Saturday 8 December 2018

European Heritage Days

JdP 2018, Musée d'Ochier Cluny
The third weekend in September is in France reserved for the Journées du Patrimoine, comparable to the British National Heritage Days. Many monuments and museums are opening their doors either free of charge or with a discount. Often people who are living in a monument open their habitat to the people at a modest entrance fee.

Trésor de Cluny
Certainly when we first lived here this was an opportunity to see interesting buildings or museums for a very reasonable price. But, as with many things, there comes a time when you've seen it all.

However, in September 2017 archeologists found, whilst digging on the abbey grounds, a treasure consisting of golden and silver coins minted in the early 12th century, and a signet ring from the same period.

Signet ring (photo Journal de Saône-et-Loire)
For these Journées du Patrimoine the trésor de Cluny was brought back to the town where it was unearthed. It was on display in the Musée Ochier in Cluny. The public interest was so big that (something that never happens at this museum) people were quieting up to enter. So instead of visiting the abbey for the umpteenth time, I decided to join the queue, like a good Brit would have done.

Trésor de Cluny

Saturday 24 November 2018

A new second-hand shop

The old shop of Mme Nicolas
for a long time now we have had a weekly lunch at La Petite Auberge, a simple but good restaurant in Cluny's high street. The restaurant is located next to a second-hand bookshop, Livres Anciens run by Mme Nicole Nicolas. Even though we only ever bought one small book in her shop, we got to know her.

Mme Nicolas in 2012 (photo Journal de Saône-et-loire)
She often ate at La Petite Auberge, and Bugundians being friendly and polite people, we were soon on "Bonjour" terms with her. End of April however we noticed that the shop window had been emptied, and a week later there was a little card on the door saying that Mme Nicolas had passed away. From the owner of La Petite Auberge we learned that Mme Nicolas had died after a very short illness.

the shop of Amaury Bonnetain
Until August this year the empty shop was a painful reminder that nothing in life is eternal. In August however a new card appeared in the shop window. A certain M. Amaury Bonnetain was going to reopen the shop in October, again as a second-hand bookshop. In October the shop window had al of a sudden some books in it, one of which was a standard work on Romanesque churches in the region.

Book on Romanesque churches
One of my friends was interested in that particular book. After some phone calls and an inspection of the book itself the deal was made very quickly. The new owner happened to be a very amiable person, and we have left him in charge of some book titles of books that are new no longer available.

Saturday 10 November 2018

The Arab market in Chalon-sur-Saône

The Arab market - Chalon

Every Thursday morning Chalon-sur-Saône hosts a very cosy and busy market, known by the locals as the Arab market. The market is located in a quarter where the population is originally from North-African or Arabic descent. That is also the reason why the market is more colourful and aromatic (due to the many different sorts of ground spices) than the average "normal" markets with predominantly French buyers and sellers.

The Arab market - Chalon
When some years back French politicians started to compete each other by imitating Marine Le Pen in an attempt to cajole part of her voters out of her supporters, Mayor Gilles Platret was one of the politicians of Les Républicains (the right wing party of a.o. Sarkozy) who announced taking "measures". One of his spearheads was stopping providing halal meals for school lunches.

The Arab market - Chalon
That is still challenged by the supporters of halal food, and every so often Platret is summoned again for another appeal case concerning this item (end October a court of appeal in Lyon decided that Platret's decision had te be withdrawn). More recently he ordered the police to do street checks around the Arab market, no doubt in search of potential terrorists. These actions however were not very successful. If they had caught only one person Platret would have made a big show out of it.

The Arab market - Chalon
However, after the police checks in the area we thought that that might have had a negative effect on the market, but that turned out not to have been the case.
Recently we went there again, not necessarily to buy something (although we did), but just to taste the atmosphere. The market is still what it used to be: a cosy day market, where lots of colourful clothing is sold, where people are friendly, where the vegetable stalls sell more exotic stuff than the supermarkets, and where there is a constant smell of freshly ground spices and herbs, which we recognise from markets in the Middle-East and Asia.

