Our Life in Burgundy

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The Blog: Our life in Burgundy

November 15, 2015

The Indian Summer continues

Filed under: Events,People,Places,Weather — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 21:46

We are making the most of the lovely November sunshine by getting out and about. Chris, guiding our Sunday morning walk, took us across to Lamartine country.

Our walking group in Milly-Lamartine

We started at the Domain Chardon and went up through Milly-Lamartine, posing for a photo outside Lamartine’s childhood home. Every day the young Lamartine would go over the hill of Monsard to reach Bussières where he had lessons with the village priest, Abbé Dumont. We followed in his footsteps up the steep rocky path hemmed in by box and sloe.


A narrow path round Monsard

It was hard going and rather slippery but we reached the Grotte de Jocelyn, a cave that was the inspiration for Lamartine’s epic poem of 1836.  The poem tells of Jocelyn, a novice priest, fleeing from religious persecution and taking refuge in the cave, and his subsequent tragic love affair with Laurence.


View over the vineyards of Pierreclos


The 360° views at the top were well worth the climb, and the descent easy.


At the table d’orientation


This afternoon we went to the Equivallée to see the first of three fortnightly show jumping events for pony clubs and amateurs. It was very relaxed, a good opportunity for novice horses and riders to gain valuable experience. Lots of clear rounds but also plenty of fences down and refusals.


A clear round!

Lets hope that winter is kept at bay for as long as possible and we will enjoy more of this lovely autumn sunshine.


April 5, 2015

In the footsteps of Lamartine

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 21:08

Alphonse de Lamartine was France’s first and most famous Romantic poet. (See the blog from September 23rd 2011). The countryside between Cluny and Mâcon is dubbed the Val Lamartien as it is the area he loved. He was brought up in Milly-Lamartine and lived in chateaux at St Point, Berzé and Pierreclos.

This afternoon it was good to get out for a walk and let the brisk northerly wind blow away the cobwebs. A twenty minute drive brought us to the start of the walk. It was to be short, only 6km, which happened to be quite enough with its tough ‘two-stick’ climb up Montsard.

We began on the voie verte near La Roche Vineuse, passing the adventure park and turning left into Milly-Lamartine. On the main street we passed Lamartine’s childhood home.

Lamartine’s childhood home at Milly-Lamartine - photo from a previous visit


A left turn at the top led us out to the vineyards and up Montsard, a hill with a fortified camp from Gallo-Roman times. Lamartine used to walk this route every day when he went to have lessons with Abbé Dumont over in Bussières. It’s a steep narrow rocky path between high hedges of box.

On the way we followed a deviation to visit the Grotte de Jocelyn. This is the cave that inspired Lamartine’s 1836 epic poem. Without a torch we did not venture far inside.


The entrance to the Grotte de Jocelyn

‘Jocelyn’ is a poem of 10,000 verses which is full of anguish and sentiment. It is about a young man, Jocelyn, whose character was based on Abbé Dumont. Although he had no calling he went to train for the priesthood in order to provide his sister with a dowry. He fled the seminary due to anti-clerical hysteria and took refuge in a cave in the hills. There a dying refugee asked him to care for his son, Laurence. The two fugatives developed a close attachment and, when the boy was injured, Jocelyn discovered that Laurence was a girl. The two fell in love in a chaste sort of way. Unfortunately Jocelyn was summoned by the Bishop of Grenoble who was about to be executed. Jocelyn had to be quickly ordained so he could hear the bishop’s last confession. Heartbroken, Jocelyn returned to become the village priest and never saw Laurence again until the day she came back to the village where he found her dying in the street.

Lamartine tells the tale much better than I, but then I don’t need 300 pages.

At the top of the hill is a table d’orientation with a splendid 360° view. To the south are the hills of Beaujolais and the distinctive outlines of Solutré and Vergisson.


The descent is easy, past the TV tower and the prairies (a protected area of grassland), passing under the TGV line by La Roche Vineuse to rejoin the voie verte.

It’s an excellent walk if you like good views but be warned, it is quite a tricky ascent. Lamartine must have been very fit to walk that path over Montsard every day.

September 23, 2011

The Sufferings of Lamartine

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:27


Objets inanimés, avez vous donc une âme qui s’attache à notre âme et la force d’ aimer ?  - Milly ou la terre natale 1826

Lamartine was the first of the romantic poets. In many ways his life and work mirrors that of Wordsworth, born 20 years later, who was the first of the English romantic poets. His work is studied by most schoolchildren in France.

He was not only a poet but he became one of the most well known politicians in Europe. He was instrumental in abolishing slavery and the death penalty, and encouraged the working class revolution by promoting the right to work.  He set up and declared the 2nd Republic. However as a political idealist he was unpopular with the bourgeoisie and his support rapidly waned.  Bonaparte, later Napoleon III, trounced him and replaced Lamartine as President in 1848. Lamartine retired a broken man and devoted himself to writing in a hopeless effort to pay off his debts.

