Sunday, 13 March 2016

01 : Introduction

Some of the following chapters have a link to a picasa webalbum. You can click on that to get extra photos or to run a slideshow.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

02 : Voie Verte

The Voie Verte (the Green Pathway) is a walking/cycle path that runs from north to south through Saône-et-Loire (71), South Burgundy. In the nineties, the local governing bodies decided to tarmac the old railway track from Chalon-sur-Saône to Mâcon as a leisure facility. Many of the old stations have been turned into “service stations”. This concept was so successful that the original 80km of cycle path has been extended to cover 320 km and extra circuits (boucles) that go off into the surrounding countryside have been created, giving in total approximately 730 km of marked out cycle routes. La Voie Verte runs not only over the old railway tracks, it now runs over canal tow paths and also specially created cycle paths have been built to link the various sections of Voie Verte together.

A special map on the subject shows the complete Voie Verte Saône-et-Loire (71) and its boucles. The boucles all begin and end on the Voie Verte and are signposted. Each boucle is graded for difficulty from 1 being easy up to 4 which is very hard work.

At some places near Cormatin and at the campsite in Cormatin, you can rent bicycles, by the hour, day or week. Prices in Cormatin are approximately €20 per day or approximately €65 per week.

Click on the photo for more pictures of the Voie Verte.

The whole Voie Verte concept has extended beyond Saône-et-Loire and there are now plans to link all the paths in Burgundy (approximately 600km) and extend them by a further 200km by linking them into the paths in Rhône giving a total of about 800km of cycle paths near here.

La Voie Verte is about 2km from La Tuilerie and boucles 10 and 10bis (the Romanesque church route) almost pass the door (200m).

You don’t have to just stick to the cycle paths for safe cycling. The secondary roads around here are very quiet and the French really stick to the rules when it comes to giving cyclists plenty of room, they overtake at a safe distance of about 1.5m. When Cees cycles into Cormatin to get the bread and newspaper on the main road, no one will overtake if he cannot be given enough room. It won’t be the first time that he has entered town with a long queue of cars behind him.

At weekends there are regular “randonnées” for VTTs (mountain bikes) where routes are laid out for you to follow. They tend to be from 30 to 50km and cost between €5.00 and €10.00. For that you get regular pit-stops where water, wine, French bread and sausage amongst other goodies are available to fortify you for the rest of the journey.

For those “passive” cyclists, the Tour de France comes to a town near here almost every year. In 2007 it came to Cormatin itself, in 2006 Mâcon saw the finish of an étape, in 2010 Tournus saw the start of an étape as did Mâcon in 2012.

We get many questions about how to walk or cycle to Taizé from here, so we have made some maps of the various routes and posted them in a photo album. Click here for those routes.

Whilst this item is about cycling, we do get asked from time to time if it possible to go horseriding near here. So just because I can't think of a better place to put the information here it is! In Saint-Martin-du-Tartre, at “Le Ranch des Jacinthes” horses can be rented for trekking in the hills.

Friday, 11 March 2016

03 : Balades Vertes

Quite recently Saône-et-Loire, South Burgundy has completed the Balades Vertes which are a large number of signposted walking routes throughout the whole of the département (71). Together with the Voie Verte (check out the article) these routes make this area a Mecca for walkers.

In the capital of our canton, St Gengoux le National, the tourist information office has a little book with details of the walks that are in the area between the rivers Grosne and Guye, rather unsurprising called "Guide les Balades Vertes entre Grosne et Guye". The book contains 26 signposted walks and costs €8.00, a little map and description of each walk can be bought separately and they cost € 2.00 each. All the signposts or markings on trees and fence posts are in yellow and are very clear.
Click on the photo for more pictures of the Balades Vertes.

A large number of communes along the Voie Verte have a starting point for their walks. The routes to these starting points are clearly marked with large signposts “Randonnée - Balade Verte” on the main roads. By each start point there is a carpark and a map with an overview of the routes that start and finish at that point and the route reference number, for instance the routes from Cormatin are CO1 and CO2, from Taizé TA1 etc.

For those who want to be a bit more adventurous and make their own way around here, there are very well detailed maps from IGN in their Série Bleue (1:25000) which you can use to find all the footpaths in the area. One of the Grande Randonnées passes close to Cormatin (GR76) and Cluny is one of the starting points for the road to Santiago de Compostella.

