Saturday, 20 December 2014

The bionic cow

When I still lived in the Netherlands, I cycled weekly from home to a farm nearby called “Het Geertje”, one of the few places that sold raw milk per litre.

French "milk" cattle
When the containers were empty at arrival, no problem: the farmer’s wife went off to the stable and came back with some still warm milk, fresh from the cow.
Cows there had something appealing as well. They were of the black-and-white checked variety, had two horns, four legs, a milk bag under the belly with four primitive taps attached to it, and they made strange noises resembling those of a mist horn.
After moving to France my consumption of raw milk came to a halt.

Supermarket - Prissé
The whole milk I drink nowadays comes from a supermarket, packed in a plastic bottle with a red lid. Until recently, when I found along the roadside an electronic or bionic cow giving raw milk. The udder had only one teat, the colour is not exactly what one expects of milk cattle, but who cares! The milk is considerably cheaper than what is for sale in the adjoining building, and here also one has to bring his own bottles. Besides the cow starts mooing the moment you drop your money in the slot and hold your bottle under the teat. Unfortunately this cow lives to far for a relaxed cycle trip on a sunny day….

The bioniccow
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Christmas decorations

Like each year at the end of November / beginning of December we are looking forward to the local Christmas decorations.

La Grande Rue - Cormatin
De big hit each year is the illumination of Cormatin’s High Street. People flock from far and wide to Cormatin to see these wonders. Far is in this case not restricted to far-away places like La Bergerie and Chazelle; no, for this special occasion people from Ameugny, Taizé, malay and even from Saint-Gengoux come to gaze at these decorations.

Epicerie Berger - Cormatin
Also worth seeing is the yearly display in the Epicerie in Cormatin’s Main Street. In December it is virtually impossible to enter the shop because of the amount of spectators. For this special occasion the shop also opens its doors on Sundays, the whole month of December!

Nativity Scene - Notre-Dame de l'assomption Cormatin
And finally there is the traditional nativity scene, looking different each year, and each year again a sight for sore eyes. For those who like to visit: it is extremely difficult to find a parking space in the vicinity of the church; the SNCF however deplies special (free) buses.
La Tuilerie de Chazelle sends you its Season’s Greetings!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Throwing a party?

The French hardly need an excuse to throw a party.

Voie Verte - Saint-Gengoux-le-National
That was proven quite recently with the Fête de la Voie Verte. Did the former railway, now cycle path, celebrate its 20th birthday? Was a new stretch recently inaugurated? Were not so long ago mopeds and racing bicycles banned from the Voie Verte? No. nothing like that. Some people of the various Offices de Tourisme felt it was time for a party, and what more of an excuse does one need?

Bicycles and stands
The villages between Chalon-sur-Saône and Saint-Gengoux-le-National convened a meeting, invited some entrepeneurs (artisans, wine growers, restaurateurs, musicians) to set up a stand, and bingo, a party was born.

Cyclists and walkers passing the former station of Saint-Gengoux had quite a choice. There was a guitar duo, an animator offering games around his two covered wagons, a woman demonstrated pyro-engravings on wood, there was food from a restaurant in Étrigny, a stand with drinks and snacks from the Office de Tourisme in Saint-Gengoux, honey from a farm in Joncy, somebody who processed mother of pearl for jewellery from Mont Saint-Vincent…
In a word, there was something for everyone. And the theme for the next party? Maybe the Fête des Fêtes?

Music and demonstrations
The proprietors of La Tuilerie de Chazelle are always on the ball when it comes to events in the vicinity.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Tai chi and I

Tai chi and I never really got on well together.

