Tag: About Uzes

In Training for Nepal

Before I ever dreamed of living in France, I had this wild idea about visiting Nepal and Kathmandu. Now it seems even my craziest thoughts are coming to life.

Well, almost …

Let’s just say I had put this trip planned in 2011 on the back burner. Then I learned I was going to lose the deposit if I postponed it again. So I decided it’s now or never. Nepal here I come!

  • 5 locations in 15 days
  • Multiple early departures
  • Brisk paced, with no more than 2 nights in most locations, with 2 days rafting and 3 days hiking
  • You must be able to walk 5 miles unassisted and participate in 2.5-3 hour treks
  • Elevations up to 5,000 feet
  • Travel by 18-passenger minibus, canoe, river raft, and elephant back

What was I thinking?!

Now that the trip is almost a reality — November 25 —  I have to get in shape.

My friend from the States who came to visit in September loves to hike. We walked down to the Vallee de l’Eure where I discovered the “SWINGING BRIDGE” … and the “STEPS.”

 

 

01ebbf55ffc76e3d1ee94ef4a9c5b956ab7580416a“If you cross this bridge and climb these steps everyday before your trip,” said my friend Pat, “you’ll be ready for Nepal.”

“Yea, right,” said I. ” I’m going to do just that.”

IMG_0046Then there were my new friends who were visiting Uzes from California. Paula and Rich love the outdoors.

“Come along with us,” they said. “We climb to the top of this hill that overlooks the Vallee de l’Eure and  Uzes almost every day.”

“Sure,” I said, confidently. Then I followed them up the steep incline… 20 feet or so behind.

“Here,” said Paula as we reached the rockiest part of the uphill path. “This might help you keep your balance,” she teased as she threw a stick at me the size of a large tree limb.

“You’re a pal,” I gasped, trying to breathe and walk at the same time.

 I made it up the hill and vowed I might do it again. 

The view of Uzes

The view of Uzes

The Big Test

The training turned serious when my son came to visit a few weeks ago. In his travel bags from the States, he brought me a retractable trekking stick. He was intent on making me get as much exercise as possible. Little did he know that I could show him a thing or two … like the STEPS and the hill at Vallee de l’Eure.

 

Me with my proper trekking pole at the Vallee de l'Eure

Me with my proper trekking pole at the Vallee de l’Eure

Up again … this time with a proper walking stick, which made a huge difference on the rugged path.

Rocky path at Vallee de l'Eure

Rocky path at Vallee de l’Eure

 

 

The biggest test was the trek up the hill at Pont du Gard.

It’s not the  hill that you climb so that you can see the Pont du Gard from on high.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

It’s  beyond there. It’s the one that makes the Pont du Gard look like an anthill!  Yep, I walked that far!

Pont du Gard from afar

Pont du Gard from afar

 

Up we went …

IMG_0154  Through the hidden wall ….

 

Remnants of the aqueduct

Remnants of the aqueduct

 

 

 

… up the long path

 

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Path at Pont du Gard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to an opening beyond the trees 

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to discover a long lost treasure

Abandoned gas tank

Abandoned gas tank

 

And some amazing plants I’d never seen.

 

 

Along a treacherous and steep path …

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Up higher and higher …

 

 

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And then … we turned around and went back. This was not the trail to another view of Pont du Gard.  We were on our way back to Uzes.  No thanks. I’ll drive!

Lesson Learned

Since the hiking expeditions, I’ve been on the move, but probably not enough. Time will tell. Nevertheless, the experience has helped me realize an important fact again. Whether you want to climb a mountain or move to another continent:

Everything new in life starts out just the same. Take one step at a time.

 

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On the Road in the South of France with Mon Fils

On the Road in France with Mon Fils
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Mon fils is visiting me in Uzes. Nothing could make me happier than to show him the sights and to introduce him to my new friends.

First stop was Saturday market in Uzes. Even though the tourist season is over, the market this week was busy. These days there are many American and other English voices heard in the crowds. My guess is that this is the time of year property owners come to town. Many apartments and homes are being snapped up by Francophiles.

