Thursday, 24 March 2016

A tale of two pyramids

A Starry Night - Musée d'Orsay
So where have I been for the last few weeks? Well I’ve been in London and then Paris and since I’ve been back we have been so busy that I just haven’t had time to sit down and write about what’s been going on. I won’t bore you with all we saw in Paris as we saw a lot, we walked and walked and visited museums until they were coming out of our ears and even though I have visited Paris every few years for the whole of my adult life, I am still finding new things to see. The adorable flat we rented in Montmartre is ideally suited, not far from restaurants, the Sacre Coeur and a metro station, what more do you want?

Impressive Buddha - Musée Guimet
A trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the Museum D’Orsay, I am such a fan of impressionist and post impressionist art and just love this museum for its collection. Our favourite new thing this year has to be the Museum Guimet which has an impressive collection of Asian artefacts. We will definitely be going back for a second look next time we are in town

Of course we had to check out the pyramid at the Louvre, a strange blot on the classical landscape between the main Louvre building and the Tuilerie gardens. We didn’t visit the museum this time, we just fitted it in in-between Maxime’s and the church St-Germain l’Auxerrois.

Pont Alexandre III
As soon as we returned from Paris, we were off on day out with the Tourist Office to visit some artisans in the area, a couple of B&Bs, have a nice lunch together and to visit the Pyramid of Cormatin!

We have wanted to see what was going on behind the walls around the Pyramid for a number of years and we were not disappointed. The rather intimidating wall and local stories of Horuses with red glowing eyes, the eccentric appearance of the owner and his completely weird website, have led to all manner of things in my imagination.

Grave stones and elephants
Trumpet playing bulls

The reality is as weird as I expected! The owner however is one of the most charming people I have met and he was very welcoming and eager to tell us all about his artistic adventure that eventually led to what he has created. The whole is too much to tell here, but he has been inspired primarily by the great Egyptian builders and artists and their use of the golden ratio in their creations. His interpretation is impressive, but not solely Egyptian in its design, there are gravestones and shop dummies and the weirdest art you could imagine. When he is open to the public later this year, it is worth a visit.

After all that excitement I have been dashing around to get the gites up and running for our first guests of the season who arrived this week and so we are now back into our normal summer mode. Roll on the longer warmer days!

For holiday accommodation near the pyramid of Cormatin click here.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Learning the songs

The bell tower in Taizé
Whilst browsing round the Taizé website the other day, I found a completely new section, well I think it is new, maybe I have just never fully investigated it before.

There has always been a section on how to sing the songs, with the words and sheet music, but I have never noticed that you can listen to each “voice” if you click on the relevant links.

Click on the photo to go to the Taizé website
This is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to really learn how to sing these lovely meditative songs. There are four voices in most songs and I have always sung along to what I heard as the “female” voice. But being an alto, the songs are often a tad too high for me so I generally sing an octave lower. Listening around me, I am not the only one who does that either. In fact, I have always assumed that the alto voice was just that, the soprano with an octave twist every so often, until I started to investigate a few songs on the website.

Take one of my favourites In Manus Tuas. I listened to all the voices and discovered that I have never actually heard either the alto or the tenor before, the only ones I’ve noticed during a service are the soprano and bass, with the tenor voices doing the same octave twist to the bass tune, that I had been doing with the soprano, but in the other direction. I will certainly be paying much more attention next time I am at a service and I will try and listen out for any real alto singers.

A wall sculpture at Taizé, originally on the church

As you can imagine, a whole new world of songs has opened up for me and just in time for the “season” to start as well. I will definitely be brushing up on my alto skills as that voice gives a completely new dimension to the songs and it is a pity that it is not more dominant. It won’t be long now before the place is swarming with young people and the church will be full again, I’ll be much less conscious of my own voice when there are loads of others around, so who knows I might actually sing the right part for a change!

For accommodation near Taizé click here.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Wine Tasting.

Living in Burgundy, you cannot escape the influence of wine. We are surrounded by some superb wine growers. One thing surprised me when I first got to know how things worked was that there is in fact no “Burgundy” wine as such. To make a wine and label it Burgundy, you have to follow the rules laid down by the AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) committee which include how, when and what to plant, how and when prune, how and when to spray and with what chemicals, how and when to harvest and then how to make the wine.

Having said that, wine from each parcel of land will have its own personal flavour which will vary from year to year, some will be labelled as being from a certain plot of land, or a certain area, some will be labelled as grand cru or premier cru, the list and complexity goes on. The essence of it all is that the flavour comes from the elements in the soil, the amount and timing of the rain and sun and so year to year and plot to plot, the wine will vary in quality, flavour and keepability. It is no wonder that such mystery, myths and wizardry surround wine making.

2015 was an excellent year for the vines and the quality of the grapes was superb, the best vintage since 2009. Sadly though, the weather that gave such a high quality grape, also restricted the actual growth, so most vineyards in this vicinity were down at least 30% and in some cases 50% on their usual harvest, but will the quality be such, that a high enough price can be sought, to cope with that shortfall in quantity? Time will tell on that one as we wait for the wine to mature enough to be drunk.

In the meantime we have to settle for the lesser vintage of 2013 from which the offerings at the annual wine tasting at the wine makers of St Gengoux and Buxy were this week. We are invited every year to attend a wine tasting because we have the gites and campsite. By chatting up the local tourist accommodation providers they hope to make sales – but we only recommend them if we think that they are good enough!

I have to say that the white Montagny premier cru (Buissonnier) was quite superb, the Crément blanc de blanc was also very good and the red Rully (Buissonnier) was not bad at all. As usual the aperitif snacks that we were given to go with the wines complemented them quite superbly. So if you are in the area for your summer holiday, don’t forget to pop in to take a couple of bottles home with you.

For holiday accommodation near some superb wine growers click here.
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