Our Life in Burgundy

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October 27, 2013

Le Québec à Cortambert


There is a strong link between Quebec and Burgundy. The Collectif des Portes, our local association of  Cortambert with Blanot, Bray, Chissey and Donzy, is planning a trip to Quebec for next year.

Meanwhile it collaborated with the Borgogne Québec association to bring a little bit of Quebec to us in the form of Isabeau et les Chercheurs d’Or, a very talented folk group who are presently on a tour of France, returning to Quebec in mid November. A lot of their inspiration comes from bluegrass, mixed with cajun and local folk music.

Isabeau et les Chercheurs d'Or (photo Josette Chabert)

We were fortunate enough to hear them again this morning at the annual Fête des Huîtres. This is one of the most popular events in Cortambert. You can try oysters from different parts of the Atlantic Coast, Brittany, Vivier-sur-Mer, Marennes-Oléron and the Vendee.  You had to get there early as one hundred dozen were polished off well before midday

Preparing the oysters

The men of the village open the oysters and everyone files by to choose their selection. Then a squeeze of lemon or vinegar, and brown bread and butter.

Our neighbours enjoying the oysters

 I’m fascinated to watch as dozens of oysters are downed with great relish. I feel I am missing out by refusing to eat them. Maybe next year I’ll give it another go!


October 20, 2013

A Sunday Walk from Berzé-le-Châtel

Filed under: Places,Weather — Tags: , , — Mary @ 18:58


Despite the weather forecast which predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms, a few brave Cortambertois met to go for a walk starting in Berzé-le-Châtel. I’m glad we didn’t cancel as it turned out dry and very warm.

The Chateau at Berzé

The Chateau at Berzé was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. With its 13 towers it is a very imposing sight as you approach from the Cluny road. It was built by the ancestors of the current owners to protect the Abbey of Cluny. It is the largest and best preserved fortress in Burgundy

Setting off

Leaving the Chateau we went off on easy tracks through le Verney and les Furtins. We took an unplanned detour through the vineyards and watched some pompiers practising firefighting with a bonfire by the woods. “We were not lost but temporarily mislocated” commented our leader.

At our halfway point at Berzé-le-Ville we stopped to look at the lime kilns which have been recently restored, and learned a bit about the geology of the area.

Now for the hard part, a steep trek up La Roche Coche which, from its summit at 450 metres, rewarded us with splendid views over the Lamartine Valley.

From the top of Roche Coche

Still climbing, we crossed to the next peak at 498 metres then descended in a narrow corridor between ancient box and moss covered beech. Back on open farmland once more we could see our path wending past the back of the Chateau to the car park from whence we had started.

Heading back

Many thanks to all who ventured out today. Next month we will meet for an easier walk starting in Cormatin.

October 14, 2013

Autumn Fruits

Filed under: Events,People,Village Life — Tags: , — Mary @ 17:13


I always find that Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. The trees are just beginning to turn and the bushes are laden with berries and fruit. People with baskets and purple hands are collecting blackberries, walnuts, chestnuts and apples from hedgerows and verges.

We have our own resident botanist, Claire, and she, along with Pascale and Laurent & Annie from Donzy, organised a randonnée with the theme of autumn fruits. We set off with a list of fruits to collect. I soon learned that a cynorrhodon was a rosehip, a cenelle was a haw and an aveline was a hazel nut. I had the idea that a bonnet d’évêque was some sort of mushroom but it turned out to be a cluster of poisonous black berries.

There were pages of questions. One that intrigued me most was the one about the wild clematis. Great skeins of it lace through the hedges. In the autumn the seeds are a mass of white hair so it is often called Old Man’s Beard. Apparently the ados in the country used to lurk about in the woods smoking the tige or stem as a cigarette. Tige is actually the French slang for ‘fag’.

We collected beechnuts (2 to a case!), chestnuts, broom pods, mosses, lichens and toadstools. One toadstool was called cul de chien, obvious when we saw it.

View of Varanges from the woods above

We had been about three hours in the woods and by now had filled our bags with specimens. So back to the hall to compare our answers to the ones Claire had written on the board and to lay out our examples to be examined. As our team was mainly made up of English and Dutch, we really didn’t have much idea of what we were supposed to be doing so we had collected quite a few berries surplus to requirements.

Sorting out our specimens back at the foyer rural

The best ending to the day was finding how Claire, Pascale and Laurent used produce, home grown or collected locally, to make a meal. Starting with roasted Cortambert hazelnuts with apple juice, we went on to have soup made out of 10 vegetables, topinambours with garlic relishes, walnut cake, crêpes with several different jams based on marrows, chestnut cake and lots of wine. I thought I would never eat again!

Today I am still looking at the guide to wild fruit and taking note of the comestibles and how you can make bread out of chestnuts and coffee out of beechnuts. One thing is for sure, from now on I will take more notice while walking past the hedgerows.


October 6, 2013

La Fête de la Pomme

Filed under: Events — Tags: , , — Mary @ 20:31

This year’s Fête de la Pomme was better than ever, making Les Salles des Griottons the centre of activity in Cluny this weekend. It was organised by La Fôret Fruitier, an organisation of apple growers and researchers set up by René Lamy-Perret in 1990. Its aim is to promote and preserve the ancient fruit varieties. The planting of fruit trees is encouraged in public places and the children in some communes are given an apple tree of their choice when they start school.

More varieties of apple than you could ever imagine

More varieties of apple than you could ever imagine

The Fête attracted about 4000 visitors over the weekend. They could examine the 300 varieties of apples and pears, all displayed and labelled, and 70 varieties of marrows. Experts were on hand to identify apples brought in by the public. Four tons of apples were pressed and the apple juice was selling as fast as they could make it. Ladies were busy skilfully cutting peel off in one piece and making apple pies.

We watch the baskets being made

We watch the baskets being made

Non-apple related exhibits included vannerie and lacemaking. Local artists were selling pottery and artwork. We could sample local produce including a dozen different jams based on marrows.  I bought for Chris a book Les meilleures recettes à la Courgette as I thought he might need some fresh ideas. He has been disguising courgettes in my dinner on an almost daily basis for several months.

The ancient folk band

The ancient folk band

Entertainment was provided on the stage by a folk group with hurdy gurdys and accordians, and outside was stationed an organ grinder and his monkey.

La Fôret Fruitier will stage another annual event on the first weekend of March, La Bourse aux Greffons which is a demonstration of grafting and promotion of little known varieties. Hopefully the efforts of La Fôret Fruitier will ensure that the many ancient varieties of non-commercial apples will not be lost.

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