de Gaulle in Cuisery
Rain, rain, go away……..
It’s hardly stopped raining this week. We envy friends and family in the UK who are basking in the sunshine. We too are turning brown, but with rust. Let’s hope the rest of the summer makes up for the miserable weather we have been having for most of May and June.
We were at Cluny market as usual this Saturday morning and we ducked into an exhibition to get out of the rain. There was a display of photographs of the time when President de Gaulle visited Cuisery in 1947. He drove through Cormatin on the way but didn’t stop!
I wasn’t too bothered about reading about the political situation and his reason for visiting Cuisery. But what fascinated me was the photos of his family. His four brothers in their uniforms (they all survived the war). His three children and the tragedy of his younger daughter who had Down’s syndrome and died aged 20. Also the pictures of farming in the 1940s before mechanisation arrived.
This area has many connections to another president, Francois Mitterrand. The Roche de Solutré became very popular since he used to climb it every Pentecost Monday until he died. This pilgrimage became a ritual and all his close friends and family, ministers and courtiers, had to be seen following him up the hill. Of course he was Maire of Chateau-Chinon in Nièvre for 22 years but our part of southern Burgundy was his favourite place.
The Guitar Festival banner outside Cormatin Church
I am astonished that I have come to live in Deepest France yet there is such a wealth of music and art here.
To be honest I had quite forgotten about the Guitar Festival in Cormatin until we called in to see our friends in Chazelle last Sunday afternoon to see their new kittens and have a beer. They were just about to go to the church in Malay for the first of the concerts which featured Emmanuel Rossfelder and the singer Yana Boukoff . I’ll give you a link to the programme if you are interested - www.guitaresencormatinois.com/programme.php
The concert is in its 9th year and was set up by Guy Touvron in memory of his wife Isabelle Régis who loved this area. It is not all guitar music but a tribute to music in general. There seems to be a strong Russian link as many of the performers regularly tour there. Guy Touvron and the Baltic Chamber Orchestra of St Petersburg will appear at the Chateau Theatre in Cormatin for concert no.3.
We are aiming to attend the last concert in the Romanesque Church at Malay. I have heard that the accoustics are wonderful but you might need a cushion to sit on.
Roadsign at Solutré
We often see the tourist attractions which say Unique en France and smile. For example on the road to Azé there are hoardings advertising the two local prehistoric cave sites, the Grottes de Blanot and the Grottes d’Azé. The signs must be about 100m apart but they both say Unique en France!
Anyway, I spotted this roadsign yesterday on the way up to the Roche de Solutré and I think this really is Unique en France.
The Roche de Soutré
Yesterday during a tour round the Maconnais vineyards we stopped to investigate the Roche de Solutré. The limestone ridges which run south from Burgundy reveal traces of human culture dating back to the Ice Age. In 1866 at the Roche de Solutré a local geologist found the bones of up to 100,000 horses and the flint tools which were used to butcher them. He wrote a popular book about how the horses were driven off the edge of the cliff to plunge to their deaths. Until recently this was believed to be the case but in fact the bones were not found at the foot of the cliff but in a natural corral around the southern side of the slope. It is now believed that the horses would pass by on their migration from the Saône flood plains to the hills and the ridge was used as a barrier to trap the horses and attack them with spears. Numerous stone blades shaped like laurel leaves were found amongst the horse bones, and stone scrapers used to prepare the hides.
There is a new museum at the Roche de Solutré where you can see the remains of the horses and the tools. Solutré’s importance can be seen from the fact that it gives its name to the period which ran from 20,000 to 16,000 years ago, marked by the tools with laurel-leaf points. So there is a lot of detail about these and some quite interesting small models of the hunt. And lots of remains of horses and deer. But beware the English audio guide. Just look at the pictures if you can’t understand French as it is mind numbingly dull and terribly slow. Why on earth can’t these museums get an English person in to record an audio guide in proper English?
From the museum there is a good footpath to the top of the cliff. On the way up look out for the field where there are some Przewalski horses which closely resemble the Ice Age horses. The view from the top is well worth the climb as you can see over the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards and across the Saône valley to the mountains of the Jura. Take a picnic and plenty of drinks with you as it’s a lovely place to sit and you’ll need something after all that walking.