Our Life in Burgundy

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September 23, 2017

Notre Dame des Roches

View over the Grosne Valley from Notre Dame des Roches


The statue of Notre Dame des Roches can be seen high on the hill overlooking Varanges. She was erected after the war to give thanks that the local villages had not been bombed as had Cluny in June 1944.  She had been restored at least once since the 1950s but she was looking rather forlorn, especially as her nose had been used for target practice.

Fortunately Marianne and Peter from Switzerland have come to stay in Cortambert. They are sculptors and painters who specialise in restorations. They took over the old mill at Merzé and have spent several years renovating it. Marianne is a member of the society Cortambert, notre patrimoine, and she and Peter with the other members were keen to take on this local project.

First things first, the scaffolding was borrowed from Yves at the château of Boutavent.

Yves supervising the erection of the scaffolding

Just finished!

Not everything went to plan as there was not enough water power to use the pressure washer and the statue had to be scrubbed by hand. The left hand had been badly repaired before and looked like it should belong to a boxer, but Peter did what he could to make it more elegant. The nose was rebuilt and now the madonna looks quite beautiful.


and after

David, chief co-ordinator, with Peter and Marianne giving a toast to a job well done

and some of the other volunteers

There was a little celebration this afternoon on completion of the work. The scaffolding will be taken down next week, and sometime soon there will be an official gathering of dedication for the newly restored Notre Dame des Roches.


September 9, 2017

Summer holidays

Filed under: Village Life — Tags: — Mary @ 22:27

It’s the rentrée and I realise I haven’t blogged all summer. So tonight it’s like going back to primary school, writing an account of what I did in the summer holidays. Thankfully with no corrections in red pen these days.

I fetched Maggie and Jo from Glasgow and they stayed with us for the whole six weeks of their holidays. Here are some photos to show how we kept them occupied.


The girls spent a great deal of time in the water - here’s a mermaid in our pool

Sometimes we were invited to swim in our neighbours’ pool

When it was too hot we stayed in and Grandpa helped the girls make baskets

Another successful project was making Lego trains with electric motors

One weekend there was a medieval festival at Brançion

Jo dressed up in chain mail

The Brançion event led to an interest in making ‘medieval’ dresses and dancing

Help was always welcome in the garden

and we all looked after Gwendy

Maggie & Jo liked having a ride on the ponies

Adventurous days out included going to Lugny Acro

and the zoo at Touroparc

We watched jumping competitions in Cluny

and jousting on the river

We bet on the winners at Cluny races

and the donkey got some petting

Some days we went out for a bike ride

Having a break on the voie verte near Cluny

There’s a good place for offroad biking at St Gengoux

We went for walks in the woods

In the fairy den our neighbour made this sign – Jojo’s Hollow

We met more fairies at the Pays des Fees in Ameugny

Our friend Ruth gave the girls a lesson in baking

The girls prepared snails for eating. However the snails were persuaded to escape in the nick of time!

Even on a hot day the girls enjoyed the exercise circuit at the park in Mâcon

It was a good summer and we hope the girls will want to come and stay again next summer. Meanwhile we are planning new things to do with them.

September 22, 2016

The Magic Roundabout

Filed under: Village Life — Tags: — Mary @ 21:15

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!


July 31, 2016

L’escargot à la Bourguignonne

Filed under: Village Life — Tags: — Mary @ 22:10

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.

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