Saturday, 30 April 2011

I declare the season opened!

With the closing of the hunting season, the season of the wreath layings is now officially opened.
My last blog on this subject goes back to July 2010, hence it is time for an update. The last Sunday in April is France’s official day to remember the deportees of the Second World War. That coincided this year with Easter Sunday, possibly the reason why, despite it being a lovely sunny day, there were not many people present. Or contrary, was it due to the blue sky and high temperatures? Whatever the reason, at 9h55, only 10 minutes later than planned, a small cortege of cars drove direction monument in Bois Dernier. It is every time a surprise what goes wrong this time, hence I was watching everything with more than the usual attention. Which amplifier was going to be used to play among others the French National anthem?
Monsieur’s P. old car was parked close to the monument, and there was no amp in sight. Was this a new attempt to force those present to sing the Marseillaise live?
The wreath was laid by Monsieur P., a survival of Buchenwald, assisted by L., whose parents were deported and never came back. After the obligatory speech, dictated by Paris, Monsieur P. walked towards the hedge that lines the monument, pressed a button of the machine hidden in the hedge, and as if it had never been away it produced the crackling version of the Marseillaise I gotten quite fond of. In the past I have been using a mock picture of this machine (actually a picture of one of my old transistor radios with built in cassette deck, positioned on the hat shelf of my car), but this time I managed to take a picture of the genuine product, hidden in the bushes.
I used my camera whilst Monsieur P. read the speech from Paris. After which everybody went back to Cormatin, to Café de la Poste for a verre d’amitié. And because there were so few people, and the wine was ordered well before hand, most of the wreath layers staggered home, not quite sober one and a half hour later ….

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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Jazz et Caetera

In earlier postings I have tried to pay some attention to the jazz life in this part of France; see the postings about the Crescent Jazzclub in Mâcon and Jazz à Trivy. The last series (usually 5 concerts per season) can boast concerts by international jazz artists, such as quite recently by organ grinder Rhoda Scott.
Cluny itself hosts the yearly festival Jazz Campus en Clunysois. Having said this, I must admit that I never have been to one concert in the series. That is partially due to the fact that I am not well into the French jazz scene, and partially because I am not really interested in the work shops that are part of the festival.
The same thing holds for another festival around here, Jazz à Couches. The program shows quite a big number of big band concerts, and one can ask oneself whether it is still possible to maintain a good quality big band. The past has proven, in better jazz climates than nowadays’, that maintaining a good big band was only just possible for great band leaders like Basie and Ellington. Another drawback for me is that, although Couches is in Saône-et-Loire, it is not exactly next door for me.

Jazz et CaeteraJazz et Caetera is another organiser of good jazz concerts. Unfortunately Jazz et Caetera does not have a live website (anymore), but the paper as well as electronic newsletter luckily still works. Jazz et Caetera started off giving concerts in Château de Dravert in La Guiche, but the last few years they organise concerts throughout the region. In Châteu de Dravert I have seen an excellent concert by René Urtreger, the piano player who performed with Miles Davis during the recording of the sound track of “Ascensceur pour l’échafaud”. Michel Hausser, a well known vibraphone player in France, recently gave a concert in Château de Dravert, and Cluny as well as Messeugne hosted concerts by Austrian boogie woogie piano player Martin Pyrker.
Of course it is impossible to maintain that boogie woogie is still one of the leading jazz styles. Having said that, however, what has preference: enjoying an evening out in a nice ambience, listening to good quality “old style” music, or sitting in one’s living room, listening to a CD with more cotemporary jazz music?

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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Mad cow’s disease

Professionally, but also leisurely, we are very interested in things happening around here which might be of interest for tourists, and hence for our guests, such as concerts, markets, castles, etc. Not only do we do research for our own tourist web pages, but we keep an eye out for similar information on other sites, not to copy, but to investigate to see whether we can use it for our own site.
One of our competitors, who is running a gîte not so far from here, mentioned on her website a cattle market in Charolles, which is a stone throw away from the weekly big cattle market in Saint-Christophe. I quote: “In the cattle markets of Charolles and St Christopher-en-Brionnais you can admire the Charolais, the best beef cattle in France”.
We know the Saint-Christophe market very well, but the Charolles market was unknown to us. So one sunny day we set off to explore this market, which, according to Mr. Google himself, was held every second Wednesday of the month, from January to May.
I quote Mr. Google’s result: ”Le marché aux bovins a lieu le 2e mercredi de chaque mois (transactions à 9h) de janvier à mai au Parc des expositions”.
When we arrived there, there was not a car in sight, there were no farmers, no cattle, let alone a market. When we inquired opposite the market hall, at the Maison de Charolais, we found out that there had not been a cattle market for years, because all cattle transactions were nowadays concentrated in Saint-Christophe.
Wondering outside I suddenly realised what could have been the reason for stopping the market; there was a whole bunch of stark raving mad cows grazing around the Maison de Charolais. And who wants to trade cows with those animals around?
Based on my professional background the phrase “Lessons learned” springs to mind.
Lesson learned from this day: never trust information given by your competitor!

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Saturday, 9 April 2011

Wining and dining

One of the main sources of income in Burgundy is undoubtedly the income from the numerous vineyards and caves in the area. Often we get questions concerning wines from our guests, and although we know next to nothing on the subject, we always try to advise them as best as we can. Luckily often these people know even less about wines than we do, and that makes us kings in the land of the blind.
From experience we know, that good white Burgundy wines are easy to get hold of, at reasonable prizes. Any cave around here, Viré, Lugny, Chardonnay, Bray, etc. sells good white wines and offers tastings.
Red wines are a bit more difficult. If one does not want to spend a fortune on renowned reds from e.g. the Beaune area the choice is less simple. We find the red Mâconnais from around here very often weak, not to say a bit watery in taste, reason why we normally do not buy red Mâconnais. Having said that, the proprietor of the nearby Domaine de la Combe de Bray, Monsieur Henri Lafarge, sells a very nice full bodied red for around € 8.00.
His cave lies a stone throw away from our house, in the village of Bray. One of the disadvantages of caves like this is that they normally only sell their own produce, and hence the choice is rather restricted. Those who prefer to have more choice we generally refer to the Cave in Martailly-sous-Brancion, which has a very wide range of not only Mâconnais, but also of wines from the Côte d’Or.
And then there are always those who prefer to go to a cave armed with a jerry can whilst saying to the attendant “fill her up, please!”. For these customers the Cave Cooperative in Saint-Gengoux-le-National (a branch of the cave in Buxy) is ideal. For a good vin de table, the non-headache variety, put in the jerry can by means of a petrol pump, one pays between 1 and 2 euros a litre. The wines from the pump however do not come from the region.
The Burgundian wine growers can earn a lot more by producing their AOC wines. The pump wines come from other parts of France, where the production is so high that they happily “export” their surplus at cheap rates to Burgundy!
The Cave Cooperative (most of the time, but not always, the cave in Buxy) organises special dégustations. There one of the (very knowledgeable) employees will present a number of wines that go very well with a specific dish. The last time we were there, the food samples and accompanying wines followed the pattern of a standard French meal, i.e. starter, meat dish, fish dish, cheese and sweet dessert. The woman who did the presentation (in our case that was Nadia from Saint-Gengoux), gave an excellent rundown on dishes as well as wines. There was non of this snobbish behaviour, so typical for a lot of the wine evenings organised by so-called connaisseurs!

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