Over and above all this, from early in the spring until late in autumn, there are organised randonnées most weekends. The routes are marked by different coloured spray paint arrows on the road or wooden arrows on temporary posts and the walks usually range from 5 to 30 km. At strategic points on the way there are refreshment stalls where wine, water, French bread, cheese and sausage are distributed. The prices vary by distance and range from €3.00 to €10.00.

We get many questions about how to walk or cycle to Taizé from here, so we have made some maps of the various routes and posted them in a photo album. Click here for those routes.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

04 : Taizé

I am woken up every morning by the bells of Taizé, the single bell for the monks rings out at 07.45 for about 5 minutes, calling the monks to their morning prayer then the bells start in earnest at 08.15 and ring until 08.30, letting all the pilgrims at Taizé know that the service is about to start. When the bells stop I know I really must get up. The bells ring from 12.15 to 12.30, so I know lunch should be on the table and if dinner is not ready when the evening bells go at 20.15, I know I am very late. And that was what Taizé was to me when I arrived here in 2005.

After Easter in 2006 we went to Taizé to have a look around and we were amazed at the number of young people milling around. We didn’t go to a service as that seemed inappropriate, with all these kids around it seemed like a young person’s thing. I wanted to go to a service, but I didn’t know how it worked, so I didn’t dare go alone. In July some campers (Ans and Simon) arrived, she had been to Taizé for the first time that spring and wanted to camp nearby to take in a few services and tempt her husband to go too. He however wasn’t interested and she didn’t dare go alone. At last my chance to go to a service, so on a Friday evening Ans and I went up the hill to Taizé.

The services are made up of singing and silence. The songs are mesmerising. With pilgrims from all over the world the songs need to be simple to enable everyone to sing. There are a mixture of languages, Latin, German and some sort of Slavonic language are the most popular with French, English and Spanish there too. Each song has two lines and these are sung over and over again. The songs are a mixture of four voices, rounds and solo singing with the congregation singing the chorus. It is not to everyone’s taste, but I absolutely love them. In every service there is silence, five minutes of it. Five minutes is a very long time and it is quite amazing that a church full of people can be so quiet for so long. The singing continues after the monks have left and on a Friday and Saturday night this can go on into the early hours of the morning I have been told.

The peace that pervades in a service is tangible and I can quite understand why some people come back year after year, just to regain that and to take a little bit of serenity back home with them. It is definitely not just a young person’s thing at all. Everyone is welcome to the services. Many, many of the visitors in our gîtes or on the campsite come for Taizé, to take part in a couple of services while being on holiday and enjoying other things that this area has to offer. Something not to be missed is a look at the stunning pottery the monks make to pay for their upkeep.

We get many questions about how to walk or cycle to Taizé from here, so we have made some maps of the various routes and posted them in a photo album. Click here for those routes.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

05 : Romanesque Architecture

Saint-Martin - Chapaize
This part of Burgundy is famous for having very many Romanesque churches. The fact that Cluny was one of the most influential and prestigious monastic orders in the early middle ages is most probably one of the most important reasons why this is the case. Cluny’s influence reached far wider than just Burgundy, you can even find Cluniac monasteries in England. Throughout Saône-et-Loire there are many towns which have a sign post saying “Site Clunisien” but there are also numerous sites which were more or less independent of Cluny. This is just a small overview of what there is to see around here in the Romanesque style.

The Saint-Philibert Abbey in Tournus is a beautiful example of the Burgundian Romanesque building style. The church has an interesting crypt and around the choir, there are some 12th century floor mosaics. The refectory, the provisions store and the cloister of the original monastry are all still intact. The facades of the church have characteristic Lombardian decorations. More simple, but no less impressive, is the church in the village of Chapaize (Saint-Martin). Just as in Tournus, the roof is supported by heavy columns built with small pieces of stone resembling bricks.

Click on the photo to see more Romanesque architecture in the area.

A number of other churches in the area that are worth a visit are: Saint-Hippolyte; Malay; Ameugny, ChazelleBrancion and Lys (Chissey-lès-Mâcon). This is just a random sample of our favourites. In most churches around here there are maps of the various Romanesque church routes you can follow.

There is one other small church that is not to be missed and that is the Chapelle des Moines in Berzé-la-Ville. This chapel, built by Saint-Hughes - one of the Abbots in Cluny (1049-1109), is not necessarily so special for its architecture, but for the exceptionally well preserved frescos. The walls and ceiling around and above the altar are completely covered with different scenes. In the corridor leading to the chapel, there is a side room where a very interesting, short film shows how frescos are made.

