All the world and his wife were in Cluny this weekend. There was an enormous brocante in and around the Salle de Griottons running both Saturday and Sunday.
There was the usual Saturday morning market but this weekend it was augmented by stalls running the length of the rue de Lamartine up to the Foire aux Champs and the annual horse fair, the foire de la Saint-Martin. This was packed with people trading in horses and cattle, or simply just looking and sampling the produits du terroir at the food stalls.
At the horse fair
On Sunday afternoon my neighbours and I went down to Cluny Abbey to join a guided tour of the latest excavations. It had been a bit wet and we stood around in the mud listening to long explanations by an archeologist. Unfortunately, being at the back of a large crowd, I couldn’t understand much of what it was about but I did have the chance to peer under the tarpaulins at the bases of the enormous columns which had been excavated.
A guided tour of the excavations
Cluny Abbey used to cover an area of about 27 acres and most of it was pulled down in the 1790s when the people revolted against the clergy. The stone was recycled to build new houses. As plain facades were the fashion at the time the carved sides of the stones were turned to the inside. Gradually as houses are demolished or renovated these carvings are being rediscovered. Inside the Abbey there is a newly reconstructed portico built of these stones, a jigsaw slowly assembled as pieces were found.
Inside, by the ENSAM students’ lodgings, floors have been taken up to reveal ancient tiles. The supports of the vaulted ceilings have been chipped away to expose the original carved pillars. A door at the end of the cloisters is to be taken down so that the long view, the perspective de 450 pieds, is restored. Stone paving will be set in the original pattern.
Proposed work at Cluny Abbey
The cost of this work is over one and a half million euros. The tour will be a regular event so I’m looking forward to seeing how the work has progressed next year.
Donzy le Pertuis is our sister village which nestles into the side of the hill just as you go over into the next valley towards Azé. It looks rather Alpine with its church spire, pretty stone houses and winding streets. I always feel sorry for all the previous generations of women in Donzy who, until the 1950s, had to descend a long steep hill to the lavoir in the valley bottom and then trudge back home with their heavy load of wet washing.
All sort of treasures for sale in Donzy
The vide grenier at Donzy is considered one of the best in the area. Sunday’s event was spoilt by heavy rain in the morning. But in the afternoon the sun came out and there were plenty of stalls selling absolutely everything you could imagine. We came back with some snowchains for the van so now it will never snow again! Chris also added an old France Telecom van to his collection of Renault 4 miniatures.
The book stall of the Foyer Rural from Cortambert
We also asked for books by Marcel Pagnol (Jean de Florette etc). Next day we were delighted to find in our letterbox a copy of Le Temps des Amours inscribed with messages from all the helpers on the bookstall!
To add to the occasion there were rides on the calèche, a little carriage pulled by two wonderfully turned out white horses. They were from Ecuries du Devant, the local stables in Donzy.
Rides on the calèche
We’re having what the French friends call ‘English weather’, showery and cool. Hopefully it will improved this week and we will see a return to the hot weather we expect at this time of the year. To think that at the beginning of summer severe drought restrictions were put into place and we thought it would never rain again!
The punts engage
This weekend saw the annual jousting competition. It was held on a purpose built lake by the River Grosne on the outskirts of Cluny. It’s a new sport to me and I was amazed to find not only that there were so many clubs devoted to jousting but that there would be so many affectionados that the event would take most of the weekend.
There are two motorised punts, a red one and a blue one. A team piles in and the jouster stands on the platform at the back struggling with a very unwieldy ‘lance’. The two boats pass each other at full speed and the idea is to knock the opponent off and into the water. So that the participants don’t get hurt they wear padded trousers and square cushions on their chests. It still looks quite painful though as some of the boys ended up clutching themselves with tears in their eyes.
The loser is pulled out of the water
Another event this weekend was the annual brochante at Donzy-le-Pertuis. Donzy nestles on the other side of the hill from us and is as pretty as a postcard. It seemed as if the whole village took part to make it a huge success. The stalls meandered through the streets and there was an excellent buvette. There was lots of very interesting items to look at and this time the prices weren’t quite so silly. We were pleased to add a nice mountain bike to our motley collection. Well done Donzy!
Fresh from the breadoven at Blanot
It is beautiful sunny weather once more so we set off early to Blanot to visit one of the most popular local brocantes/vide greniers. At brocantes dealers are allowed which usually means better stuff and antiques are for sale. But disappointingly there was the same old truc for the same old prices. Goodness knows why everything second hand is so expensive in France. To my mind if you have a lot of unwanted junk it’s better to sell it at bargain prices so you don’t have to pack it all away again at the end of the day. The prices people ask are just silly so you show interest, ask the price then go home empty handed.
However there were some items which caught our attention which you would never see at the average car boot sale – shotguns and extremely large knives, ‘Napoleon’s’ hat, gin traps, a mirror set in a carthorse collar…. But nothing that we couldn’t live without!
The winepress at St Gengoux le Scisse
As usual when coming home we meandered round to look at the views from the hills and do a bit of sightseeing. This morning we stopped to have a walk round St Gengoux le Scisse, a pretty wine village with a popular cave set amongst the vineyards. We came across this enormous wine press from 1869, by far the oldest and biggest we have ever seen. And we thought they just used to tread the grapes!