 

Saturday Market in October Uzes

Saturday Market in October Uzes

 

Claude the cheese man was one of our first stops at the market. His “green” cheese with pistachios is one of my favorites. When he met my son, they started teasing with each other right away.

Claude the Cheese Man

Claude the Cheese Man

 

The farmer with the chèvre from the “French Farmer” post was handing out his cheese samples, as always. When I told him about my blog where he was featured, I was surprised he already knew about it! Apparently someone shopping that morning had written the link to the site on a piece of paper for him. He pulled the wrinkled note out from under his cash box to show it to me….with a big grin, I might add.

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For me it was final shopping day before packing up my belongings to head to the States for a visit. There were clothes I’d been eyeing for some time that now, I couldn’t resist. Oh.. that I could pass up some of these tops and jackets! 

 

 

 

 

 

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While walking through the rows of vendors I ran into friends I’d met last week in San Quentin La Poterie. It’s an interesting story how we became friends.

For months I have been receiving emails from a cafe in San Quentin that puts on monthly musical events and dinner. The cafe is tiny and tucked in between pottery shops on one of the narrow street of the town.affiche vojao 03

 

This particular night an English friend who is moving to Uzes was in town so it was a good time to try out the dinner concert. We were early getting to the cafe and we had our choice of seating. Instead of going to a table for two, the hostess suggested we sit at a table for six. She knew that four French ladies had reservations and that some of them spoke English. She thought it would be fun for us to get to know each other.

Fortunately my friend speaks French quite well because when the ladies arrived, only one spoke English. For a short while, the conversation was a bit reserved since we could not all join in. However, in no time, we were laughing and communicating with broken English and French the best we could. The evening was such a success that my friend and I were invited back during the week to visit with the four again for a birthday party.

So thanks to the hostess at the cafe, now I have more new friends and a welcoming place to go on another Saturday night.

Friends meeting Pete for lunch after the Saturday Market at Le Provencal. Check out those yummy salads… even better with fries on top!

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French Farmer

The French Farmer

The French farmer who sells goat cheese at the Uzes Saturday Market is one of my favorite vendors. He’s certainly one of the most colorful.

French Farmer

French Farmer

Each year he stages an event at his farm and invites the public. Having no idea what to expect and having nothing else to do, I took him up on the invitation. The farm was only a few miles outside of Uzes.

“Pastoral” doesn’t even begin to describe the farm.

Never would I have guessed that the modest man selling the BEST chevre at the market has a farm and family business this large scale.

French Farmer

 

Being a “city” girl, spending an afternoon on a farm in the south of France was a happy surprise… and a lot of fun. Hope you enjoy it and pardon the puns.

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local artists in Uzes

Village Scenes in Uzes: One Crazy Good Artist

Last Saturday afternoon one of the local artists in Uzes threw a soiree for a few friends and fans.

Aside from celebrating the last days of his art exhibit, it was a crazy good party.

local artists in Uzes

Artist dancing in the street

A Crazy Good Art Show

local artists in Uzes

Lemons

local artists in Uzes

“Rencontre Urbaine”

local artists in Uzes

local artists in Uzes

Le Mariage Pourtous

Good Food

local artists in Uzes

Fresh oysters and shrimp from the Saturday Market, pate, aubergine, saucisse (sausage), fromage (cheese) and pain (bread).

Funky Music

local artists in Uzes

New friends

local artists in Uzes

… and one crazy artist dancing in the street

local artists in Uzes

Francois Lewandrowski

This is how they do art shows in Uzes!

Wonder why I love it here???

Oh yes, almost forgot … and a piano tuner in the steet!

local artists in Uzes

Check out the artwork of  Francois Lewandrowski an other artist on Uzes: Village of Artists post.

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The Bullfight: A Dance with Death

The Bullfight: A Dance with Death
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When I decided to move to France, bullfights never entered my mind. Who knew the traditionally Spanish events exist in the south of France?