The Arab market - Chalon

Saturday 27 October 2018

Réserve Naturelle de la Truchère- Ratenelle

La Truchère - the lake
Our photo club in Cluny came with a proposal to organise an outing to La Truchère. La Truchère? Yes, La Truchère. We had no idea what on earth was interesting about this village, so we decided to look it up in Wikipedia and Google Maps. La Truchère appeared to be a small village on the East bank of the Saône near Tournus, there where another (small) river, the Seile flows into the Saône.

La Truchère -swan
The only other things La Truchère has on offer are a church built in 1830 and a tiny little mooring place for small pleasure boats, neither of them very photogenic. We had no idea why the club had chosen this place for an outing.
Upon inquiry we were told that, smack in the middle between two villages, there was a Nature reserve called Réserve Nature de La Truchère-Ratenelle, where one part with sand dunes, marshland and peat district is in la Truchère, the other, with a lake, marshland and peat district, is in Ratenelle.

La Truchère -swan
The area is known to be home to some interesting birds, among others the purple heron.
We should have known better, and not go to this bird reserve completely unprepared. We have not the foggiest when birds are breeding or when they migrate, etc., and apart from that we have not got a zoom lens sufficiently strong to shoot some nice pictures.

La Truchère -swan
The chances that we would return with some spectacular bird pictures was in any case nil. An extra drawback was, that due to the extremely long and dry summer the water table was also extremely low. This of course did not add to the picturesqueness of the place.
Irrespective of this I managed to shoot some acceptable pictures, albeit not of exotic birds, but of everyday swans, and who knows, maybe we will have more luck next time….

La Truchère -swan

Saturday 13 October 2018

Steaming Southwards

Arrival Chalon-sur-Saône
Last year we made a long trip, from Le Creusot to Mulhouse (in the Alsace) on board a train pulled by a beautiful steam locomotive, the 241P17. This was one of the last operating express train locomotives in France, and there are only a few of those left. The three first digits of the train number indicate the number of axles: 2 leading truck axles, 4 driving axles and 1 trailing truck axles. In England, where they indicate the number of wheels, this would be called a 4-8-2 locomotive.

The home base of the train is Le Creusot, also the place where the locomotive once was built (1950) by the Schneider Company. She was operating until the end of the sixties.
An enthusiastic group of steam maniacs have revived this locomotive and keeps her going. Every year there are outings from Le Creusot to a.o. the Alsace, the Loire region, Lyon, Aix-les-Bains, Switzerland, etc. It is obvious that there is a price tag attached to these trips, however a "real" trip with a steam train is quite different from a 1 mile trip on a specially installed or restored short rail track.

After last year's trip to the National Railway Museum in Mulhouse, where we had a dinner in the museum amidst historical locomotives, we decided to keep an eye on next year's program for a revival.

Between Vienne and Valence
The first brochure that came in advertised, apart from the "standard" trips, a three-days outing to Marseille, where the second day was reserved for a trip along the coast line. That sounded promising, hence we started to make inquiries. Last year we had reserved places in a 6 person first class compartment, and that worked this year as well. This year it looked like we could occupy all 6 seats, because some French friends would like to join as well.

Steam on the left bank, nuclear energy on the right bank (Cruas)
The website however did not give sufficient details, hence we decided to phone the organisers. In the meantime their plans had changed: the trip was one week later than the original one, and the trip went to Avignon instead of Marseille. For the second day one could choose between a river cruise on the Rhône at Avignon, a trip on our train to Arles where one could stay for the day, or from where one could continue to the Miramas Train Festival. We found neither the river cruise nor the Miramas Train Festival very appealing, hence we went for a day in Arles. Our French friends could not join us, because they were free during the original weekend, but they had other obligations the weekend after. Their place was taken by some Dutch friends of our friends, so we still had the compartment to ourselves.

Old next to new in Avignon
There appeared to be another bottleneck when we heard that the trip before ours had to be cancelled because of engine problems. Fortunately these were solved in time, hence our trip was still on the rails.
Two days before departure we received a phone call informing us that the departure times had been changed to one hour earlier than planned. However, since we had decided to board the train in Chalon-sur-Saône, this change did not affect us much. Instead of driving at the crack of dawn to Le Creusot (a good one and a half hours drive) to catch the 6h24 train, we drove at still a comfortable time to Chalon, to catch the 9h35 train.

