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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting Inside Provence at Spring Festivals

Several festivals are running this month, and the fete season seems to really kick off in May; with events commemorating everything from patron saints (St. Tropez) to annual sheep migrations (Fete de la Transhumance). We had the chance to attend one such celebration of the transhumance in the small village of Pignans.  Arriving late Sunday morning, we missed the initial parading of the sheep through the town (although their trail was quite apparent) but did manage to catch the rest of the afternoon's festivities- including displays by period tradesmen, costumed ladies & their accompanying flute players, and the quintessential village sheep-sheering.
As the day wore on, festival-goers had a lot of options for savoring le vie Provençal - many opted for the spicy Corsican sandwich stands, others for tastings of the region's finest vin blanc, and surely not-to-be-missed were the local olive oil producers. A sort of French town-crier (drum beating) kept us all on schedule with hourly updates about the fete's events which, not surprisingly, had quite a sliding timetable (duly blamed on the hotness of the day).    
As the afternoon began to roll into evening, there was more than a bit of confusion about the timing of the main event; the final run of the sheep through town. Was it 4:00, 5:00, or 5:30pm? Trying to get to the heart of the matter, we decided to ask the "sheep men" directly, who calmly explained that they would take a quick drink at the bar & then lead the animals into town.  That, it turned out, was a good two hours later, so we staked out a solid spot on the sheep route and waited.
People milled about, some bought rabbits (and the odd chicken) from a local supplier, and just when we were ready to throw in the proverbial towel, a man came bolting around the corner imploring all madames & monsieurs to clear the streets because, "Les moutons arrivent!" (the sheep are coming!). Athough the level of event organization (& safety) was questionable, the affect of hundreds of woolly feet trotting swiftly past us was no less spectacular.

Provençal Festivals in May

Fete des Gardians, Arles, May 1

Fete de la Vigne et du Vin, May 15 

Luberon Jazz Festival, Apt, May 10-16

Bavarde de Saint Tropez, May 16-18

Feria de Nimes, May 19-24
Fete de la Transhumance
St. Remy de Provence, May 24 

1 comment:

  1. hahahahaha... what's the odd chicken?