What a horrible weekend! I thought summer had arrived but I was wrong.
You had to be an enthusiast to be out and about. After an unbearably hot Thursday the temperature plummeted and it rained most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon it even snowed!
Unfortunately it was the weekend for one of the biggest horse events of the year in Cluny, the four day Open de Bourgogne featuring the regional pony clubs. 1500 riders had enrolled, including 700 children for the pony games. There was the usual jumping and dressage events but also carriage racing, voltige, horse carrousel, Western riding, endurance and horseball.
We watched some of the pony games to pick up some tips. We occasionally play pony games as an end of term treat at Laizé. It’s best to check that the girth is tight and don’t get the pony so excited that it gallops off when you are trying to get back on board. Some of the girls could just swing up into the saddle no matter how fast the horse was going. Would that I could but I think I’m a bit too old for that!
You feel that summer has arrived at last when you can sit out until it gets dark and you catch the odd waft of barbequed steak. And there’s the heady prospect of high days and holidays. May 1st the Fête du Muguet, 8th May Victoire 1945, 9th May Ascension, 19th May Pentecôte….
And the unveiling of swimming pools. Ours was aired this week and Chris very bravely took his first plunge.
And the peach blossom. And fields of dandelions with young animals enjoying their first weeks of life.
The warm weather has also brought out the lizards which sun themselves on the stones. And the snakes who entwine in a graceful pas de deux on the warm tarmac in the middle of the road. These are normally the Aesculapian snake of medical symbol fame which grow surprisingly big, up to 7 feet in length.
This Western Whip snake was on our neighbour’s wall.
You can tell a snake is harmless if it has round eyes. If it has vertical pupils it is probably an adder or viper. But first you have to get close enough to look it in the eye….
The popular Cortambert randonnée will take place this year on June 2nd . The walkers will have a choice of three circuits, 8.7km, 15km or 25km. Everyone starts from the foyer rural in Cortambert and heads towards Donzy. After the refreshment station at Donzy the long circuit veers off for a 10km boucle up the Mont de Mandé to the Telecom tower. Chris, having devised the circuits for the randonnée, wanted to check this part of the 25km route so we were all invited to join him for a Sunday morning ramble.
Setting off from Donzy
It was quite a long ascent from Donzy up to the forest. Along the way we enjoyed spectacular views over the countryside. The paths were bordered by wild flowers, wild garlic and masses of cowsips, and we noted that the lily of the valley was looking to flower for 1st May, the Fête du Muguet. Jean-Louis was collecting the flowerbuds of brambles. You dry them and when you have a sore throat you can use them to make a soothing tisane.
At the top of Mont Mandé
Deep in the woods we came across La Pierre de l’Ecorcherie. This is a sort of stone passageway made of different sized blocks, about 4m in length. It is near la Pierre de l’Haut Temps which resembles an altar. No-one seems to know for sure the origins of these stones. Perhaps they were left by the Druids from early Roman times? Or maybe they were the hiding place of the Ecorcheries, or skinners, ruffians of the 15th century who had a sinister reputation for bloody deeds….
La Pierre de l’Ecorcherie
As we started the walk we were lucky enough to see a long cavalcade of vintage cars passing Donzy. It was part of an annual rally of 200 classic cars which sets off from Paris and travels around the French countryside, ending up at Magny Cours on 24th April.
An endless stream of old French cars
Everybody enjoyed the walk this morning and here’s hoping that the weather will be fine for the Cortambert Randonnée on 2nd June.
The wind certainly has changed for the better and gone round to the south so we’ve had a lovely sunny weekend. Perfect for the final two days of showjumping at Cluny. The first two days were grim so I don’t suppose that the icecream vendor setting up in the pouring rain on Thursday ever envisaged the never-ending queue for cornets by Sunday.
The show is part of the Grand National where France’s top riders compete in teams of two at various venues during the summer in jumping, eventing and dressage. At the end of the season the points awarded to each team are added up to find the champions of 2013.
The jumps were enormous, higher than the horses’ heads. So there were plenty of thrills and spills. We met our riding instructor there who asked if we could guess what we might be doing for our next lesson!
One way or another we’ve had quite a horsey week. Our grandchildren from Scotland have been with us and one of their favourite occupations has been to come and help feed the horses which we are looking after for our neighbours.
Last Sunday we went up to the stables at Laizé for the circus day. For a while we watched the children learning tricks on the horses then took ourselves off for a walk with our favourite Shetland pony, Blondie.
The children seem to like our life in the country with the animals. We hope that when they are old enough they will be able to spend their whole summer holiday with their Mamie and Papi just like the French kids do.