26 Feb 2008

Bize Minervois Carnaval 2008

Phew this is a busy busy time of year. And I thought winter would be a quiet time. No such thing.
The celebrations started with an evening organised by the local football club in the Village Hall (I’ve found myself there quite a bit lately!). Dress requirements were simple: black and red. Tickets included a three course meal including aperitifs and wines, and a DJ for the evening. A group of us got together, and what a fun evening it was. Everyone was issued with a red or white bandana, and the DJ had everyone up singing and generally joining in. I have to say, this is the first time I’ve been to a dinner/dance, where the nearly everyone is up standing on their chairs waving their bandanas. And this is all between the entrée and the main course!
And then after mains but before dessert, he had conga lines happening. Well I haven’t done that for quite a few years but yep, he had the whole lot up, charging around the rows of tables and everyone having a great time. So I was far too occupied to get any photos of that exercise …
But I did get some footage of a whole lot of people sitting on the floor, appearing to be rowing! But what they were doing was passing a prone person backwards over their heads……. All wonderfully bizarre and lots of fun.

It went on quite late, but our little group exited before the disco started, not too long after the meal. There were hordes of young folk waiting outside the hall for the ‘real music’ to start. I think an awful lot of them were not from this village. I would like to think so anyway, because during the night, my lovely planter boxes from my front window disappeared - a little disheartening to say the least.
The Carnaval lasts for four days – the fun fair has set up on the boules ground down near the river, and then on the Sunday was the main event.
Last year I was a spectator at the big parade, this year Sandra and me were invited to join in the Troisieme Age’s float. What a hoot the day was ….. the theme they chose was ‘Austrian’ because last year the group went on a trip to the Tyrol area of Austria… The float was a giant beer stein, and there was beer on tap which was given away to the crowd in plastic glasses as the parade went around the village twice.
Illyette and a few others have been making the costumes for some time now, so early afternoon it was ‘dress up’ time for me and Sandra. Again, not something I’ve done for a while - and it was hard work smiling with that much slap on!
A few more photos of the parade -
Sarkozy and Carla Bruni:
A group from the Limoux Fecos Festival came through to march on the day:
Miki as Snow White!
And the lead float – for some reason this year is a semi-naked king sitting on his 'throne'!
Traditionally, at the end of the festival, the main float is symbolically burned down on the river bed:
And of course after the parade, that wasn’t the end of it. It was back to the Village Hall for aperitifs and a little more dancing.
And following this, back to the club rooms with the Troisieme Age for a meal …. At the end of the night, arrangements were being made for yet another meal and dance the following night at the bar in Cabazac – and I just had to decline. These older folk leave me for dead!
Oh, and on the Saturday morning, a quick trip up to La Caunette for THEIR annual Citrus Festival (Fête de la Bigarade). I can’t believe it’s a year since I was there last year – it’s when I bought my eucalyptus. Which incidentally has done OK through the winter. A few of the tips of the branches suffered with the frosts, but it’s come back with a vengeance. This year, I bought a small mimosa (wattle) to replace one of the roses that was on its last legs …. So hopefully this will grow fairly quickly and provide a bit of shade in the courtyard.
However, the theme was citrus, and there were some interesting sights:
As the label on the fruit says, it’s Main de Bouddha (Hand of Buddha) – first time I’ve ever seen anything like it.
Oh, and I came across this woman with a long-haired Chihuahua in a basket … asked if I could take a photo [no problems ….] and made the stupid mistake of going to pat it. The little bugger bit me! Well, perhaps that’s a little bit of an exaggeration – but he definitely nipped me ……! Given that I'm not a dog person, you'd think I'd have more sense ....

23 Feb 2008

Barn progress

Now that the main walls and floors are in, things are happening quite fast. The windows and doors are in, the cement render is on the front walls -
…. the air conditioning is being installed -
…. roof insulation is in –
…. the electrician has started the wiring -
And the yard is a mess!
Once the building is finished, that is the next project to crack on with ….. turn a very muddy and dug-up area into something wonderful! Well, perhaps I’m aiming a little high here … but whatever I do will be a vast improvement on the quagmire it is now.
Oh, and the garage is still dug up….. but this too will soon be sorted.
Over all, things have gone relatively smoothly – a few hiccups and delays – but nothing major. Speaking to people who have undertaken similar projects, it seems I’ve been pretty fortunate. An interesting trip through to Ikea in Montpellier recently – picking up flat packs of bathroom furniture and fittings, and also an extractor fan for the kitchen. My little car certainly does a good job – it was loaded to the gunnels, with a particularly long pack reaching from the back window, through the front seats and finishing up touching the rear vision mirror. A tight fit indeed, and me worrying if I had to hit the skids, it would shoot straight through the windscreen. But an uneventful, albeit rather slow trip home.
The kitchen I’ve ordered from a place in Narbonne, but that also needs to be collected from Montpellier and it’s too much for my car. But as Sandra’s husband Patrick will be doing the installation, he is going to go through next week to pick it up.
So, full steam ahead here – and hopefully I’ll be moved in some time in April, or perhaps early May.