Model of Cluny III
Of course the Abbey in Cluny itself more than merits a mention. In 910 Guillaume d’Aquitaine set up the first abbey of Saints-Pierre et Paul. Between 1088 and 1130, the early Romanesque abbey (the Maior Ecclesia) was built on the remains of the original Carolingian style building. The abbey church was the largest in Christendom at that time and has since only been beaten in size by St Pauls Basilica in Rome. Between 1793 and 1823 the abbey was sold off literally piece by piece, the stones that once were the great Basilica were used around town and elsewhere in the area as building materials and today all that remains of the Basilica are two towers and a little chapel. The large cloister and some of the other buildings did survive and are now used by the National Stud and the Grande Ecole ENSAM. Having said that, a tour of the abbey is an absolute must and even with so little left in place, you can see how great it once was. This is helped of course by the short and spectacularly made 3D film shown at regular intervals at the start of the visit.

In the town of Cluny itself there is the gothic Notre-Dame and the Romanesque church Saint-Marcel, but there are also some very interesting Romanesque houses to be seen. A number of these houses still have their characteristic Claire-Voies, which were richly decorated window openings on the first floor separated by delicately carved columns. Well worth just wandering round whilst looking up.

This is obviously a very concise summary. For those who would like to have a good and reasonably complete overview of Romanesque architecture in Burgundy I would strongly recommend the website "Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne" (in French). I stumbled upon it by accident, and this site has a rich collection of photographs and historical information of everything related to Romanesque architecture.
The above mentioned site contains a very interesting glossary (also in French) of terms used in Romanesque architecture. I have made an English illustrated version of it, and those who are interested in browsing through it can click here.
Apart from this, I am also keeping a blog about the lesser known churches (or remains there of) in Saône-et-Loire. Every so often a new "discovery" is added to this blog.

The Romanesque churches in Saône-et-Loire
And finally, recently an interactive map has become available, on which (almost) all Romanesque churches in the département 71 are indicated. The map itself contains a link to a description explaining how the map has been set up and how it can be used, and it has links to interactive maps of the bordering departments. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

06 : Other Things to See Around Cormatin

Apart from the many Romanesque churches, there is more to see in this part of Burgundy. Again this is only a little insight into what there is to see, for more information you can consult one of the many tourist guides of this area.

Cormatin itself has a lovely Renaissance château (1605) which is privately owned, but part of which can be seen during a guided tour. The gardens on the other hand are totally open to the public and are quite extensive and well worth a visit.

The town of Saint-Gengoux-le-National (a tongue twister for most foreigners!) has a very nice small medeival centre where there is a market every other week all year round and in the summer they have evening markets as well where local produce and local crafts are sold.

There is the beautiful medieval town of Brancion, perched on top of a hill which has recently been completely renovated. It features a fortified (non-inhabitable) castle and a covered market. From the open area in front of the church, you are afforded spectacular views over the Grosne valley.

For castles in a better state of repair, Berzé-le-Châtel and Pierreclos are worth a visit. The former can be visited via a guided tour which takes you around the outside of the castle explaining how the defences worked. One or two small rooms can be visited, but as the castle is lived in the majority cannot be seen. Having said that it is one of the most interesting tours I have taken. The visit to Pierreclos castle includes a wine tasting at the end and is also well worth the entry money.

Wine is of course inextricably linked with Bugundy. Cormatin is just in between the Mâconnais and the Côte Chalonaise. The Côte d’Or and the Beaujolais are also very close and there are a number of “wine routes” you can take which will bring you past the most prestigious wine growers where you can always pop in for a tasting. Very close to us there is a good winemaker in Bray and Viré and Azé turn out a well respected bottle.
Click on the photo to see more places of interest in the area.

A number of places like Cluny and Tournus have a Hôtel-Dieu, but the most spectacular (from 1443) can be found in Beaune (although not close to Cormatin certainly worth a day trip). These buildings were built as hospitals and run by nuns financed by wealthy benefactors. The roofs of the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, which can only be seen when you enter the main courtyard, are tiled with coloured glazed tiles and are a feast for your eyes. But it is not only the outside of these buildings that is worth a look, the various rooms have been restored to their original state complete with a little chapel, pharmacy, kitchen and the wards themselves. The hospital was still in use until 1971 when new hospital buildings were built. Finally there is a polyptych "The last judgement" by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden, the small details of which can be viewed through a travelling magnifying glass if it is not too busy and if you ask the person in charge very nicely!

