Rallye des Vins at Cortambert
This weekend saw the 27th Rallye des Vins come to Cortambert. The Rally takes place in the Mâconnais region, taking in well know wine villages such as Fuissé, Igé, Azé, Lugny and Viré. The course consists of twelve special stages (actually six as each is run twice) over two days. Cortambert was the finish of stages 2 and 5 on the Saturday.
To make the most of this occasion the Foyer Rural was running a ‘buvette’ at one of the ‘Points Chauds’ (spectator hot spots) in the vineyards above the final sharp bend before the finish of the stage.
On the Friday afternoon the stall had to be set up, a heavy metal frame (borrowed from two of our neighbouring villages) was covered with a tarpaulin roof and the counter attached to the front. With everything secured in case of wind we headed home ready for an early start on Saturday.
Saturday morning 8am, we met again at the Foyer Rural to load chairs, benches, trestle tables, chip fryers and other cooking equipment into vans and onto pick-ups. Of course before we could start we had to have a breakfast of coffee and brioche. We loaded the refrigerated trailer with kegs of beer, coca cola, wine, sausages, chips and plenty of other food and drink to keep the rally fans happy and fed. Once all this had been taken to the buvette and unloaded and installed then back home for an hour or so until 11am when we had to start preparing the food. The fans were starting to assemble even though the first car wasn’t expected to arrive until about 12:30. There were sandwiches to be made, chips to be fried and sausages to be barbecued, as lunch time approached things got busier with orders for ‘cinq pressions’ and ‘deux barquette des frites’ going from one end of the bar to the other.
Late in the afternoon news came through that there had been a fatal crash on the twisty roads through the forest above Igé en route to Cortambert. The stage was closed and the fans began to drift away. We started the process of clearing up – in no time at all everything except the frame was dismantled packed up and taken back to the Foyer Rural then as usual at these things we sat down to eat and drink, even though most of us had been eating and drinking all day. After Pastis, quiche, left over sausages had been eaten we agreed a 9:30 am start to finish dismantling and returning the frame to our neighbouring communes.
It seems to have been a long weekend – but it nice to feel that we are now a useful part of the commune – in fact we are now referred to as ‘the French who come from England’.
Horses watching the hillclimb
Although I enjoy watching horses taking part in events I find I am much more interested in their behaviour when they are not under control of their riders or are just doing their own thing in their fields.
The weekend’s big event was the National Hillclimb which took place just over the top of our hill at Donzy. The road up from Azé is steep and winding with hairpin bends, perfect for rallying. The best place to watch is by the bends as the cars have to drastically slow down and often skid. The noise is terrific with a great deal of backfiring from the engines. Amazingly there were horses watching at the gate, showing great interest, and the nearby cows were unperturbed, as if they were grazing a peaceful alpine meadow.
This afternoon we watched the horseracing at the Hippodrome at Cluny. There were flat races, trotting, a steeplechase and cross country. The latter was by far the most exciting and the most dangerous. Two jockeys fell off crossing the river before the race had even started. Other jockeys soon parted from their mounts attempting to negotiate some fearsome obstacles. The loose horses hugely enjoyed charging along with the rest then decided to canter off towards a herd of riding school horses whose field adjoined the race track. These took off and were galloping up and down one side of the fence with the racehorses on the other. They all must have thought this great fun until the stable lads eventually caught up with the escapees and took them back to the stables. Horses certainly know how to enjoy themselves!
Our New Car and our Renault 4 Van
It’s really only by watching British TV that I would know Christmas is coming. OK, there are a few decorations up in the supermarket and lights have been strung across the street in some villages, as yet unlit. But other than that Christmas in France seems to begin much later than in the UK. It’s a bit like England about 50 years ago. As a child I remember going on the bus to Leeds market with my father on Christmas Eve and bringing back a turkey and a tree (yes, on the bus!). I much prefer the last minute rush to the commercialism in the UK which now seems to start soon after August Bank Holiday.
A similar thought occurred to me while watching a programme tonight about how motoring in Britain has changed during the last 50 years from the pleasures of touring on the open road to a nightmare of traffic jams and fines. I am pleased to say that motoring in our bit of France is still a pleasure. I will make an exception of going to Lyon airport, and we always make a huge detour around Paris. But there are still plenty of empty roads here and sometimes you can travel miles without even encountering another vehicle. This lunchtime I went out for a test drive in our new car (well, new to us). As it’s the first modern car I’ve driven for a good while so I needed try out the brakes and steering which both need the lightest of touch. And it’s such a monster compared with my little Renault 4. As it was Sunday lunchtime there wasn’t another car on the road. Which was just as well as the first time I braked I nearly set off the airbags!
This week’s local event was a visit from a Swiss male voice choir. They were very good indeed, with an excellent pianist and conductor who were both very amusing. The choir finished by singing national anthems from several countries. As soon as the Swiss anthem began the Swiss people in the audience shot to their feet and stood like ramrods while it was sung. A bit different from the French who raggedly struggled to their feet for La Marseillaise. We must learn the words for next time so we are not like those World Cup footballers who stand looking embarassed before a match.
I know now why songs and operas are best sung in their original language. The Italian anthem, sung in Italian, was absolutely beautiful. However the Welsh ‘Land of my Fathers’ was sung in French so I could not conjure up the image I normally have of bands of Welsh miners singing in the Valleys.
Hill Climb Car
The sun is still shining in Burgundy although it’s cool in the shade. This was evident this afternoon when we went to Donzy, the village just over the hill, to see the motor racing. Our side of the valley was shivering in the shade but we could see people across the way basking in the sun, the men without teeshirts. The race track was a hilly circuit of roads that included many sharp bends. We saw a spectacular accident when a car clipped the side of the road and somersaulted several times, losing bonnet, wings and a wheel in the process. Everyday driving is difficult enough on these narrow roads with deep ditches on one side and rocky cliffs at the other without going at such speeds. An exciting finale was the speed trial of the champions from the different regions of France driving F1 type cars.
As in many holiday areas, life for the residents is much more active socially in the winter when the bulk of the tourists have gone. Our village is getting into gear and at the AGM of the Foyer Rurale we planned activities for the winter. It seems that I will be out every evening with keep fit, badminton and French country dancing. I have been asked to give English lessons one night. I also seem to have been appointed the secrétaire adjointe, which sounds very grand for someone posting leaflets through letterboxes. To complement this Chris has a website where he will post events and photos as the year goes on.
Oh, we missed out on something yesterday. At a vineyard not far away was one of those Spencer Tunick installations where hundreds of people posed nude for a mass photo amongst the vines. It was in conjunction with Greenpeace to highlight the danger to the vineyards from climate change. Luckily for them it was a nice warm day!