Our local village has just spent 5 days “En Fête” and what an enjoyable and exhausting time we’ve had. For those of you who haven’t experienced a “Fete” in SW France, it’s nothing like the local fetes in England. Here in France every village (no matter how small) has a long weekend during the summer months where they celebrate together in various ways. Our village usually has 4 days of fete, but this year, because the Tour de France was passing by on 14th July (Bastille Day), we had an extra day.
Le Passage du Tour de France
It started off on the Thursday 14th July (Bastille Day) with a “Buvette” (a bar serving beer and soft drinks) and grillades set up in a field on a country road at the edge of our village where the Tour de France passed by. We all arrived at 11h and watched about 30 minutes or so of advertisers in various cars, motorbikes and floats passing by (rather speedily) throwing out freebies. This was in fact the most exciting bit for the kids who all scrambled to get their caps, key rings, sweets, papers, pamphlets and washing liquid samples! Luc my 6 year old wisely chose to wear his long shorts with loads of deep pockets (he’s not stupid, he saw it last year!), which were bulging at the seams by the end. We then waited for maybe another hour before the actual bikes passed by. Frankie my 3 year old was screaming through boredom and thirst by this time, so I was getting her a drink at the buvette when the actual “Tour de France” passed by! Never mind, I didn’t miss much - it was all over in less than 3 minutes. However it was nice to be part of the general atmosphere of the day.
On the Friday night there was a “Bal Musette” which is old time dancing for the older members of the community (or so I’m told) – we decided to give this one a miss.
La Concours de Peche
Saturday saw an early start with the fishing competition in our neighbour’s lake. A truck arrives the day before filled with trout which are emptied into the lake for the competition. The first person to catch 10 fish is the winner and you get to keep the trout for tea. It’s amazing how seriously some of the competitors take it – we even had a French man stop us the night before and ask directions to the lake – I think he was eying it up to make sure he got a good spot. It all kicked off at 8am, my eldest (21) decided to go along with his girlfriend and 9 year old James. It took them a while to dig up some worms, so they didn’t arrive until 8.30am by which time most of the trout had already been caught. They set up next to a real pro who happened to have caught his 10 by 8.45 and turned out to be the winner of the competition. He then focused his attention on James and lent him his rod and gave him some tips. James turned out to be a natural and caught 7 fish, which was a significant catch compared to his older brothers’ meager 2. I joined them around 11am with the little ones and we watched the presentation to the winning fishermen and enjoyed an apero and a snack. They had a great morning and we had 9 fresh trout to grill on the barbecue that evening.
In the afternoon their was a Petanque competition which is apparently very competitive – we decided to give this one a miss too.
La Bal Disco
Saturday night was rounded off with the “Bal Disco” which is mainly for “Les jeunes” (the teenagers and young adults) where the average age is about 19-20 and they drink and dance to a DJ playing songs into the early hours of the morning. I took my eldest, his girlfriend and our au pair up to the Salle de Fete (village hall) just after midnight and there was hardly anyone there. The music was blaring but the 30 or so people in the hall were all hugging the edges and milling round the bar. It was rather reminiscent of a school disco where nobody wants to be the first to dance. Ryan my 17 year old had been invited to a pre Bal “Apero” with “Les Jeunes” of the village and I think that’s where everyone else was. He turned up at the bal just after 1am with all the others and then suddenly the village hall and bar seemed to be packed. It’s amazing where they all come from. I left them to it about 2am when it all seemed to be starting to kick off -who wants their Mum there cramping their style or whatever it is these days? They all rolled in a couple of hours later after a good night’s dancing, chatting and drinking.
Sunday afternoon saw the “Tournee chez l’habitant” which is basically all “Les Jeunes” driving round in cars, dressed up in strange attire bibbing their horns and collecting money for “the Village”. In they evening there’s a bodega (a sort of brass band) and sausages, kebabs and chips up at the village hall. We never attend this as it always falls on the same day as our annual barbecue for the gardening club we run. We were rather busy with that, organising tables, food etc for nearly 50 people. Despite my usual last minute panicking, all went well apart from the rain and the howling wind, which nearly carried the marquee off down the hill. I try to plan for everything, but you just don’t expect that sort of weather in July, it’s been an odd year for weather.
Monday evening was the village meal and the night we’d all been waiting for. The whole village young and old descend on the Salle de Fete where long tables are laid out under a marquee outside the Mairie. There must have been well over 200 people there. It’s amazing how organised they were and tasty the meal was. The meal started with a generous apero of either Ricard (like pernod) or Muscat (a fortified wine). We had an entree of melon with ham, followed by Poulet Basquaise(chicken and small pieces of spiced sausage in a lightly spiced tomato and pepper sauce), followed by cheese and salad, finished off with a cornetto. The red wine flowed freely as did the food. This year our meal was interrupted by a power cut, which only served to add to the village spirit and jovial atmosphere. Everyone just got out lights from mobile phones and carried on talking and drinking. Within 30 minutes the lights returned to hearty cheers from everyone.
After the meal we wandered over to the hall to see what the band was like. We’d been told they’d booked a Rock band and were very dubious about what sort of rock we were going to be entertained with. The band last year had not been great – singing mediocre pop songs with a very bad English accent, or even worse, French pop songs, but fun all the same. However, we were astonished to find the band banging out U2 and Muse and doing a really good job of it. Where else in the world can you be dancing to a rock band in a village hall with your 3 year old daughter, your teenagers, the postman and the little old man that wanders through the village in his slippers? It was quite bizarre but refreshingly so and a really good time was had by all. We left at 2am with the little ones as the sight of my 3 year old trying to sleep in a plastic chair next to a speaker booming out Black eyed Peas “I’ve got a feeling” was just a little too much for my conscience to bear. The older young ones stayed on to party and some didn’t get home until 6am did they Ryan!
So after 5 busy days, our village fête came to a tiring but happy end for another year. We are all exhausted, but so pleased to be part of such a friendly and welcoming community. Vivre la France!