Monthly Archives: May 2007

Yes, there are big trees in Burgundy too!

The first time that Franck took me to a “forest” (for nefarious purposes, if memory serves correct) here in Burgundy I almost collapsed from laughing so hard.

For a girl like me, born and brought up surrounded by the old growth rain forest of the Pacific Northwest, the saplings planted in neat, straight lines could by no stretch of the imagination be termed a “forest”.

“This isn’t a forest!” I snorted as I waved my hand around the fluff of greenery that coiffed the top of the vineyard-encircled hill we were standing on. “You can get lost in a forest – you can’t get lost here.”

“You can,” Franck protested.

“No, you can’t. Besides there are no bears or cougars…or anything that will attack you if it’s in the mood.”

“There are wild boars.”

That just didn’t cut it as far as I was concerned. Indeed all the bears and wolves of France were driven out by the same forces that were responsible for cutting down and replanting “forests” all over France, namely the Celts, then Romans, then other groups and tribes that came to populate the countryside over the centuries.

Since my first introduction to french forests those many years ago I have actually come to appreciate the many positive things about them (and don’t laugh at them anymore…well, almost never anyway), such as;

– If you get lost and keep walking you are pretty much sure you will eventually stumble upon a village. In BC there are many forests in which, if you got lost, your chances of dying of thirst / starvation / becoming a Bear’s breakfast before you can find your way out are alarmingly high.

– It is actually nice to be able to go for a nice walk without having to bring along whistles, bells, pepper spray, or a very loud and obnoxious singing voice to scare off the wild animals. Likewise you don’t have to worry that the quick, abrupt movements of your small children are attracting the local cougar population. As my brother-in-law Greg commented while he was here “it’s so lovely and benign.”

– In Canada your chances of stumbling upon the ruins of a Gallo-Roman village or an ancient monolith put there by the druids on your walk is very slim indeed, whereas here it is very high. Just ask us about the Gallo-Roman ruins near Arcenant, or any of the other ones studding the forests around here.

Anyway, needing a dose of “forest” and a bit of adventure this Sunday we took the girls to an rapidly-growing activity here known as “Acrobranch.”

This happened in a spot on the edge of the “forest” that is just beside the lovely little village of Givry (about a half hour drive South from our place). Charlotte & Camille got all rigged up to go on these vertigo-inducing rope, wire, and net routes high up int the tree tops.

They were both very keen, but were significantly less so for a while until they got used to the heights, especially their first time around. Once they got the hang of it they were very proud of themselves, and were like a couple of monkies up there.

Camille of course was so chuffed with her small self that she began yelling instructions to all the other little kids before / after her like some kind of army commander. You know, there is a “right” way to do things…don’t these kids get it!? Sheesh

Charlotte did a harder course which required her to clip herself in and out of different cords , and was at times REALLY HIGH. But she pushed through and did stuff that I’m not even sure I would have the guts to do. She has a deep well of hidden courage inside her, that one.

Franck and I still have cricks in our necks from looking at our daughters up in the treetops and shouting encouragements, but all in all I have to say it was a great day in the forest. See, I didn’t use quotation marks around the word this time!

To our many guests with children, we would highly recommend this activity – the girls begged us to stay longer after they had been doing it for almost three hours, and fell asleep in a matter of seconds that night.

Here’s the website, and you can always contact us for more info.

President Sarkozy’s first few scandals

It’s official – as of 11:00 yesterday morning Nicolas Sarkozy replaced Jacques Chirac as the President of France. In the 10 short days since the May 6th vote, he has already unleashed a few tasty scandales:

1. On May 7th he flew (in a plush private jet) to Malta take a few days’ vacation on a humongous luxury yacht owned by French industrial M. Bollere. This is seen as very “parvenu” and “nouveau riche” by the french who are rather allergic to conspicuous displays of wealth. There is also the touchy matter of whether M. Bollere will be wanting to garner some state contracts in return for his largesse. Not the best PR start for the man who campaigned as being in perfect sync with the working classes and “little people”.

2. Journalists raked over the voting lists and discovered that his wife Cecilia (she who ran off with New York Sports Journalist last summer) did not vote on May 6th. Loud rumblings as to the state of their marriage ensued, as well as the possibility floated that perhaps Cecilia preferred Segolene to her own husband.

3. Sarkozy is reputedly going to appoint Bernard Kuchner – the French doctor whom I hugely admire and who created “Doctors Without Borders” many years ago – as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sarkozy’s own political party is horrified (not to mention disappointed, as many of them are jostling to get appointed) and the left has branded Kuchner (who campaigned alongside Segolene) a traitor. I adore Kuchner (have a bit of a crush on him, to tell the truth) and think he is the right man for the job. Sarkozy’s decision is not only a brilliant political manoeuvre, but also proof of his pragmatism which I believe is a good thing for France.

