Saturday, 15 March 2014


This guy is certainly not standing!
The elections are coming up. Not the national one, not the presidential one, no, this time we will have to vote for the town council. There are no familiar parties taking part here such as Labour, Tories or LibDems, no, not even Screaming Lord Such is running for local councillor. I can only compare these elections with the local ones in the Netherlands, and the French certainly know how to make something simple quite complicated, at least in my eyes. How it works? I have not the foggiest, but I hope to find out in the coming weeks!
Everything started off by registering in the voting register. Once registered, on may, even as a foreigner, vote for the town council. We have found out in the meantime that there are different rules for the elections, depending on the size of the commune. Our commune has 503 inhabitants, hence we follow the rules for the category less than 1000 inhabitants.
The mayor still in function has drawn up a list of 15 candidates, of which he is the head, hence the mayor to be. This list is completely non-political, if that is possible at all. In Cormatin we will not see a struggle between ultra left-wingers or ultra right-wingers. There are quite a few communes with only one list, and this list is often incomplete as well. One could ask oneself what on earth is the purpose of an election with only one incomplete list. But that seems to be a non-relevant question. Even though there are 15 candidates, it is quite well possible that one cannot identify with one or more of those. The voter is allowed to cross off names, and even add different ones.

(Part of the ruling clique
The new names however will have to be chosen from those who made themselves available, although they did not want to be on any list. Their names are displayed on a piece of paper in the voting booth. It appears to be possible, someone explained to me (without me understanding one word of it however) that the complete list does not get a majority of 50% + one vote, in which case there will be a different voting round. With two lists I can however more or less understand this majority principle. And fortunately Cormatin has produced a second list, although with only 11 names and without leader, but anyway….

The list without head
After having verified for the umpteenth time that we are properly registered (where we were allowed to look at this important piece of paper), we are now waiting for the propaganda of the two fighting factions. The “Opposition party” uses the words transparency and involvement a lot. Of the “Ruling party” however we know most candidates personally, and even without knowing the “political programs” our choice will most likely be quite simple. But who knows: one week before the elections the presses start rolling and the Agitprop will be distributed. So there is still time for change!

In some villages windmills are a hot item.
You can find out whether there are any great changes in Cormatin or not during a stay in La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

One ticket with discount, please

As mentioned earlier, an old admission ticket to certain castles entitles the holder of it to claim a discount when purchasing tickets for a different one. And since we were told this explicitly when leaving the castle of Germolles (see a previous blog), and because we had not been to the castle in Brancion for a long time we decided to cash our discount. A nuclear bomb could not have caused more panic in Brancion.

Those behind the till were aware that "their" castle took part in some sort of discount scheme of a number of castles, but how it all worked was a total mystery to them. We had read outside on the sandwich boards that the normal admission was € 5 pp, and that certain groups (students, unemployed) could visit the château at the reduced price of € 3 pp. After long and painful deliberations the two behind the till asked us if we could live with a 50% reduction. Of course we could; and finally, after 15 minutes waiting, we marched into the castle.

The logis
The word castle in its own right suggests robustness, and makes one automatically think of the famous big English castles. Not that this castle was so much smaller, but there was relatively little left of this once great and mighty fortress. The big donjon is still more or less intact, there are some remains of a number of round towers, and both logis (residences), the one of Beaujeu and the one of l'An Mil give a good impression of how big the place once was. The lords of Brancion were regularly in conflict with the abbot of Cluny, and the location of the fortress is such that it is very well defendable.

Fishbone parttern
The undersides of the walls suggest that the original walls of the Logis de l'An Mil belonged to an older castle. They show in several places a fishbone pattern, suggesting that at least the foundations were built before the 11th century. The first known lord of Brancion was Warulfe I (approx. 875-927), who is mentioned in a charter of Cluny Abbey from 926. Which would make the château, or at least some parts of it, a pre-Romanesque building.
Even if Brancion would not have had the château which is well worth a visit (click here for a picture album of the castle), it would still be worth a visit. It is a lovely little village, located high above and offering stunning views of the Grosne Valley. It has a very interesting Romanesque church, an old mediaeval covered market hall, and the houses and streets have been restored a couple of years ago by a group of professionals, assisted by a group of inmates of a nearby prison. They were taught a trade during this period and were prepared for a return into "free" society.

The view from the donjon
The church is sometimes used for concerts, and in the church "square", an open field with view across the valley all sorts of events regularly take place.

As for more châteaux in the area, the tickets to one of the castles mentioned hereafter give the visitor a discount on entrance tickets for or one of the others : Berzé-le-Châtel, Brancion, Brandon, Couches, Demigny, Drée, Germolles, La Ferté, Pierreclos, Pierre-de-Bresse and Sully. I always staple the tickets to the brochure "La Route des Châteaux en Bourgogne du Sud", because I know from experience that if I do not do it that way I will never be able to present old tickets at the till!

Logis and donjon
Although Brancion is only 12 km away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle, it is not advisable to go there on a bicycle. The slopes are quite steep, and one year the Tour de France had an intermediate sprint on the Col de Brancion, which counted for the mountains classification.