Years ago, I attended a bullfight in Spain. It was the “thing to do” for a 20-something college kid visiting Barcelona. All I remember about it was that I bought a poster; I carried it around for years; and life went on.

This summer I was invited to a bullfight in Nimes. Visions of bulls, matadors and swinging red capes have been swirling in my head ever since.

I had no idea bullfights were such a big deal in France. In Nimes they’re called “corridas” and draw quite a crowd. My first corrida was a full-fledged “Feria” in the ancient Roman arena.

The Feria de Nimes

Feria des Nimes

Feria des Nimes

Downtown Nimes was packed with people of all ages for the Feria de Nimes. There were white-topped tents with food and drink set up around arena as far as you could see. Music poured into the streets and alleys from every bar and café. Vendors selling matador capes and flamenco dresses lined up next to hawkers with tickets, t-shirts and posters. The circus-like atmosphere was exhilarating.

 

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Bands joined the fun around the arena

Bands joined the fun around the arena

 

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Close to five o’clock in the afternoon, the raucous crowd around the cafes and drink stands started moving toward the arena.

Feria crowd in NImes

Feria crowd in NImes

 

 

Along with others, I filed into the spectator area of the “plaza de toros” to find my reserved seat. Climbing very cautiously up the rough stone steps into the “bleachers” of the two thousand-year old coliseum, I found my place. Better said, I found my “stone seat with backrest.” Fortunately, it was out of the blazing hot sun.

Once in my place, I noticed the people around me were very quiet. Almost silent. The sounds of piped in music filled the space that I had expected to be boisterous, like a pre-game football stadium.

 

 

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In no time my mind wandered off. My imagination kicked in. I was transported to another time, same place.

 

013be59de4a12654927eef3a460b700a86823e64d3It was Roman days again, in this arena in Nimes, with onlookers gathered to see a gory contest of men against beasts.

When the band started playing and the pomp and ceremony of the paséillo began, it was if the first act of an extravagant ballet had begun to unfold before my eyes.

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A dance with death. Put to music. With extravagant scenery. Skillfully orchestrated.

 

 

Dance with Death Feria de Nimes 2014

Dance with Death
Feria de Nimes 2014

 

Act one – The “suerte de varas.”

Corridas have three acts. It’s been that way since early times. Hemingway calls act one the “trail of the lances.”

The opening scene begins with a fighting bull on the stage. There are hundreds of unfamiliar sounds and objects around him. At first he is dazed, then he’s angry. He runs around the arena, butting his head into anything that gets in his path.

 

Two horses with riders come onto the stage (picadors.) 

Picadors

Picadors

 

The bull sees only one of the horses. He recognizes it as a target from his days in the wild.

Picador

Picador

 

The bull charges. His impact, on the horse’s underside, picks the horse off the ground momentarily.Until now, the bull hasn’t seen the rider on the horse. The picador, who is carrying a sharp-ended rod, stabs the bull between the shoulder blades. The bull, seemingly undaunted, pulls back and strikes the horse again.

 

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The act is over when the “president” of the bullring — an official appointed by law to supervise the corrida—- signals the bugler to blow his horn.

The bull thinks he’s the winner. Everyone else has left the stage.

Act two

Act two features a troupe of fancy-dressed “banderilleros ” who run the bull nearly breathless around the ring. Hemingway calls act two the “sentencing.” It appears the dastardly banderilleros with flying darts are in the scene only to taunt the injured bull. The fact they play an important role in the drama of man vs. beast is not at first apparent.

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Banderillero

 

 

Done well, act two is over quickly, without destroying the bravery and strength of the bull.

Banderillero on the run

Banderillero on the run

 

Act three

Act three, the “execution.” The Spanish call this act the “moment of truth.” It is performed in fifteen minutes. The curtain opens with the matador on center stage. Waving a red caped muleta in his left hand, he waltzes around to show how artfully he dominates the bull. If the animal hooks from one side or another the matador corrects his charge.