Tai chi demonstation
Even though I have always (and still do!) watched groups or individuals doing the tai chi form in the open with pleasure and admiration, and having tried to master the form myself at several occasions, I have never succeeded in completing a tai chi course. I started my first course in Singapore with a Chinese master, just before I had to leave Singapore for good. My second attempt was in the Netherlands, with a colleague from work who taught on Saturday mornings in Leiden. I had to give that course up in an unpleasant way. During the lessons the teacher often demonstrated how tai chi could be used in proper combat. One morning I was asked to play the “victim”, I consented, and only seconds later I found myself completely unexpectedly flying through the air, landing with my head against a bench that stood on the side of the classroom.

Qigong demonstration
I think that the teacher was even more surprised and shocked than I was; he had expected some sort of resistance, and instead he encountered a burst balloon. That was the end of my Leiden carreer. We have tried another group in Cluny/Lournand for a short while, but that turned out te be 50% chatting, 40% qigong and 10% tai chi. Needless to say that I did not learn much there either.
Sue is a bit more fanatic then I am when it comes to searching. She found a different group in Cluny, and although she did not really like the way they were teaching there either, she only started looking for yet another group when this group left Cluny for a different location direction Joncy. And now she found what she has been looking for for a long time. After she had started her 2nd year, whereby she got hooked on a form of tai chi using a fighting stick, she convinced me that this group might just be the thing for me.

2nd year group - taichi with stick
And despite the fact that I stepped in half way through the first year, I finally have the impression that this time I will manage to do the whole form. Not that my memory became better over the years (one of my problems in the past), but the way my Miss conducts her lessons, combined with the fact that I have been practicing also outside class under supervision of the Mistress, helped tremendously. Now I know the whole form more or less by heart, albeit when I do it I still need time to think, ask questions, stop and resume, but at least I get through the form without pulling out my last hairs.
Next year the emphasis will be more on the finesses of the individual movements, because that is a weak point (and not only with me!). But at least, the foundation has been laid!

Tai chi group with fan
La Tuilerie de Chazelle offers space enough to practice the whole form outside.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

555 yards

Life is not always pleasant when you live in the vicinity of a registered French monument.

location of the butcher, the exhibition and château - Cormatin
And in the vicinity means often within a radius of 500 metres (555 yards). Whatever modifications you want to make to the outside of your property, it requires the approval of an “Architecte des bâtiments de France”. The restrictions can be quite serious. When in Cormatin a butcher’s shop was renovated, located within 555 yards from the Château de Cormatin, the butcher not only had to obtain approval of the colour scheme of his shop, but the architect demanded that a tree, once in front of the shop, that had died and been taken down, was to be replaced with a new one. Obviously the butcher did not feel like planting a full size tree, and he got away with planting a bonsai tree clearly visible on the picture (left hand side).

Butcher's shop Cormatin : The bonsai tree is left in the picture
Not everybody sticks to the rules, as may become clear from the next example, also close to the Château de Cormatin. This concerns the house of the artist (and former builder) G.L., who is specialized in big projects based on examples from ancient Egypt. In the hamlet La Bergerie he has built and opened an “Espace d’Art Contemporain”, consisting of the base of a pyramid, with a great number of Horus statues with fiery eyes surrounding it. After protests of the neighbours he has hidden his work of art behind a concrete wall, which makes the complex look like a concentration camp, but that is by the by.

The pyramid under construction - La Bergerie
His house in Cormatin lies, no matter how you measure it, from the entrance or from the Château itself, well within the magic 555 yards limit. The main difference with the butcher’s shop however is, that the butcher is well visible from the Château entrance, while G.L.’s habitat is hidden somewhere in a side street.
Click here for an album with pictures of the Pyramid in La Bergerie and of G.L.’s house.
Despite the fact that the house looks like this since 2010 (except for the Horus statue and the pink wall paint), whilst in 2011 it received its characteristic pink colour and statue, I still do not believe for one second that G.L. has ever applied for permission for this open air exhibition!

Habitat in Cormatin, less than 555 y from the château
This Egyptian extravaganza in Burgundy lies within walking distance (45 minutes) from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Film Buffs of the World, Unite!