Monday, 7 March 2016

07 : Arts and Crafts

Atelier de Gadrielle - Cormatin
In this part of Burgundy there are an astonishing number of people living from their work as “artisans d’art”. A small number of them also offer courses in their chosen art or craft. This is by no means a complete list of who is doing what and where (much like the other chapters) but it offers a list of the most local and in our opinion the most interesting artists. If you are interested in following any courses or if you are interested in the work of a particular artisan, you can contact them directly and they can give you any details you might require. If you are unsure of your French skills and have particular questions, we can make the contact for you.

In the following photographs you can see the work of a number of the artisans. Where possible, I have included a link to the website of the artisans. We do check these links every so often, but from experience we know that the French do have a habit of changing their website addresses with an irritating regularity and not providing a forward. If you come across any broken links, do let us know!
Click on the photo to see more artisans

A good overview of local arts and crafts can be seen at "La Filaterie" in Cormatin. "La Filaterie" is an old spinning mill and a number of rooms have been turned into an exhibition and sales centre for local artisans, you can find jewelry, ceramics, clothing, leather goods and wood carvings alongside each other. Also, in the tourist information office in Cluny, you can see a nice display of local arts and crafts.

On the website of ECCA from Cormatin and on the website of the Office de Tourisme of Saint-Gengoux-le-National you can find the addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and websites of many local artisans.

Pascale Ponsard - Cormatin
Pascale Ponsard is based in Cormatin in the Rue de la Sablière, and she paints on silk. She makes some very large pieces for making clothing as well as smaller pieces to be used as scarves etc. She organises courses and does demonstrations on request.

Also in Cormatin on the Route de Cluny is ”Atelier de Gadrielle”. The owner Patrick Vernay, makes exceptionally beautiful silver and gold jewellery.

In a hamlet Gemaugue, near Chapaize there is another jewellery maker ”Emergence de Bijoux”, where Myriam Lacolonge makes pieces out of plastic resins.

Nearby in Bessuge is Monique Dégluaire who makes very interesting sculptures in clay. Anyone staying here can see one of her pieces in our garden.

Atelier de la Lisse - Lys
In Lys, a small village just down the road from here, there are quite a number of artisans.

Those interested in a course of woven tapestry need look no further than ”Atelier de la Lisse”. The courses are organised by Marie-Elise Tournebize.

Her husband Christian Tournebize makes jewelry out of bronze and silver as well as interesting wooden sculptures from tree roots and branches. His business is called ”La Nature du Lys”.

“Wakaté” is a shoemaker, who makes shoes to measure.

Lys also has a pottery the “Poterie de Lys”.

Again in Lys you will find Thierry Goury who is a multi-facetted artisan who owns the ”Atelier de la Treille”. Goury runs courses in drawing, painting and also mould making and bronze casting.

In Saint-Gengoux-le-National there is something very different. In La Sachette, just outside the town itself there is “la Papier en Folle”. Claire Guillot makes marbled paper which is used, amongst other things, for the inside leaves of books.

Pottery is very popular in this area. In almost every village you can find one or two potteries. The monks in Taizé fund their living expenses by selling pottery at very reasonable rates. Their pottery is very simple and elegant and ranges from their iconic oil lamps and candle holders up to full dinner services.

Another special potter in the area is Elisabeth Causeret in Sailly who makes miniatures - little pots, pans, cups and saucers etc at her “Poteries Miniatures”. Truly impressive in its smallness!

Joël and Maryse Dedianne - Bonnay
Joël and Maryse Dedianne in Bonnay are also specialised in miniatures, this time in wood. In their exhibition centre, which can be seen as much as a museum as a selling outlet, they have some amazing things on display. A clock completely made of wood (including all the springs etc), various musical boxes where everything moves as well as more static items. All our guests (young and old) who have been there have returned very enthusiastic about their visit.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

08a : Eating out in Cormatin (1 of 2)

This story marks the beginning of a project that has been in the pipeline for a very long time, but that finally gets off the ground as of now, and is actually finished. We have visited a number of restaurants around La Tuilerie de Chazelle, and we have given a (very personal) review of the establishments concerned. Since restaurants often change hands or disappear altogether, we will try to keep those articles as up to date as possible. The first place to be covered : Cormatin.

Cormatin is not really a place where one would find the highlights of French haute cuisine. However, there is more than one restaurant that serves good home cooked food. We will review those places in order of appearance, coming in from Chazelle.

