Model of Cormatin Chateau
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday it was like Siberia chez nous with snow blowing in a biting wind. One night last week we had temperatures of minus14 degrees. There was about 8 inches of snow and our narrow hilly roads became treacherous. But thanks to our invaluable commune worker who was bravely out and about in his tractor every day before dawn scraping and gritting the roads, we could manage to get down to Cluny and thence to Cormatin where conditions in the valley were a great deal less severe.
The lights in the trees along the main street in the village and the tableaux are very pretty, especially in the snow. Near La Maison du Curé this year we have the nativity scene with its brightly painted wooden figures. A huge Christmas tree decorated with gift wrapped presents stands by the Church.
Today we have a strong southerly wind with a few flurries of rain and the snow is very quickly disappearing. I am hoping there will also be a thaw further north as we have friends going off to the UK for Christmas and our family is flying out to stay with us. What, with BA threatening to go on strike last week, the closure of Calais, snow affecting the airports, the Eurostar problems and the ‘bouchons’ on the motorways both side of the Channel, it would be easy to decide it is not worth going anywhere at Christmas. But hopefully everyone will get to where they want to be and will have a good time.
So Happy Christmas everyone!!
Our Nativity Scene
Brrr! It has turned very cold with a biting wind. The bird feeders are kept topped up, and I have made a shelter with a blanket and straw for the stray cat who lives by the woodpile . We were out in the forest this afternoon and I am very fortunate that my job is to burn all the brushwood that is lopped off the logs. So at least I could keep warm stoking up the bonfire.
The village is preparing for Christmas. We have a few lights up in the village and we have built a nativity scene by the well. Yesterday there was the childrens’ party in the Foyer Rurale featuring a puppet show. We missed this unfortunately as it clashed with a horse event in Cluny.
We thought the show might be in the open air so we dressed in as many clothes as possible we could without looking like the Michelin man. It was actually in the hall but we still needed all the layers.
The show featured an excellent display of horsemanship by two girls. They had complete control over the horses even when riding without bridle and saddle. We had seen a similar display in the summer at the start of the Cluny 2010 celebrations but somehow the speed of the horses in such a confined area made the stunts even more amazing.
Lights at Lyon
Yesterday we visited Lyon. We had never been to the city before and thank goodness our friend Marie Antoinette very kindly offered to be our guide for the day. Lyon is the second largest city in France after Paris and was a bit of a culture shock to us having been used to a more rural life for the past year or so.
The two major rivers of the Saône and the Rhone run through Lyon and converge, forming a peninsula or the “Presqu’ile” with its ancient 12th century houses and church. Lyon is dominated by two large hills, the Croix-Rousse and the Fourvière.
We started at the top of the Croix-Rousse to the north. This is the site of the former silk industry. There are high apartments built by the silk merchants interlaced with narrow passageways called traboules which pass between the buildings and link the street on either side. There are many flights of steps that lead past the remains of the roman ampitheatre down to the old town.
The original medieval city was built on the Saône at the foot of the other hill to the west, the Fourviére. At the summit is built the most beautifully decorated church I have ever seen, the Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica. Here we could see similarities with Paris as it looked very much like the Sacre Coeur. Funnily enough almost next to it was something that looked remarkably like the Eiffel Tower. Apparently it is a TV tower and it was built to be higher than the Church.
Coming down from the Church is a funicular railway which takes you down to the centre of Vieux Lyon with its 17th century town hall and the largest square in Europe.
I almost forgot to tell you the purpose of our visit to Lyon. It was to see the Festival of Lights which is a celebration of thanks to the Virgin Mary who saved Lyon from the plague in the Middle Ages when it was devastating the population in the surrounding countryside. The Lyonnais lit candles at the windows and prayed. So to this day the time around December 8th is celebrated with lights. We saw several impressive “son et lumière” shows. The lights were projected on to the medieval monuments such as the Cathèdrale St-Jean. The most impressive show was in the Place Bellecour when the lights were projected against the Hôtel de Ville and the Museum. There were terrific snowstorms, then icicles. Stones fell off the top of the buildings and fell to the floor until there were just ruins. Then Spring came and covered everything with flowers and ivy.
Lyon is also noted for the “trompe d’oeil” which is a very old tradition here. One of the walls shows the Lumière brothers who invented motion photography in the town in 1895. Another shows how Lyon was a centre for printing books in the 1400s.
I would recommend a day out in Lyon for anyone staying in this area. There are so many beautiful and historical sites to see. From here it is an easy run down the autoroute. Once there you can get around on the metro. But remember to put on your stoutest walking shoes!