Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

July 31, 2016

L’escargot à la Bourguignonne

Filed under: Village Life — Tags: — Mary @ 22:10

In this part of France people make the most of the hedgerows and woods to forage for free food. At various times of the year you can find wild garlic, asparagus, mushrooms, fruit, walnuts and blackberries. Lately we have noticed people going out and about with a bucket and a stick and it took us a while to realise what they were hunting. Snails! I’ve found some whoppers myself in the garden after the recent rain.

Snails are protected in France and you are not allowed to hunt them from April to June when it is the breeding season. They are difficult to farm as they stop breeding if they are kept too close together so most snails you eat in restaurants have been picked up in the countryside.

Once you’ve caught your snails you have to purge them of mucus and the toxic stuff they might have eaten.  For about two weeks the snails are given flour to eat until they are clean. In the olden days they might be kept in a box in the corner of the kitchen for several months.

Burgundy snails are an iconic dish of this region. Cooked in court bouillon, the snail is presented in its shell which is filled with butter, parsley and finely chopped garlic and placed in the oven. The Burgundy chef Antonin Careme created this dish when he was cooking for Tsar Alexander 1st in 1814. It is so popular that the native Burgundy snail can’t keep up with the demand and 90% of the 30,000 tonnes of snails the French eat each year are imported from eastern Europe.

It must be better to gather them yourself although it takes a lot of work to get them ready. You are supposed to eat your snails with a glass of Chablis but I think I will just have the wine, thank you.

July 30, 2016

Wedding Day

Filed under: Events — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:22

We were delighted to receive un faire-part from our mayor,  an invitation to the religious ceremony and the vin d’honneur of the wedding of his daughter Marina to Nicolas. The church at Cormatin was full when we arrived at midday.

We found this wedding very different to the ones we are used to. In France the couple start by going to the mairie for the civil service, usually just with close friends and relatives. Then comes the blessing in the church to which work colleagues and neighbours are also invited. There were no bridesmaids or best man but several witnesses. Very few flowers were in evidence except for the bouquet of white lilies carried by the bride.

The priest was jocular and the ceremony was not overlong. I was impressed that when the couple exchanged vows they said ‘Je le veux’ which sounded to me far happier than ‘I do’.

Guard of honour

The couple, doused in confetti, left the church between a guard of honour made up of the groom’s airforce friends and the brides labcoated work colleagues.

Off to the chateau of Boutavent

Normally a procession of cars following a wedding will flash their lights and toot their horns all the way. Perhaps we were too far behind but we missed that.

At the chateau the vin d’honneur provided  an opportunity for the village to give their good wishes to the newlyweds. We were entertained by a young cavalière and her three horses, en liberté.


 The chateau park and the horses provided an ideal photo opportunity

We left mid afternoon,  leaving the wedding party to look forward to the big dinner and dance in the evening. I’ve heard from a friend who was married in Cormatin that usually the celebrations go on until dawn when onion soup is served. Then the married couple are allowed a couple of hours rest before their bedroom is invaded by their close friends who bring a chamber pot full of a disgusting looking mixture, perhaps some wine, sausages and chocolate paste, and the bride has to drink from it first and then the groom. I’ll have to ask about that!

July 28, 2016

Going West

Filed under: Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 21:01

We normally head east for our days out as we like the Jura mountains and the Alpine meadows, but for a change we decided to go in the other direction, west.

I’m surprised we got anywhere at all as it was the usual battle of wills between Chris and the SatNav. Turn right…turn right….turn right! she shouts while Chris carries straight on up over the hills. In revenge when we went through towns the SatNav kept turning us off the main road, taking us round the houses and along narrow tracks before letting us rejoin the road we were on to start with.

Our aim was to reach the Loire but we stopped halfway to have a look round Charlieu. Historically Charlieu was very important, being strategically positioned at the intersection of roads between Paris and Lyon and the Saône and the Loire. Its abbey predates the one at Cluny, being built by Benedictine monks in 875. It was incorporated into the order of Cluny in 930-40 and the abbots of Cluny enlarged it in the 11th century.


The garden from the cloisters

12th century carvings above the main doorway

In the old town there are many half-timbered houses and a magnificent church dedicated to St Philibert, built in the 18th century by the merchants. Charlieu was famous for its silkworkers who gravitated to Lyon, taking with them their andouillette which is now a favourite lyonnais dish.

Church of St Philibert

On to Roanne which is not unlike Mâcon, set on a wide river with industrial estates on the outskirts. Textiles and hosiery are the traditional industries, with the manufacture of rayon since the 1970s.  They build tanks here too.


Beginning of the Roanne-Digoin Canal

Running alongside the Loire is the Roanne-Digoin canal, built in 1838, which revived Roanne’s flagging fortunes and put it in the forefront of the industrial revolution. At the end is a big marina for leisure boats, and, just for the summer, a little beach with a playpark for the children.

On the beach at Roanne

An interesting day out but we were glad to return east towards the Saône. There’s no place like home!


July 10, 2016

Bleu Blanc Rouge

Filed under: Events — Tags: , — Mary @ 12:00

It’s an exciting day today with Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the final of the football.  We have no doubt that our local lad, Antoine Griezmann, can run rings round the Portuguese but to just to make sure of a good result we have put the flags out in support of the French team.

Chris putting out the flags…

Allez les Bleus!


We happen to have plenty of flags as we are on the home straight towards gaining our French citizenship. We have our final interview in Dijon in mid August. Hopefully we will hear some good news in the autumn and then the flags and bunting will help decorate the village hall for our grand fête!


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