Sunday, 24 May 2015

Camera cleaning

Blobs in the sky
I took over Cees’ old camera (Nikon D50) when he upgraded a few years ago. I have used it on and off (more off than on if the truth be told) until I joined a photo group back in January. Since then I have learned a lot about taking pictures, about composition, about apertures and exposures and how to combine them to give different effects, not to mention learning about some fun things to do with Photoshop. So since then I have become quite attached to my camera. I may not be very good at making photographs, but I am having fun.

No, they are not UFOs, I've just marked where the blobs are
A few weeks ago, when I was photographing something with a predominantly blue sky, I spotted some marks on the photo. Any decent editor can get rid of those marks, but it is the sign that the sensor in the camera has dirt on it, so I took it off to be cleaned. Cees had it done a number of years ago, so it is no big deal.

Into Darty, near Mâcon, and as we always go there during lunch hour when virtually no one else goes into the shop, we had the sole attention of two very friendly and competent young men who decided to try and clean the camera themselves, for free. Filter off, clean the lens, lens off, clean the inside, on and on they went, with me popping in and out of the shop to take pictures of the sky to see if the blobs had gone. They finally admitted defeat and agreed to send it off to the service centre for cleaning.

I had to pay 40 Euros up front, then it will take a month to prepare a cost estimate for the cleaning. I would be contacted, to agree the price of the work and then it could be another two to three weeks to do the work. I would receive the difference back or pay the extra when the camera came back to the shop, but I was going to be without my new found friend for possibly two months!

Darty - Crêches-sur-Saône
Having said that Darty are always very pessimistic with their timing and things usually go a lot quicker. They did go a lot quicker, within a week I had a phone call from the service centre. From the story he had to tell me, the camera was full of broken bits and Nikon no longer support such an old model so spare parts were not available - bye bye camera. I was stunned, I had only sent it in for a clean! I managed to persuade the guy to clean it while he had his hands on it, which he reluctantly agreed to do, saying it would do no good. The only bonus was that he would only charge me ten Euros, so I would get a thirty Euro refund.

I was so upset by the conversation that I forgot to ask what was wrong with the camera, so I had no idea what to expect when I went to collect it from the shop two days later. In the shop, they had no idea either what was wrong with it as the only comments from the service centre were that spare parts were not available, so I got my refund.

Blobs gone!
I carefully unwrapped by "dead" little friend, steeling myself for what I might find, but it looked OK to me. I went outside and took a photo of the sky, low and behold the camera worked just as always and what’s more, the spots had gone!

That was several weeks and many hundreds of photos ago and it is still working. So thank you Mr Darty a camera clean for only 10 Euros! I am keeping my fingers crossed it will stay working for many more photos to come. I suppose I will have to face the inevitable one day - just not yet I hope.

For holiday accommodation where the skies are (almost) always blue click here.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Poulet à la crème – to order or not to order?

Oh no - not chicken in cream sauce
As I have mentioned before, after every wreath laying (of which Cormatin celebrates five every year) one or other of the bars/restaurants organises the vin d’honneur. This 8th May (VE Day) had a massive turnout, more than 50 people joined our little band as we walked down the middle of the road to the war memorial.

We have our preferences as to which place to go to for the vin d’honneur and we had our fingers crossed that La Terrasse would get the job this time. So we were not disappointed when the Mayor announced our wine drinking destination. The snacks that La Terrasse provide are quite delicious, not just a bunch of peanuts, real yummy delicate delices. Sadly the town hall had only thought 25 people would turn up, so there was not so much to go round, but what there was was excellent.

Huge turnout for 8th May
After a glass of wine and chat, we usually stay in town for lunch and as Cees and I last ate at La Terrasse when it first opened, and I had only eaten there once again with a work group made up of representatives from all the regions tourist offices, we decided to see how they were doing now that they had extended the restaurant into the next-door building and they had to cope with more customers.

I ordered chicken in cream sauce - a Burgundy classic. Actually, I don’t know why I order it in restaurants because it is rarely done well, the last time I had it on the Tourist Office day out, it was a specatacular disappointment. Despite being a simple dish, poulet à la crème is difficult to get right. There is a balance to be had between nice and creamy on the one side and not too sickly on the other, few places manage that balance.