In France an unbelievable amount of work for society is performed by volunteers of all sorts. For example, in Cormatin a group of volunteers has pimped up the Post Office, they maintain the village hall, they take care of plant and flower pots along the village streets during the summer and install the Christmas decorations in winter, they fixed street names and house numbers on street corners and facades, … It does not cost the community a penny, and the work gets done.

The cinema in Cluny
The Cinema in Cluny is run partially by volunteers as well. One of the most active members is Anne Krief, a firm lady who was or still is present in all sort of cultural committees and who did the programming for the cinema. And she did so to everybody’s satisfaction. She programmed the French block busters, but also the art cinema films, often in the original language with French subtitles. That has always been the main reason why we regularly go to the cinema in Cluny. Everything was running smoothly until the last council elections. The old mayor was ousted from office, a new one took his place, and as the saying goes, new brooms sweep clean. A new head of Cultural affairs was installed in the town hall.

Rue Lamartine - Cluny
He and Anne Krief, to say it elegantly, had slightly different views on cinematographic issues. Still nothing seemed to have changed: September 29 we received the usual program for the coming month, signed Anne Krief, we made our choice, and that was the end of that. So we thought.
Until, two days later, October 1, we received a farewell note from Anne Krief, in which she explained that she had been relieved as an unpaid volunteer on September 1, and was offered a paid part time job instead.

Al about the same subject
She had accepted the offer, and was fired the last day of her trial period. Cluny is a small town, everyone knows everyone, and most people saw this as coming from some sort of dirty trick department. The meeting hall where the council met last Wednesday was too small for all those who wanted to follow the debate about this matter. The former Mayor, Jean-Luc Delpeuch is a very outspoken member of the opposition in the council, and he was definitely not impressed by the “elegant” way this matter was handled. Presently a shop window of a former shop in Cluny’s main street is plastered with notes and letters from villagers, film fans and council members of the opposition calling for the council to reverse this case.

Flaming protest of the oppostion
The next step is unclear. The new head of Cultural Affairs has been appointed by the new Mayor (without a trial period, one might add), and reversing the decision and re-appointing Anne Krief as a volunteer (assuming she would accept it) would make the new mayor losing a lot of face. So how this whole story will end, time will tell…

Back to the Future IV, the cinema in November 2014?
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The chicken or the egg?

The contact we had with Monsieur Piffaut of the “Association des amis du vieux Berzé (AVB)" did not stop after our visit to the gypsum kilns in Berzé-la-Ville (see also a previous blog), or with a visit of him and and two of his friends from yet another association to our Tuilerie.

The Roman quary
The last group keeps itself occupied with the maintenance and the management of the Carrières de la Lie, an extensive collection of stone quarries around La Roche Vineuse.
Monsieur Piffaut happens to have relatives in our village Chazelle, and hence he pops by our tuilerie every so often. The last time we saw him he asked whether we had ever visited these stone quarries. And although they stood on our “still to visit” list, we simply had not yet got around to do it.

Opencast mining
M. Piffaut being M. Piffaut, he quickly organized this. Hence soon after his visit, on a Saturday afternoon at 15h00 we waited for M. Piffaut to guide us to the quarries. He turned up spot on time (not very French!) and soon we followed him to La Roche Vineuse, crossed this village, drove to the hamlet of Sonnéré and ended up on the parking area near the quarries. There we were welcomed by two members of the association (whom we got to knew during their visit to us) and the guided tour could begin.

"Unveiling" of a sarcophagus
The stones were partially quarried in underground, partially in opencast mines. The origin of the quarries goes back to Roman times, say to approx. 100 AD. The Romans used the (underground) quarries mainly to mine materials for sarcophagi, and this tradition was continued (in opencast mining) by the Gallo-roman population and later still by the Merovingians. Later, from approx. 1000 AD onwards, the quarries were used to provide building materials for buildings; Cluny III as well as many Romanesque churches in the area will have used limestone from these quarries. One of the latest acquisitions of the association came from Mâcon; the quarries received two sarcophagi (in permanent loan and now on display).

