17 to 19 June – days out

Animations dans la campagne

Rural France puts on some wonderful events during the summer.    Some could even be described as magical, such as last year’s prosaic-sounding international mosaic conference at La Châpelle-St-André.  It was a small conference by any standards and together with live mosaic demonstrations it had  a display of  jewel-like mosaics in the XIII century chapel with this huge stone and crystal-encrusted clam shell as the star of the show.

mosaic shell

If you apply a small lens to the holes in the side you see the grotto of shining amathyst crystal inside in kaleidoscopic vision. If it hadn’t had a price tag of 7,000 I would have cleared a room at home and taken it away. They also created a more straightforward mosaic mural representing the area to attach to the Chapel wall.

Chapel mosaic

This year there was a musical weekend at the nearby Chateau de Corbelin which rivalled it for unexpected charm. The chateau itself is of the heavy, monumental kind rather than the more delicate, ornamental sort and is beautiful in itself. Chateau de Corbellin

Its gardens make it truly remarkable: the formal gardens laid out with roses in full bloom make a fragrant walk and the water gardens add a soupçon of poetry.  Roses CorbelinJust to make it truly inspired there is a pianist playing Beethoven on the terrace: the music slowly becomes discernible as you walk down the drive to the entrance, and then drifts along beside you around the flowerbeds and streams.water garden corbelin

From the sublime to, well, another sort of rural sublime – a vintage car rally in a village near us.  This consists of many lovely old cars processing from one field in the middle of nowhere down a rural road to another.  And then coming back again.  It is not a race – more of a moving (in the kinetic sense) exhibition.  And the cars are cute.  Many of them pimped up or stripped down for racing.  Many of them parked at the roadside with boot or bonnet open to cool the tired old engines over the lunch break.  There is a big marquee for diners who want sandwich de jambon and frites but most people seem to be seasoned rally goers and have come with trailer, awning, barbeque and food.  Bona carsIt starts to drizzle so after the frites we decide to skip the next run of the cars from A to B and leave the field before it becomes a quagmire.  Parked in a similar field for the Fêtes des Anes a few years ago we, along with many other fête-goers, had a very muddy struggle to leave the mealie-field car park after a heavy burst of rain.

We go on to a brocante in Montapas – beside the lake.  PenduleWe love these – half loft clearance, half low grade antiques, half jumble sale – we have picked up enough junk over the years to take a stall of our own.  We have picked up some lovely stuff to furnish the fermette too such as this pendule, which keeps good time and has Westminster chimes which strike every quarter with only one note missing. On the hour it only ever strikes one.  We keep meaning to bring it home and get it fixed by Mr Farbrother in Shipton-by-Beningborough, who has fixed other clocks for us and Castle Howard.  But we seem never to get round to it.

Things learnt:
  • French chateaux events can be magical, inspired places.  If I were in charge I would add a tea room.
  • Take a flask of tea wherever you go (see previous point). Then you can always have half a pint of it whenever you want if that is what you like.  And I do.
  • Westminster chimes have the same four notes per quarter in a different order and sound odd when the third note is missing (dong, dong, blank, dong….dong, blank, dong, dong, etc) but strangely appealing once you get used to it.

Tomorrow we set off in the van again.



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