The hill that runs past our house climbs steeply up over the ridge to Donzy le Pertuis, nestling high on the side of the next valley. From the top of the hill we always look out for Mont Blanc which lies 180km to the south east. The weather this week has been very clear and sunny so Mont Blanc has been easy to spot, the snow glittering in the sunshine.
When we mentioned this to some people they would not believe us. So today we decided to go closer for a better look. Off we set heading east across the River Saône into the Bresse region. To us in Soâne-et-Loire, going ‘over the river’ means entering foreign lands. Ain, in the Rhône-Alpes, is very flat with large fields, and the Bresse farmhouses are very different with their brick and half timbered ‘longhouse’ appearance. Very soon the Jura mountains loomed up and we were into hairpin bends, rocky chasms and pine forests. There were many cyclists on the roads (don’t they know it’s hilly in the Jura?) but very little traffic. Soon we emerged Narnia-like into a land of Swiss chalets, alpine meadows and clanging cowbells.
Giant bike in the Haut Jura
We found to our joy that we were following the route of this year’s Tour de France. We had seen the beginning of Stage 7 near Tournus, and we were amazed to find out how far they had cycled that day (165.5km) and how steep and twisty the road was to Station des Rousses. That was described as a ‘medium mountains’ stage, an easy day for the riders. In the Haut Jura there was village with a 10m wooden bicycle made of wood. Apparently it was a copy of the Maire’s bike but 10 times as big!
We climbed over the final mountain before us was Lake Geneva and a wonderful view of Mont Blanc. And we have the photos to prove it!
The Cuisery Brass Band play in Uchizy Church
It seemed to me the most unlikely setting. Friends invited us to a concert staged by the Cuisery Brass Band in the church at Uchizy.
This Romanesque church of St Pierre was built in the 11th century. It was part of the priory of the St Philibert Abbey in Tournus, about 8km away. Later alterations included making the bell tower unusually high, raising it to four storeys to be used as a look-out.
Not having experience French brass bands before, I was not expecting much. But what a surprise! The band tentatively began with the juniors and a dirge-like rendition of Land of Hope and Glory (next time we will take our Union Jacks). But they soon got into their stride and the more experienced players soon joined in with gusto. There was a particularly intricate medley of tunes from popular films. The biggest surprise of the evening was when the lady in charge put down her baton and took up the trombone. She was excellent; in fact any one of the Band would have done credit to the Black Dyke Mills Band.
Afterwards, instead of rushing away, we were all invited to partake of wine and gaufres. This is a part of life here that we enjoy so much. It was such a pleasure to enjoy the warm evening, to chat with old friends and meet new ones.
Painting chairs for Cluny 2010
We are making preparations for the Cluny 2010 celebrations planned for the weekend of 9th, 10th and 11th September. Our village is the Porte des Prés (light blue), and we have joined up the Porte du Haras, the neighbouring villages of Donzy and Blanot (light green). We will be entertaining a contingent of German people from the Cluniac site of Calw-Hirsau. We will be singing the European anthem in different languages so we have been allotted the words for the German version.
So the committees for the two Portes are meeting regularly to discuss the arrangements for the weekend. Happily, as well as sitting round the table there are more practical tasks. We have enjoyed painting everything in sight blue and green. We started with lots of old folding chairs donated by Donzy. We moved on to fashioning a coffee kiosk from old orange boxes wired together and painted blue and green. We have artistically decorated umpteen strips of blue and green material that will be used as banners at the banquet.
After each session we are covered in so much light blue paint that we match our blue Cluny2010 teeshirts!
Preparing the Cortambert buvette
For three evenings this weekend you could see the Illuminations in the Abbey gardens. The spectacle was called “Cluny, dreams of light”, devised by Patrice Warrener. Of course this did not start until dark so entertainment was provided in the early evenings. On Saturday there was Batucada Pulse, a group of 66 percussionists of all ages playing to an audience of 2,000 people. On the Sunday there was What the Folk!,a couple of American Rock singers who kept everyone clapping and jiggling to the music until a heavy shower of rain brought them to a premature finish.
The catering for this weekend was also a class act. It was performed by the Foyer Rural of Cortambert, a willing team under the leadership of Pascale who is noted for her tasty quiches. She makes them on demand so they are piping hot. On the busy Saturday night she made 18. Other ladies produced praline tarts, custard tarts, tarts with nuts (my favourite) and chocolate pies. Jean Louis was kept busy all night making huge batches of gaufres. Chris and I helped to make ham sandwiches with Marie Antoinette.
This event will be held again on the Cluny 2010 weekend of the 10th, 11th and 12th September. Meanwhile you can get a taste of Patrice Warrener’s work if you wander into Cluny marketplace any evening after dark.