14 Feb 2008

Village Lunch

Every year the Maire of the village provides a free lunch and entertainment for the ‘older’ residents of the village – Repas des Aînés. And given that I’m a member of the Troisième âge group, I qualified! So myself, June, Patrick and Sandra registered at the Town Hall, and turned up at the village hall promptly at noon on Saturday.
Well, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – these people know how to have a good time and certainly like a good lunch.
On this occasion, the Maire had pulled out all the stops – a cake literally the size of a table – baked by the justifiably proud-looking village baker:

- followed by the usual 4 course meal, beginning with aperitifs, all the sorts of wine, and afterwards sparkling digestifs! But the highlight of the afternoon had to be the entertainment. I guess we knew were in for a show when the table down the front – consisting of 3 men and 4 women, all with full make-up and the longest false eyelashes! ate their dinner before everyone else.
It was a floor show to remember – the female performers were stunning, and the female impersonators looked pretty spectacular too.

It was all a bit surreal – sitting in a small village hall in rural France, and watching a ‘spectacle’ performed to a very high standard – the likes of which someone said you could expect to see elsewhere and pay a lot of money for!

And didn’t the Can-Can get the crowd going …
And this one, with the females topless – I imagine had a few of the older hearts racing ….
The up-side of us sitting at the front table was a great view – the down-side (well for Patrick anyway!) was that he and another person at our table were dragged up on stage to take part in the entertainment! But he took it all in good humour and he did indeed amuse and entertain! I suspect he thoroughly enjoyed the experience – he certainly wore a big lipstick kiss on his cheek later!
Interestingly, it was this time last year when I was at my window at about 5pm in the afternoon, and noticed lots of people walking past with pot plants and branches of Mimosa. I figured I’d missed out on something happening down on the promenade and rushed out to investigate. But in fact it was all the villagers leaving the Maire’s luncheon! And this year it was me walking home with a flower pot and a large branch of mimosa (used to decorate the hall) – which is now cut up into smaller pieces and looking very nice in a vase in the kitchen.
And now onto yet another festival. Given that it’s winter here – although with the weather we’ve been having lately, you wouldn’t know it – the villages are having their annual festivals all over the place. Last weekend it was the Mimosa Festival in the village of Roquebrun in the Black Mountains.
Mimosa (or wattle or acacia as it’s known in Australia) is abundant in the area and at the moment is in full flower and just stunning. Interestingly, I had thought that it was a different variety, native to this area. But in fact I’ve discovered that it is in fact an Australian native, which was introduced to southern France in the 19th century by British botanists.
And how is this for a little bit of Oz in a small French village – plants for sale: a pot of purple Native Wisteria (hardenbergia) together with Acacia. Made me quite homesick – both of these plants can be found in the forests of the south-west of Western Australia where I grew up …..

4 Feb 2008

Limoux Fécos / Carnaval 2008

Limoux is a large town due south of Carcassonne, and it holds a festival every year. No surprises there! I seem to have chosen to live in the land of fetes, carnivals, and festivals…. oh, and lovely markets. Pretty damned good I’d say …..
This Limoux Festival is quite unique – for starters, it’s a very long festival indeed. It starts in January and runs until two weeks before Easter, and is thought to date back to perhaps the Middle Ages.
Yesterday was a day of all the bands coming together in the square, so it seemed like a good day to head west. The square itself is very beautiful and today it looked a treat – as though it had been snowing :

But in fact it was the confetti that is traditionally scattered around by the dancers who wear bags full of it slung over their shoulders. So nobody escapes without being adorned with the stuff. Apparently over the duration of the festival, 7 tons of it is used! And as can be seen in the video clips below, nothing and no-one escapes 'les confettis'....
There were at least five groups of dancers on the go yesterday, each with their own band supporting them. And it was wonderful ..
So this post is going to be mainly photos and a few video clips. I’m soon going to update my camera so perhaps before too long the quality of the video clips will improve …

Here's a link that has a good deal of information relating to the festival.

Moving sideways

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