Our Life in Burgundy

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March 29, 2013

Exposition Bégé, an art exhibition in Cluny

Filed under: Events,People,Places — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 22:27

I am constantly amazed by the wealth of talent of our neighbours. Tonight we attended a vernissage at the Salle Victor Duruy in Cluny where two local artists are exhibiting until 2nd April. They are the painter Bernard Golly (Bégé) of Bray and the sculptor Guy Forge of Cortambert. Both artists have a very distinctive style.



 Bernard’s paintings are very colourful and stylistic with simple figures that remind us a little of the outsider art of Johé Gormand, another close neighbour (www.cormatin.eu/blog/?p=2044). Or Picasso on one of his good days.  Guy has a passion for using driftwood, shells and objets trouvés to dramatic effect.

Guy with one of his scuptures, playing the fool as usual!

Guy with one of his scuptures, playing the fool as usual!

We are going back to have another look tomorrow. The exhibition goes on until Tuesday. Bernard advises us to chose some paintings before he becomes even more famous and the price of his work goes up. I think we might take him up on that!

postscript : We went back on Saturday morning and we bought the painting on the poster above (L’Arche) and two more. You will see them when you visit La Maison du Curé.

la régate

La Régate


La Clunisoise

La Clunisoise


 For Bernard’s website see  bege60.blogspot.fr/

March 23, 2013

Celebrating five years in France

Filed under: Events,People,Places — Tags: , , — Mary @ 20:02


Today is the 5th anniversary of our move to France. It was Easter 2008. After five years we still can’t speak French half as well as we would like but it’s a milestone as, should we so wish, we are now entitled to become les français d’origine Angleterre and apply for French citizenship.

Cluny is always good for a day out. After visiting the market to buy some plants for the garden we had the lunchtime plat du jour at La Nation.  Then we went to ENSAM for their open afternoon. Turning up a bit too early, we had a chance to have a wander round the Abbey before entering the ENSAM buildings.

ENSAM is next to the Abbey at Cluny. The workshops have the factory style roof. Photo from the ENSAM site.


ENSAM (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers) is the most prestigious technical university in France. The school at Cluny is one of eight centres of the Arts and Métiers Paris Tech, originally set up two hundred years ago to provide training for the children of military dragoon officers. This is why the Gadz’Arts wear military style uniforms which make them look a bit like ships’ officers. But we normally see them around town in their less formal wear, their customised labcoats painted and embroidered with vivid designs.

The students are housed in the old monastery buildings of the Abbey

The students are housed in the old monastery buildings of the Abbey (library photo from the ENSAM website)


There are 500 students in Cluny, a tenth of the population. They are taught various machining technologies, for example to provide parts for aircraft and the Ariane space programme. There are no end of machines for turning, extruding and casting.

Casting alumunium parts

Casting alumunium parts

Casting an iron plaque

Casting an iron plaque

The students are also involved in making 3D films of the Abbey and we saw a new version of the Maior Ecclesia film.

The Gadz’Arts are noted for their involvement in various independent projects such as the 4L trophy rally to Africa and their yearly ball, the third biggest gala in France. 

 After a most interesting tour with our student guides we emerged into town to find the Carnival in full swing along the main street. Although modest in numbers the participants made up for it in enthusiasm.

The Carnival parades round Cluny

The Carnival parades round Cluny


Lots of small children and plenty of noise

Lots of small children and plenty of noise


Here’s hoping the next five years will be as good as the first!

March 8, 2013

The Lyon Museum of Miniatures and Cinema

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , — Mary @ 20:56

We are incredibly lucky to live just an hour and a bit away from Lyon. It’s jam-packed with historical sites, Roman ampitheatres, wonderful cathedrals and museums. The restaurants and bouchons are said to serve the best food in France. So yesterday we jumped at the opportunity to visit Lyon for lunch and an afternoon’s sightseeing.

Louis XIV in the Place Bellecour with Notre Dame de Fourvière behind

Louis XIV in the Place Bellecour with Notre Dame de Fourvière behind

In the Place Bellecour we found lots of tourists enjoying the sunshine. We crossed the Saône by the Pont Bonaparte into Vieux Lyon, much of which dates from the 16th century.