The trip was wonderful. We had indeed our own compartment, we had ordered some sort of airplane lunch both ways, the weather was like in summer, hence we drove with open windows, fully enjoying the steam train noises and smells, the soot particles threatening one's eyes, the musical interludes the driver managed to get out of the steam whistle…. In a word, this was going to be a super trip.

Arrival Arles
There were only a few minor drawbacks: the whole track was more or less straight, and for nice photographs of a steam locomotive in her full glory one needs long bends. And the amount of spectators along the track was disappointing. Last year, in Vesoul, where the train took in water, half the population was at the station to wave us goodbye. In Lyon, where we also had a long stop we were only gaped at by travellers to other destinations. However, this could have been to blame on the last minute change in the time table indicated on the website; when we left the website had not yet been updated (it has been now).

Musée Départemental Arles Antique
In Avignon we stayed in an Ibis Budget hotel, not luxurious but adequate, the evening dinner in Avignon was excellent, the day we spent in Arles (a place we know quite well) was very enjoyable, also due to the summer temperatures and a for us brand-new museum, the very interesting Musée Départemental Arles Antique.

Departure Arles
Even though the heavens opened the morning of our departure, we managed to reach the station in Avignon relatively dry. And the skies cleared during the trip north.
And that was the end of a nostalgic, long weekend. I am very curious to find out what trips are planned for 2019….

Saturday 29 September 2018

Exposition 2018 Photo Club Cluny

Setting-up the Expo 2018
Last year, while walking across Cluny's Saturday market, we noticed a poster near the Salle Malgouverne in the town centre announcing a picture exhibition of Photo Club Cluny. And since both of us are interested in photography we decided to walk in and see what the club had to offer.

Making the mats
The pictures on display were varied and interesting, we bumped into someone there whom we knew from another occasion, and we were invited to see what it was all about during the next biweekly meeting. When we arrived there a couple of weeks later, we found more people like us who had found the club through this exhibition.

In the concert hall
We received a short introduction in the activities the club had on offer: dedicated outings to cover a specific event, or a specific seasonal phenomena (autumn/mushrooms, Carnaval Vénitien in Annecy, playing with light ant lighting, a deer park, etc.), taking part in competitions of photo clubs in the department, access to a whole host of photography magazines, etc. It sounded interesting enough to give it a try for one year.

In the country
And soon the time has come: our club organises its yearly exhibition. We are now a group of 12, whilst there were 5 members when we joined. Not exactly a massive number, but nevertheless… Each member has to fill 3 exposition panels, covering 3 different subjects of max 6 pictures per subject.

Romanesque heritage
I am very curious to see what the rest of the group comes up with: my subjects are "In the concert hall", "In the country" and "Romanesque heritage". In this blog some of my chosen pictures.

And even the local newspaper had item on it! 

Saturday 15 September 2018


The church of Lancharre
The church Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption in Lancharre, or what is left of it, once was part of a priory. The original nave of this Romanesque church was demolished in the 17th century, and only the transept, apses, choir and the bell tower are still in existence.

Interior 2012
Even though the church was not open, but closed off with a wall and a door, and hence not directly exposed to the elements, the building was in bad shape. The walls were full of cracks, the plaster was here and there heavily damaged or absent, in a word, the church could do with a renovation. It is always difficult for a commune of this size (Chapaize, 150 inhabitants) to cough up the dough for a restauration.

Interior 2012
However, with a little help from some friends, in this case the State, the Province, the Community, generous gifts from private persons and the revenue of cultural events in the commune, there has been enough money raised over the last 20 years to fund a restauration. The church has been given new stained glass windows, cracks were repaired, plasterwork and decorations were patched up, in a word, the church obtained a facelift.

