Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

September 30, 2012

Life in the Big City

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 22:43

 

I’m just home after spending a couple of weeks babysitting in Glasgow. All went well; the girls are growing up, and have miraculously changed from whinging monsters into delightful human beings.

Maggie and Jo

Maggie and Jo

Life is different in Glasgow. It takes a while to get used to the constant traffic and the hooting of commuter trains as they clickety-clack across the bridge to the station opposite. At night policecars with their sirens going hurtle from the nearby police station. The drunks from the pub below spill out shouting into the street, and at weekends the karaoke prevents anyone sleeping until midnight.

But the west end of Glasgow is a very interesting place to be. The banks of the river Clyde and the old shipyards have been transformed. The Riverside Museum is now home for the old Museum of Transport.

Maggie investigates an old Glasgow tram

Maggie investigates an old Glasgow tram

It is Glasgow’s Guggenheim and when it opened last year it was feted as the most exciting new building in Europe. Outside the museum is moored Glasgow’s Tall Ship, the Glenlee, built in 1896.

The Riverside Museum and the Glenlee

A short walk away is Glasgow University set above Kelvingrove Park with its statues of famous scientists and lavish Victorian fountains.

In Kelvingrove Park

At the entrance to the park is the Kelvingrove Museum, the most visited museum outside of London.

 

The children were fascinated by the stuffed elephant and giraffe from the vast natural history collection. The art galleries upstairs include works by Scottish Colourists and exponents of the Glasgow School as well Old Masters and French impressionists.

New to me was the House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park. It was built in the 1990s from a design by Rennie Macintosh whose art nouveau style runs through the very core of Glasgow. This house is people friendly, not as much a museum as a venue for weddings and conferences, so the girls were allowed to chase around and play on the big white piano in the huge music room.

Glasgow, once notorious for its slums, gangs and derelict shipyards has been resurrected as one of the world’s top 10 cities for visitors. There is plenty of history, culture and theatre and the transport system is second to none. One day I’ll go there for a holiday!

September 27, 2012

Home alone again

Filed under: Events,Village Life — Tags: , , — Chris @ 18:21

Yet again I’ve been left alone cat-sitting in sunny Burgundy whilst Mary is in Glasgow babysitting our granddaughters. Needless to say there was a list of things to do, reminders to feed the cats and to put the bins out, and also reminders to go to badminton, to go to riding and to go to the fête de champetre.

This year for the first time our village decided to hold a fête de champetre in honour of our patron saint, St Maurice, whose saint day falls on the 22nd September. (More about St Maurice in this earlier blog. )

The fête started with a concert in the church by Christal’Fragil, a guitar and vocal duo, this was followed by a musical stroll with the ‘festive fanfare’ of the gardening themed jazz group Fanf’arrosoir.  Then an outdoor concert by our local rock group, Awen, at the Cortambert lavoir.

Awen at the Lavoir

Awen at the Lavoir

This was followed with another musical stroll this time up to the Foyer Rural for supper.

fanfarrosior

Festive fanfare by Fanf'arrosoir

The supper was accompanied by more music from Fanf’arrosir and was followed by a ‘Bal Trad’ – dancing to the traditional music of Bals de Gailairme.

Dancing

Dancing whilst we wait for supper

Bal Trad

The 'Bal Trad'

September 15, 2012

The Queen of Beaujolais

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 22:06

Each time we go to Beaujolais we get to know the caves and their history a little better.  The vendange is in full swing so we went to watch some grape picking. The vines in Beaujolais are grown quite low and it looked backbreaking work.

Grape picking in the Beaujolais

Grape picking in the Beaujolais

At Fleurie there is a wonderful mural of grape pickers working in the fields as seen through the arches of a building. To the right is a wine shop, and above that is the figure of an old lady looking out of the window.

The mural at Fleurie

The mural at Fleurie

 I had often wondered who this lady was. We found out when we went inside to taste the wines.

The old lady looking out of the window

The old lady looking out of the window

The old lady is Marguerite Chabert who succeeded her father as president of the wine co-operative and ran it very successfully for forty years. She had to be very strong willed in a male dominated world and when she died in 1992 she was greatly mourned. She had two cuvées named after her, Présidente Marguerite Subtil and Présidente Marguerite Intense. And in May 2011 the mural at Fleurie was painted in her honour.

Unloading grapes into the mascerator

Unloading grapes into the mascerator

While looking at the mural we noticed some conveyer belts lined up outside the cave. Soon a tractor towing a full trailer of grapes arrived from the fields nearby. The grapes were forked out onto the conveyer belts which dropped them into a mascerator. The stripped grapes dropped through into a vat while the unwanted stalks and rubbish were spewed out. When the vats were full they were wheeled into the cave and the wine making process begun.

Wine tasting at Juliénas

Wine tasting at Juliénas

On the way back we called in at Juliénas and Saint-Amour to taste some more wines and stock up with our favourites. The Saint-Amour wines won our vote this time, both the red and the crémant. Picking is two weeks later for the Saint-Amour crémant so the grapes become sweeter and the flavour more intense.

September 13, 2012

The Grottes of Azé

Filed under: Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:49

I remember going once before, several years ago. We tagged along with a school party.  When the guide pointed out a cave wall deeply scored by the claws of a huge bear the children gasped with excitement. Behind them we sniggered, thinking garden rake more like!

A bear in the caves at Azé

A bear in the caves at Azé

I went to the caves today still in a sceptical frame of mind. As a small child I had loved visiting Knaresborough to go to Mother Shipton’s cave and dropping well before they became so touristy. And later, when I was young and foolish, I had braved the deeps of Gaping Ghyll, the most impressive cave system in Yorkshire. So I dislike caves that have been adapted to the needs of tourists with electric lights, easy access and concrete floors.  And I take tales of bears and lions in caves with a pinch of salt.

Inside the caves

Inside the caves

But the caves at Azé are surprising. Did you know that a tropical sea once covered Burgundy in the Jurassic era and fossils of large corals and crustaceans can be seen in the walls of the top cave? And that the Romans used the cave as storage and part of a wall they built is still there? And that prehistoric man lived there and shared it with lions and bears?

A perilous existence for Cro-Magnon man

A perilous existence for Cro-Magnon man

 The caves at Azé are the longest and oldest in Burgundy, dating from between 300,000 and 400,000 years BC. The river that formed them flows from Mont St-Romain, going underground when the rock changes from granite to limestone and emerging at Azé.

The waterfall

The waterfall

There are four different levels in the caves. The top level where the animal fossils are found has always been accessible to man and beast. Below are the second and third levels with no natural entrances, hence no remains are found. In the third level is the river and the fourth level is flooded, accessible only to cave divers.

The remains of bears

The remains of bears

Despite my dislike of electric light and concrete walkways in caves I enjoyed the tour and found much of interest. There are more bits and pieces to see in a little museum outside.

My only disappointment was that the tour was shorter than the one with the schoolchildren and we never did get to see where the bear gouged out the rock with his claws. But we did see a huge lion skull, the finding of which did much to promote Azé’s importance in the rankings of  prehistoric caves.

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