Saturday, 30 August 2014

Climate change

When in 2006 we started a campsite in South-Burgundy, we did not exactly know what the ins and outs were of the terrain and of the local climate. And what sort of camping we wanted was also not entirely clear.

Of course we had some idea: small scale, no electricity on the camp site itself, decent toilet facilities with a fridge and freezer for general use, and something we had encountered on one of our favourite campsites in the Netherlands (Camping Zegenoord): if possible no cars next to the tent. That sounded simpler than it was. Outside the camp site there was only limited space available. This idea was dropped almost as soon as it came up, also because we thought it quite handy to use the car as a mobile storage space next to the tent.
The first couple of years we had lovely, hot weather throughout the summer, and well into November. After that we occasionally had quite a wet spring, but when finally the summer holidays started the soil was often rock hard, making it very difficult to even drive a tent peg into the ground.

leaving one’s traces (August 2014)
However, this year, and also the year before that, the weather was considerably different from previous years. Not only did we have a wet and cold summer, but the amount of rain was far too high according to statistics ever since 2012(!), and it was also, to quote the weathermen on TV, during the summer far too cold for the time of year. And what we did during the previous summer, closing the camp site for vehicles during a short period, became a standard rule at the end of the season of 2014. Camping was no problem, nobody got wet feet, but, depending on the style of driving of the various campers we have been praying every so often that nobody was going to dig his wheels so far in that we needed a tractor to bail him or her out, simply by using the accelerator as if he was driving a formula 1 car. We had seen that once, and we hope to never witness that again.

This was not what we had in mind! (August 2014)
Hence we asked our campers, before they arrived, to park outside the gate, at an angle, and parallel to each other. At first that did not work out as we thought it would (see picture), but after a while people cracked the system. When everyone parks parallel it is possible to get 4 cars (with 5 as an absolute maximum) outside the gate. If one parks less carefully the number reduces to 2 à 3. But anyway, after giving instructions, and begging people to obey to the rules, we ended the last 2 weeks of the season of 2014 without cars on the campsite and with 4 cars outside.
Those cars however need to be of what we consider to be “normal” size. It further means that the maximum number of tents we can accommodate reduces from 6 to 5, a number with which we are not really unhappy. We seldom have had a full site with 6 tents. And there are a few more things one does realise than only after some more thought: we are not longer able to accommodate trailers. And how to transport the camping gear from the car to the tent space? That can be arranged with a wheel barrow, as we have found out, until we can come up with something better.

Ah, that way! (August 2014)
For cyclist nothing really changes; they can always take up a 5th or 6th space.
The last days we have been busy to measure the available space, to determine the maximum length of a car (approx. 4.25 m or 14 feet), to find the required width of a space (approx. 2.3 m or 7’6”) and to figure out how to mark the spaces on a piece of grass. All in all, it looks like we will have a car-free campsite next year. The main question remains of course how our campers will react to those changes. Turning up unexpectedly with a big Volvo Station Waggon is not longer an option. Booking in advance seems to be the only possibility to be assured of a space on the camp site …

The future? (August 2014)
More information (telling you how we managed the camp site up to now) can be found on the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

In the right place at the right time

Some time ago I received an email from a lady of the Office de Tourisme of Buxy with the question if she could use some of my pictures of the Romanesque churche in Saint-Martin-du-Tartre for a tourist guide of this typer of churches in the ccScc (a body uniting a number of communities in the South-Chalonnais).

She had been browsing the internet in search of pictures, and she had stumbled, through the site “Bourgogne Romane”, on one of my picture albums. The guide was an initiative of the ccScc, not published before, and it would make an inventory of the 19 Romanesque churches in the area. The lady coordinated the project, a group (Pastourisme), specialised in the churches of the diocese of Autun would write the texts, and the Chalon branch of a French club of amateur photographers would provide the pictures. In a word, why in heaven’s name did they need my pictures of that church? I am certainly not an outstanding photographer!

2012 Saint-Martin-de-Tartre
The answer was a logical as it was simple. I visited this church for the first time on a foggy day in October 2012. The church was open (which is not always the case in churches around here), so I could shoot as many pictures of the interior as my heart desired. I visit rather a lot of churches in the course of time, hence I do not always remember whether a church was open or closed during a previous visit. When we were near that church again, this time on a sunny day in May 2013, I decided to make some pictures of the outside with a nice blue sky. The door was open, and just to make sure I had not missed it I walked in to take some pictures of the interior. This time however there was scaffolding up, making crossing and choir inaccessible, and it hid the interesting parts of this church from view.

2013/14 Saint-Martin-de-Tartre
At the beginning of 2014, when the photo club was on its way to photograph the 19 churches, they found the interior of this church still under renovation; hence they could not take any pictures of the crossing and choir of the church. And that is where I came in the picture, like a ministering angel. The lady asked for, and obtained permission to use my pictures, and in March I was invited to the opening of a picture exhibition of the 19 churches at the Office de Tourisme in Buxy, during which the guide would be presented to the public.

Speeches, speeches, speeches, speeches....
The opening of an exhibition in this part of France consist most of the time of a number of interminable speeches, where each speaker extensively thanks all collaborators, their wives, their children, their servants, their neighbours and their pets. Just grin and bear it. After half an hour, in which my attention was waning, each one present received a free copy of the guide, at which it was aloso time for the obligatory glass of Crémant de Bourgogne and some snacks.