Pizz'a Marco
Pizz’a Marco – Grande Rue
Marco has a good assortment of pizzas, all made on the spot. If you do not want a certain ingredient on your pizza, Marco will without hesitation deviate from his recipes. His pizzas have a very nice thin bottom and are well filled, which are musts for a good pizza in my opinion. Marco has a small terrace outside, but one can also eat inside. Although he is in this sense a small pizzeria, most of his pizzas are to take away. The prices range roughly from € 8 to € 10. For those who forgot to buy some wine: he also sells small and normal size bottles of white and red.

La Terrasse
La Terrasse – Grande Rue
La Terrasse has been closed for a short period of time, but has reopened on july 1st 2013 under new ownership. The interior has been renovated, new tables, chairs and parassols have been installed, in short, the old La Terrasse has made place for a completely new one. Although I always have had a soft spot for La Terrasse old style, the new place looks a lot more inviting. We have eaten there once so far. The service is excellent, the food is good (in stead of the Plat du Jour the place offers a Suggestion du Chef, which is slightly more expensive than what the previous owner had to offer) and La Terrasse had potential to become quite a competitor for its neghbours at Les Blés d'Or, reason why I have dedicated a separate blog to La Terrasse.

Les Blés d'Or
 Les Blés d’Or – Grande Rue
This hôtel-restaurant, located next to La Terrasse, has a slightly more extended menu compared to La Terrasse. In summer there are pizzas available. The service is excellent, the food is good, and there is also a terrace where one can sip a cold beer whilst watching the village life of Cormatin. The prices and the menu are similar to those of the neighbour. 

Café de la Poste, since early 2013 also under new ownership, shares the premises now (mid 2015) with the Tabac, and the owner has developed the place from a not so efficient snackbar into a proper restaurant. About the food as well as about the service we have heard nothing but positive reactions. It might result in a separate blog once we have tried it out.

Snackbar Le Hameau des Champs
Although Cormatin cannot boast a fast food joint like a kebab place, there are some alternatives available for those not too hungry. The campsite “Le Hameau des Champs” has a snackbar also open to those not staying there.
Also Bakery Roy (Boulangerie du Château) has opened a lunchroom cum tearoom next to its shop, where one can buy the baker's products.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

08b : eating out in Cormatin (2 of 2)

La Terrasse in Cormatin was run by a rather brusque lady, Mme Monique R., a woman requiring some instructions before use.

La Terasse, a few years back - Cormatin
We got on with her very well (which cannot be said for every one of her clientele) and we were very impressed with her cookery skills (grandmother's cuisine). It was for us a double shock to hear that, for serious health reasons, she had to sell La Terrasse. The restaurant did not stay empty for long though, and the new owner decided to renovate the rather old fashioned interior, to modernise the menu, to give the terrace itself a complete facelift and to buy the house next door in order to break through and to enlarge his indoor seating capacity. After the dust had settled La Terrasse new style has definitely established itself.

La Terrasse as of now, on a busy day - Cormatin
My first experience with the new La Terrasse was after a wreath laying ceremony on the 28th of June 2014. The local bars and restaurants in Cormatin serve, on turn, the vin d'amitié after the event, which gives "new" restaurants an opportunity to characterize themselves. La Terrasse came up with a big number of immaculate exquisite amuse-bouches, fitting for a good restaurant. We decided to try the kitchen of this place some other day. We grabbed our chance on the 8th of May 2015 (liberation day). After the wreath laying the mayor announced that the verre d'amitié was at La Terrasse, and since we often stay on in Cormatin for lunch in case the wreath laying takes place around noon, we decided to hang on in La Terrasse.

The longest parade since 2005 - Cormatin
Again this time there were amuse-bouches, and again they were a feast for the eye as well as the palate. We had to wait a bit longer than usual, but that could easily be explained by the fact that instead of the usual max. 25 suspects turning up this time the terrace was invaded by over 50 people. After we had sipped from the kir and had a go at the amuse-bouches, the meeting broke up and we went inside, into the newly opened part of the restaurant.

Wreath laying - Cormatin
Because we hardly ever eat a heavy meal for lunch, we decided to take only a main course, moisten it with a glass of local wine, and have only coffee for desert. I ordered a magret de canard, and for the first time in my life I was asked what cuisson I wanted. That is a very normal question where beef is concerned, but I was never asked that question with duck. The owner suggested rosé, and rosé it was going to be. At home I found out that the normal cuissons for magret de canard are bleu (red and bloody), rosé (pink) and bien cuit (well done). Normally I would have chosen bleu, but the rosé I had asked for was excellent and very tasty indeed.

