As you probably know, I am here in Cluny, France in the Burgundy Region taking a Rutgers University course entitled “The Microbiology and Culture of Cheese and Wine” for two weeks! Each day brings excitement, twists, and turns because we the students cannot keep track of it all. Some days are spent entirely in the classroom devoting our time to studying the science behind the creative processes of cheese and wine making while others hold amazing surprises. Saturday, June 4 was a typical day here with a slight twist which made it all the more interesting.
Usually, our days here begin with a classic French breakfast at 8 am in the hostel: bread, coffee, and jam & butter. Literally, that is all that is served not only in this hostel, but all over France. Not going to sugar coat it, but if you want your classic omelette or hearty protein for breakfast, France is not the country for you. 9 am is usually our “pull-it-together” time and we meet with our two professors, one of whom studies microbiology and the other is the resident direct of study abroad programs in France. Sometimes, our first activity includes a drive around the country-side of France which is full of vineyards and culminates with one of my favorite things to do here, a wine tasting (pictured at the right is our tasting of SIX WINES at the world famous Bouchard winery). On this Saturday morning, we were allotted an extra 30 minutes and to meet up at 9:30 to then continue on with a very special activity.
In Cluny, Saturday morning is the day that the weekly Farmer’s market intrudes on the old city square. Everyone from the Macon Valley comes to sell their wares which includes, vegetables, cheese, and clothing to name just a few. Both of our professors discussed the importance of the market for the producers and how the market day influences when and how they make/harvest perishable items such as cheese and produce. We were given three and a half hours to wander through the vendors! With all of this time, I was able to purchase three different types of cheese which included a lovely pesto gouda from two very welcoming women from Holland and some other cheeses from other vendors like one pictured at the right. After ordering noodles from a man in broken French and then eating said noodles, our group set off for our next activity of the day.
One of the many historical importances of Cluny, outside of being the largest monastery of its time, was that during the French Revolution, Napoleon had his army horses bred in Cluny! Some of the breeds created during that period are still kept in the equestrian area of Cluny today. Now I know that you have probably seen some horses in your time on this planet, but the mustangs held in Cluny are not only magnificent, they are HUGE! Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures to share with you of said horses (my camera battery gave out), but you are just going to have to take my word on it that these horses were far above the size average. Among the majestic horses was a miniature horse named Yoki and his trainor was able to give us a wonderful “little” presentation of his skills. He was able to walk backwards, and sidestep and many other fantastic things (it really was cool). After a tour of the entire stable complex (which is actually quite complex), we headed back to our hostel for dinner. I decided to stay economical and eat in with fresh bread and cheese that I purchased at the market (have you figured out that my diet has been chock full of carbs yet). Tune in next time for a captivating recap of all that we have done here in France so far!