Wednesday, August 31, 2011

domino the dog-cat

I think I introduced you to Domino our cat last year when he first arrived at our house. He's now 1.5 years old and has turned into a very adaptable kitty. He has been to Holland once, to the farmhouse in the Auvergne twice, and has travelled back and forth between Savennières and Vézelay three times. That's over 7000 km in the car!

At home in Savennières, he is quite independent and he likes to take off on his own for many hours at a time, just coming home for food and a little lap time, although he does come when he is called. In Vézelay, he stays much closer to us, spending a lot of time sleeping on the bed and exploring the vincinity around where I was staying.

When Jean-Marc was here for his holidays, we quite often went out in the evening for a little walk and we noticed that Domino was keen on following us. One time, we wandered up the winding paths to the basilica (about 200 metres away) and when we looked behind us, there was Domino trotting along. We continued further to the park behind the basilica, and he followed us along the stone wall that encloses the area. When it was time to go, he was right in step with us. I thought this was because he was a little afraid of going too far away on his own in Vézelay because of all the other cats and their territories, but what do I know?

A couple of weekends ago, back in Savennières, we were invited over to a friend's house in our village for a glass of wine. This friend lives in an out-building of a winery château that is situated in a large park, about half a km from our place. We went on foot, and when we arrived, we saw that Domino had followed us the whole way. We entered the grounds of the château, leaving Domino on the other side of the gate (due to the other cats) and visited with our friend. Since it was nice weather, we decided to wander into the park and have a glass of wine next to the pond. When we got outside, there was Domino ( he must have climbed the 3 metre stone wall) and he came with us down to the pond. We sat there for maybe an hour and he stayed  close to us, either exploring around the pond or lounging at our feet. Our friend proposed a second excursion into the vineyards of the Domaine, so we crossed a field, climbed some steps and crossed a bridge, which led us into the hillside vineyard. Domino never missed a beat, following us the whole way. Once in the vineyard, we sat on the ground and drank a little more wine, admiring the stars of an incredibly clear night. Domino relaxed in his kitty sphinx pose a couple of metres away and hung out with us for another hour, until we decided to leave. By this point we were probably more than a kilometre from our place and I had never seen our cat wander so far from home before!

We walked all the way home, with our little dog-cat right behind us.

When he's out and about, I imagine Domino to be a bit scrappy because he comes homes with scratches and nicks, but when he's at home he's a total snuggle bear who is very gentle and affectionate. I have a friend who might say that our cat is our "fur kid" - which is kind of true - but as a cat person, I have never met any cat as responsive and faithful as Domino. More like a dog than a cat, really.

I think it's fair to say that Jean-Marc and I are both smitten. We're hoping that the move and the new house, which is dangerously close to some busy roads, don't cause a problem for our little choupie*.

* a word I have invented, pronounced SHOO-pee, which can be used for any animal (un choupie), but in Domino's case, he is Le Choupie. Wouldn't you agree?

Friday, August 26, 2011

going on tour

When I was singing in Vancouver, we went on tour a couple of times per year for up to three weeks at a time, and it was always a lot of fun to be able to see different parts of the country while working. Luckily for me, the fun can continue for me here! When the choir performs in one of my regions, or if I have some presenters who will be attending a concert in one of my colleague's regions, I get to go on tour. In July we went to Normandy and Brittany and here are a few photos from that trip.
The first concert was at the Abbey of Lessay. While the choir rehearsed, I went for a walk around the grounds and came upon this covered area full of bits of sculpture. I found the area to be quite poetic and I took a few photos.
Around the corner, there was a random pile of slate roof tiles stacked under a window.
And out in the garden, there were some gigantic figs. We tried one but it wasn't quite ripe.
Yes, we went to the seaside, but I only took one photo and it didn't turn out very well. St Malo is a quaint harbour town where the fortified walls separate the village from the beach. I'd like to go back in winter and watch the storms whilst eating some excellent seafood or crêpes (it is Brittany, after all!).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

raw milk machine

Last year, when I went to the farmhouse for a visit, I noticed something different outside the supermarket: a raw milk dispensing machine.

There aren't many around, but in milk-producing regions they're starting to pop up more and more. You buy the bottle on the left and then fill it up on the right. The bottles can be sterilized and reused the next time you want more milk. It's strange when I think of how raw milk and its products are essentially illegal in Canada and here you can get it out of a machine 24 hours/day. Since stores have very limited opening hours here in France, it makes the running-out-of-milk scenario a snap to remediate!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the festival

Most of my job revolves around selling the concerts of a professional chamber choir, but there is a choral music festival that we host for four days at the end of August for which we have been recently gearing up. Vézelay plays host to three big concerts in the basilica and creates the Places des Rencontres - a square that turns into a terrace with drinks and free concerts - and then there are three other villages that host afternoon concerts and various activities, such as musical walking tours.

It's a small festival, compared with most, but we bring in some big names. This year, Helmuth Rilling is coming to conduct Mendelssohn's Elijah, with the Gächinger Kantorei and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart on the opening night. To close down the festival, Pierre Cao will conduct Arsys Bourgogne and the Camerata Salzburg for Mozart's Requiem and Mass in C minor. In the middle, the Flemish Radio Choir will sing modern sacred music by Sisask, Ligeti, Penderecki and Sandström under the baton of Catherine Simonpietri (it's the concert I'm most looking forward to!).

The smaller concerts include all kinds of music, from Renaissance and Baroque to vocal jazz and beat boxing. Tomorrow we have 30 volunteers coming to get things set up and, starting tomorrow, we we have catering for all our meals until next Sunday's lunch. Yay, no groceries to buy!

To make things somewhat complicated, I was told that I would need to leave my apartment before the festival started because it was needed as a dressing room for visiting artists. I asked my new landlord if I could sleep at the new house for a few nights before the beginning of our rental, and she agreed to let me stay. As it turns out, they were planning on moving the first day of the festival, so I will have the house to myself on August 25th, even though our rental officially starts on September 1st. Of course, this means moving my stuff on the first day of the festival, and I'm guessing it will probably be done at some time after midnight!

The last day of the festival, next Sunday, we will take off straight away to perform the Mozart two times at one of France's biggest music festivals: La Chaise Dieu. We're likely going to be incredibly tired, but I'm sure it will be exhilarating at the same time. La Chaise Dieu is only 25km from the farmhouse, but I'm not sure that I'll get a chance to visit, since I won't have my car with me.

We ended up working yesterday (Saturday), so today is our only day to rest up for the big week ahead!