Vin d'Amitié - La Terrasse Cormatin
The duck was served with a jacket potato and lettuce. The whole meal was very nicely presented, and the (cheap) wine we had chosen was excellent for the price we paid. This simple but more than adequate meal set us back only € 15 pp, and the price/quality ration was excellent.
Based on this experience we chose, when we were invited for a festive meal of our choice, for La Terrasse. Unfortunately this time it did not work out so well. My starter (escargots) was rather tough and chewy.

La Terrasse - Cormatin
My piece of beef, no Charollais but French, was streaked with sinew and as a whole also rather tough. The others were very happy with the salads they had for starters, but the magret de canard that was chosen by two had a peppersauce with it that was far too hot, even for my taste. Only the person who ordered poulet à la crême as a main dish was reasonably content. Everyone was very impressed with the deserts. The quality difference with the last time might be explained by the fact that the owner was not running the kitchen, as opposed to the previous occasion.

Poulet à la crême
However, the whole restaurant starts to resemble Fawlty Towers if the quality of the food is depending on the presence or not of a chef. The experiences only one month apart are too different to classify this place as a very good restaurant.
We had hoped that La Terrasse could fill the gap left behind by La Grange Finot in Bray (closed some time ago) or its successor La Régalade in Cluny (also closed down). Unfortunately this is not the case, hence we are still looking…..

Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Friday, 4 March 2016

09a : Eating out in Cluny (1 of 5)

Cluny is without a shadow of a doubt the town around here offering the widest range of restaurants. We have tried (almost) all restaurants mentioned here at least once. There are a few places we prefer not to eat, and that is irrespective of the quality of the food; it is mainly due to the ambiance we do not like. We start off with low budget places.

Fast food
Le Bosphore
Le Bosphore in the Rue Prud’hon (centre) is an excellent kebab place, although different compared to their English name sakes. For less than € 6 one gets a very nice sandwich kebab, and for around € 9 one gets a plate with kebab (different varieties), French fries and lettuce. The sauces that come standard with the dish are sauce blanche and harissa, a North-African hot (spicy) sauce. The service is excellent and the personnel is very friendly.
There is something resembling a (French) fast food place in the main street, called Quebec Burger. This street changes name as number of times, hence I keep calling it main street. One can buy French fries here, or various types of burger sandwiches, at very reasonable prices. The portions are big, possibly the reason why this place is very popular with the ENSAM students. The restaurant plays rather noisy music, with heavy basses pounding away, reason why we do not go there anymore. However, the service is good.

Le Loup Garou
The main street has two pizzerias, Le Loup Garou (at the beginning seen from the post Office) and La Petite Auberge (a tiny bit further).
As a pizzeria I prefer Le Loup Garou, because the pizzas there are very thin, well filled with a negligible empty edge. For less than € 10 one has a wonderful pizza here. Since I have discovered the pizza saumon, I have never ordered anything else anymore. They also sell various pasta dishes.
La Petite Auberge is also a pizzeria, with roughly the same assortment. Since I am rather choosy when it comes to pizzas I refused to order a pizza here after I tried it once. My better half, very keen on thin crusty edges on pizzas, disagrees with me on this and fully enjoys her pizzas whenever I indulge in their unbeatable plat du jour (see also under cheap restaurants in part 2).
Le Forum
Just outside Cluny’s centre, on the other side of the river Grosne, lies Le Forum, another Italian restaurant / pizzeria. We ate there once, and were quite happy with the food as well, but we prefer Le Loup Garou because of quality, ambiance and location.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

09b : Eating out in Cluny (2 of 5)

Cheap, cosy restaurants
Cosy is a strange criterion for a restaurant, but we distinguish cosy and design restaurants. In our view design restaurants are slightly more expensive than “normal” places, and boast design furniture and decorations. We have tried several, and despite the food, which has the same quality as elsewhere, the “sterile” atmosphere puts us off.
La Petite Auberge
Our favourite : La petite Auberge , a small intimate place with a terrace on the main street. I have been eating a plat du jour there every Tuesday, for over a year, and I still cannot understand how the cook manages to bring something different on the table each time. An estimate: I have a plat du jour approx. 40 times a year. Of those 40 times I have seen a maximum of 5 à 6 dishes which I have had before. And these 5 à 6 are also different from each other! The food itself is excellent, Sue loves the pizzas here, the service is friendly and efficient, and for well under € 10 one has a plat du jour.
Chez Sissis / Café du Centre
Almost next door there is Le Bistrot , which we have tried some time ago. The menu is not very inspiring, and the general impression is that it is more a bar than a bistro. We stick to their neighbours.
Another typical French restaurant, with reading table and excellent French food is Café du Centre or Chez Sissis , just off the main street.
There are few others, which I will just mention. La Halte d’Abbaye is one of those, as is Le Cloître . They offer good food, bur are just a bit further away from the main street, near the abbey.

