you write poems to go with the presents you give, including funny or embarrassing stories you have been able to amass over the previous year. Great fun for all the family.

Both of Cees’ children were landing at Lyon airport within a few minutes of each other on the Friday and so we decided to spend the day in town and watch the festival of lights in the evening. The predicted heavy rain started at the same time we arrived at the airport and so we aborted mission and went for a Chinese meal in Mâcon instead!

Raku pottery, Genouilly
Saturday we were out and about, first the Téléthon in Cormatin (mulled wine before lunch - very decadent) and on to the market and lunch. In the afternoon we attempted to go for a wine tasting. To be honest, we only went to see the chapel the wine tasting was going to be in, we weren’t interested in the wine at all, which as it turns out was a good thing. When we tried to see the chapel in the summer we were rather rudely told to go away, they only let people in for wine tastings - not exactly customer friendly. On this occasion, things were open and we went into the chapel, we could have swiped a dozen or so bottles, because we waited a good 15 minutes for someone to spot we were there and talk to us about their illusive wines. After taking all the photos we wanted to, we left, disappointed in both the winery and chapel, neither had been worth the visit.

Then on to a raku pottery exhibition in Genouilly. The pottery was absolutely lovely, some very original figures had been created using this Japanese technique. Finally a visit to the spice sellers in St Martin du Tartre and a quick look at the church in the village, which is being restored and the day had been well spent.

Mary and Josheph being serenaded
After a lovely evening sharing poems and presents, we had a very slow start on Sunday. By the afternoon we were in need of some fresh air and what better way to get some than to walk up to Taizé to look at the pottery there and check out the ever expanding nativity scene - some Mexican minstrels have joined Mary and Joseph.

All in all a busy and enjoyable weekend, roll on the next St Nicholas!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Rare Birds

Taizé nativity with a Mayan touch
The first Sunday in advent in Taizé is a must visit.  It is great to see what they have come up with for their yearly nativity scene, that develops over the advent period. This year the theme is Mexico and the Mayan culture, to make the link with the Mexico meeting at the beginning of January. The traditional sheep and donkey were there after the service along with tea and pain d’epice (ginger cake).

Chickens installed for Christmas
This year’s novelty was an enclosed area full of chickens and considering the way they have been penned in and the fact that there is a heat lamp above their coop, I think they might be there until Christmas, rather than just for the day like the other animals.

After buying some last minute Christmas cards, we headed off into Cormatin where a group of local artists and artisans called Les Oiseaux Rares were opening their “nests” to the public, by exhibiting their work.

Pascale poses with her rare bird!
My absolutely all time favourite sculptor Monique Degluaire was showing her works in the shop of La Galadrielle who make quite superb jewellery. Pascale Ponsard had opened her workshop, giving exhibition space to Jean-Louis Choffel’s stunning paintings and was selling her lovely hand-painted silk scarves as well. We visited Iris Griot for the first time and saw her intriguing double sided earrings and necklaces, quite an original idea and finally the new portrait artist who lives in Chazelle, Patrick Ballériaud, was touting his trade in the Wooden gypsy caravans which have all sorts of interesting games and music making things in them, which have been parked outside the church for the weekend.

All in all, a very interesting morning of visiting different types birds in their nests.

For holiday accommodation just down the road from Taizé and a stone's throw from some marvellous artisans click here.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Winter has arrived – or has it ?

Snow on leaves
We heard that snow was on its way this week, but even so it was a surprise to wake on Wednesday morning to see the world covered in white. The leaves still haven’t dropped from the trees in the forest, which made for big problems. The heavy snowfall weighed down on the leaves and many branches have broken under the weight, taking electrical cables with them. We had a few mini-power cuts (5 minutes or less) but not everyone was so lucky. Large chunks of Cluny and the surrounding villages were out for most of the day and when we spoke to our fruit seller in the market on Saturday morning, he said that Trivy (a village not so far away that has a very good jazz festival in the summer) was still cut off!

The snow fell for four nights running, big thick layers of it, which has now all melted, swelling the river running through the village almost to breaking point and leaving huge puddles in our already waterlogged garden. With such wet conditions we have had some thick fog as well the other morning. In any case it has given us a lot to chat (moan) to the neighbours about and a whole new set of proverbs and sayings to learn.

Here are just two of them:

Brouillard en Novembre, l'hiver sera tender - Fog in November and the winter will be gentle

Quand il neige sur les feuilles, l'hiver a avorté. – When it snows on leaves, the winter is aborted.