La Terrasse on a sunnier day
It is a bit like boeuf bourguignon, another supposed local speciality. A lot of restaurants put it on the menu because they think a Burgundian restaurant should serve it , but most fall way below any reasonable standard. I suppose we were spoiled by Monique, the previous owner of La Terrasse, her boeuf bourguignon is the gold standard to which all others are compared - most come up lacking.

So I waited for my poulet à la crème with a little bit of trepidation, would the cream balance be right, would the meat come off the bone without me having to hack it off?

We ate our meal and then we went to pay. As I handed over our cheque, I was asked by the owner/chef if I was the person with the blog on Cormatin. Fame at last, even the French locals have found my blog!

I then had a momentary thought that I had better be careful what I write about restaurants and businesses round here from now on - it was only a momentary though, because I have always and I will always tell it as I find it.

So how did I find La Terrasse?

I can safely say that the new owner of La Terrasse receives my accolade for the gold standard poulet à la crème, even better than Hotel De Bourgogne in Cluny, at a fraction of the price.

In summary La Terrasse is excellent and I don’t care if I offend anyone with that remark!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Missed 100th birthday party and Cluny in Flames

Frere Roger in the 1960s
Late last year I heard that Taizé was organising something for the “locals” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Frère Roger’s birth. The 10th May has been in my diary ever since. Yesterday (Saturday the 9th) I went to find out the details and came away with a leaflet telling me to be there to register and choose a workshop in tent R at 15.00. I was there. Tent R on the other hand was dedicated to volunteers organising a day out for under privileged kids in June. On searching the premises I found a notice saying that registration was at 09.00, the Eucharist was at 10.00, discussions with the Bishop of Autun, some brothers from Taizé and some sisters of the St Andrew order in Ameugny were all held before lunch.

The workshops were arranged for 15.30, but that was the only thing that actually agreed with the information I had picked up the day before. The service at 17.300 was not mentioned and neither were the original activities after the service and before dinner.

The "locals" waiting for the workshops to begin - not in tent R though
I was miffed to say the least and as the workshops were the least interesting part of the day, we decided to abort mission and go to Cluny instead to see the pony games.

Roof gone and firemen dousing down the flames
Arriving in Cluny and the towers of the abbey were hidden behind a screen of smoke. As we got closer we saw that the vast building that contained the hay and the carriages for the National Stud was well ablaze - the roof mostly gone.

We were reassured by the spectators of the pony games, that the final would still go ahead, so despite the presence of the firebrigade we managed to take a few pony photos. They moved a bit quicker that I was expecting, hence this terrific shot of a pony’s rear end!

And there it was - gone..
Now home and writing my blog it’s 17.20 and the bells of Taizé are ringing out to announce the start of the service that I thought had been cancelled as it didn’t appear on the poster I had seen on the wall, earlier this afternoon.

So it has been a double miss for the birthday party and a photo miss for the pony, but at least I captured the firemen in action!

For information on holiday accommodation just around the corner from Taizé and Cluny click here.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

New potters in town

It stuns me how many potters there are in this area of France. How do they all survive financially? The vast majority sell wonderful stuff, but just how many bowls and plates do the locals or the tourists actually want to buy?

It must be difficult for them to get to their potential markets and that is most probably why, not just content with selling from their own studios, a group of potters have got together and are now selling from the old Musée du Vélo or Musée du Poilu, depending on how long your memory is.

We saw the sign a few weeks ago and went to visit, and I must say the layout of the place and the quality of the pottery is well worth the visit. Last Friday was their official opening and we received an invitation, a lovely warm evening with wine and nibbles to celebrate the opening of yet another attractive asset to our village.

The display area is light and airy and they have put a lot of effort into displaying their wares in a way that you can see what they have to offer, not too cluttered and yet not to sparse. All in all, well worth a look.

So when you go to the bio market, or when you are taking a ride on the Voie Verte, why not pop in to see the pottery and don’t forget to visit the upstairs, the bigger and more artistic pieces are up there.

Good luck to our local potters, I hope the venture works out for them.

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