Guide touristique
The guide is now for sale in the town halls and the Offices de Tourisme in the area for the very reasonable price of € 5. And since I do not receive any royalties of this extravagant amount of money, I can, without moral dilemma, warmly recommend this tasteful booklet of 48 pages. It indeed contains a wealth of information on the subject, which is otherwise not at all or hardly available for those interested.
The above mentioned 29 churches are only a short distance away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Renovating your church?

For our yearly Guitar Festival we utilize since 2012 the church of Chazelle.

De floor around the altar - Chazelle
That is a very nice Romanesque church, however, as is the case with a lot of old churches around here, the floor is rather uneven. And because the Theatre Festival “Les Rendez-Vous de Cormatin” became defunct, and the boards and beams used to build temporary stages were still somewhere in storage, it seemed a good idea to use that material to build a stage in front of the altar. That should make playing more comfortable for the musicians; no more sitting on a wobbly chair!

Nixon & Co - for all your transport problems
However, the material was stored in a barn in Cormatin, and had to be transported to Chazelle. Fortunately we are the proud owners of a trailer big enough to transport the pieces of board, and since we are heavily involved in the organisation of the Festival it seemed logical to offer our services in the form of our trailer. There was no lack of manpower. The commune can mobilize at will a group of volunteers, who if necessary will fix street signs and house numbers to the walls, set up the Christmas decorations, refresh the village’s plant pots and plant flowers in them, give the village hall a lick of paint, in a word, they could also built a platform or stage for a concert.

Nixon & Co - for all your church renovations
The whole installation did not cost more than one day. Inside the church, in front and partially next to the altar, there is now a nice flat and even stage. However, when the mayor in a meeting offered to cover the stage with carpet, the artistic director of the festival almost suffered a heart attack. Because carpet would ruin the (indeed excellent) acoustics of the church! As a compromise the platform is now covered with linoleum in a neutral grey colour. The stage stays in the church, that is if the parish counsel agrees. That way a future female priest would not ruin her stilettoes getting caught in the joint between the uneven floor tiles….

The new floor around the altar - Chazelle
La Tuilerie de Chazelle : for all your transport problems, and for small renovations!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A Number Two

We are often amused about the use of English in foreign countries. I know I am treading on dangerous grounds, being Dutch trying to write in English, but I will not be defeated by my own shortcomings.
A well-known blooper is that of a Dutch diplomat addressing his guests with the well-meant remark “I hate you welcome” (in Dutch “Ik heet u welkom”). The translations of English or American film titles for French cinemas into “English” is often also quite amusing: why translate “The boat that rocked” into “Good morning, England” or “Happy-go-lucky” into “Be happy”? One of my favourites is the recent slogan of a French supermarket chain : “Be simply, be happy!”. One does not make this up, does one?

2011 : during the renovations
I got a bit lost when Sue started laughing when I told her that a recently opened restaurant on the road between Cormatin and Cluny was called “The number two”, until she explained that it was equivalent to the Dutch expression used by children for “A big job”.
Anyway, this blog is not about big or small jobs, but about a new restaurant. We remember the “Auberge du Pont de Cotte” (Lournand, along the D981) as being a cosy, albeit a bit chaotic small scale restaurant, where one could eat an excellent workmen’s lunch at a very reasonable price. The parking was always packed with worker’s vans, in our view a strong recommendation. Some time ago the restaurant closed and after renovations of over a year the place re-opened, as a wine bar cum restaurant cum party centre. The reviews were not very good, and the lay-out was unfriendly, most likely because the owner had split the place up in a wine bar, a restaurant and a big dance hall.

July 2014 : re-opened
The price structure was quite steep, not being helped by the fact that on top of the price for house wine one had to pay a corking fee as well, even though one did not bring his own wine. We were not really surprised that the place did not last very long.
What did surprise us though was that soon after closure a new sign appeared on the wall, saying “New ownership, restaurant open”. We are normally not very quick when it comes to trying out new places, but when we had read the menu and had recovered from reading the name of the place, we got the impression that this could well be a restaurant which becomes rarer and rarer in the area: a simple menu during lunch, at a cheap price. So we skipped all the preliminaries and as we speak we are recovering from an excellent though simple meal. As far as we are concerned, a plat or menu du jour is a good measure for the quality of a simple restaurant.

July 2014 - the new resatarant part
In this case :
Menu du jour for € 14.00. Because there were two of us we could try different starters and main courses.
Starter : a choice between entrée du jour (salade chèvre chaude) and assortiment de charcuterie
Main course : a choice between plat du jour (magret de canard) and pièce du boeuf avec frites
Desert du jour : a choice between fromage du jour (3 different cheeses) and dessert du jour
Drinks : ¼ l of wine and a cup of coffee
The food was good; no culinary tour de force, but food of good quality. The portions were more than adequate, and the amount of customers so quickly after the (re-)opening of the place seems to be a good omen. For those who prefer to have dinner in the evening: the card offers slightly more expensive and extended menus for € 22 and € 32. The ambiance is simple and tasteful, even though I personally prefer the ambiance of the somewhat chaotic older French restaurants. However, part of the in my view somewhat sterile decoration can be blamed on the previous owner. The price/quality ratio is not dissimilar that of the original auberge. Click on the picture for a legible version of the menu.

Menu : click on the picture for a blow-up
As far as I am concerned : they should change the name of this place into “The number one”, at which I might add that I took my “number two” home afterwards….