Our Life in Burgundy

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July 26, 2013

Making Ocarinas

Filed under: Events,Village Life — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 16:10


The ocarina is a very ancient sort of flute made for thousands of years especially in China and South America. It was the Aztecs who introduced the ocarina to Europe and an Italian who changed the concept of them from a toy to a musical instrument.

Ocarinas come in all shapes and sizes and are just a hollow sealed vessel with mouthpiece and finger holes. They are traditionally made of clay but they can be made of almost anything, including carrots and apples.


I was sent on a mission this week to learn how to make ocarinas. Pascale had a mad idea that a group of us should learn to make them and form a band. There are more artistically adept people in the village, in fact everybody is more talented than I, but I was the only one willing and available…..


Some of my classmates

The course was held in the Orangerie in the Parc Abbatial, a lovely setting next to the Mairie in Cluny. The teacher was Marie-Jo who, despite the wide ranging skills of the group, managed to ensure that everyone was successful in producing at least one working ocarina and left with some skill in modelling clay.


We were shown two ways to make ocarinas. The first is to roll out a circle of clay and drape it round a tennis ball to get the hollow shape. Remove the tennis ball and press the edges of the clay together. It’s rather like making a Cornish pasty.

The second way is to push your thumb into a round ball of clay and gradually fashion a hollow ball which can be brought together and sealed at the top.


The tricky bit is making the holes. The sound hole is made with a hollow pen top. Then a metal nail file is pressed on the side of the hole and slid upwards to make a slit above the sound hole.

Marie-Jo said not all ocarinas work. Three out of four of mine didn’t and I don’t really know why. The mouth slit is too big? Not in the right place? The clay too thick?

If you blow into the mouthpiece there should be a single note, the depth of which depends on the size of the ocarina. You can then put in some finger holes, two, four or  eight, to give a wider range of notes.

I’ve left my single working ocarina to be fired. Hopefully when I get it back I will be able to replicate it. So you never know, there might be the Cortambert ocarina band one day.


July 22, 2013

The Cortambert Rando-Picnic

Filed under: Events,Places,Village Life,Weather — Tags: , , — Mary @ 12:59


View from the picnic spot

View from the picnic spot

In temperatures of over 30° a willing group of randonneurs set off from Cortambert to celebrate the last of this summer’s walks with a picnic. We walked 5km along the grassy tracks through the vineyards to a spot above Bray where we could eat in the shade of the pine trees and enjoy the lovely view.



In usual Burgundian style there was copious amounts of wine and lots of delicious homecooked food. It always surprises me that even in a picnic the French prefer to separate the courses, starting with aperos and then the savoury, cheese and sweet dishes, followed by coffee. Our picnic proved to be very high class as we had a satin tablecloth, silver cutlery and even a silver candleabra.


Enjoying the picnic


Denis joined us after a morning’s mountain biking -

Our own Tour de France

I opted out of the return walk, volunteering to take the van loaded with the coolboxes back to Cortambert. Chris said that despite the shade of the path along the Faitral everybody was hot and thirsty and adjourned to Sophie’s for drinks before returning home.

Thanks to everyone for a very pleasant day. Walks from Cortambert will start again in September, if possible on the third Sunday of every month.


July 16, 2013

Catching Up

Filed under: Events,People,Places,Village Life,Weather — Mary @ 23:26

I’m really behind with the blogs. So here’s a little potted history of some of the events of the last couple of weeks.

At the end of June our vannerie group went on a trip to Meximieux to buy material for next year’s basketmaking.



On the way we called in at Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne, a wonderful place with ancient half-timbered houses and an old castle where we had a picnic.


The bridge at Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne


The following weekend we had our Repas du Quartier, a shared meal with the people of our hamlet.


At the Repas du Quartier


On the same day it was the end of term at the Pony Club at Laizé. The children celebrated with  a fancy dress competition


Photos from the Pony Club

 and the adults enjoyed the cabaret équestre later on.

End of the show at Laizé

The market in Cluny has been very busy with tourists. Last week we were surprised to see a group of Morris dancers and an Irish pipe band.

The Morris Dancers

They were advertising the annual English Tea party event at Viré.


The Irish Pipe Band

This Sunday was Bastille Day and we held a vide grenier in Varanges. It was a perfect day and the buvette was able to supply plenty of cold beer and hot dogs.

Vide Grenier at Varanges

This summer weather has been just perfect for the last couple of weeks. Let’s hope it will continue.


July 7, 2013

The Cormatin Guitar Festival – Emmanuel Rossfelder


The Festival Guitares en Cormatinois is a series of five concerts held every year at the end of June /July. In previous years there has been a noticeable lack of guitars but this year all five concerts feature them


Emmanuel Rossfelder after the concert

Emmanuel Rossfelder signs autographs after the concert


The main attraction is the famous guitarist Emmanuel Rossfelder whose concerts always sell out quickly. We thought we’d better book early this year and we weren’t disappointed. He performed for a couple of hours and kept everybody spellbound. Since we were too mean to buy a programme I can’t tell you exactly what he played but I especially enjoyed the  ’Captain Corelli’  like pieces and the Carnival of Venice with variations.

The remaining two concerts are on Saturday 20st and Sunday 21st July at the medieval church at Chazelle. A lovely cool venue on a hot sunny afternoon.

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