Interior 2018
September first was the big day: this part of the restauration was finished, and the church was re-opened to the public.
An inauguration is not complete without festivities: there were 2 bagpipe players and a hurdy-gurdy player, there was a lecture about the history of the church, the Dutch madrigal choir Roundelay gave a concert and at the end the mayor of Chapaize declared the church officially opened.

Interior 2018
We saw the interior of the building for the last time in 2012, and comparing the before and after pictures reveal what has been done.
Hence: I take my hat off for those who contributed to the metamorphosis of Lancharre's church!

Roundelay 2018
For those who are really interested in what the church looked and looks I have set up some picture albums:
Exterior of the church
Interior around 2012
The church in September 2018

Saturday 1 September 2018

The downfall of a pizzeria

A very thick pizza (from Dr. Oetker's website)
Once upon a time, whilst living in the Netherlands, I saw pizzas as huge circular thickly cut sandwiches, with a topping that was usually varying from tasteful to acceptable. Since I am not really a dough-liking sort of person a pizzeria did not rank very high on my list of favourite restaurants. Until one day, in the vicinity of Avignon in France I discovered that when pizzas are made wafer-thin they could be very nice indeed. This held for most of the pizzas I ate in France. When we settled down in this part of Burgundy we quickly found a pizzeria that ranked high on the list of making the thinnest pizzas in the world.

A reasonably thin pizza (from Koopmans' website)
And even though the restaurant recently changed hands and recipes, the quality of the pizza bottoms stayed as it was.
However, at the beginning of this year "Le Loup Garou" closed down for a number of months, and we had no idea what was coming in its place. A boutique? A drugstore? A restaurant offering local specialities? Recently we found out. A new restaurant opened its doors, under the same name with a similar menu: "Le Loup Garou" ("The Werewolf") had risen from the dead!

The old Loup Garou
After the restaurant had been going for a couple of days (never try a new restaurant on its opening day, we have found out) we decided whether the chef could match his predecessor. All signs were pointing that way. The old oven had not been replaced; the machine that produced thin pizza bottoms was still there, in a word, provided they would produce decent toppings as well there was not much that could go wrong. At least that is what I thought. The pizza bottoms turned out to be hand shaped, and unrealistically thick with a very thick edge as well, and what was worse, the edge was toppingless. On top of that the topping of my pizza saumon was not a shadow of what the original "Loup Garou" offered….

The new Loup Garou
Something that had never happened to me happened here. The bottom was so thick and tough, that I could not cut it with the provided knife. After 6 attempts of cutting it the waitress brought me another, sharper knife, which cut marginally better. When I finally had a mouthful of pizza I needed more wine then there was in my glass to work it down. The result: after half a pizza, of which I had removed a 5 cm wide edge, I could not eat anymore. Despite all this (we had paid for it!) we took the other half, without the edges, home. As far as I'm concerned I am waiting for still another owner, and in the meantime I will be roughing it with the other pizzerias in Cluny….

Saturday 18 August 2018

Musical balance

Duo Atlas - Chazelle Eglise Notre-Dame
Even though the beautiful weather still continues, the summer season, where it concerns festivals and concerts, is drawing to an end. Hence time to draw up the balance sheet!
We'll start off close to home: Guitares en Cormatinois in Chazelle's church. Unfortunately the three first concerts were given during the period of the World Cup Football, which drew even more attention of the population because France reached the Finals and won.

Paris Gadjo Club - Chazelle Eglise Notre-Dame
The number of visitors of the concerts reflected that; Irish Kind Of, Markus Held & Cie. and the Hair Brothers performed for a half empty church. Fortunately, the remaining two concerts filled the church almost to capacity. The Spanish/Dutch Duo Atlas played an excellent classical concert, and the Paris Gadjo Club played for a full house a mixture of Manouche jazz and Brazilian Choro, with the emphasis on Choro.

Roundelay - Chapaize Eglise Saint-Martin
From Chapaize Culture we had chosen what we thought were the best concerts: the Dutch madrigal choir Roundelay gave (as usual) an excellent performance, and the Irish Folk concert with the trio Rachel Goodwin, Hervé Dréan and Gilles Poutoux radiated an enormous amount of pleasure, which was not lost on the spectators.

