Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

June 24, 2014

Patrick Ballériaud

Filed under: People — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 17:11


Patrick is the artist who asked around and came up with a photo of René Laheurte, the last parish priest of Cormatin who lived at La Maison du Curé. The portrait he drew is hanging in the entrance hall. He also produced the pen and ink scenes of Chazelle, Taizé and Cormatin which hang in the sitting room. This one of La Maison du Curé was a special commission.

After many years away in Narbonne, Patrick came back to the family farm in Chazelle where he is establishing himself as a very proficient artist and teacher. At the Saturday morning market in Cluny you will find him drawing live portraits in 20 minutes. Some of his work can be seen on his facebook page  

Patrick and Silvyanne

Patrick’s partner Silvyanne is also an artist and sculptor. Under the name of Créa Sil she decorates pottery and makes figures from wire which remind me a little of the work of Johé Gourmand.  See some of her work here.

Patrick has also proved himself skilled at renovation and has converted the upstairs of an old barn at the farm into a studio for himself and Silvyanne. On Saturday he invited us to the vernissage where we could admire his work, both structural and artistic, and sample some of his own delicious and very alcoholic ‘champagne’.

The new studio - photo by Patrick

Patrick runs painting courses and the next one will be 4th – 7th August. Much of the time his group will work outside drawing and painting local scenes. You never know, I might be with them. Move over Cézanne!

You might also meet Patrick and Silvyanne in Cormatin on a Sunday afternoon.

April 21, 2014

The Voie Verte –Chalon to Mâcon by bike

Filed under: Places — Tags: , , , , , — Mary @ 10:48


In this part of France we enjoy some excellent cycling thanks to the efforts of the Conseil Régional to link old railway tracks and canal towpaths to make an almost seamless cycle track which runs for 800 km around Burgundy.

The cycle track round Burgundy


Our part of this grand scheme is the 70km voie verte that runs from Chalon to Mâcon. The old railway has been tarmacked to make a smooth and fairly flat track. Former railway stations provide tourist information, bicycle hire and places to stop for a picnic.

Our section of voie verte running from Chalon to Mâcon

Mile after mile of easy cycling would be rather monotonous except for the boucles, little signposted tours off the voie verte, which direct you round nearby villages, chateaux and points of interest.

From La Maison du Curé in Cormatin we often cycled south to Cluny or north to Buxy. But recently we thought it would be good to cover all of the voie verte. This we did in several sections, driving to a different starting point each time. I liked to park at the northern end as it is easier to start off downhill!

You start off in the outskirts of Chalon in the vineyards of Côte Chalonnaise, an area famous for its AOC wines. The first port of call is Givry, an enclosed town with two round towers. Its town hall is housed inside a monumental gatehouse dated 1771 which looks a bit like the Arc de Triomph. The pinot noirs of Givry were the favourite wines of Henry IV (reigned 1589-1610).

The gate leading to the mairie at Givry

I would say that this part of the voie verte is the prettiest, lined with banks of irises and bluebells when we were there in early April. We had a detour to look at this medieval church, now incorporated into a farm.

Medieval chapel near Givry

Next comes Buxy which is worth visiting for its interesting wine cellar housed in a tower.

The cave at Buxy

This co-operative also has a cave in St Gengoux. Visitors are welcome to taste the wines but remember you have to get back on that bike.


Chris by the station in Buxy

Saint Gengoux is fascinating with its 12th century church and winding medieval streets. After Saint Gengoux you go to Cormatin, passing round the back of the Chateau.

The station at Cormatin - how it used to be

You skirt the hill at Taizé before arriving at Cluny station. Cluny marks the end of the really easy cycling. It’s a bit steep getting down to the Bois Clair tunnel but easier than going over the top of the hill which you have to do in winter when the tunnel is shut to let the bats hibernate.  The tunnel is 1,600m long, the longest voie verte tunnel in Europe. That pinpoint of light in the distance never seems to get nearer however long you pedal.



You emerge from the tunnel to see the fairytale castle of Berzé-le-Châtel on your left. You are in the Lamartine valley where you can take a boucle to visit Milly, Saint Point and Pierreclos, chateaux of the famous poet Lamartine. Cycling on towards the Saône you can’t fail to be impressed by views of the Roche de Vergisson and the famous Roche de Solutré.

