Tourism in France is down from the norm some say. In Uzes and the villages in the south of France that I’ve visited recently, it’s hard to tell. There’s lots going on and plenty of people around to enjoy it all.
Fete Votive in Uzes
A summer event that everyone looks forward to attending in Uzes is Fete Votive. A few posts ago I was raving about the Fete and saying how happy I was that it was coming back to Uzes soon. The long weekend event I remembered had been spectacular. In fact, I wondered how this year’s activities could equal the previous ones. Sad to say, I was disappointed with the attraction I enjoy the most– the Procession of Pégoulade — the parade down main street.
But who wouldn’t be excited about this? As good as it gets!
What is a Fete Votive?
Fete Votives are celebrations with long traditions in many villages throughout the south of France. The festivals were customarily held at the end of harvest time. Today you see signs announcing various Fete Votives anytime during summer and fall. The event honors the patron saint of the town. In Uzes the patron is Saint Theodoret of Antioch — the saint for whom the beautiful cathedral that stands majestically in the town is named. (The story of Saint Theodoret looks like something I’m going to explore for a future post. Stay tuned ….)
When Fete Votive comes to town, you know it’s here when metal barricades are set up alongside the main street, Boulevard Gambetta. Running the bulls and horses is one of the first events — sponsored by various Abrivado clubs from the area and from as far away as the Camargue. The town awards coveted prizes to the clubs that are the best animal handlers.
While an Abrivado looks like a mad rush of animals, riders and young men who follow behind grabbing at the bulls, it’s pretty much orchestrated and managed. There are stories, however, of bulls that break into the crowd — or spectators who get in the way of the “stampede.” Note: bull’s horns are covered with leather protectors, but just the force of a bull is enough to keep me out of the way! (Except to take photos, of course.)
Fete Fun with Friends
Activities for the Fete Votive seem endless. To be honest, I go to just a few. Getting together with friends for the Abrivado and the parade that follows is my own sort of tradition. This year, dinner at Ma Cantine was our place to be. The cafe is located right alongside Boulevard Gambetta. My friends and I didn’t miss a thing!
Ma Cantine offers house specialties during Fete Votive that include their freshly hand-chopped steak tartare. It’s not one of my favourite dishes, but plenty of visitors and locals love it. Add a bit of hot sauce and crispy fries on the side and my friends who tried it were in heaven.
Procession of Pégoulade
After dinner and close to dark it was time for us to leave Ma Cantine and join the crowds waiting for the Procession of Pégoulade – a parade that starts at the Cathedral and ends at the bottom of the Boulevard. This year ‘s parade had a “back to the future” theme with a “robotic” float — ‘Turbulence Steampunk.” It was a ambidextrous steam engine with psychedelic lights and loud, booming music.
Along with the float were “blowers”in belle époque costumes who ran in front and around the float shooting streamers of coloured paper and confetti at everything and everyone in sight.
Behind the “blowers” were ladies wearing flowing silk dresses who were walking effortlessly on stilts.
They thrilled admirers by stooping over to paint elegant designs on the faces and arms of any who stepped forward.
The Fete Votive procession, with fewer and less grand floats than previous years’, was still an amazing sight to see as the process glided down the boulevard, silhouetted against the ancient buildings of Uzes.
So … the challenge “how will they top the past years’ Procession of Pégoulade?” is answered. But there’s always next year.
Maybe you’ll be here to see it for yourself!