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He makes the bull lower his head.

To kill the bull quickly, the matador must drive the sword between the bull’s shoulder blades. In doing so, the matador is in line with the bull’s horns. One wrong move can mean death.

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With the muleta in the left hand, and a sword in his right hand, the matador urges the bull forward. He strikes from the front, driving the sword in smoothly.

The bull dies.

Bulls often survive the strike of the sword. It takes a perfect hit by the matador to lay the huge creature dead . For a matador to fell a bull with one sword, in the correct position, he is highly praised and rewarded.

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Epilogue


The story of the “Dance with Death” is fairly simple. It is the story of a fighting bull and a matador who meet in a crowded arena and fight for glory and honor to the death. Through the story, actors with minor parts parade on stage with much colorful fanfare.

For thirty minutes of the performance, the bull and the matador try to kill each other. The matador gets a lot of help from his friends. The bull, however, is nobody’s fool. He shows his innate ability to spar with each aggressor, to self-protect, and to prove what the Spanish call “his nobility.”

It seems at times the bull might win.

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A twist in the story comes when the matador, seeing the bull in his full glory, realizes that he has fallen in love with the bull. But he must kill him.

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The matador has fifteen minutes to decide between love and glory.

He brings the bull close to him for their last “dance with death. ” He weighs his options: “kill my beloved ” or “miss the final act of my masterpiece.”
The outcome of the drama is a mystery until the end of the last act.

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The bravery of the bull is at the heart of the corrida drama. The honor of the matador determines the outcome. There are no re-runs, no second seasons with the cast. Like other art forms, the truth and beauty is for the beholder.

Writer’s Note
Since the Feria de Nimes I have attended twenty or more corridas in the south of France, I’ve read books by Hemingway and I’ve studied books and articles by experts who love bullfights and by those who hate them. I’ve also done a lot of soul-searching.

I’m an animal-lover. it’s not pleasant to see an animal killed in front of my eyes.

In my research a statement by Orson Welles, great American film maker and writer, helped me understand how I can draw a line between the “animal-lover” part of my brain and the part that really enjoys corridas
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“Either you respect the integrity of the drama the bullring provides or you don’t…. what you are interested in is the art whereby a man using no tricks reduces a raging bull to his dimensions, and this means that the relationship between the two must always be maintained and even highlighted.”

 

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different-perspective

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Make the Wine

It’s time to make the wine
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Remember the TV ad for Dunkin’ Donuts: “It’s time to make the donuts!”  It’s time to make wine in France. Unusually cool weather over the summer months caused a late grape harvest. (“La vendange”)

Vendange in Castillion-du-Gard

Vendange in Castillion-du-Gard

It was almost the last harvest of grapes for the season before I had a chance to get to a vineyard for picture-taking. As you may recall, the day I was to head up north with Geoffrey, the battery in my car gave out. (See “One Step Forward”)

As good fate would have it, I was invited to a “vendange”– grape harvest — in a vineyard near Uzes. My friend from the States was here, so it was a chance to do something fun and totally unexpected during her visit.

What to wear?

After being invited to spend the day in a vineyard., “what do you wear to a vendange” was my first thought, shared by friend Pat,

Definitely wear a hat,” we decided. Then put on something that “looks cute,” of course.

For me, I had a closet full of shirts that would do; but for Pat, she had only “precious” outfits that grape stains and mud would ruin.

With less than 24 hours to shop, we ran to a “H&M-type” store in Uzes and started our search. “Maybe something blue,” said Pat, “so it won’t show grape stains.” A blue denim shirt was there, waiting for her on the rack. “If it gets stained, “she rationalized, “I’ll just say ‘oh, that? it’s from picking grapes in France.'”  

Pat dressed in her "grape-picking in France" outfit.

Pat dressed in her “grape-picking in France” outfit.

