Our Life in Burgundy

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April 27, 2014

A Walk from Cormatin

Filed under: Places — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 17:36

Today our village walking group went on a balade which Chris and I often used to enjoy when we lived in Cormatin.

 

Map of our walk from Cormatin

If  you leave La Maison du Curé and turn to the right you will find the agricultural track to Chazelle. It is not supposed to be for cars although this morning M.Bordet the mayor drove past us en route to his farm near Chazelle. But I suppose if you are the mayor you can do what you like. Generally though it is a good safe cycle ride for families with children.

 

Today's walkers

Along the way you often see rare breeds of animals in the fields. Today there were llamas and some unusual sheep.  In the past we have seen emus, deer, bison, Brahman cattle and miniature ponies.

 

The Romanesque church at Chazelle

At Chazelle you can visit the church, typical of the 12th century.  A little further is a farmhouse with lots of ancient farm machinery such as horse drawn ploughs rusting away in the garden.

 

The Chateau d'Uxelles

You have a good view of the Chateau of Uxelles before arriving back at the top of the hill of St Roch with its salle de fêtes. From here you get a lovely view of Cormatin. Then it’s just a short steep descent back to La Maison du Curé.

Cormatin

April 26, 2014

The Laizé ponies

Filed under: Events,People,Places — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 22:53

 

The pony club at Laizé was the first in France to hold an international event just for ponies. This was due to the hard work and enthusiasm of the owner of the club, Christophe Duterte. He is president of an organisation called Tout En Piste, based in Laizé, which organises six concours complet during the year, ranging from pony to top professional events.

 

This weekend it’s the turn of the ponies with dressage, jumping and cross country. We went along this afternoon to judge the cross country. I thought it might be rather tame, but not a bit of it. Although some of the riders looked hardly out of nappies they were galloping around on beautifully turned out ponies and tackling jumps that would frighten most experienced adults. The obstacles are solid so they don’t topple when a horse makes a mistake. Chris and I have only a basic Galop 2 qualification and are not allowed anywhere near a cross field, yet these youngsters think nothing of it.

 

Chris reporting back on a rider's progress

Laizé is becoming a popular centre for horse competitions and the facilities are excellent. In the last few weeks another two dressage rings have been built.

The cross field is demanding of both horse and rider. It is quite steep with a 30m difference in gradient top to bottom and additional man made hills which make the obstacles tough with an ascent up to a jump or a sharp drop-off afterwards. Matthieu Grasset designs the courses and Christophe Duterte builds the obstacles. The jumps are often filled with fruit or vegetables. Today it was carrots and radishes.

 

Christophe Duterte. He has just told the girls to fill the jump with carrots

Christophe Duterte is also president of the Cluny Concours Complet which organises an international four day event at the racecourse in Cluny each year. Last May it was cancelled because of the weather. Now there is some difficulty with renting the racecourse so this year it will be held at Laizé.  29th May – 1st June.

Christophe explained that at Laizé there are not the problems of coping with sponsors and other financial constraints.  On home ground it easier to organise an enjoyable event for the participants with a family atmosphere. Also, if the weather is bad, the cross field does not become waterlogged.

The national competitions that are normally held at the end of May have been shifted to the week after, the 8-9th June.  So there’s a lot going on at Laizé this summer.

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April 23, 2014

A tour of the caves in Azé

Filed under: Events,People,Places — Tags: — Mary @ 22:16

 

 

The museum at the caves of Azé

We were invited along with the great and the good for a tour round the Grottes d’Azé to see the new lighting system. We met Rémi Chaintron, president of the Conseil Général who represented the government, and Ghislaine Colombo the vice president who, with Olivier Michel, was from the department of culture and heritage.  Fabien Sudry, the Préfet of Saône-et-Loire represented the cantons. Also present was Thiery Berger, the local electrician involved with the project.

 

C to R - Ghislaine Colombo, Rémi Chaintron and Fabien Sudry

From centre - Ghislaine Colombo, Rémi Chaintron and Fabien Sudry

The caves are now equipped with 147 new LED lights that are cleverly positioned to enhance the geological features of the caves. They are more economical, saving 3,000 euros,  and are cooler than the old yellow lighting which released carbon dioxide thus promoting the growth of algae on the damp walls.

The caves of Azé are the oldest known human habitation in Burgundy and are a popular tourist attraction.  24,000 people visit each year.

