Sunday, 25 September 2016

Journées du Patrimoine

Moss has taken over the crumbled towers
Last weekend were the Journées du Patrimoine – the European Heritage Days. This weekend, towards the end of September, is always a feast for us perpetual tourists as they are the two days in the year that some special places are open and it is the weekend that entry into the large attractions is free or at a reduced price.

Cees is the senior tourist and he pours over the pages of the newspaper (aka Le Journals de Saône et Loire) and spends hours trawling the internet to find out exactly what is going on. Priority is given to places that are rarely open and a couple of days before the Saturday, a proposed visit plan is presented to the junior tourist. She then scrutinises, criticises and adjusts the programme and we come up with our final plan of attack.

The largest part of Lournand castle that is still standing
Sadly this year, the weather, which has been hot and very summery, decided to break on the Saturday morning. The day started grey so that the flypast I mentioned in my last blog was cancelled. Not a good omen for the weekend. But even faced with such adversity, we were not downhearted and we moved from the non-existent fly past to our next destination - the castle at Lournand. This castle is only ever open to the public on the Journeés du Patrimoine and so it is a must see. The site is large and rather dangerous for those who do not know their way around, so it normally locked and the public is kept away except for these two days when guided visits are available. Saturday we were there for the first tour after lunch and we were not disappointed.

Trees growing into the stonework
The site is much larger than I had expected and we were escorted around by the president of the association that has dedicated itself to rejuvenating the site. They won’t be rebuilding the castle, but they are restoring it into a safe state. To rebuild would be an impossible task and would take away from the beauty of the place in my opinion. I was fascinated by the way nature had taken over this ancient structure during its years of neglect. Where the towers have collapsed, moss has covered the stones in a brilliant green carpet and where the walls are still standing, trees have grown into the stonework creating a feast for the eye.

It started to drizzle as we went round, but we completed the whole visit (not far short of two hours) relatively dry.

We then moved on to see a small chapel that is never open - not really exciting, but it was turned into a post office for the weekend, so we bought a postcard and mailed it to ourselves.

Sunday dawned even more miserably than Saturday and by the time we set off (09.30) it was chucking it down. Knowing that it was likely to rain, we had reserved the indoor sites for this day. We went to the Doyanée at Bezornay, which has been split into four residential properties and is therefore never open to the public. It was a real treat. We had visited the site many months ago, but of course we could only see the outside and not all of that either. Seeing the place from the inside gave us new insights as to how the whole was in its heyday.

Imagine a living room like this
The chapel, which has just been restored and is now someone’s living room was spectacular, the attention to detail in the restoration process and the enthusiasm of the owner, made that for me the highlight of the weekend.

Despite the horrible weather, it was a very successful weekend.

Monday dawned sunny and we are now back to the Indian summer we have been enjoying for the last few weeks - long may it last.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

I’m Back

Patrouille de France in action
After taking a holiday from blogging over the summer, I’m back in the saddle again. To celebrate, Mâcon organised a fly past from La Patrouille de France (the French equivalent of the Red Arrows) over the Saône on Saturday morning. The elite of the French air force in their fighter jets with smoke trails of red, white and blue over the river - just for me!

They must have known that when I was young I wanted to be a fighter pilot, I even managed to get an introductory interview with the RAF by not giving my Christian names and not saying I had an O’ level in needlework. They were surprised when a five foot nothing female turned up and rather patronisingly told me girls can’t do that sort of thing – born too soon - they do it nowadays.

The noise of the planes, the roar of the engines, the adrenalin rush as those machine race over your head, just what any red-blooded engineer wants. The closest I have got to that is watching Top Gun with quadraphonic sound and an enormous screen at the IMAX in Rotterdam, but that is a few years ago now.

So yes, of course I would be delighted to be the guest of honour, thank you!

James Bond comes in to land in his Republic Seabee in Mâcon
The fly past was due at 10.30 and when Cees confirmed the time with the organisers, he was told that it was set for 10.30 but it might be 11.00 or even 11.30 ummm….. Let’s get this straight, the Patrouille de France is manned by the crème de la crème of French fighter pilots who can be scrambled at a moment’s notice and are less than 20 minutes flying time from any point on the French mainland, how the heck can they be an hour late?? Ah well c’est La France, say no more.

Back to Saturday morning. Being genetically and psychologically Northern Europeans we turned up on time, ie we were in situ at just gone 10 o’clock. I know, I know I can’t help it, but at least I was dressed warmly for the hour and half wait - I even had long trousers and socks on - now that is a first!

Tom Cruise on his way for my fly past
While we waited, we were treated to a display of amphibious aircraft taking off and landing. One of the planes was a Republic Seabee which had actually been in a James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, with Roger Moore. That was in the days when James Bond was real and was not one of those modern alternatives – am I showing my age?

So there we were, on the first cold day since mid July and just before the fly past was due to be late, an announcement came over the tannoy, the cloud cover was too low to fly, they weren’t coming. There went my first blog of the autumn!

Not to be defeated I found a nice photo from the Internet to show you what my fly past would have looked like had it been a nice day. I think I’ll stick with Top Gun next time, at least it starts when I want it to and I can watch it in the warm!
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