 

The vineyard

La Gramière is a winery owned by a young American couple who started the business in 2005. They produce Grenache-based wines made from organically grown, hand-picked grapes.The vineyard is just outside Castillon-du-Gard, a tiny village near Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct.

For directionally challenged Pat and me, the vineyard for “La Gramière” winery would have been impossible to find. Thankfully a friend offered to meet us at the village square in Castillon-du-Gard . The unpaved, “backwoods” route proved it was a good thing we didn’t have to find our own way.

Arriving at the spot where we met Amy and Matt and the rest of the “pickers.” we discovered the vineyard for La Gramière is made up of several small fields scattered among a very large area of vines. The “vineyard sharing” concept is popular in France.

Amy and Mark Kling of La Gramière

Amy and Matt Kling of La Gramière

Other than Amy and Matt, there are no paid employees at the winery. They have discovered that there are plenty of volunteers who are more than happy to help harvest the crop.

The vendange

To harvest grapes you have to start early in the morning. The temperature should not be too hot . The day Pat and I volunteered, the weather was sunny and cool.

When we reached the vineyard, everyone had on their work gloves. Clippers and buckets were in their hands. Pat and I put on borrowed garden gloves and we grabbed the rest of the gear.

After brief instructions: “go two by two and pick one vine at a time,” Pat and I split up. We’d spent enough time together! Besides, there were others there we wanted to get to know.A delightful new friend from Canada and I teamed up. She is an artist and lives in Vers-Pont du Gard. We became instant buddies.

 Amy and Matt have made the vendange routine somewhat of a game.

“Who can finish first?” Taking one long row of vines at a time, we worked in three or four pairs interspersed down the row. We’d “jump over” the slower pickers. Then we’d move onto another row. It kept chit-chat with your partner down to a minimum since you had the same goal.

La Gramière vineyard

La Gramière vineyard

 

 

When grapes are ready to harvest they are bursting with juice. That means you must handle the bunch gently when you cut it off the vine.

 

Ripe grapes ready for picking

Ripe grapes ready for picking

A simple garden clipper does the trick. 

Garden clippers easily remove the cluster of grapes from the vine.

Garden clippers easily remove the cluster of grapes from the vine.

 

“Only pick the best grapes,” we were told.  Any clusters that had rotten grapes or grapes that were too green or yellow should be discarded. Amy and Matt’s philosophy is “there are plenty of grape.” They want only the “pick of the crop” for La Gramière wines.

Grape picking at La Gramière

Grape picking at La Gramière

 

I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I have a new appreciation for “bio” or organic wines.

Most consumer wines today are produced by companies that pick grapes with machines. I’ve seen the big machinery in the fields and observed the vines picked clean.

 

Bucket brimming with grapes ready to be sorted by hand

Bucket brimming with grapes ready to be sorted by hand

After filling our buckets, we dumped the grapes into small crates that were strategically placed among the rows of vines. Matt and helper rode through the vineyard and loaded each crate onto the back of a tractor.

Tractor filled with harvested grapes

Tractor filled with harvested grapes

 

Time for a break!

Cake and coffee brought to the vineyard by Amy’s mom, Cindy, is devoured by hungry workers

 

Mid-morning break

A couple of hours after bending over the vines and carrying our buckets to the crates for pick up, it was time for a break. The hungry crew quickly devoured the bundt cake that Amy’s mom, Cindy, baked for the occasion.

During this time of year, Amy’s mom and dad come to France from their home in Colorado to help with the harvest. A few years ago they bought a place in the village of Vers-Pont du Gard. so they could be nearby. Apparently it didn’t take much persuading to convince them to help with the business, although I will say, it’s hard work.

 

Then it’s back to the vineyard

There's a whole field of grapes. Who'll miss a few?

There’s a whole field of grapes. Who’ll miss a few?

Pat "pretending" to be busy clipping grapes

Pat “pretending” to be busy clipping grapes

Before too long,  Cindy shows up with her wagon and it’s quickly emptied with the next treat of the day. 