We passed the Cathedral of St Jean and continued to the Maison des Avocats which houses the object of our visit, the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema. www.museeminiatureetcinema.fr


The Maison des Avocats

The Maison des Avocats


While working as a cabinetmaker in Paris, Dan Ohlmann began creating miniature furniture in 1985. In 1987 he built a scale replica of Chez Maxim’s restaurant which brought him to the attention of the public. After staging  travelling exhibitions as far afield as Japan and New Zealand he came to settle in Lyon and was given the use of the Maison des Avocats. Since 2005 he has been exhibiting his miniature collection as well as collecting models used in films and setting up a department devoted to the techniques of special effects.

The lower floors are devoted to film sets such as those used for Perfume; The Story of a Murderer. It is incredible to see the amount of detail the set designers have put into recreating authentic sets representative of the era.

Set from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Set from Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


 There is a room full of huge props such as the huge flying boat used in The Three Musketeers and the White House from Independence Day.  A video showed how these models were incorporated into the film using green screen techniques and computer generated images. I was most impressed with the model of the train that crashed through the wall in Montparnasse station in 1895 and the video on how this event was reconstructed for the film Hugo.

The train accident at Montparnasse station 1895

Reconstruction of the train accident at Montparnasse station 1895

There were many costumes, prosthetics and latex masks used for sci-fi films. The animatronics as used in Gremlins were very clever. Amongst the smaller props there was even Harry Potter’s wand and the Hogwart’s letter. All the artifacts were those actually used in the films. And we saw many famous characters from R2D2 to Stuart Little.

Upstairs were rooms dedicated to the miniature world, scenes of an artist’s studio or violin maker’s shop scaled down to a minute size. Everything was so realistic. There were models of famous restaurants, copied from the real thing using thousands of photos.

Dan Ohlmann and his model of Chez Maxim's

At the top of the building were miniature works of art. There were carvings from matchsticks and a section on paper cutting. You needed a magnifying glass to examine the tree with more than 300 branches cut out of a piece of paper the size of a centime. A young Japanese girl had cut out a French proverb on a slip of paper. With scissors! Hours and hours of painstaking work.

We were lucky enough to see Dan Ohlmann himself in his workshop where he was restoring film memorabilia. Thanks to him we had had an afternoon to remember.

ps Coming out of Lyon on the metro we were amused to see this poster -


I think our friend and guide Marie Antoinette quite thought she’d adopted two!

March 5, 2013

Cinq de Choeur and the Dulcimer

Filed under: Events,Village Life — Tags: , , — Mary @ 14:48

My dulcimer



We were once in New Zealand and it happened to be my birthday. My daughter who was working there bought a musical instrument from a friend and gave it to me. Not being terribly musical I didn’t even know what it was. But it was splendid, like two violins conjoined, polished and smooth. It was a real talking point going through Aukland airport, as much admired as if I was carrying a new puppy. Since then it has adorned the wall of my office.





 Then on Saturday evening we were invited to a concert chez Brigitte and Bernard in Bray. They have a beautiful house with a salon big enough to hold musical evenings. The performers were some of Brigitte’s musical friends who came up from Lyon. Cinq de Choeur consists of Michel Colin and his daughter Maud, Maud’s husband Benjamin and friends Annie-Laure and Patrick. You can listen to their music on http://cinqdechoeur.free.fr.

Michel, Benjamin and Michel from Cinq de Choeur


As well as being extraordinarily talented singers they  switched between the flute, violin and guitar with ease. What interested me most was that Maud and Michel were playing dulcimers. I had never seen one played, although I have since read that Joni Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper have played the dulcimer for years. And Brian Jones played one in several Rolling Stones recordings in the 60s.

Playing the dulcimer

 Dulcimers originated in the Appalacian mountains and were made by the first Scots and Irish settlers who wanted something easier to make and play than the violin. They are not usually as curved as mine but a simple triangular shape. They just about died out in the early 20th century but were revived by Jean Ritchie, a Kentucky musician, who played a dulcimer to audiences in New York. By 1965 dulcimers were well known in folk music circles.

A dulcimer is said to be one of the easiest stringed instruments to learn to play. It lies across your lap and you pluck or strum with the right hand while fretting with the left. There are plenty of dulcimer advice groups on the internet so perhaps I’ll give it a go. On verra.


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