Saturday, 26 March 2011

Put on your green shoes

Wherever you drive round around here, you are bound to bump into signs towards parking areas, either for the Voie Verte, or for the Balades Vertes. The first ones are normally located at or nearby the road that runs parallel and next to the old railroad (e.g. the D981), the latter ones one also finds in villages a bit further away from the main road. The Balades Vertes form a network of walks, laid out in the countryside, and signposted with either small yellow signs or the standard (yellow) arrows and crosses the French walker’s association employs. There are books available with a description of all the walks of a certain area, but A4- descriptions of the single walks are also for sale, both at the local Tourist Offices. These walks are very attractive. Not only do they go through many picturesque villages, but most of them follow paths through woods and vineyards.
The winter time menus in the many restaurants around here often have game on it. It may be clear, that game is not only to be admired in restaurants; deer are not uncommon here, and wild boar is also roaming the forests. La Tuilerie is again located on several Balades Vertes. One of the two walks starting in Cormatin almost passes along our gate, and the second one goes through Chazelle.
As said earlier, the walks are marked, and each walk also has its own number. De walks that start in Cormatin are marked CO1 and CO2, those from Taizé TA1, TA2, etc. The project itself, and the maintenance of it, are partially paid from the revenues of the taxe de séjour, a tourist tax for each of our guests which we have to pay at the end of the season. Not only do our guests (indirectly) pay for the Ballades Vertes, they also profit from it directly!

This blog in 3 episodes is of course far from complete. For more information about this region I like to refer to the tourist page on our own website and to an extensive blog about tourism and activities around here.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

How green is my valley

The first boucle I did was no. 10, with difficulty 1 (made for me!), distance 15 km and estimated time 1h30. The route comes almost past our house, and hence I joined the route at the end of our path. As the name of the boucle indicated, this circuit passes by some nice Romanesque churches, like the very small church of Lys (with remains of some medieval wall paintings), and the beautiful church of Chapaize. Lys also boasts an amazing amount of artisans, and Chapaize has facilities to sit on a terrace with a drink, or to stop for a meal. From Chapaize the road goes via Bissy-sous-Uxelles through Bessuge to Cormatin. And also Cormatin has ample opportunities to drink a cold glass of bear or enjoy a meal. Indeed, if you feast your eyes on the things you can see underway, you will be back at la Tuilerie roughly one and a half hour later.
Another plus point of these boucles is, that they are fairly well signposted, and that it is possible to link some boucles together to create a bigger circuit.
As boucle no. 10, some boucles are thematic. Boucle no. 11 for example takes you past a number of lavoirs or public washhouses. These are small open, covered structures, with a stone basin in the middle, where until the seventies the village women were doing their washing. The basin was provided with fresh streaming water by a nearby river or a brook. No. 11, difficulty 2, length 17 miles can be perfectly combined with e.g. no. 10. The route starts in La Tuilerie, and passes through Lys, Bissy-sous-Uxelles, Bessuge, and Cormatin. It continues via the Voie Verte to Savigny-sur-Grosne, carries on via Boucle 11 to Bonnay, Cortevaix, Flagy and Massilly where it joins the Voie Verte, which takes you underneath Taizé direction Cormatin until the road to Chazelle.
Other thematic boucles bring you past potters, through vineyards, etc. One of the frequently asked questions is whether it is safe to cycle along the roads. The answer is: yes. The boucles are generally following quiet roads and hardly “main” roads. Further, the French are sticking very well to their traffic rules. One of those rules is, that when overtaking an bicycle with a car, the driver has to leave a distance of 1 m (approx. 3’4”) in villages or 1.5 m (approx. 5’) outside villages between car and bicycle.
For more weathered cyclists there is also the possibility to test their stamina around here. Some of the boucles with difficulty 4 contain really vicious climbs; the real die-hards amongst our cycling guests have expressed their pleasant surprise about the possibilities to exercise their muscles.
In my next and last blog in this series I will elaborate a bit on the concept of the Balades Vertes.

This blog in 3 episodes is of course far from complete. For more information about this region I like to refer to the tourist page on our own website and to an extensive blog about tourism and activities around here.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Green, green grass of home

Those familiar with this blog and this region should know by now that a cycling or walking holiday in Burgundy more has to offer then just wine and good food. For those not familiar with the area however, this blog might be an eye opener.
For years I have cycled day in day out the 10 miles between house and work and vice versa. After having moved, in September 2005, to France, this daily routine was one of the things I missed most. Of course, certainly in the beginning, we were too busy getting the gîtes and the campsite up and running, organising the enormous amount of stuff we had brought over, etc. to have much exercise. During that time I cycled regularly into Cormatin, to buy bread and a newspaper, but 2 x 2 miles a day is not the same as 2 x 10 miles. To make up for the difference I cycled the 8 miles up and down to Cluny as often as was needed to buy a book or something else which was not readily available in Cormatin. Only after the big renovation was over, time came to concentrate on finding out what would people attract to this part of the world for a holiday. One way of finding out was to get on my bicycle and cycle into Cluny, where the Tourist Office not only has an excellent staff, but also a good collection of brochures. And because I had cycled through Taizé and Massilly along the Voie Verte, it seemed logical to pick up some information about this cycle path.
I found out very quickly, that the Voie Verte more had to offer but just cycling along an old flat piece of converted railway (approx. 44 miles) between Givry and Charnay-lès-Mâcon. The tourist offices around here have free maps of the Voie Verte available, where one can see which round trips (boucles) there can be made from various spots along the Voie Verte. All these circuits are signposted with little shields along the roadside.
Very soon I spotted near our house some of those signs. It appeared that the Romanesque (Norman) church route almost passed by La Tuilerie. All boucles start and end at the Voie Verte, normally by a parking area for those who want to leave their car somewhere and carry on by bicycle. Boucles 10 and 10bis start from the parking area at Cormatin-Bois Dernier, but of course one is free to start wherever one wants. All boucles have a degree of difficulty ranging from 1 (easy-peasy) to 4 (why on earth am I doing this???), a distance, an estimated time (sufficient time to visit the tourist attractions underway), and they all start where they end. About the various boucles I will write in my next blog.

This blog in 3 episodes is of course far from complete. For more information about this region I like to refer to the tourist page on our own website and to an extensive blog about tourism and activities around here.