France was a late starter with regard to roundabouts which were only introduced in the late 1970s. But the determination to catch up has seen the number of roundabouts mushroom from 500 to 32,000 in the last 20 years. Early on there was a decade long struggle to decide who should have priority and at one point the government said each region could make its choice. This was a recipe for disaster so it was decided that drivers already on the roundabout had to give way to their right. This caused total gridlock so nowadays France usually conforms to the system used by the rest of the world where traffic on the roundabout has priority.
Unfortunately French drivers do not seem to have decided what to do if there is more than one lane. Some stick to the inside lane, all the while indicating left, before finding a gap in the outside lane to suddenly exit right.
Work in progress
Today we got a new roundabout. There has long been calls for some traffic calming measure as people driving between Cluny and Cortambert do not seem to take into account when passing through our hamlet that children, cats and ponies, cyclists and walkers might also be on the road. The junction by the Cross is particularly dangerous as it is impossible to see round the corner of the old cafe if anything is coming the other way. So hopefully our roundabout will slow the traffic down and any mishap will involve glancing blows rather than a nasty head on crash.
Chris practising going round the right way
At least with a roundabout the tourists will be able to go round and round while trying to decide which is the road to Cluny. We are lacking in direction signs which will be a plus if we are ever invaded by the enemy but makes life rather difficult meanwhile for the lost visitors. We are on a junction and people even stop and ring at the door to ask the way. Our neighbour who lives by the new roundabout is quite proud of being able to give people directions in several languages.
Street names is another gripe. We were recently given street names but the handmade plaques, although extremely pretty, are impossible to see. So white van man still has to phone and ask where we are.
Anyway we will have to see if the new roundabout has any effect or if the usual French aversion to authority prevails and everyone just runs straight over the top of it at the same speed as before. Bonne circulation!
In this part of France people make the most of the hedgerows and woods to forage for free food. At various times of the year you can find wild garlic, asparagus, mushrooms, fruit, walnuts and blackberries. Lately we have noticed people going out and about with a bucket and a stick and it took us a while to realise what they were hunting. Snails! I’ve found some whoppers myself in the garden after the recent rain.
Snails are protected in France and you are not allowed to hunt them from April to June when it is the breeding season. They are difficult to farm as they stop breeding if they are kept too close together so most snails you eat in restaurants have been picked up in the countryside.
Once you’ve caught your snails you have to purge them of mucus and the toxic stuff they might have eaten. For about two weeks the snails are given flour to eat until they are clean. In the olden days they might be kept in a box in the corner of the kitchen for several months.
Burgundy snails are an iconic dish of this region. Cooked in court bouillon, the snail is presented in its shell which is filled with butter, parsley and finely chopped garlic and placed in the oven. The Burgundy chef Antonin Careme created this dish when he was cooking for Tsar Alexander 1st in 1814. It is so popular that the native Burgundy snail can’t keep up with the demand and 90% of the 30,000 tonnes of snails the French eat each year are imported from eastern Europe.
It must be better to gather them yourself although it takes a lot of work to get them ready. You are supposed to eat your snails with a glass of Chablis but I think I will just have the wine, thank you.
It’s lovely to see the sun this week even though it has been accompanied by a cold north wind. As always when spring makes an appearance we think about getting to work in the garden. We are always told not to be too hasty and to expect a cold spell in May. But we are chitting potatoes, and the onions and garlic will go in soon.
It was very tempting to buy young plants at Cluny market yesterday
This weekend in Cortambert it’s all hands to the deck. Today it’s the loto so many people are at the hall helping with that. But with us not being much use on reception, the bar or the gaufre machine, we put our energies into helping the mayor in the second stage of clearing rubbish from the area leading to the green waste tip.
A hillside to be cleared…
and some willing workers
One group hauled stuff up a ravine and amassed a huge pile of old bits of machinery, while the rest of us concentrated on the old plastic bags and bottles strewn over the hillside by the track down to the tip.
Daniel playing the fool!
Ditto David and Pierre Jean
It was mostly old stuff dumped before recycling was the norm, except for hundreds of small blue plastic bags. The mayor suspects there is a caterer who has been dumping his kitchen rubbish. The badgers eat the food and the bags are strewn far and wide. I have a lovely photo of the mayor with a decapitated hairdressing dummy in one hand and a machete in the other saying what he would do to people that dump waste in his commune! Unfortunately I promised not to use that photo!
A good heap of rusty metal
As always it was enjoyable to work together and we were invited back to the mairie for aperos. Thanks to Martine and Martine for providing the quiche and cake.
Chantal, the president of “Clunysia”, invited the locals to join the choir for a little concert and aperos before their annual dinner in the foyer rural in Cortambert. La Clunysia is led by choirmaster Greg Johnson, an American teacher of music in Cluny.
La Clunysia, under the direction of Greg Johnson
Everybody joined in ’”Joyeux enfants de la Bourgogne”, which we didn’t know but managed the refrain of Et je suis fier, et je suis fier, et je suis fier d’être bourguignon .
Chatting afterwards to the singers we found that there was quite a mixture of English and Dutch in the choir. We were pleased to see Danielle & Jean Louis there. Jean Louis plays the barrel organ and he and Danielle sing all the popular French songs.
Danielle & Jean Louis entertain
Always the optimists, we have tentatively booked them for our Citizenship celebrations. Then we can really sing je suis fier d’être bourguignon.