Winter rations
So good news all round - a warm non-existent winter. We’ll see - I’m not taking any chances though, I have made a huge batch of thick Dutch pea soup to keep us going for a while.

For information on holiday accommodation in Burgundy, where it doesn’t snow in the summer click here.

Monday, 18 November 2013

It’s official - I’m famous

Screen dump of the moment
The day has at last arrived. It is now official. I am famous.

Back in the summer, in Cluny, we saw a blue blob drive by on top of a car and now, a picture of me looking over my shoulder saying “what was that?” has been recorded for posterity and can be viewed by millions around the globe.

Just go on to Street View and there you’ll find us, standing outside the bookshop next to our favourite restaurant La Petite Auberge, just before 12 o’clock when they weren’t quite open and we didn’t want to lose “our” table to those two tourists also lurking close by.

Here we are again - this time an action shot
After lunch we walked back to our car and were caught on camera again, this time in the Rue Porte de Paris.

What more can I say?

Signed copies are available at very reasonable rates!

For information on holday accommodation near Cluny who's streets have been made famous by our appearance on Street View click here.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Optical Illusion or Not?

Who's the giant now??
Our week in The Netherlands was very eventful. We saw family and friends and generally had a great time catching up on news and eating things you can’t get here in France - who would have thought that I would crave kroketten, stamppot and “normal” bread?

Our trip started on Cees’ daughter’s houseboat/ship in Den Bosch, a lovely old town in the south. Whilst there, we went to an exhibition about optical illusions which had some lovely examples of “trompe l’oeils”, but also included some interesting perspective tricks which I had read about when studying psychology some years ago now. In particular, the Ames room was an “experiment” that I had always wanted to try out in reality. It is all well and good reading about it and seeing the photos but it is another things being in the experiment yourself. I was so excited to see, in the exhibition, that there was the opportunity to try out Ames room in person. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this is an optical illusion or not.

The next stop on our journey was Amsterdam, which we finally reached Monday afternoon after driving through some terrifying winds and traffic conditions. The radio was full of death and destruction and it appeared that Amsterdam was on total lock-down. A phone call to our friends encouraged us to continue our journey, but indeed when we arrived, the trams and trains had been shut down due to fallen trees, the main arteries in the city were cut off and the airport was closed for a number of hours. Sadly these photos from just down the road from our friends' home on the Jacob van Lennepkade, are not an optical illusion, the photo on the left is what a lovely blue house boat looked like in its “normal” state and the photo on the right is what the same lovely blue house boat looked like after a fallen tree has been lifted off it.

Home sweet home
Home and tree gone
Fortunately the owners weren’t home when the tree fell, but just imagine what it must be like to come home from work and find your house sunken…

Our week passed all too quickly, but now we have enough stocks of delicacies like leverworst, filet american and corenwijn to last us a while. On the subject of corenwijn, any connoisseur will know that a true galss of corenwijn had to be poured so that sides of the convex meniscus of this delicious golden liquid touch to top of the glass. There’s only one way to take that first sip.

What can I say??

For information on holiday homes to rent less than a day's journey from The Netherlands click here.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Chicken for Dinner - Again

Bresse chicken, the best in the world
Cees accuses the English of being boring eaters, he says that they always serve chicken. I must admit it, give me a nice piece of chicken and I am a very happy bunny and actually I do notice that when we eat with English friends or relations we do seem to be served chicken on the majority of occasions. But chicken is so nice and versatile isn’t it?

I have recipe books just dedicated to chicken recipes and I have a large ring binder just full of them as well. I could find a different way to cook or serve the stuff every day of the year if I were allowed. Which makes it all the more surprising when I eat at someone’s house and I taste chicken done in a way I have never tasted before. That was just what happened on my “early birthday”.

On that occasion, I was served chicken which was absolutely divine. I have finally received the recipe, which has winged its way down the wires (or was it WiFi) from the far reaches of the North American coast. So a big thank you to Ricki who sent me the recipe and an even bigger thank you to Simone the originator. And here it is:

Last night's dinner, yummy
Chicken with balsamic vinegar sauce

4 chicken breasts
Flour with salt & pepper added
1 ½ Tbs butter
1 ½ Tbs olive oil
3 – 4 finely chopped shallots
50 ml balsamic vinegar
50ml chicken stock
1 Tbs butter

Coat the chicken with the flour/salt/pepper mix.
Fry the floured chicken gently in the first lot of butter and the olive oil until done.
Remove and set aside.
Add the shallots to the frying pan and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the vinegar and stock to the shallots and reduce by half.
Add the second lot of butter and allow to melt.
Either add the chicken pieces back to the pan to coat in the sauce, or serve the sauce over chicken when it is on each plate.