Mâconnais vineyards with Vergisson and Solutré

You are in the Mâconnais wine country passing La Roche Vineuse and Prissé.

The end of the railway track is at Charnay-les-Mâcon which is renowned for its production of appellation Macon-Villages and Crémant de Bourgogne. As with Givry, its wines appealed to royalty as in the 1660s they became the favourite of Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715) .

So if you like cycling, or wine,  you would enjoy a holiday at La Maison du Curé in Cormatin, with easy access to the mid point of the voie verte. You get to know the area so much better if you go by bike.




February 23, 2014

The First Signs of Spring

Filed under: Events,Village Life,Weather — Tags: , , — Mary @ 20:06


We know that spring has arrived when we begin to see Dutch campervans on the road and tourists arriving in Cormatin. And families of cyclists on the voie verte. It has been a lovely day today with lots of people out making the most of the sunshine.


We set off on our walk. A bit muddy to start with but not for long

Ready to set off on our walk.

This morning Chris guided our walking group on a little randonnée, an 8 km ramble around Blanot passing through Fougnières and Vivier. It was easy walking, though muddy underfoot to start with. We kept stopping to admire the views which were lovely in the sunshine.


We take a break at the lavoir at Vivier

We take a break at the lavoir at Vivier

The better weather has also spurred us into doing all the winter jobs at La Maison du Curé. While Chris has been tackling the repairs I’ve been madly repainting, doing as much as I can before my departure to Glasgow on Tuesday. Chris will stay here to look after our three cats and the gite guests who arrive in March.


La Maison du Curé, all ready for visitors to Cormatin

La Maison du Curé, all ready for visitors to Cormatin

I’ll be in Bonnie Glasgow for a couple of weeks looking after our grandchildren while their mother works. The forecast is wet and windy for Scotland so I will look forward to the sunshine in Cormatin when I come back in March.

My charges for the next two weeks. Jo, Maggie and Meg the dog

My charges for the next two weeks. Jo, Maggie and Meg the dog

October 13, 2011

The Last Curé of Cormatin

Filed under: People,Places,Village Life — Tags: , , — Mary @ 22:59

These days Cormatin does not have a priest of its own but one who rotates around four or five villages and visits about once a month to take Mass.

The Church at Cormatin

The Church at Cormatin

The last parish priest of Cormatin lived at La Maison du Curé until the 1990s when he retired. Until recently we knew very little about him except that he liked to sit by the front door and greet the passers-by. Over the years the house fell into disrepair and after the Curé retired it was left derelict. In 1996 a group of church people from Plymouth renovated it to provide a comfortable base for themselves and their friends to visit Taizé.

This September our friends from Holland, Rob and Deirdre, arrived to stay at La Maison du Curé.  They were curious to find out about the priest and did some research. They began by talking to the Maire and his staff who were most helpful. The neighbours too. M.Bacherot, the retired farmer who lives opposite, remembers the priest as being a charming man.

The priest was called René Laheurte and he was born in 1910. He was called up in 1940 but returned to France in 1944. He was in Cormatin until his retirement at the beginning of the 1990s, then went to live in Corsica where he died in 1993. His body was repatriated and he was interred in the cemetary at Ougy, near Malay, about 5km from Cormatin.

The grave of René Laheurte

The gravestone of René Laheurte

The grave

In the cemetary in Ougy

Rob and Deirdre went to find the grave. It is in the cemetary of the Church of Saint-Martin d’Ougy which was built in the 12th century. In size and structure it is very like the church at Ameugny which was built at the same time.

The Church of Saint-Martin at Ougy

The Church of Saint-Martin at Ougy

Saint-Martin is remarkable as it hasn’t been altered since the day it was completed. There is a fresco of St Philip painted when the church was new.

The interior of the church

The interior of the church

This is a church quite close to home that we previously knew nothing about. I am very grateful to Rob and Deirdre who told us about the church of Saint-Martin and about our Curé.  Thank you Rob for sending the photos.

Many of our visitors remark that there is a sense of peace, calm and warmth in the house. I suspect we are feeling the spiritual legacy of our old Curé.

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