La Tuilerie de la Lie
The menbers of the association do more than just managing the quarries. Some of the members have started a project which they call, jokingly, their “Guédelon”. The object of the exercise is to build a kiln for a brick factory early mediaeval style, where possible with means available in those days. They have succeeded in building a drying shed and a workshop that look like buildings erected before 1000 AD, and they have produced manually and dried 4000 big size (approx. 12 x 10 x 6 inch) bricks.

Ready for the kiln....
For a picture album of our visit : click here.
Presently they are faced with a classic “which came first, the chicken or the egg” problem: How to fire bricks to build a kiln if you have not got a kiln yet? Knowing the gentlemen concerned they will come up with a solution pretty soon!

If only the kiln were ready for the bricks!
The surrounding area of Berzé-le-Châtel, Berzé-la-Ville and La Rocche Vineuse is more than worth a visit, and only a short distance away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Another possibility

As I described in the previous blog people happily nick things from the internet, and I am the last one to say I never did it. Let he who is without sin… But there are other ways as wel.

Saint-Vincent 2011 - Saint-Ythaire
An American sent me in May 2014 the following email:
I'm working on a documentary film called American Wine Story (, and I was wondering if we might be able to use one of your photos (with credit) in our film project. It's a photo of a group of people carrying a St. Vincent statue, and it would illustrate one of the interviews.
Of course I consented, and I even had to sign a form saying I was agreeing to let them use my pictures.
Around the same time I received a similar question concerning a picture I took of the interior of a church. I had taken several pictures just before major renovation works started. They had found my pictures on the internet; they were going to be used to illustrate a booklet about Romanesque churches around Buxy. And also this time I consented. My name is mentioned on the last page of the book, together with the other people who contributed. Which proves that you can use other’s work without stealing it!

Information about Saint-Vincent and Romanesque churches can also be found on the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

You only have yourself to blame

I have always been an advocate for using software for what it was built for. Do you want to write a letter? Use a word processor. Do you have some calculations to make? Spreadsheets are built to that purpose. Would you like to catalogue your books? A database program is an excellent tool for that! I always frowned on those creating lists in Word or Excel, or cataloguing data in Excel (one hardly sees anybody making calculations in Access!).
One should not try to be more Catholic than the Pope, hence using blog software only to write blogs is a bit over the top.

One does not create a new website every time one wants to publish something on the internet? Or does one? Talking of opportunism or hypocrisy!
The funny thing is that blogs are more or less outlawed. When I see a blog that I find interesting, I link to it from my own blog pages without blinking an eye. In the same way I sometimes find a link to my own blogs (like this one); no offence taken!
However, I have also used blog software to write “blogs” (I call them “descriptive” blogs) which do not really have a general character, but are more meant as an extension of our own website. Little stories about restaurants, tourist attractions around here, descriptions of the touristic infrastructure in the area would make our website even heavier than it already is.
And blog software is a very handy tool for writing and updating articles for those who have hardly any knowledge of html codes, Java script, etc.
Still, linking through to one of those “descriptive” blogs without batting an eyelid comes across as different to linking to a “normal” blog. That is no doubt caused by the fact that I did quite some research for the“descriptive” blogs, as opposed to the “narrative” blogs, which have a far more informal character.
To give an example: I spent a lot of energy on my “descriptive” blog about tourism around Cormatin; everything I wrote about I have seen and/or investigated with my own eyes. The same goes for descriptions of restaurants, and cycle and walking tracks around here.

link 3, 6 (no source) & 7
When I accidentally found links to 2 of those chapters on somebody else’s “website” (built with blog software!), even without mentioning the source, and one link to the proper tourist page of our own website, was my first thought :”Are they too bloody lazy to do some investigation by themselves?”. But again, blogs are more or less outlawed, hence complaining is not really an option.
Having said that, just asking for permission beforehand, or at least mentioning where the information came from afterwards is obviously not something that comes naturally with some people.
A blog I can link to without batting an eyelid is this one (click here).

