Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

October 28, 2015


Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 19:21


J’aime rechercher l’harmonie et la beauté en modest imitateur de mon createur.” -Arcabas

Always keen to see new places, we were pleased when Marie-Pascale planned a trip to Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse in Isère, north of Grenoble. We went to see the works of Arcabas, a local artist of contemporary sacred art. His most important work is the decoration of the church of Saint-Hugues-de-Chartreuse.




An amazing sight on entering


On our guided tour

In 1952, at age 25, Arcabas offered to decorate the damp dingy church for free. He worked in the church during three distinct phases of his life. The first phase was to depict the Last Supper, the Resurrection and the Ten Commandments in huge paintings in red and black. Only at the nartex and the chancel could he paint a fresco directly on the wall. The nave was so damp that he had to paint on woollen hangings to let the air circulate behind them. He also fashioned the beautiful stained glass windows in the side-aisles.

 A modern representation of Christ on the Cross

In the late sixties Arcabas left to work in Ottawa, returning to Saint-Pierre in 1973 to begin his second phase. For the next 12 years he worked on the upper row of paintings, abstract designs with gold leaf which reflects the light.


Biblical scenes

The final stage was 1985 to 1991 when Arcabas painted over 50 images inspired by biblical texts. They are in no particular order and are full of movement and life.



This reminded me of Picasso


Besides the decoration Arcabas made a tabernacle and altar, a reliquary, and decorated the floors with brass inlay and designed the studded doors.


A very modern reliquary



 and the altar

Arcabas was prolific in other areas too and was a set and costume designer in the theatre. His paintings are exhibited in many countries of the world and he created many works nearer to home, for example the panoramic stained glass in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, Alpe d’Huez. He has also worked in collaboration with Etienne, his sculptor son, designing the liturgical furnishings of other churches and cathedrals.

However this church in Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse displays his major work. Arcabas donated it to the department of Isère and 100,000 people a year go and visit. Despite becoming an art museum the church is still used for worship. Arcabas, now approaching his 90th year, lives locally in Saint-Pierre.

After the long journey and what seemed an even longer guided tour we deserved our shared picnic. It wouldn’t be a good day out without one.


 A welcome break between guided tours


Then off to visit the distillery at Chartreuse. And despite Marie-Pascale’s persistent questioning of the guide we still don’t know what’s in that green liqueur except a secret mix of 300 wild herbs.  I would guess it is probably the same as goes into cough mixture.


October 25, 2015

Sunday morning walk – Blanot and back.

Filed under: Events,Places,Village Life — Tags: — Mary @ 15:42

We were fortunate with the weather this morning and there was a good turnout for the walk. We set off from Cortambert with a steep ascent through the Bois de la Roche and over the ridge to Blanot.

Our group in the woods

Turning northwards, another stiff climb took us up to the Faîtral from where we enjoyed lovely views of Mont St Romain to the east and the Grosne valley to the west.

Autumn colours in the sunshine

It was lovely to see some new faces this morning. Thanks to everyone for making it so enjoyable.  The next walk will be on 15th November.

October 23, 2015

Becoming French Part II – or Doing the Impossible

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mary @ 16:25



Do you remember in June we sent off our dossiers to the Préfecture in Mâcon with the hope that it was ‘Citizenship, here we come!’? Come September we were dismayed to find our dossiers had thudded back into our letterbox with a list of additional paperwork we needed to supply.



Some things were just irritating, for example why didn’t they ask for four photos not two in the first place? Other things are impossible. We have to have two originals of our wedding certificate, one for each dossier. We married in Bermuda and we don’t appear in the records office in the UK, even in the foreign marriages section. And of course there is no British Embassy in Bermuda as it is British. Can we get married again and get two licences please? Certified copies of birth certificates are also not deemed acceptable.

We were hoping that our fancy certificates from the French department at Leeds Met would suffice as regards the language requirement. But alas! Chris had to go and sit a test yesterday.

We turned up at the language centre, newly built with funds from Mr Valls to help immigrants with their language skills. It reminded me of unemployment training at the end of the 80s, nice buildings but badly run. Five hopefuls arrived and the examiner waited for 40 minutes for a sixth before carrying on. Eventually a distraught Vietnamese priest ran in, his satnav battery having given up on the outskirts of Mâcon. For his sins he was made to take the first part of his test on his knees in the freezing cold hall with everyone sitting round listening. Some looked dismayed when they realised where they had gone wrong. Even though the other candidates were native French speakers from Morocco and Algeria they still found the comprehension very difficult.

The one-to-one oral session was even worse. Half an hour of explaining why you might want to go to a foreign university,… what humanitarian work would you undertake?… how would you set up an association of volunteers?… could we live without oil?… No mention of democracy though. I had insisted Chris swot up on that one.

In June when we tried to hand in our dossiers in person we found the rules had just changed and we couldn’t see anyone. We had to go home and send everything in by post. But the naturalisation office has now moved to Dijon. If Chris is successful we will trot up there with our amended dossiers and our single marriage certificate and see if we can speak to someone. You never know!


ps Friday 13th November – Just received the certificate to say that Chris passed his French exam! So we will go up to Dijon to hand in our dossiers next week.


October 11, 2015

Sunday afternoon traditional dance

Every 2nd Sunday afternoon of the month there is a friendly gathering of musicians and dancers at the foyer rural in Cortambert.

Bernard and today’s musicians

Bernard Alaguette directs the band, while Jean-Louis organises the refreshments, making crêpes and looking after the bar.

There’s a lot of twirling!


Entry is free and it doesn’t matter whether you are experienced in traditional dancing or a beginner. Many of the dances are easy to pick up and the seasoned dancers will take you in hand.


In many dances anyone can join in


I spoke to several people who had come from a good distance away. It’s a shame there are not more from Cortambert. They are missing out on a fun afternoon.

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