Our Life in Burgundy

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May 16, 2017

Walking the Ban Sacré

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 17:29

Members of the local heritage society have recently been engaged in marking out the ban sacré, a circular route drawn around Cluny in 1095. At that time the third stage of the building of Cluny Abbey was well advanced and the rapidly increasing numbers of monks found themselves in need of protection from attack and robbery.  Hugues de Semur, the Abbot under Pope Urbain II, decreed that within the confines of the ban sacré nobody could carry arms. The penalty was excommunication from the church, a serious punishment in those days. The ban sacré followed existing paths, waymarked with stones carved with the sign of the crossed keys and the arms of the Abbey.

Last October a group of 20 under the guidance of Raymond, the leader of Cortambert, notre Patrimoine, spent two days walking the 46km trail. They started at Donzy and passed through Berzé-le-Châtel, Le Bois Clair and Sainte-Cécile, to spend the night at the Domaine Saint-Laurent at Château. Next day they continued to Croix Micaud, Lournand and finished in Varanges.

There was a little bit of the ban sacré left to do, from Varanges to Donzy, and yesterday we joined the group to complete it.  It was lovely weather and here’s a few photos of the afternoon.

Raymond (right) demonstrates how the divining rods can help find buried stone waymarkers

We paused at Notre Dame des Roches, erected just after the war by Cortambert, Donzy and Blanot to give thanks for being spared the bombing. Cluny was bombed in June 1944.

The view back to the Grosne valley was well worth the climb

There are lots of lovely walking trails around here, and thanks to Raymond and the members of Cortambert, notre Patrimoine, we can now follow the ban sacré around Cluny.


May 7, 2017

Chansons Québécoise

The highlight of a rather dreary weekend of rain was the concert last night given by Richard Trépanier, a singer-songwriter from Quebec. It was organised by the Amis du Collectif, the group of neighbouring foyer ruraux, and the Bourgogne Québec Association with Georges Pierre its president.

Richard Trépanier’s own songs included ’Le Cri de la Terre’ which became the anthem for the Fondation Québécoise en Environement. But he also has a vast repertoire of songs, including French, British and American favourites. What impressed me most was Richard’s engaging personality. Before the concert he chatted with people as they assembled in the hall and, remembering the faces and names and snippets of information, he conversed with the audience between songs and created a wonderful rapport. Everybody joined in the French songs of the 60s, even I knew  Joe Dassin’s Les Champs-Elysées. Chris commented that all these years listening to Nostalgia on the radio had not been in vain. Luckily half of the Cant’Azé choir were there to drown us out.


Pascale and Georges join in with Richard

Afterwards, in true Burgundy style, we sat down to a meal together. Our end of the table enjoyed a bit of nostalgia of their own, discovering family friends and grandparents in common and describing life in Varanges when they were young. We’ve been intrigued lately by how many of the people here are related. Not surprising really as even though people may go away to Paris or Lyon to work they are likely to inherit the family house and retire here. Being a close knit community parcels of land and houses belong to branches of the same family so most of our neighbours are related in some way. It must have been a busy place at one time as the farm at Varanges employed about a hundred workers who all lived locally. There was even a cafe. Everybody agrees that now, without the pigfarm, the air these days is a great deal sweeter.


February 21, 2016

Neighbours…..everybody needs good neighbours….

Filed under: Places,Village Life,Weather — Tags: , , — Mary @ 20:26

You can tell what Australian soap I watch every afternoon!

But it’s true. We have been helped immensely since our arrival here by our neighbours. Chris massacred a weeping willow recently and the garden was full of spindly branches and long fronds. Our kind neighbour Georges volunteered his tractor and trailer and with three trips to the village déchetterie the job was done.

Chris and Georges off to the tip

This morning it was warm and sunny, just like spring, and we enjoyed a fine walk from the lavoir in Varanges up to the Faitral and through the woods before descending into Cortambert. Considering this local walk was nothing new for many of us, we were surprised by the huge turnout of our neighbours with their visiting families.

Our lovely neighbours and their families…

The youngest member of our group today was baby Sartori, only one year old. It’s best to start them young! We also enjoyed the company of Annie & Christian, all the way from Macon. We must be famous.

……plus baby and two little dogs

Thanks to all who made this morning so enjoyable. The next walk will be on 20th of March. Chris will send out information nearer the time.

January 16, 2016

Le Four à Chaux

Filed under: Places,Village Life — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 20:08

We’ve recently been given street names. We’ve always been just lieu-dit Varanges. No problem for the postlady who knows everyone but it’s difficult for delivery men with white goods or building supplies. We are to be the rue du Four à Chaux as our road leads up past the ancient lime kiln.

The lime kiln – before

Lime was used by farmers to improve the soil, It was made by heating up small pieces of limestone to a high temperature for a couple of days. Being at the edge of the forest it is likely that bundles of twigs were used to heat the kiln. The lime was then raked out into an adjacent pit.

Possible structure of the ancient lime kiln


This afternoon with our local heritage society, Cortambert, notre Patrimoine , we went up to the lime kiln to do a bit of excavating.


Our team today – Raymond, Chris, Claire, Marianne, Sophie and Pascale

There was not a lot to see to begin with, just a little space under an arch of stones. But Raymond, using divining rods, worked out where the walls of the kiln were, and the location of the walls of a pit next to it.



After a couple of hours we had made good progress clearing out dead wood and brambles, and digging down to the floor of the kiln.


Hard at work!

Winter is a good time for clearing undergrowth and we will look forward to another session of digging soon. Any volunteers will be most welcome.

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