Our Life in Burgundy

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November 26, 2011

Cluny says farewell to Danielle Mitterand

Filed under: Events,People,Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 17:15


“l’humanité, l‘eau n’a pas de prix” - Danielle Mitterand

Today, Danielle Mitterand, a tireless campaigner for human rights and the wife of the late President, was buried in the cemetary at Cluny. About two thousand people were at the Parc d’Abbaye to celebrate her life. Friends and family of the Mitterands were there along with leading officials. Frédéric Mitterand, the Minister for Culture, was representing the government.  Also present was François Hollande, leader of the Socialist party and the candidate for next year’s presidential elections, with Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille, who recently lost her bid against him.

 The ENSAM students in their uniforms formed a guard of honour and the cortege arrived to the music of Chopin played by the Argentinian pianist, Miguel Angel Estrelle. Speeches were given by Michel Joli, the director of the Fondation de France Libertés and one of the sons, Gilbert Mitterand. Other family members included the other son, Jean-Christophe, and Mazarine Pingeot, the daughter of François Mitterand.

The cortege arrives at the Abbey

The cortege arrives at the Parc d'Abbaye

From the speeches and a film of her work we learned that Danielle Mitterand was a remarkable woman. Despite becoming First Lady when her husband came to power she did not lose her individuality and continued to follow own passions. She fought for the right for everyone to have access to clean water.

Elle était comme une métaphore de l’eau”, “diverse, libre”, “trouvant naturellement la bonne direction et le bon sens - Michel Joli.

We listened to speeches and a film of her work

We listened to speeches and a film of her work


Twenty five years ago she set up the Fondation de France Libertés to support the oppressed and she went to see for herself the aftermath of ethnic cleansing. She struck up a special relationship with the Kurds. A group of them were at the funeral. One sang a special song for her. They obviously loved her and called her Mum.

Other groups that she fought for included the Tibetans, Afghans, the Iranians and the repressed people all over the world. She used to tell Fidel Castro in no uncertain terms what she thought of his policies. When she asked him why he did not get angry with her he replied that he liked her too much.

When the cortege left to go up to the cemetary a huge number of people followed on foot. Once there Danielle was buried in the family grave next to her parents. Red and white roses were scattered on the coffin.

 Danielle Mitterand “revient à sa source pour y reposer”  - Gilbert Mitterand


November 20, 2011

Where do French men learn to dance?

Filed under: Events,People,Village Life — Tags: , — Mary @ 12:00

I am occasionally asked in what ways we find that life in France differs from life in the UK. I usually say I like the blue skies (OK it’s been foggy this morning), the lack of traffic, the horses and cows, the views over the valley, the friendliness of the natives, the good manners of the children…… and that everyone seems to turn their hand to doing anything. The men can cut down trees, mend cars, drive tractors and build houses, while the women can cook, decorate, make lace and drive like Michael Schumacher.

Repas dansant at Cortambert

Repas dansant at Cortambert


It struck me last night there is another huge difference; all the men here can dance, and enjoy dancing! Last night we were at the annual repas dansant at the foyer rural. Quite different from dinner dances I remember from the UK. Dancing started after the entrée with waltzes and foxtrots. The men didn’t have to be cajoled and were soon on the floor with their partners. After the main course they were just as good at boogie. And their rock‘n roll was as expert as anything I had seen at the Mecca in the 1960s.

Dancing to Génération B

Dancing to Génération B

So the puzzle is, when and where do men learn to dance in this part of rural France?

They were still hard at it when we left at 2am*. Goodness know when it all finished. That’s another thing, you wouldn’t get the older generation staying out dancing all night in the UK!

* Having just talked with Pascale, Mme le President, I am feeling awfully guilty that the others at our table were there until 5am washing all the plates and glasses which had to be ready for return by 7am. 

I would like to thank Pascale for organising the repas dansant and for the beautiful table settings and flower arrangements. The theme was black and red which looked really stunning.