After that, does anyone dare tell me chicken is boring?…

For information on some lovely holiday accommodation in Burgundy not far from the home of the Bresse chicken click here.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Roman Holiday

The two of us at the Colesseum
We have just taken some “time out” to have a holiday for ourselves - not very easy to find the time, when you rent out holiday accommodation yourself. We decided to get away from it all and off we went, to Rome. Neither of us had ever been there and after our experience with the horrible people we met when we had a holiday in Florence a number of years ago, it has taken me some courage to go back to Italy, but well, Rome is Rome and it has to be seen doesn't it?

So we booked our flight and flew from Lyon to the Eternal City.  It was fantastic.

Our stay started with the excitement of actually seeing the Pope and not on some distant balcony either, he was zipping round St Peter’s Square on a modern day Ben Hur chariot. We had no idea he would be there, which made it all the more fun.

Franky on his chariot
We “did” all the sights you could imagine, the Colosseum, the Forums, Palatine Hill, St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine chapel and of course the Mouth of Truth, not that I queued up to get my photo taken - superstitious moi? We walked our socks off, from one end of town to the other, from the Spanish Steps to St Paul Outside the Walls, from the Trivi fountain to Trastevere. Everything was wonderful, the weather, the city, the food and the people.

The Mouth of Truth, without my hand in it!
We were totally exhausted at the end of each day as we wended our weary way back to the flat we had rented. Fortunately we were near some super little restaurants, serving great Italian food, so we didn’t have too far to go out in the evening.

I may not have thrown a coin in the Trevi fountain, but you never know, maybe we will go back one day.

For information on our holiday accommodation about an hour's flight from Rome click here.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Fighting the anarchists

The biggest most onerous responsibility of being the head of the “commission des hébergeurs, commerçants et artisans d’art” committee, for the local tourist office, is running the committee meetings, which can best be described as a very French, anarchistic get-together.

My first experience of this type of approach to holding a meeting, left me shell-shocked. The noise, the chatter, the seemingly endless discussion of one subject and the dismissal of others for no apparent reason, the constant jumping from one subject to another and then back again, agenda what’s that? Sure we have a list of items to be discussed, but don’t let that confuse you or hold back the flow, it is only written for… what’s it for anyway?

Ok I’ll admit it, I didn’t really understand what job I was taking on when I started. Basically I knew we organise the yearly trip to visit various establishments of our members (B&Bs, gîtes, artisan’s studios etc), we also organise the welcome drinks for the tourists in July and August, as well as organising a show of local arts and crafts. Back in The Netherlands, I ran an engineering department of more than a hundred burly men and a budget of millions, how difficult could a little job like this be? I hadn’t bargained on the French way of doing things.

I have struggled to keep the committee meetings on track and to guide them to a meaningful conclusion. Having watched others, I notice that they cope very badly too, so at least I am not alone. But the other day I was at a meeting where one woman seemed to have her mob relatively under control. Apart from being able to speak French better than me, what did she do that was different? Here’s the secret - she bribed them all with chocolate. Brilliant! So this week, in an attempt to get things running more smoothly than usual, I baked some biscuits and do you know what? It worked! They were too busy eating to notice that I was sticking to the agenda and we were finished on time as well. It looks like that’s how it going to be from now on.

For those interested, I made some walnut and raisin cookies - using local ingredients of course - and very nice they were too.

Walnut and raisin cookies

8 oz softened butter
6oz soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
6.5oz flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3.5 oz raisins
2oz chopped walnuts

Pre-heat the oven to 190 Celsius.
Cream the butter and brown sugar. Then add the egg and vanilla and mix together thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients whilst mixing. Stirred in the raisins and walnuts.

Drop teaspoon-fulls of the dough on to an oven sheet lined with baking paper, make sure the blobs are at least a couple of inches apart otherwise they will all merge into one great big blob. Bake for about 10 minutes until brown at the edges and cooked right through. Leave them on the sheet to cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For holiday accommodation in walnut country click here.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Walk through the vineyards

Vous êtes ici
This Sunday will see the annual Cormatin Randonnée. Unfortunately due to other commitments, we will miss it this year, but it did get me thinking of the last organised walk we went on. Back at the beginning of July, we took part in the a “balade gourmand” in Ladoix, a wine village not far from Beaune.

