29 December 2014

La Fosse « divine » at Tonnerre

The actual name of this interesting natural feature in the town of Tonnerre in Burgundy is La Fosse Dionne, but the word Dionne is a deformation of the French word « divine », apparently. Or of "Divona", a Celtic god(dess) of the waters. People thought there was something mysterious and magical about the place.

« Fosse » means pit or hole — a deep, wide cavity — whether natural or man-made. In this case, the deep, wide pit in Tonnerre is a huge spring at the base of the hill that is topped by the Église Saint-Pierre nowadays. Two thousand years a Roman fort stood on that spot, and the remnants of a stone staircase from those days, leading from the spring up to the top of the hill, have been found.

According to the sign pictured above, day in and day out, year-round, as much as 200 liters (50 gallons) of water per second surge up through the Fosse Dionne. The water does not come from an underground river, the sign says, but from water trapped in faults and cracks in a limestone plateau 25 miles south of Tonnerre. It changes color and the flow varies from hour to hour and season to season.

I'll just post a few more pictures, since I though the site was pretty and picturesque. The stone lavoir or washhouse built around the natural spring dates back to the mid-1700s.

By the way, the temperature here according to at least one weather site is negative 9ºC this morning. That's about +16ºF. There's no snow in the forecast for Saint-Aignan so far, but the cold snap is supposed to last through the week. I'm making a big pot of turkey-barley soup today with the leftovers from our Christmas dinner.


  1. Possibly the most photogenic lavoir in France....?
    It is undoubtedly pretty...
    and when you look at the darker blue colour of the water...
    top right in the first picture...
    undoubtedly deep!

    The machine has stopped talking to me...
    there is no temperature out there....
    nor wind, rain, humid-ite...
    bleedin' batteries 'ave gorn, init?!!

    Fortunately, the big boiler controller has an external sensor...
    so I can happily report that we are warmer than you...
    minus eight centipedes.
    Could you post the recipe for that turkey barley soup please, Ken....
    never heard of such... but it sounds a good winter warmer.
    I can follow up the pot on the stove...
    containing "leftover" soup...
    with yours....
    but still made with beef...
    there was rather a lot left over!

  2. Tim, our own thermometer, which is on an external wall of the unheated garage on the north side and under a balcony, said -5. It was cold, but Callie and I had a good walk between 8 and 9 this morning.

    The turkey barley soup is not so much a recipe as an improvisation. I had poached a turkey before browning it off in the oven, so I had about three liters of well-seasoned cooking liquid. When the turkey legs, wings, thighs, and breast were cut off the frame, I simmered the carcass and any leftover bones in that liquid in the slow cooker overnight. There was my soup liquid.

    I finely diced onions, carrots, and celery stalks and added in things I had lurking in the fridge: a few chopped fresh mushrooms, some frisée lettuce that I had cooked with lardons (which went in too) — sweat all that down with butter, turkey fat, bacon fat, olive oil, or chicken fat. I dropped in one leftover supermarket tomato that I chopped up. I chopped up the turkey meat, too, that was left from other meals or pulled from the carcass after it had simmered overnight. Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, whatever herbs or spices you like, a good handful of pearl barley, et voilà — an hour later, it's soup. It's all in the broth or stock, really, with whatever aromatic ingredients you like with the barley.

    1. I should have mentioned that lamb barley soup and beef barley soup (both made with shanks) are really good too. And why not chicken or pintade. The barley we have is orge séchée from China via the Paris Store Asian market in Tours-Nord.

    2. Ours is Orge Perlée from the Bio shop in Chatellerault...
      but, up until today...
      I've only ever used it in stews.
      A standard handful has now gone in the pot'o'soup on the stove.
      I usually use pasta as a "thick souper" ingredient.

    3. Tim, what kind of stew do you put barley in?

    4. Lamb Hotpot and similar sheep recipes...
      viz: Mutton Stew....
      both these are old Anglais winter staples!

  3. I'll remember until I die of a wonderful beef barley soup I had more than thirty years ago in a restaurant on Route 10 in Van Horn, Texas. Several years later, we made a point of stopping at that same restaurant in hopes of a good meal. The place had changed hands and I was really disappointed!

    1. Good that you had that good soup at least one time. Our turkey barley soup is delicious. We'll have it for lunch again tomorrow.

  4. I have forgotten Fahrenheit now, but you must write for your audience. Are you saying that is -9 or just 9 degrees? I really cannot imagine -9.

    1. Andrew, yes, minus or negative nine centigrade (–9ºC). That was the temperature on my weather widget on the Windows 7 desktop this morning. I think it is really the temperature recorded in Romorantin, which for some reason is colder than Saint-Aignan though only 25 miles east of us. Our home thermometer read –5. The lowest temperature we have recorded here over the past 12 years was –11ºC. I remember a New Year's Eve in Washington DC in about 1984 when Walt and I went out to dinner and the temperature outside was 0ºF, which is about –18C. And when I lived in Illinois, 150 miles south of Chicago, in the late 1970s, several times we had temperatures as low as –25ºF, or –32ºC. Those were the days!

  5. There is magic in this spring. Thanks for the photos. The coldest weather I've experienced was in the late 70s in Cincinnati, but it only got to -20 and there was snow to deal with also. It was nineteen below in January 1962 when I took my test to get my driver's license. You don't forget such cold days.

  6. last winter (our first in the NC woods) it was 1 degree one morning

  7. What a lovely site! I have never heard of it...

    The cold here is still absolutely gripping; my daughter and I went into Rodez today for lunch and could hardly stand it, even though it was sunny out!

  8. The composition of your third photo with the greenery and the reflections on the water could be hung in anyones room as a feature. Picture perfect Ken


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