Here in our little villages of Burgundy the news is much less scandalous:

1. We are currently putting a new, higher fence around the garden at La Maison des Deux Clochers to make the garden (photo at top of page) prettier, more functional, and completely private. However, the last few days have rained which means that our tradesman can’t finish the concrete work and has buggered off to other jobs – very annoying and we’re praying for sunshine.

2. Claire and the rest of the Naudin family threw and amazing open house last weekend at their Domaine in MagnylesVillers. Claire invited winemakers she is friends with (and whose wine she likes – a gauge of quality if there ever was one) from many different regions of France. There was also the mayor of Magny – Michel Juste – selling his delectable jams, gingerbread, and conserves, and many local cheese makers, olive oil tastings from Provence, etc. It was great fun and we went at 4:30 only planning on being there an hour or so and stayed until 11:00pm. There was music, merguez on the BBQ, and painting for the kids. We also got to meet Corentin, Claire’s 1 month old baby boy. Barry & Virginia White were there from Les Deux Clochers, Ardythe and her gang from Le Relais du Vieux Beaune, and Bob and Joyce Meil who I had been corresponding with by email. Carol Disrud and her husband staying at La Maison de la Vieille Vigne went on Sunday. If they do it again nest year, it is not to be missed!

3. On Sunday evening we had a HUGE lightning storm and Villers-la-Faye got two direct hits, which blew out our Internet cable. We’re just cobbling things back together now, so if I haven’t responded to an email you’ve sent since then, send it again svp.

4. We have my niece Lola over for the day, and the three girls (home from school as is another stat holiday – don’t know why Sarkozy just doesn’t declare the month of May in France a holiday as there is not one full week of work / school during the entire month). It is 12:20 and they are saying they are getting very hungry and want lunch. The nerve. Maybe I too can make friends with M. Bollere and he can fly me to Malta for a little break on his yacht.

Et c’est….

It’s very strange to be living in a country where there is only one time zone. Instead of the staggered results that trickle in hour after hour in the Canadian elections, here the results were known to the entire country at 8:00pm sharp. A fluttering french flag on the french TV was pulled back to reveal the new President or Presidente of France (strangely reminding me of “The Dating Game”).

With the girls in our living room we all counted down to see the flag, at 8:00pm sharp, pulled back to reveal…the candidate who wasn’t wearing a tailored skirt.

C’est ca, the new President of France is Nicolas Sarkozy.

The voters were clear – he won 53% of the votes while Segolene won 47%. Once again, the voter turnout was astoundingly high – around 86% the news programs reported last night. He now has a clear mandate to make the changes that he has proposed, and I for one will watch with avid interest.

Segolene made a brave and combative speech at about 8:02pm, which I told Charlotte and Camille was a true lesson in dignity. Charlotte and Camille were, of course, gutted that Segolene didn’t win, and Charlotte for one couldn’t believe Segolene was actually smiling during her speech. Afterwards, Charlotte said she that was sure that Segolene was almost crying.

Nicolas’ speech was surprisingly humble, and called for French unity and brotherhood rather than polarizing the different classes in this country, as many feared he would. His speech left me feeling hopeful that he might just be able to pull France out of its current social and economic rut. But that, mes amis, is something that only time will tell.

***P.S. I am very happy with my photo choice – France is veering to the droite…get it??? Sometimes I am so clever I can barely stand it***

Le Cigale et Le Fourmis et Nicolas Sarkozy

As I was getting Charlotte’s “cartable” of books ready to go back to school after the Spring Vacation, I happened to flip through her “cahier” of French exercises.

My attention was caught by a photocopied parable by the renowned Jean de la Fontaine. It was called “Le Cigale et Le Forumis” and was about the cigale (songbird) who sang all summer while the fourmis (ant) sweated and worked hard and hoarded food away. When winter came the songbird asked to share some of the ant’s food, but the ant riposted (this is from memory, so I am going to paraphrase here) “No way cigale! You sang all summer and didn‘ t do any work, so now that it cold and wintertime you can dance to keep yourself warm!”

After the text there were several questions to test the students’ reading comprehension, one of which was “Do you think the ant was right? Do you like her?”

Charlotte wrote; “I like the ant. She was right not to share her food with the cigale. That was normal because the cigale should have worked. I think the ant is a very nice ant.”

So now I’m wondering if, despite Segolene’s astounding (in Charlotte’s opinion) beauty, my daughter isn’t truly a “Sarkoziste” at heart.