Maybe the intention of the walkers in Ladoix is not quite the same as those in Cormatin as the object is not necessarily to go for a walk, it is more about tasting the grand crus, premier crus and other exceptional wines that make this area famous.

Charcuterie and premier cru
The organisation is also on a different scale, Cormatin will order about 50 baguettes and will use up about a dozen or so bottles of wine whilst in Ladoix, to feed the three and a half thousand walkers, they got through 1700 baguettes and 3000 bottles of wine!

So what was it all about? Basically a course of about 5 – 6 km is set out amongst the vines starting and ending in Ladoix. After being issued with your straw hat and glass carrying pounch, you move from one feeding and drinking post to the next eating courses of a meal and tasting the wines appropriate to that dish.

Cheese and grand cru
We started with aperitifs of gougères and kir in the village and then moved on to the first course which was a plate of cold meats and pâtés accompanied by white wines. The fish dish was next (I managed to get a plate of salad - it pays to have a cute foreign accent at these events) with some quite superb white wines. Then on to the main course, boeuf bourginon and rôstis and a number of very good red wines. On the way to our cheese course, there was pink champagne - now what is that doing in Burgundy? we all wondered.

To accompany the cheese we had some of the best red wines of the day, then on to dessert and crément and coffee. What a marathon, it was a good job we went by bus! The trick is to just taste the wine, pace yourself and choose which wines to taste carefully - if you tried them all you’d be legless before the main course. To help, you are given a little book at the start of the walk listing all the wines. Next year I will study the book beforehand and target the right pourers, if you just queue up not knowing what you are doing, you can miss out on some beauties.

So as autumn sets in, I can look back on a beautiful, sunny day in the vineyards of Burgundy, doing what the French do best. What better way to spend a summer Sunday could there possibly be?
Straw hats in the vineyard

For information about our holiday accommodation in Burgundy, not very far from some excellent vineyards click here.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

We just popped into the Taizé shop and what did we find?

Vases in Taizé
I love the shop in Taizé, full of their beautiful pottery. Having said that, now is not actually a very good time to go, the stocks are low and the queues can be long, but I can’t resist a look every now and then.

I saw this stand of lovely vases, such beautiful glazes and designs. A lovely addition to any living room I would have thought.

But it was the pictures on the wall at the end of the room that caught my eye.

At the moment there is an exhibition of Brother Stephen’s work which is entitled quite simply “Circle Colours”. Brother Stephen trained as an artist before he joined the community back in the early ‘80s and since joining the brothers, he has concentrated on enamelwork and decorations for the church and external Taizé events.

His work on display in this special exhibition, is inspired by a passage from the bible - Ecclesiastes (3:11):
“God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” 
Much like a circle, which is “a figure of unity, wholeness, infinity. Without beginning or end, without any side or angle.” I find it an interesting and original interpretation of a piece of scripture, but even if you don’t go along with that, it is certainly a fascinating set of pictures.

Some of Brother Stephen's circles

For accommodation near Taizé click here.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

A round tower and unseen churches

The round tower
Last weekend hosted the annual heritage days that we look forward to every year. For one weekend a year, state owned museums are free, most other museums operate on a reduced price entry but, the fact that there are several places that only open on these two days a year or, as in the case of one of our targets, only open for one morning, is of most interest to us.

Cees had been pouring over the lists of places to be open this weekend for a number of weeks and had come up with a long list of things to be seen. Difficult choices had to be made and in the end we concentrated on the Cluny and Mâcon areas on Saturday and Sunday was in the Brionnais. It would take a novel as long as the Lord of the Rings to describe all we saw, suffice to say, we were exhausted by the end of the weekend, so I will restrict myself to the highlights.

