Rallye des Vins at Cortambert
This weekend saw the 27th Rallye des Vins come to Cortambert. The Rally takes place in the Mâconnais region, taking in well know wine villages such as Fuissé, Igé, Azé, Lugny and Viré. The course consists of twelve special stages (actually six as each is run twice) over two days. Cortambert was the finish of stages 2 and 5 on the Saturday.
To make the most of this occasion the Foyer Rural was running a ‘buvette’ at one of the ‘Points Chauds’ (spectator hot spots) in the vineyards above the final sharp bend before the finish of the stage.
On the Friday afternoon the stall had to be set up, a heavy metal frame (borrowed from two of our neighbouring villages) was covered with a tarpaulin roof and the counter attached to the front. With everything secured in case of wind we headed home ready for an early start on Saturday.
Saturday morning 8am, we met again at the Foyer Rural to load chairs, benches, trestle tables, chip fryers and other cooking equipment into vans and onto pick-ups. Of course before we could start we had to have a breakfast of coffee and brioche. We loaded the refrigerated trailer with kegs of beer, coca cola, wine, sausages, chips and plenty of other food and drink to keep the rally fans happy and fed. Once all this had been taken to the buvette and unloaded and installed then back home for an hour or so until 11am when we had to start preparing the food. The fans were starting to assemble even though the first car wasn’t expected to arrive until about 12:30. There were sandwiches to be made, chips to be fried and sausages to be barbecued, as lunch time approached things got busier with orders for ‘cinq pressions’ and ‘deux barquette des frites’ going from one end of the bar to the other.
Late in the afternoon news came through that there had been a fatal crash on the twisty roads through the forest above Igé en route to Cortambert. The stage was closed and the fans began to drift away. We started the process of clearing up – in no time at all everything except the frame was dismantled packed up and taken back to the Foyer Rural then as usual at these things we sat down to eat and drink, even though most of us had been eating and drinking all day. After Pastis, quiche, left over sausages had been eaten we agreed a 9:30 am start to finish dismantling and returning the frame to our neighbouring communes.
It seems to have been a long weekend – but it nice to feel that we are now a useful part of the commune – in fact we are now referred to as ‘the French who come from England’.
Horses watching the hillclimb
Although I enjoy watching horses taking part in events I find I am much more interested in their behaviour when they are not under control of their riders or are just doing their own thing in their fields.
The weekend’s big event was the National Hillclimb which took place just over the top of our hill at Donzy. The road up from Azé is steep and winding with hairpin bends, perfect for rallying. The best place to watch is by the bends as the cars have to drastically slow down and often skid. The noise is terrific with a great deal of backfiring from the engines. Amazingly there were horses watching at the gate, showing great interest, and the nearby cows were unperturbed, as if they were grazing a peaceful alpine meadow.
This afternoon we watched the horseracing at the Hippodrome at Cluny. There were flat races, trotting, a steeplechase and cross country. The latter was by far the most exciting and the most dangerous. Two jockeys fell off crossing the river before the race had even started. Other jockeys soon parted from their mounts attempting to negotiate some fearsome obstacles. The loose horses hugely enjoyed charging along with the rest then decided to canter off towards a herd of riding school horses whose field adjoined the race track. These took off and were galloping up and down one side of the fence with the racehorses on the other. They all must have thought this great fun until the stable lads eventually caught up with the escapees and took them back to the stables. Horses certainly know how to enjoy themselves!
The rack and pinion railway
We took the chance to visit Lyon again to meet up with an old friend we knew from our French classes at Leeds Met University. Our first visit had been to see the Festival of Lights in December and today on a hot sunny day we found Lyon a totally different place.
As it is a holiday weekend we took the easy option of catching the TGV from Mâcon Central. It was such a treat as it took only half an hour to reach the centre of Lyon. No tolls and no parking!
It’s amazing that sightseeing with different people changes your perception of a place. Our friend is particularly interested in trains and was keen to find the rack and pinion railway used on the steep gradient between Croix Rousse and the Hotel de Ville. This was the first metro line in the world, having been built in 1862. At 17% the Croix Rousse is the steepest metro station. There is a cog wheel under the train which meshes with a rack rail in the centre of the track. Another point of interest to us was that the rack and pinion method was first used on the Middleton railway in Leeds which we know very well.
Of course we visited Notre Dame de Fourvière but we joked that it was just an excuse to use the funicular railway from the Cathedral St Jean. The incline up the hill is 30% so it is easier to use the train than to climb all the steps. If you go on to visit the Roman ampitheatres nearby you can continue and descend into the old town by means of the second funicular railway from Minimes.
Another mode of transport I had not seen before was the hundreds of bicycles in the Vélo’v scheme. You can take a bicycle from a rack and leave it at any of the 340 bike stations around Lyon. If you take it for less than 30 minutes it is free.
So we saw Lyon from a different perspective this time. Our friend also pointed out something else. Have you seen the angel having a quiet cigarette on the left of the door to Notre Dame?
End of Year Party for English Conversation
Last night was the end of the year for our English conversation group which has been meeting chez nous throughout the winter. I am hoping that our friends have benefitted as much as Chris and I. We have not only have been able to listen to lots of French (in spite of my saying ‘En anglais SVP!’ every five minutes) but have learned so much about life in Burgundy. We have discussed varied topics such as favourite holiday venues and the effects of climate change in France, listened to songs ranging from the Beatles to James Blunt, and talked about the customs surrounding Christmas and the many fêtes and saints’ days.
So we celebrated by sharing a repas. Everyone brought their favourite dish and we discussed how they were made. Most the dishes mostly quite unknown to me. We started with gougères followed by a tart that combined the sweetness of pears with a savoury goats’ cheese. The Pisaladiere Provençale was a treat. This is a tart with olives and onions, decorated beautifully with anchovies. I will pass on the recipe so you can try it for yourself. There was a cheer when the crêpes arrived. These were savoury stuffed with cheese and pine nuts and liberally sprinked with herbs. We also had pizza and salads, and finished with chocolate cake which melted in the mouth and a wonderful fresh fruit salad.
I am indebted to all in our English Conversation group for not only patiently teaching us French but also educating us as regards the many facets of life in France. But now we are enjoying a long summer break packed full of planned events and outdoor work.