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Climate change

When in 2006 we started a campsite in South-Burgundy, we did not exactly know what the ins and outs were of the terrain and of the local climate. And what sort of camping we wanted was also not entirely clear.

Of course we had some idea: small scale, no electricity on the camp site itself, decent toilet facilities with a fridge and freezer for general use, and something we had encountered on one of our favourite campsites in the Netherlands (Camping Zegenoord): if possible no cars next to the tent. That sounded simpler than it was. Outside the camp site there was only limited space available. This idea was dropped almost as soon as it came up, also because we thought it quite handy to use the car as a mobile storage space next to the tent.
The first couple of years we had lovely, hot weather throughout the summer, and well into November. After that we occasionally had quite a wet spring, but when finally the summer holidays started the soil was often rock hard, making it very difficult to even drive a tent peg into the ground.

leaving one’s traces (August 2014)
However, this year, and also the year before that, the weather was considerably different from previous years. Not only did we have a wet and cold summer, but the amount of rain was far too high according to statistics ever since 2012(!), and it was also, to quote the weathermen on TV, during the summer far too cold for the time of year. And what we did during the previous summer, closing the camp site for vehicles during a short period, became a standard rule at the end of the season of 2014. Camping was no problem, nobody got wet feet, but, depending on the style of driving of the various campers we have been praying every so often that nobody was going to dig his wheels so far in that we needed a tractor to bail him or her out, simply by using the accelerator as if he was driving a formula 1 car. We had seen that once, and we hope to never witness that again.

This was not what we had in mind! (August 2014)
Hence we asked our campers, before they arrived, to park outside the gate, at an angle, and parallel to each other. At first that did not work out as we thought it would (see picture), but after a while people cracked the system. When everyone parks parallel it is possible to get 4 cars (with 5 as an absolute maximum) outside the gate. If one parks less carefully the number reduces to 2 à 3. But anyway, after giving instructions, and begging people to obey to the rules, we ended the last 2 weeks of the season of 2014 without cars on the campsite and with 4 cars outside.
Those cars however need to be of what we consider to be “normal” size. It further means that the maximum number of tents we can accommodate reduces from 6 to 5, a number with which we are not really unhappy. We seldom have had a full site with 6 tents. And there are a few more things one does realise than only after some more thought: we are not longer able to accommodate trailers. And how to transport the camping gear from the car to the tent space? That can be arranged with a wheel barrow, as we have found out, until we can come up with something better.

Ah, that way! (August 2014)
For cyclist nothing really changes; they can always take up a 5th or 6th space.
The last days we have been busy to measure the available space, to determine the maximum length of a car (approx. 4.25 m or 14 feet), to find the required width of a space (approx. 2.3 m or 7’6”) and to figure out how to mark the spaces on a piece of grass. All in all, it looks like we will have a car-free campsite next year. The main question remains of course how our campers will react to those changes. Turning up unexpectedly with a big Volvo Station Waggon is not longer an option. Booking in advance seems to be the only possibility to be assured of a space on the camp site …

The future? (August 2014)
More information (telling you how we managed the camp site up to now) can be found on the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

In the right place at the right time

Some time ago I received an email from a lady of the Office de Tourisme of Buxy with the question if she could use some of my pictures of the Romanesque churche in Saint-Martin-du-Tartre for a tourist guide of this typer of churches in the ccScc (a body uniting a number of communities in the South-Chalonnais).

She had been browsing the internet in search of pictures, and she had stumbled, through the site “Bourgogne Romane”, on one of my picture albums. The guide was an initiative of the ccScc, not published before, and it would make an inventory of the 19 Romanesque churches in the area. The lady coordinated the project, a group (Pastourisme), specialised in the churches of the diocese of Autun would write the texts, and the Chalon branch of a French club of amateur photographers would provide the pictures. In a word, why in heaven’s name did they need my pictures of that church? I am certainly not an outstanding photographer!

