Saturday, 18 December 2010


We (almost) live along the old local railway between Chalon-sur-Saône and Mâcon (nowadays a cycle and walking track, the Voie Verte). The heavy duty railroad between those two towns is still in use, and follows more or less the Saône. Further, luckily outside earshot, there is the TGV line between Le Creusot and Mâcon. Whenever one wants to hear the sound of trains, one has to travel. One of the tourist attraction around here is the Parc des Combes in Le Creusot. Le Creusot is a former industrial town, in its heyday heavily involved in coal and steel industries. The Parc is mainly aimed at children, but it also hosts steam events every so often. Besides it offers home to one of the fastest steam locomotives ever built, the 241P17 .
It is not only here where the locomotive was restored and is maintained; throughout the year Le Creusot is the starting point for trips, often made in double traction with the Mistral - the name of the 241P17, to places like Mulhouse, Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Dijon or Marseille, using the SNCF network. The loc was designed by the French engineer André Chapelon, the inventor of the Compound loc. I quote a friend of mine, an expert on steam and trains: “Compound machines are machines with small high pressure and big low pressure cylinders. The steam expands in two steps from boiler pressure to atmospheric pressure. When starting up all steam goes full on the cylinders; once at speed the compound cylinders are utilised. The machines are not easy to handle, but the French were experts at it.”
One can see the Mistral regularly in the neighbourhood, because quite a number of the train’s trips are coming past or through Chalon, Chagny, Tournus and Mâcon. In Chalon, Tournus and Mâcon there is normally a long stop to enable the Anoraks to shoot their films, photos or sound bites. The picture with this Blog was taken while the train came towards a viaduct near Chagny with a speed of approx. 100 km/h. What is more thrilling than seeing this piece of technical ingenuity ploughing through the beautiful Burgundian landscape?

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Old friends

The regular readers of this blog might remember a blog I wrote quite some time ago about a quick bite for lunch. In that blog I made reference to a restaurant in Cluny, Cass’ Crout’, where we have had, every Tuesday, a very pleasant and tasty lunch for over a year. After some time we were considered to be regulars there, and we came to know Martine and her husband a bit better, to the extent that we became more or less friends. One can imagine that we were unpleasantly surprised when Martine told us that her husband was going to retire and that they had sold the restaurant. A new restaurant, Le Comptoir has opened its doors at he same premises, but we never got the hang of that one. We soon found a suitable alternative in La Petite Auberge, and we are more or less accepted by the staff there the same way we were at Cass’ Crout’.
On a Saturday we normally go into Cluny to the market, to buy our ration of good Dutch cheeses from the Ladies van der Linden and fruit from Malik & Kedi. Because the market is very popular by the people from miles around, we regularly meet there friends and relations. And since the first weekly outings to the market coincided with the closure of Cass’ Crout’, we regularly bump into Martine when she is carrying heavy bags of shopping down the main street or whilst she is browsing at the market stalls. During one of these encounters she told us that she was going to start a new business. I immediately had a vision of steak haché frites with a glass of very tasty Belgian beer Leffe, but, no, that was out of the question. Martine was going to open a shop selling local art work, and mainly handicrafts or artisanal products. She had already obtained a venue: a shop in Cluny’s main street, not even a stone throw away from her old restaurant. Recently she told us that she would open shop early December.
Whenever we come past that shop, we try to peer inside to see what is going on there. But the curtains were always hermetically closed, and hence we had no idea what the status of the shop was. But yesterday it was different. This time there were no more curtains, and Martine was standing behind the counter, sorting her business out. Of course we could not do anything else but walk in, and she explained in great detail what her plans were, and from which artisans she bought her merchandise. Her brand new shop is furnished very tastefully, and the products she is selling also show extremely good taste. She sells ceramics from an artist in Martailly-sous-Brancion, she has artfully decorated pebble stones in all sizes on display, there are statues of fairies and gnomes, made of beautifully painted tree leaves, figurative sculptures made of iron and steel....
Her timing to open now, just before the Christmas season starts is perfect. In the short period we were there, we saw at least three potential customers entering the shop, of which one left almost immediately. But not because he did not like what he saw. He returned a few minutes later with cash he had withdrawn from the nearby bank, in order to pay for what he wanted to buy!
When we came back from our lunch at Café du Centre (where we eat occasionally; normally we have a kebab at Le Bosphore on a Saturday) we peered into Martine’s shop window again. And although the shop was closed for lunch, the door was still open, and we could hop in to say hello to Martine’s husband as well. I asked them whether I could take some pictures for future use. Of course that was no problem, but they were quite curious why I wanted pictures. So I explained to them that I regularly publish a blog about things that are happening in and around Cormatin.
Needless to say, that we were not allowed to leave the shop without having promised to send them a link to this blog.....

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