Our Life in Burgundy

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June 25, 2015

Walking in the Alps

Filed under: Places — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 23:17

David & Pascale decided it was time we did some walking in the Alps so they took us to Samoëns for a couple of days. Samoëns is a very pretty village in the Haute Savoie. It is surrounded by seven mountains, hence the name (from sept monts). It is one of the best ski resorts in France with a new ski lift, the Grand massif Express, and an impressive ice rink. It is also increasingly popular as a base for walking holidays in the summer.



Samoëns dates from 1167. It is noted for its brotherhood of stone masons. There are many limestone quarries and many years ago the farmers began to supplement their incomes by carving and building. The older houses are made of stone, not wood. The stonecarvers became so expert and numerous that they were sought after for huge projects throughout France by the likes of the architect Vauban and Napoleon Bonaparte. There are still many stonecarvers in Samoëns and their work can be seen everywhere, even in the plinths of the letterboxes.

Samoëns is a village fleurie;  a profusion of flowers hangs from the chalets. A famous landmark is the Great Lime Tree in the village square which was planted  in 1438 by the Duke of Savoie.

The first day we walked the Cirque du Fer à Cheval, which, as it’s name suggests, is a circular walk inside an ampitheatre of massive cliffs. The meltwater was pouring down the rockfaces in a multitude of cascades.


Cirque du Fer à Cheval

Perilous bridge across the icy river

This  balade du Bout du Monde was just a warm up for the real Alpine walking up the Vallée de Sales. This was walking like I had never experienced before.


Ever higher

After a couple of hours unremitting climb from 1180m to 1870m we arrived at the Refuge de Sales. Amazingly, not long before us, a herd of cows had been driven up this steep rocky path to their summer pastures in the mountains.

How did those cows get round here?

If we had walked on we would have seen the cows, and in another hour we would be able to see neighbouring Mont Blanc.  But I didn’t think I could climb any further and we descended the way we had come.


David and Chris lead the way down

On the way back we saw ibex and marmots. We had seen some chamois on our first walk. Vultures have been introduced to this area but we saw only crows.

An ibex

Having discovered that the French Alps are not so far away we are sure to be going again, perhaps to see the snow next time.



June 19, 2015

Becoming French

Filed under: People — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:37

We’ve done it! We’ve breached another French bureaucratic fortress and managed to apply for French citizenship. It has been occupying our minds for a while now. Like doing an exam, we have swotted and done our best and it is such a relief to have handed in the application.

Here are some tips for anyone else who is thinking about it.

1. Apply to the police records office for a certificate to say you are not a criminal.  Don’t worry, they don’t go as far back as far as your juvenile misdemeanours, before computers were invented. Do this first as if you have a record you might as well give up now.

2. Write to the UK Registry Office and ask for your parents’ birth certificates and their marriage certificate. You should have your own birth, marriage and divorce certificates. Take any original certificates to the Mairie to get certified copies. And get a copy of your passport.

3. Find an official translator and send all your certificates to get them translated into French. Send a big cheque.

4. You might as well get your passport photos taken now, before you look too haggard.

5. Fill in the application form twice. Or if you are clever photocopy the first. Go back down memory lane. Give full details of your parents, your brothers and sisters, your children and previous spouses. Give all the addresses of places you have lived since you were born. List all the employers who have been foolhardy enough to give you a job. At this stage you can say if you want to change your name to something more French.

6. Look out three years’ tax papers and go to the Trésor Publique to ask for confirmation that you have paid all your dues. While you are there you buy a fiscal stamp for 55€.

7. Get together all the proof that you own a house or two, and proof of some sort of income.

8. Telephone Manuel Valls, the prime minister, and ask if he has done away with the language and culture test as promised six months ago. Meanwhile look out any certificates you got from ‘O’ level French or nightschool and hope that they will do. Otherwise send 100€ and wait several weeks for the next test date.

9. A principal condition that you should satisfy is that you are assimilated into French society. So the jewel in the crown of our application is a lovely letter from the mayor describing our input into village life.  You have to show a reasonable knowledge of local culture as well as the rights and values of the French Republic. So long as they don’t expect us to sing La Marsaillaise….



10. Go to the post office and buy the strongest envelope they have to take the 350g of papers which you send off to the Préfecture.

11.Go home, get that steak out of the freezer you were saving for a big occasion and open the best bottle of wine you have.

No doubt one day we will be called in for interview, and eventually hear whether we have been awarded French citizenship. It will be an anti-climax compared with the triumph of just getting the application in. The process looks straight forward but it took a lot of working out. Yet Manuel Valls said he was making it easier (so he would get the immigrant vote, they say). If fairly intelligent people like us (well I used to be fairly intelligent!) struggle with it how do others cope? To be French you have to be determined.

 To be continued…..

June 18, 2015

4 years old today

Filed under: Village Life — Tags: — Mary @ 18:19


That’s 35 in human terms but to us they are still ’the kittens’.  Their mother was a stray cat barely a year old. She was starving and the only thing I had to give her was a tin of best tuna. She wouldn’t come in the house but had her four kittens in the nearby stable. We boxed up the kittens and brought them home. She followed and has been here ever since.


The kittens at 6 days old




A life of leisure for Mother

Sadly we lost two of the kittens on All Saints Day 2012 so now we just have Benedict and Smudge.

Benedict doing what he does best, eating

Both cats spend their nights out hunting but unfortunately like to share their catch with us. We often have mice running around under the bed in the early hours.


I would like to come back as a cat. Eating, sleeping and hunting. What a wonderful life!

June 11, 2015

The Horseball Championships

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Mary @ 18:36

I must admit that on Sunday I skived off from the Cortambert randonnée to go into Cluny to watch the finals of the women’s horseball. It was the last meeting in a season of 14 matches with various amateur and pro-elite categories.  Players from this weekend are selected to play for France at the European championships at Bordeaux at the end of August.

There is nothing ladylike about  horse-ball feminin.  An umpire on horseback and another on a chair make sure the rules are strictly adhered to. Everyone has to go in the direction dictated by the person with the ball. But pushing and shoving is OK. So is wrenching someone’s arm off to get the ball. It’s just as well that the stirrups are tied together making it difficult to be pushed off.


Plenty of hand to hand fighting

A gallop down the pitch results in a goal

A rider bends to pick the ball off the ground

Meurchin (Pas-de-Calais) was the overall winner of the pro-elite competition

More action next Saturday, an afternoon of beach rugby from 1 – 6pm at the Equivallée.

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