Hotel de Monnaie
Saturday morning we were thrilled to get into the round tower in Cluny. This is one of the remaining towers of the fortifications around the abbey. After a long morning of visits, it was already 11 o’clock when we arrived and as it was only open in the morning, we didn’t have too much time to spare. We rather stupidly started by the tower itself outside the abbey walls. Obviously, for medieval security reasons, there was no door (duh..) but where was the entrance then? The problem is that the old abbey is now split over three sites, the National Stud, the ENSAM (a sort of engineers’ university) and the state-owned part of the abbey site open to the public. We guessed that the tower would be either in the ENSAM or the National Stud, so off we went to the Stud entrance - no not there. We then went to each of the ENSAM entrances - no not there either. By which time it was getting dangerously close to lunchtime and the closure of the tower for at least one year and possibly for ever. Finally at the entrance to the abbey we were told, yes, we could get to the tower that way and we booked ourselves on to the last visit. The tower is actually in the ENSAM in amongst the workshops, but the abbey had permission for visitors to gain access for the morning and we had to march at high speed to meet out visit time slot.

Made for little people
I won’t say the tower was a must-see, the view isn’t all that great, but the fact that it is not normally open to the public, made it a very special visit. While in Cluny, we managed to get into the Hotel de Monnaie, also not normally open to the public and that was well worth it. Check out the door custom made for me!

Baugy church's stunning decorations
During the weekend, we finally managed to see the insides of a number if churches we have visited many times. Sunday’s gem was just one of those churches - Baugy in the Brionnais. The church was beautifully restored and we were lucky enough to meet a couple of the team who had done the work. They explained the problems they had encountered during the long restoration period and the difficult decisions they had had to make. If a wall has medieval frescoes under 19th century decoration, both of historical interest, which one do you “save”? Check out the photo to see what they did.

All in all, a most enjoyable weekend and I am looking forward to next year’s treats - Cees is already busy planning our wish-list.

For holiday accommodation, near to a host of interetsing sites, open almost all year click here.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Birthday in a bird park

Birthday picnic
My birthday started grey and rainy, but we went out any way. After all we are Northern Europeans, we can cope with cold, wet and windy!

No sooner had we entered the Beaujolais than the sun came out. So a picnic by a lake was called for. Then it was onwards to the bird park we had tried to visit back in August. Back then it was just too busy and quite frankly I wasn't so keen on waiting nearly an hour to get in, then to pay almost 30 Euros just to see a couple of parrots.

Cacophony of  colours
But it is now September and the park was bound to be quieter without all those families. Besides we did have that card from the bank offering us a reduced price entry - so what more of a push do you need? We were not disappointed.

Forget just a couple of parrots, this is chock a block full of all the birds you could ever imagine and many, many that you could not.

The park itself was laid out very well, lots of space to see the birds and (almost) all of them were close enough to touch. We went from one area to another, just wondering at the amazing specimens they had on show. Including an aviary with lorikeets that you could feed with nectar and they would land on your hands and arms. Not being so brave, I just went into the non-feeding section and took photos!

Mid-afternoon we made it to the highlight of the park - the flying show. And wow, was that a show. The birds flew so low over your head you could almost feel their wings brushing your hair.

Serene swimmer
Fantasitc flyer

I have taken so many photos, it was impossible to choose the ones I wanted to put in this post, so these ones here are just a taster and if you want to see more, here is a link to a photo album with my top 40 piccies.

The day culminated with our friends from Guitares en Cormatinois, the local guitar festival we help organise. They even sang happy birthday to me! What more can you ask of your birthday?

Panorama of flamingos

For information on holiday accommodation not so far from the bird park in Villars les Dombes click here.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

My birthday comes early this year.

My birthday cake
On Friday we went round to some friends for dinner, we had a lovely evening chatting on their balcony watching the Ameugny world go by. It was the farewell dinner with our American friends who come and stay for a few weeks every year to visit Taizé and generally enjoy Burgundian life. When we sat down to dinner, there was an early birthday card there for me, I was thrilled that they had remembered.

Dinner started with a delicious chicken dish, which I totally forgot to ask the recipe of, silly me, if you read this Ricki, please? I’ll give you and Simone full credit for it ! But for me the pièce de résistance was the dessert. A gooey chocolate cake was brought into the room, decked with candles and everyone sang Happy Birthday. The first time I have had a cake in years. There were three candles (for those who read this regularly they will know that I am from a year zero – I forget which one), they were red, white and blue to the match the red, white and blue nationalities sitting round a table in red, white and blue France.

What is he doing in Oregon?
Thank you David and Ricki for a lovely pre-birthday party and here’s one last photo. Who is that guy standing in front of Mount Hood I wonder? A future blog will reveal all…

Want to celebrate your birthday in our holiday accommodation near Ameugny? Click here for more details.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Evening Classes

Forum des Associations - Cluny Abbey
When we first arrived here, we were baffled as to how to find information about evening classes or clubs. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to how things operate. In fact, evening classes as such just don’t exist. You can’t go to the local library and get a list of what’s being taught and when and when you ask the neighbours about classes, you are met with blank looks. Things are different in France and it has taken us some years to sort out how to find the information we have been looking for.