November 17, 2011

First Impressions of Healthcare in France

Filed under: Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 23:12

I had a reprieve today, at least until a week next Tuesday. I had been invited to go for a mammogram and when I checked in to the Polyclinique in Mâcon I found the X-ray machine was en panne. Personally I am not convinced that mammography is the bee’s knees but the French health service do their best to look after us. Every two years we older ladies are treated to a mammogram, and recently both Chris and I have been sent ‘poo kits’ to send samples back by post to test for bowel cancer. For free!

The Polyclinique in Mâcon

The Polyclinique in Mâcon

Last summer the GP sent us for blood tests. We went off to Médilabs in Cluny and collected the results the same day. There doesn’t seem to be the same secrecy as in the UK as we keep all our records ourselves. When I went for my first mammogram two years ago the radiologist examined me afterwards and discussed the X-rays which he gave me. He asked to see my old X-rays and was astonished when I explained I had never even seen them. All I had from the UK were memories of a scruffy old mobile unit in a grimy hospital car park.

I was quite worried when I came to France that I would have some awful accident or disease and wouldn’t be able to afford any treatment. I used to say that if I broke a leg or looked miserable someone could shoot me. We heard terrible stories about the cost of treatment, that a stay in hospital could bankrupt you.

I was so nervous about the cost of going to the dentist in France that I had a crown done a couple of years ago on a trip back to the UK. The cost was about £450. I needn’t have worried.  Recently, having spent all summer with a niggling toothache, I went to the dentist in Cormatin. Three visits, two X-rays, antibiotics, a temporary root filling then a permanent filling, all for a total of 108€, of which I got a reimboursement of 71€  with my carte vitale.

The Carte Vitale

The Carte Vitale

The carte vitale entitles me as an OAP to access to the state health services by virtue of a reciprocal arrangement between the UK and France. Chris as a spouse is also covered.

Everytime you go to the doctor or the dentist you hand over the card and pay up front; a visit to the doctor is 23€, the dentist 21€. After a few days you find 70% of this paid back into your bank account. At the pharmacy you don’t pay for the full cost of the prescription as they knock off the contribution of the caisse maladie first.

If you want to be refunded all the costs you can take out a mutuelle with an insurance company. We investigated this when we first came to France. The cost of taking out a mutuelle would have been around 1,000€ a year for the two of us. Despite all the dire warnings “What happens if you have an accident?” we decided to take our chances and after three years we have 3,000€ in the imaginery pot, money we would have paid to the insurance company, and so far we have used about 100€ of it.

Apparently life-saving operations or treatment for chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer) are covered 100% anyway, major surgery 95% and minor surgery 80%. It seems that only elective surgery might be expensive but I don’t think I will be considering a face-lift yet!

November 13, 2011

The Fête des Huîtres

Filed under: Events,People,Village Life — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:53

It is said that you may eat oysters only when the month has an ‘r’ in it. This is because the summer months are the breeding season when the oysters are not good to eat. Now it is open season again. We’ve noticed the reappearance of the man with the stall in Cluny who is doing a roaring trade every evening.

At the Fête des Huîtres

At the Fête des Huîtres

Today was the Cortambert oyster festival, an opportunity to try oysters from different places along the coast of France. I am told that there is a difference in taste, and that the ones from the south are more salty. However this is only hearsay as I couldn’t bring myself to try even one today. Loving oysters must be a man thing as several of the ladies did not partake.

Chris enjoying his oysters

Chris enjoying his oysters

The oysters are gulped down with a squeeze of lemon juice, bread and butter and a glass of white wine.

Perhaps you have to start young to acquire a taste for them? These youngsters fell upon their oysters with evident enjoyment.

The boys tucking in

The boys tucking in

It seems to us that French children are brought up to eat very well and the little ones eat the same food as adults both at home and in restaurants.  And the school dinners are legendary. I read that even from pre-school age the children are used to sitting down to several courses, perhaps an appetizer, salad, main course, cheese and dessert. It is all part of the French culture which seems to produce children who have perfect manners and are sociable, hardworking and capable.

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