Quatuor Modigliani - Cluny Eglise Saint-Marcel
For Les Grandes Heures de Cluny and the free Festival Off Les Petites Minutes de Cluny we had this year made a conscious choice. Last year we saw all concerts (7 + 7), which soon resulted in concert fatigue. Like last year, this year had for two weeks 3 consecutive concerts per week, and a separate concert a week later. We had chosen one concert per week, 3 concerts in total. And because we were looking at a Festival and a Festival Off, we nevertheless saw 6 concerts.

Trio Goldberg - Cluny Farinier des Moines
Highlights of this year was a series of string quartets by the Quatuor Modigliani and the free concert by Trio Goldberg with a.o. Bach's Goldberg Variations arranged for violin, viola and cello. Note however, that this does not mean that the other concerts were of inferior quality!

Saturday 4 August 2018


La Boulaye
The summer is an ideal time for tourist outings, and how can one better break a long ride in order to stop somewhere for a picnic. We often do that, just the two of us, but we do it also when we have family or friends over. The day starts with a fixed ritual: the car is loaded with camping tables and chairs, e tablecloth, sometimes a picnic blanket, the cool box is filled with drinks, sandwich fillings and salads, and then we are on the move to our first stop. However, stopping at the baker for a fresh baguette is also a must.

Throughout the years we have built up a nice collection of picnic spots. When we travel direction La Boulaye to visit the Temple of 1000 Buddhas, we often eat in the shadow of the church of Perrecy-les-Forges, which on its own is certainly also worth a visit.
On our way to the Brionnais for the cattle market in St-Christophe or for some beautiful Romanesque churches we often stop at the Butte de Suin or by the war memorial in Beauberry. Both locations are high up and offer beautiful views.

However, we are also quite happy to skip our favourites and trade them in for a spot along a canal, by a lake or a river, or somewhere in the middle of the vineyards. They may not offer wide views, but one can enjoy peace and quiet there.
Besides, the word "Picnic" has an added value as well: when my better half is not so keen to visit another church again, the "P"-word makes her eyes light up, and it certainly softens the blow of visiting churches.


Saturday 21 July 2018

Guests of honour

The church of St-Chistophe-en-Bresse
Somewhere in March 2016, when we returned from a short holiday in Paris, we found a message on the answering machine of a lady, a certain Mme Bouthier from Saint-Christophe-en-Bresse with a question whether we could provide her with some photographs. We phoned her back to find out what exactly she wanted, and she came up with the following story: on the internet site of Bourgogne Romane she had found some pictures of the church in St-Christophe, showing an oculus in the façade of the church.

One of the enlargements
As I had agreed with the webmaster of this site, he gives me credit for each of my pictures he uses by providing a link to our own website. And through this link the woman had got hold of our phonenumber. We had visited the church for the first time in September 2013, and a second time in April 2014. And because the oculus had nothing spectacular, I had not been bothered to take any detailed pictures; besides, in 2014 the oculus had been broken, and there was not much more left than a hole in the glass.

The broken window
The woman was somehow connected with the restauration of the church, and her question was: could I produce some pictures in which the oculus was better visible, for the stained glass specialist could produce a new window resembling the old one as good as possible. Fortunately I take all my pictures in NEF or RAW format, from which I save the as JPEG files as well. In NEF it is fairly easy to make acceptable enlargements, and adjust shadows, exposure, etc.

After the restauration
That was not really very difficult: I went through my collection, adjusted thee blow-ups as good as I could and send those pictures to the lady in St-Christophe. She was very content with the results and she invited us over to seen the renovated church once the restorations were finished. A very kind and charming idea of course, but often these sort of promises get lost with time.
We were pleasantly surprised when some weeks ago we received by post an invitation of the mayor of St-Christophe, M. Nicolas Bouthier for the inauguration of the church after the restauration. who can ignore an invitation like this? We returned an email containinng an RSVP straight away.

