Having been threatened with the removal of the blog unless I write something soon here’s a little about what’s changed lately.
Not the weather, that’s for sure. It’s still cold and wintry although the daffodils in the garden are putting in a brave appearance. We’ve had snow on and off this week but it hasn’t settled.
View from our back door yesterday
In Cluny we have a new carpark. As an election pledge the mayor, Henri Boniau (as in the ad for dog biscuits featuring the bloodhound?), promised to make Cluny more attractive for tourists.
Mr Boniau (R) and deputy in the new carpark (photo jsl)
Built on the site of the old perfectly adequate carpark it certainly is very pretty with 1000 shrubs planted between the rows. It cost 570,000 euros for 175 places. Until November it remained pretty well empty, the barriers and the complicated payment system scaring visitors off. Stories abounded that if you had a foreign number plate the system would not be able to read it and would not let you out! The students moved out to take over the free parking round the haras. It was only when a big sign went up saying it was 3 hours free and you could escape without using the scary payment kiosk that the numbers of cars parked there went into double figures. No doubt the tourists will be impressed but to me it’s a white elephant. Hopefully funds will be available for gardening as it is already looking neglected.
Meanwhile M. Boniau continues dragging us into the 21st century. Yesterday there was a ceremony in the carpark to inaugurate the first electric car recharging point in Cluny.
How many officials does it take to plug in a car?
Another change that is not for the better is the plan to reduce the speed limit from 90 to 80km/hr on departmental roads that are not dual carriageways. It is due to be rolled out this summer. Most people think it is just a way of raising extra money from fines. Thousands of motorists and bikers have been protesting on the roads, either by going slowly or blocking routes through towns. The biggest protest yet against the change took place last weekend in Paris by motorist opposition group, Fédération Française des Motards en Colère.
The protesting bikers last weekend
Reducing the speed limit is supposed to save lives, France having twice as many deaths on the roads as the UK. But it is quite difficult to keep a modern car cruising comfortably at 80km/hr, and goodness knows there is enough frustration now when someone in front is driving below 90 and you can’t get past. The way to make the roads less dangerous is to get rid of the priority to the right. A lot of junctions round here have been newly reorganised with give way or stop signs, but you still have to be wary of small sideroads where some old local is likely to come sailing out in front of you without even looking. As do Dutch people on bicycles. But that’s another topic….
Last night, despite the cold weather, there was a good turnout of families to see this year’s lights in Cluny. Thankfully the events were not so drawn out nor so weird as usual. The Ombres Blanches, four ladies on stilts in beautiful floaty costumes led the procession through the town to the market place.
One of the shop fronts on the main street
In front of the Abbey we gathered to watch a lively performance of fire dancing and pyrotechnics with Lughna by Cie l’Arche en sel.
Don’t try this at home
After another wander round town we returned to find the Abbey open, and the four ombres blanches were leading a procession round the cloisters. Following behind was the semeur d’étoiles, alias Gérard Thélier, our resident historian.
The ombres blanches in the Abbey
Le semeur d’étoiles
It was nice to see the children so enthralled. The evening was cut short as the horse spectacular was cancelled. Just as well as the snow had begun to fall and it was nice to get home to a warm fire.
It’s been a weekend très chargé. Saturday was the day of the Foire de Saint-Martin. It’s a huge event with stalls filling the centre of Cluny in addition to the normal Saturday morning market. The livestock events took place on the Champ de Foire. As well as the judging, this year there was a show of equine ability with the horses from the Haras. The St Martin’s Fair is a tradition that is fading away in parts of France but in Cluny it seems to be getting bigger and bigger.
The horse fair
The horses brushed and plaited
and different breeds of sheep
Later in Cortambert there was a really good concert hosted by the Québec-Bourgogne Society. A group from Quebec, FolkloFolie, had been booked originally but the weather in Quebec has caused major flooding and the group were unable to leave Quebec on Tuesday as planned. So a more local duo, Emilio Armillès and Salvatore Gréco, appeared instead. Their show ‘Chansons de Toujours’ was a mixture of our favourite old French songs, some Quebec songs and some wonderful instrumentals on the guitar. All peppered with a touch of Naples and Spain, denoting the origins of Emilio and Salvatore.
Emilio Armillès (left) and Salvatore Gréco
This weekend there has also been a huge vide grenier in Cluny, filling the Griottons, the Boulodrome and the parking for the campsite. Bargains everywhere…
Lots of useful stuff outside…
and treasures in the Boulodrome
The weather is changing this weekend. It’s much chillier than the recent warm sunny days we have been used to. We’re enjoying a hectic few weeks before the quiet days of winter.
It was a busy weekend for us. Not only had we offered to help make apple juice at the Fête de la Pomme but we took part in the Country Dreams line dancing demonstrations on Saturday afternoon.
The Fête de la Pomme is a big annual event at the Griottons in Cluny. There are lots of craft and artisan stalls, a hundred types of honey, fancy gourds and pumpkins. And people busy peeling apples. It is amazing all the things you can do with apples! The apple juice, apple tarts and apple fritters were sold as quickly as they could be produced. The boudin (served with cooked apple) was sold out by Sunday afternoon.
Pressing apples for the fresh juice
Pressing for the pasturised juice..
which had to be heated before bottling
We were selling the juice as quickly as we could make it
Time for the line dancing. Christiane our teacher is leading at the front
Four performances with Country Dreams in the afternoon
A welcome glass of cider afterwards provided by Francis, the president of the Forêt Fruitière (the rearmost of the three men)
And some fooling around with the ponies
Sunday’s entertainment was Polish dancing with Polonia St Vallier
Very lively dancing
and lovely costumes
The Forêt Fruitière needs a huge number of volunteers to make the event a success and we hope we have done a little bit towards it. Meanwhile I’ll never look at an apple again!