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.
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