Design restaurants
Brasserie du Nord
Cluny has a handful of restaurants we do not frequent any more, basically because we do not like the un-French, a bit sterile, ambiance. However, some people are a bit more modern than we are, hence here they are. The main street has Le Comptoir and La Nation . The latter has a terrace, the first one has some chairs and tables cramped outside under an archway. Brasserie du Nord (near the abbey – with terrace) has the same sort of interior and food and the same owner as Brasserie La Nation.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

09c : Eating out in Cluny (3 of 5)

Speciality restaurants
There is one restaurant well known around Cluny for its frog’s legs.
Le Rochefort
The place is called Le Rochefort , on the through road from Cluny direction Mâcon. I once ordered a plate of cuisses de grenouilles including desert for € 25, without desert it would have been € 21. The portion was so big, and eating the legs so time consuming, that I had finally eaten all the legs only after two hours. Fortunately Sue did not mind to take my desert, because I really felt stuffed. The frog’s legs were deep fried, garnished with parsley, and over-delicious.
On the same road, near the old railway station one finds bio-restaurant Le Pain sur le Table .
Le Pain sur le Table
We went in one day, but neither the clientele nor the dishes made us think “yes, let us try!”. It all looked a bit too healthy and too bio for my taste. However, vegetarians have a hard time in Burgundy, when it comes to finding something else but a green salad (which often has lardons = bacon in it anyway!). So maybe this is the place for them. We hope to get a review from one of those vegetarians who are not put off by the look of their food!
Le Potin Gourmand (just outside the centre, at the very “end” of the main street) offers apart from (sporadic) jazz concerts also mediaeval meals. I can vouch for the jazz music, but have not (yet) tried the mediaeval meals.

Expensive restaurants
Two restaurants, Hôtel de Bourgogne and Hostellerie d’Héloïse we have tried in the meantime (click on the links to read the separate blogs).
Auberge du Cheval Blanc
The only slightly more expensive restaurant we have frequented for a while was Auberge du Cheval Blanc, not quite in the centre of Cluny. The food there was always excellent, the ambiance nice. However, recently we resorted again to this place (our usual restaurant for special occasions has stopped to exist). They gutted the inside of the building, the service was not what it used to be, and although the food was good, it certainly does not rank like it did before.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

09d : Eating out in Cluny (4 of 5)

Hôtel de Bourgogne
After long deliberations we finally decided to go for a real expensive meal. We had chosen Hôtel de Bourgogne, a beautiful building overlooking the square where also the Palais du Pape Gélase is located.
That sounded very promising, a dining room with a view, were it not, that the dining room was not located at the front of the hotel, but at the side of it, with a stunning view on the building site of the abbey which is being restored. Unfortunately our table was facing the window, hence I was overlooking the restoration works. Further, the street along the windows connected the town centre with a parking area, and the narrow pavement allowed pedestrians to have a good look at what the financially better off were having on their plates.
Of course one goes to a restaurant to eat, and not to criticise the location or surroundings. Still, I felt a bit like being on display here, something that does not bother me the slightest when I am having a meal on the terrace of a much cheaper restaurant in a busy street.
Palais du Pape Gélase
Anyway, here we were. Sue was strategically positioned overlooking the (in my eyes) old fashioned, almost English interior.
Neither of us ordered a menu, basically because a starter and main course contain more than sufficient food for us. Both of us ordered a foie gras with very special pieces of toast, I ordered a tournedos with mashed potatoes, spinach and chanterelles, while Sue had a piece of Bresse chicken in mushroom (morels) sauce, with carrot and asparagus and a few new potatoes.
As an amuse we got a tiny bowl with a bit of red cabbage with a creamy sauce.
The food was really excellent, as were the staff and the service.
The now finished renovations of part of Cluny III
We knew that this meal was going to set us back a few bob. I had spotted in the menu that the prices were nett, hence the additional VAT on the bill did not come as a surprise. Why the VAT was not included in the menu prices however is a mystery to me. All in all, we had spent approx. € 65 a head, including a bottle of wine and a cup of coffee.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

09e : Eating out in Cluny (5 of 5)

Ever since in 2013 the chef of La Grange Finot in Bray, and later of La Régalade in Cluny, Serge Curtil had to close his doors we have been desperately looking for something similar, and so far without much success. Those restaurants both served excellent meals, the service was good and friendly, the price was very reasonable considering the quality of the food, in a word: Curtil's restaurants had been for years the places we went to in case we had something to celebrate.