Lamartine lived for most of his life in the area between Cluny and Mâcon. To understand more about him  we have visited most of the places on the Lamartine Trail, namely the chateaux at St Point, Berzé and Pierreclos. And the house in Mâcon where he was born which is now the Lamartine museum.

Lamartine's house at Milly

Lamartine's house at Milly

We have gradually pieced together some notion of his work and significance. But none of these other places gave us as much insight into Lamartine’s life as the house where he spent his youth at Milly-Lamartine. We were shown round by M. Sornay who is a descendant of the family that acquired the house in 1861.

Owner of the house M. Sornay

Owner of the house M. Sornay

This house is the keystone to Lamartine’s life. It had been built in 1705 by his great grandfather and it was surrounded by extensive vineyards. The family moved there when Lamartine was just four years old. Lamartine’s mother was devoutly Catholic and she doted on him, an only son with five younger sisters.

Lamartine wrote “There is a woman at the beginning of all great things.

She was a stickler for accuracy and when she read ‘La Vigne et la Maison’ she saw that Lamartine had described the house as being covered with ivy. As it wasn’t she promply planted ivy to save him from any criticism. She used to walk through the garden reading her breviary and Lamartine acquired from her his love of nature.

Lamartine led a tortured life. He struggled with religion. Although he was strongly influenced by the Catholicism of his mother and his Jesuit teachers he turned to Pantheism, the belief that God is not a personality but is manifested in Nature. “God is everything and everything is God”.

Lamartine’s story is one of obsession, despair and loss. To my mind he was overly attached to his childhood home and his mother. His mother died in an accident in 1929 and he became obsessed with keeping her memory alive.

St Point where Lamartine lived when he married

He had several unhappy love affairs. He wrote endlessly of his obsession for Antoniella, a peasant girl, who became ‘Graziella’ in his poems. In 1816 he fell in love with Julie Charles at a sanatorium in Aix-les-Bains. He had arranged to meet her a year later  by the lake but she was not there and he was devastated when he found she had died. He wrote of his yearning for her in  ‘Le Lac’, probably the most famous of all his poems.

By 1820 success with his poetry enabled him to marry Mary Birch, an English woman related to the Churchill family. But life was a series of tragedies as he lost a son in infancy and in 1832 his daughter died at the age of ten during a trip abroad. He and Mary seem to have remained close despite their later poverty and Lamartine’s continuing anguish about earlier relationships which he expressed in his poems.

Lamartine inherited the house in 1830 and he felt guilty because he was the only male heir and all the family property went to him. So he spent his life supporting the five sisters, so much so that he was driven into debt and was forced to sell the house in 1860. This broke his heart and it was  downhill from then. His wife died of a painful illness in 1863. Lamartine suffered some sort of attack and lay semi-conscious for more than a year before his death in 1869. He ended his life forgotten and in poverty.

Cormatin chateau

Cormatin chateau

There is a connection with Cormatin as Lamartine was a regular visitor to the Chateau as he used to visit the daughter of the owner. Later, when she married, he became good friends with her husband and he continued to visit them both.

September 17, 2011

Journées du Patrimoine 2011

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 17:02

There is a great enthusiasm here for the Journées du Patrimoine. This year sees the 28th year of the Heritage weekends. The scheme was started in 1984 by the French Ministry of Culture to ‘ensure the most important possible audience to our cultural heritage’. It has now extended to most countries in Europe.

The theme for 2011 is to highlight the influence of architects and artisans from neighbouring countries who influenced the construction and decoration of emblematic sites. For example the frescos which once decorated Cluny Abbey, like those still to be seen at Berzé-le-Chapelle, were painted in a Byzantine style by the many Italian artists employed at that time.

Part of a fresco at Berzé-le-Chapelle

Part of a fresco at Berzé-le-Chapelle

A network of labelled sites has since been instigated in an effort to protect France’s cultural heritage. One of the first three European Heritage plaques was presented to Cluny Abbey in 2007, along with the Pope’s palace in Avignon and Robert Schuman’s house in Lorraine.

Many of the places open to the public this weekend are private homes and sites not normally accessible, for example the childhood home of Lamartine at Milly-Lamartine. Others places which normally charge are free to the public. This morning we visited the museum in Cluny and the Abbey. We have been to both several times before but we appreciate them more with knowing more about Cluny and its history. We never tire of watching the 3D film representing Cluny Abbey as it was in the 13th century.

Cluny Abbey

Cluny Abbey

We met some neighbours this morning in Cluny who said they visited a different town every year. Tomorrow they are going to the Abbey at Paray-le-Monial. We will not go so far for our outing for tomorrow afternoon, perhaps to the walnut oil factory in Charnay-les-Macon, then to the Chateau d’Aine near Azé. Tomorrow is also the Journée du Cheval so it’s open day at the stables, and there’s a pony club competition in Cluny……. On verra.

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