2012 Saint-Martin-de-Tartre
The answer was a logical as it was simple. I visited this church for the first time on a foggy day in October 2012. The church was open (which is not always the case in churches around here), so I could shoot as many pictures of the interior as my heart desired. I visit rather a lot of churches in the course of time, hence I do not always remember whether a church was open or closed during a previous visit. When we were near that church again, this time on a sunny day in May 2013, I decided to make some pictures of the outside with a nice blue sky. The door was open, and just to make sure I had not missed it I walked in to take some pictures of the interior. This time however there was scaffolding up, making crossing and choir inaccessible, and it hid the interesting parts of this church from view.

2013/14 Saint-Martin-de-Tartre
At the beginning of 2014, when the photo club was on its way to photograph the 19 churches, they found the interior of this church still under renovation; hence they could not take any pictures of the crossing and choir of the church. And that is where I came in the picture, like a ministering angel. The lady asked for, and obtained permission to use my pictures, and in March I was invited to the opening of a picture exhibition of the 19 churches at the Office de Tourisme in Buxy, during which the guide would be presented to the public.

Speeches, speeches, speeches, speeches....
The opening of an exhibition in this part of France consist most of the time of a number of interminable speeches, where each speaker extensively thanks all collaborators, their wives, their children, their servants, their neighbours and their pets. Just grin and bear it. After half an hour, in which my attention was waning, each one present received a free copy of the guide, at which it was aloso time for the obligatory glass of Crémant de Bourgogne and some snacks.

Guide touristique
The guide is now for sale in the town halls and the Offices de Tourisme in the area for the very reasonable price of € 5. And since I do not receive any royalties of this extravagant amount of money, I can, without moral dilemma, warmly recommend this tasteful booklet of 48 pages. It indeed contains a wealth of information on the subject, which is otherwise not at all or hardly available for those interested.
The above mentioned 29 churches are only a short distance away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Renovating your church?

For our yearly Guitar Festival we utilize since 2012 the church of Chazelle.

De floor around the altar - Chazelle
That is a very nice Romanesque church, however, as is the case with a lot of old churches around here, the floor is rather uneven. And because the Theatre Festival “Les Rendez-Vous de Cormatin” became defunct, and the boards and beams used to build temporary stages were still somewhere in storage, it seemed a good idea to use that material to build a stage in front of the altar. That should make playing more comfortable for the musicians; no more sitting on a wobbly chair!

Nixon & Co - for all your transport problems
However, the material was stored in a barn in Cormatin, and had to be transported to Chazelle. Fortunately we are the proud owners of a trailer big enough to transport the pieces of board, and since we are heavily involved in the organisation of the Festival it seemed logical to offer our services in the form of our trailer. There was no lack of manpower. The commune can mobilize at will a group of volunteers, who if necessary will fix street signs and house numbers to the walls, set up the Christmas decorations, refresh the village’s plant pots and plant flowers in them, give the village hall a lick of paint, in a word, they could also built a platform or stage for a concert.

Nixon & Co - for all your church renovations
The whole installation did not cost more than one day. Inside the church, in front and partially next to the altar, there is now a nice flat and even stage. However, when the mayor in a meeting offered to cover the stage with carpet, the artistic director of the festival almost suffered a heart attack. Because carpet would ruin the (indeed excellent) acoustics of the church! As a compromise the platform is now covered with linoleum in a neutral grey colour. The stage stays in the church, that is if the parish counsel agrees. That way a future female priest would not ruin her stilettoes getting caught in the joint between the uneven floor tiles….

The new floor around the altar - Chazelle
La Tuilerie de Chazelle : for all your transport problems, and for small renovations!