Hostellerie d'Héloïse - Cluny
The name Hostellerie d'Héloïse had cropped up as a possible replacement of La Grange Finot, and we have made several attempts to reserve a table there. But every time we tried to book, the restaurant was either closed or fully booked, and we had more or less given up the idea of ever eating there.

Hostellerie d'Héloïse - Cluny
Until we wanted to celebrate my birthday. The weather forecast for that day was horrible, hence a nice day out sight-seeing was not an option. Remained a special dinner for two. Again the Hostellerie was mentioned, and this time we were luckier: we could make a reservation for a table for two that evening without any problem.

We had never seen the restaurant from the inside, and when we walked in we realised why making a reservation was not as easy as we thought it should have been. The restaurant area is not big, and since the place is also a hotel, having a fully booked hotel quickly results in a fully booked restaurant. The restaurant offers a lovely view over the river Grosne, is simply but tastefully decorated and furnished and the service was friendly and adequate.

Pavé de Charollais
As far as I am concerned a child is easily pleased, and when I saw the "Menu the Terroir" I was sold straight away. An amuse-bouche, twelve escargots, a pavé de Charollais in a red wine sauce with gratin dauphinois, a cheese platter with a.o. three different Epoisses and as a bonus a lemon sorbet with vodka and coffee, well, what more can one wish?

Magret de Canard
My partner was a bit less extravagant (it not being her birthday), with asparagus as a starter, half a magret de canard as a main dish and the same cheese platter as I had (menu de marché d'Héloïse).

Rest in Peace!
The food was excellent and nicely laid out, the service was very good and friendly, and at the end of the day this meal including a glass of pastis as an apéro, wine and coffee set us back less than 50 € a head. Not something to do on a daily basis, but for special occasions we finally have found a place to eat!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

10 : Eating out in Saint-Gengoux

Saint-Gengoux-le-National is located approx. 10 km north of Cormatin along the Voie Verte, reason why many cyclists sooner or later end up there to find something to eat. Apart from a handful of bakers, always good for a cake, a quiche or even a (French) sandwich, Saint-Gengoux also has some restaurants.

Not really in town, but somewhere halfway Cormatin and Saint-Gengoux on the D981 is restaurant La Place in the hamlet with the same name. La Place is a dépendence of Les Blés d’Or in Cormatin. The food is good and reasonably priced. The restaurant often gets bus loads of tourists, because the kitchen is capable of catering for big groups.

Hôtel de la Gare
On the edge of town, near the old station on the Voie Verte one finds hôtel-restaurant de la Gare.
Early 2012 some friends invited us over for a lunch there. Although we had made a reservation for six, there was no table laid for us. However, one of the laid tables (linen napkins, proper wine glasses) was re-laid, this time with paper napkins and the typical glasses normally used wit the menu du jour. The restaurant has a bar and a dining room. The bar is meant for menu du jour (€ 12.50) or plat du jour only; the dining room is restricted to those ordering à la carte only. How they go about companies where some want a menu du jour and some want to order à la carte is beyond me. The reception was rather chaotic, and I thought the prices were a bit on the steep side. The available menus were € 20.00 (simple menu, starter, main dish and cheese), € 28.50 (starter, fish or meat dish and cheese) and € 34.00 (starter, fish and meat dish and cheese). One of the available starters consisted of an excellent buffet à volonté of various starters. The other dishes we ordered were nicely laid out and of very good quality.
La Jouvence
My verdict: if I want to spend a bit more money than usual for a meal, I know where to find better places with the same price around La Tuilerie de Chazelle. And if I want a simple meal in a place with a nice ambiance, Saint-Gengoux has more than one other place to offer than just Hôtel de la Gare. In a word: for the time being I will not store Hôtel de la Gare under “My favourites”.

In the centre, on the Avenue de la Promenade one finds restaurant La Jouvence, which is a “normal” French restaurant. It serves good food at very reasonable prices. A formula or menu du jour costs (order of magnitude) € 13.

For those who want something simple there is pizzeria Pili-Pili. It is located in the Grande Rue, a side street of the Avenue de la Promenade, and not really worth this flattering name. Although not exactly a place for a cosy candlelight dinner, the pizzas they serve are of good quality and the service is friendly and adequate. It is also a take-away.

Further Café du Marché near the lavoir is said to serve sandwiches.