Virtually all (what I would call in English, English) “evening classes” are run by small associations. So for instance, if you want to learn a language you find a language association and see what languages they offer, if they don’t offer the one you want to learn, you look for another language association based in a different town. If you want to learn Judo, you look for a judo association, karate – a karate association, tai-chi – a tai-chi association, lacework – a lacework association, flower arranging, cookery, art classes etc etc etc the list goes on.

You find flyers for these associations around the place, mostly by accident, at this time of year, but the biggest way of finding classes, is by word of mouth, which is what makes finding what you are actually looking for, very difficult indeed.

La Spirale d'or - Tai-chi club
The last couple of years we have noticed that in Cluny they have a Forum des Associations on one Saturday morning a year. All the associations set up stall in the cloister of the abbey and you can browse around to see what Cluny has to offer, from archery to theatre groups, from patchwork to ji-jutsu, from a brass band to a moneyless exchange system. All manner of things in fact.

I’ve signed up for tai-chi again this year and I am giving the moneyless exchange system a go - who knows what that will entail. It looks like I’ll be working for griottes (morello cherries) when I get started, hopefully they’re not real ones - I’m not too partial to fruit. I’ll keep you posted on my earnings when I find out how it all works.

Another advantage to the Forum des Associations is that you can sneak into the abbey for free, if you know the way. Now would we do that?

For information on our holiday accommodation still paid for in Euros click here.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Correction to my previous post

It has been pointed out to me by two avid readers, that neither Jean Paul II nor Mother Teresa are in fact saints yet.  Jean Paul should make it this October or next April according to different sources, but as yet, Mother Teresa has a way to go.  Whilst she has been beatified, for her to be up for canonisation, a second miracle still has been attributed to her intervention.  So there remains the question, what is a statue of her doing in the church in Belleville, if she isn’t actually a saint?  I can feel another blog coming on..

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A day out in the Beaujolais

Mother Teresa
It was a glorious day and so we set off into the Beaujolais on yet another Romanesque church hunt. While Cees photographs every Romanesque, pseudo-Romanesque, neo-Romanesque and non-Romanesque feature that a church has to offer, I get to sit around and look at bits and pieces. The saints in French churches particularly fascinate me. When I first arrived, I could hardly name any of them, but over the years I have come to recognise all the common ones, St Joan of Arc, St Anthony, St Joseph, St Curé, St Teresa and I can now tell the difference between St Michael and St George - pretty tricky as they are both normally killing dragons.

I have taken loads of photos of them over the years, partly as a record of some of the nicer examples, but partly to log who I have actually seen. It is not often these day that I get to see a statue of a saint that I have never seen before, but this trip was one of those occasions. I was completely amazed at this statue, I recognised her from the other end of the church, one of the most “modern” or should I say “new” saints there is. There she was, next door to her namesake, Mother Teresa herself complete with her iconic poor sisters of Calcutta style sari. It has got me wondering when I will see my first St John Paul II.

Clochmerle pressoir
After that bit of saint hunting, we headed off into the Beaujolais hills looking for a picnic spot. We saw a sign to Vaux-en-Beaujolais and decided to visit the town. This town is famous for being the real-life version of the fictional town Clochemerle. Having said that, why any town would want to associate itself with a pissoire (urinal) is beyond me. Anyway, when we got there, we headed for the church to see the (in)famous pissoire. We searched all round the building, there were talking flower pots (I kid you not) and a pressoire (wine press) covered in flowers but not a pissoire in sight. I was beginning to wonder if I had misinterpreted the story, maybe it was an argument over the village pressoire and not pissoire that the book was about, but I was sure I was right.

Clochmerle Pissoire
I was beginning to feel a little let down by the town’s hype when we stumbled upon the pissoire itself, conventiently located next to some picnic tables where we duly had our lunch, with a beautiful view of the pissoire on one side and a more beautiful view over the Beaujolais hills and vineyards on the other. The only thing missing was a bottle of wine to wash down our mousse de vollaile, rosette and brie de Meaux, maybe next time…

For information on our holiday accommodation, not far from the Beaujolais click here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...