 

The lower caves are 1200m long and were formed by the river running through. By using coloured dye it has been found that the source is on Mont St Romain. The water disappears underground before emerging at the caves. It very interesting to see the different rock formations and realise that the sandstone layers full of shells were once at the bottom of a tropical sea.  Dripping water releases its calcium on contact with the air and forms stalactites and stalagmites. Did you know that stalactites are always hollow?

 

Discussing stalactites with our guide

Even more interesting are the upper or prehistoric caves. In the 400m tunnel bones and artefacts have been found dating from 3,000 years ago. Bears also used to live in the caves. You can see where they sharpened their claws on the wall. Many bears died in there. Maybe after their hibernation they were too weak to get out, or debris from the winter storms had blocked the way. The bears evolved because the earlier skeletons were smaller than those from later, especially the jaws and canines.

Excavated skeleton of a bear

Excavated skeleton of a bear

My thanks to Georges for explaining who everybody was and what the guide had said. My attention span and comprehension are a bit limited during guided tours!

More good news for the Azé tourist season. The swimming pool at the campsite next to the caves is being renovated and should reopen in July.

 

April 21, 2014

The Voie Verte –Chalon to Mâcon by bike

Filed under: Places — Tags: , , , , , — Mary @ 10:48

 

In this part of France we enjoy some excellent cycling thanks to the efforts of the Conseil Régional to link old railway tracks and canal towpaths to make an almost seamless cycle track which runs for 800 km around Burgundy.

The cycle track round Burgundy

 

Our part of this grand scheme is the 70km voie verte that runs from Chalon to Mâcon. The old railway has been tarmacked to make a smooth and fairly flat track. Former railway stations provide tourist information, bicycle hire and places to stop for a picnic.

Our section of voie verte running from Chalon to Mâcon

Mile after mile of easy cycling would be rather monotonous except for the boucles, little signposted tours off the voie verte, which direct you round nearby villages, chateaux and points of interest.

From La Maison du Curé in Cormatin we often cycled south to Cluny or north to Buxy. But recently we thought it would be good to cover all of the voie verte. This we did in several sections, driving to a different starting point each time. I liked to park at the northern end as it is easier to start off downhill!

You start off in the outskirts of Chalon in the vineyards of Côte Chalonnaise, an area famous for its AOC wines. The first port of call is Givry, an enclosed town with two round towers. Its town hall is housed inside a monumental gatehouse dated 1771 which looks a bit like the Arc de Triomph. The pinot noirs of Givry were the favourite wines of Henry IV (reigned 1589-1610).

The gate leading to the mairie at Givry

I would say that this part of the voie verte is the prettiest, lined with banks of irises and bluebells when we were there in early April. We had a detour to look at this medieval church, now incorporated into a farm.

Medieval chapel near Givry

Next comes Buxy which is worth visiting for its interesting wine cellar housed in a tower.

The cave at Buxy

This co-operative also has a cave in St Gengoux. Visitors are welcome to taste the wines but remember you have to get back on that bike.

 

Chris by the station in Buxy

Saint Gengoux is fascinating with its 12th century church and winding medieval streets. After Saint Gengoux you go to Cormatin, passing round the back of the Chateau.

The station at Cormatin - how it used to be

You skirt the hill at Taizé before arriving at Cluny station. Cluny marks the end of the really easy cycling. It’s a bit steep getting down to the Bois Clair tunnel but easier than going over the top of the hill which you have to do in winter when the tunnel is shut to let the bats hibernate.  The tunnel is 1,600m long, the longest voie verte tunnel in Europe. That pinpoint of light in the distance never seems to get nearer however long you pedal.

 

Berzé-le-Châtel

You emerge from the tunnel to see the fairytale castle of Berzé-le-Châtel on your left. You are in the Lamartine valley where you can take a boucle to visit Milly, Saint Point and Pierreclos, chateaux of the famous poet Lamartine. Cycling on towards the Saône you can’t fail to be impressed by views of the Roche de Vergisson and the famous Roche de Solutré.

Mâconnais vineyards with Vergisson and Solutré

You are in the Mâconnais wine country passing La Roche Vineuse and Prissé.

The end of the railway track is at Charnay-les-Mâcon which is renowned for its production of appellation Macon-Villages and Crémant de Bourgogne. As with Givry, its wines appealed to royalty as in the 1660s they became the favourite of Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715) .

So if you like cycling, or wine,  you would enjoy a holiday at La Maison du Curé in Cormatin, with easy access to the mid point of the voie verte. You get to know the area so much better if you go by bike.

 

 

 

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