Plaquette during the inauguration
When we arrived there at 16h00 quite a few of the 1100 inhabitants were waiting outside the church for the doors to be opened. we had spotted the mayor quite soon, as we had his wife. When we approached Mme Bouthier to introduce ourselves, she first looked a bit puzzled, until she realised that we might have had contact with her mother-in-law. And that turned out to be correct; we tackled a woman with a typical "mother-in-law"-outlook, who happened to be the "old" Mme Bouthier. She remembered us well, was still grateful for our help and she was thrilled to bits that we had accepted the invitation.

How many people are needed to cut a ribbon?
We were introduced to other people who had been involved in the restauration and from one moment to the other we were transformed from ordinary guests to guests of honour.
By now we know quite well how these things work: the mayor gives a speech thanking everybody involved in the works personally and/or manually, being it the architect or local officials, followed by speeches by the architect, the priest, the delegates of various councils, etc.

Vin d'amitié
When this was all over there was of course the inevitable verre d'amitié in the village hall, where we were treared as guests of honour as well. In a word, we did not regret for one second that we had contributed a tiny little bit to the restauration of one small part of this beautiful church.

Saturday 7 July 2018

The latest from Cormatin

Het oorspronkelijke Café de la Poste
A lot of things are happening in our Metropolis, and some of the changes turn out to be an improvement. The Tabac, which moved quite some time ago from its original location between Les Blés d'Or and La Terrasse to a place a bit further down the road, the ex- Café de la Poste, has traded places again and is back to where it started from.

De oorspronkelijke Tabac
The Tabac sold at its previous and present location tobacco, scratch cards and loto cards; however, it also runs a cafeteria cum snack bar, and has a more spacious terrace at its disposal.

The "new" Tabac
On the vacant plot (hence ex-Café de la Poste) a new restaurant has opened its doors, Chez L'Oncle Jules. We have had a meal there twice now, and were very content with it. After the last wreath laying ceremony they were the ones who hosted the vin d'amitié and the snacks.

Chez L'Oncle Jules (Photo courtesy of S.L. Nixon)
The prices are very reasonable and the quality of the food is good to excellent; a starter + main dish is approx. € 13.50, and the à la carte dishes are also good and reasonably priced. The general criticism we heard (and we agree with that) is that the service can be a bit chaotic. However, that can be a wrinkle that might be ironed out with time; Chez L'Oncle Jules only opened its doors at the end of May. Nice little extra: the restaurant has an upstairs half open room, bordering a nice little garden. Hopefully the restaurant is here to stay.

Dakterras - Chez L'Oncle Jules

Saturday 23 June 2018

Guitares en Cormatinois 2018

Eglise de Chazelle
Like each year, an overview of what the Festival Guitares en Cormatinois, 17th edition, has on offer. This year will see a number of familiar faces on stage, however, there are also a number of artists who have never played in Chazelle before. For more detailed information do not hesitate to visit our completely renewed Guitares en Cormatinois website
All concerts start at 17h30 and will be held at the Romanesque church of Chazelle.

Irish Kind Of 2016
Saturday 7 July 2018: Irish Kind Of, a trio (guitar, vocals, violin, flute) specialized in Irish folk music. This is their third performance in Chazelle, and so far they always managed to fill the church up completely. We strongly recommend making a reservation.

Sunday 6 July 208: Markus Held - violin, Hilario Yáñez – guitar en Marie Braun – flute with a varied program of classical music. Yáñez has played here before, and Held is also not unknown around here.

Sunday 15 July 2018: Hair Brothers, a duo, vocals and 7-strings guitars. According to their Facebook page they hve developed a style based on jazz and world music.

Duo Atlas - Spanje
Saturday 21 July 2018: Duo Atlas, a Spanish/Dutch duo, guitar and cello. Both live and work in Spain. Their program covers music from around 1200 to contemporary music.

Sunday 22 July 2018: Paris Gadjo Combo, a Manouche Quartet (guitars, bass, clarinet) playing Manouche jazz and Brazilian Choro Music. Knowing the popularity of this sort of music around here we strongly recommend making a reservation.

Paris Gadjo Club
For reservations I refer to the Guitares en Cormatinois website. However, we can also organise tickets for you; contact us directly and we will take care that the tickets are waiting for you on the required evening(s).