The lunch wagon has arrived

The lunch wagon has arrived

 

La vendange lunch

After our chores, those of us who finished early helped bring folding chairs to the table that was set up near the edge of one of the vineyards. All the accoutrements for the outdoor feast were there, including a tablecloth, which we weighed down with rocks found alongside the field. A breeze had kicked up a bit and blew slightly over the field, just enough to blow away an untethered cloth.  Soon it was time to eat!

Green salad loaded with tomatoes picked from the garden that morning; lasagna Provence-style; apricot crumble; and just enough wine to insure we could all find our way home safely.

Finishing touches are made on a fresh green salad with tomatoes straight from the garden

One of the helpers adds the finishing touches to the  green salad, piled with tomatoes  from her garden

 

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Salad with garden tomatoes

 

Lasagna Provence-style

Lasagna Provence-style

 

Apricot crumble

Apricot crumble

 

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Now I know why Amy and Matt never have to look far to find helpers for their harvest. Mom’s a fabulous “chef,” plus, the company and atmosphere are hard to beat.

After a leisurely lunch,  those of us on the work crew packed up and went home. For Amy and Matt, their long day of sorting grapes by hand was just beginning.

To read more about Amy and Matt and the La Gramière wines, click here to visit their blog. 

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Rain: The Aftermath

Rain: The Aftermath
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By now you know the south of France was hit by flooding in many towns and villages. In the center of historic Uzes, the biggest problem now is from water that leaked in through walls, windows and roofs. Villages below Uzes are still suffering from flood damage.

The event around Uzes was recorded by some amazing photography.  Several photos were given to me by friends who asked me to share them with you.

Moon over Uzes 10-09-2014

Moon over  Place du Duche, Uzes 10-08-2014

Storm clouds 10-09-2014

Storm clouds 10-09-2014

 

Flood waters outside Uzes

Flood waters outside Uzes

Roads either collapsed or lifted from the heavy flood waters.

Roads either collapsed or lifted from the heavy flood waters.

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Road outside Uzes 10-11-2014

Cars and trucks slid off the roads with torrential downpour

Cars and trucks slid off the roads with torrential downpour

 Remember the poultry farm outside Uzes? The one where Geoffrey and I picked up our Thanksgiving turkey last year? 

Here it is then….

Here it is now … 

Poultry farm outside Uzes after the flood

Poultry farm outside Uzes after the flood

The birds “flew the coop.” Literally. 

The day after the storm was cloudy and misty

The day after the storm was cloudy and misty

The night after the flood skie were still ominous

The night after the flood the skies were still ominous

Then the bad weather skies gave us a beautiful sunset

Then the bad weather skies gave us a beautiful sunset

Last night's sunset from my terrace

Last night’s sunset from my terrace

All is well.

Wine time at the Duchey

Wine time. Sea shells from South Carolina remind me of storms  from the past.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Rain, Rain, Go Away
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The last few days in Uzes have not been a lot of fun. Torrential rain has caused flooding and many nearby towns and villages have been hard hit.

Right now, Uzes is under an orange alert.

6245-1412933438_Fortunately the city of Uzes is on a hill, so even though we are close to the epicenter of a major storm, we have not been affected as much as others by the floods.

This is the fourth big storm in the region bringing more than two feet of rain since mid September. You may have heard that Montpelier had major damage from the first deluge.

The flooding is blamed on a stagnant weather pattern over Scotland, Ireland and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It has caused more-than-normal amounts of moisture to flow into France.

Photos from some of the areas affected by this storm are pretty dramatic. Here are a few that I picked up from news sources and friends. 

My apartment

For me, the only damage in my apartment has been a bit of water — apparently from the windows in the guest room. The water must have seeped from under the windows into the electrical outlets. It caused a breaker switch to flip off — fortunately. Some overhead lights and a few other plugs in the apartment were affected, including where the refrigerator and internet are connected.  As you can see I “jerry-rigged” the refrigerator and internet with extension cords that connect to functioning outlets.IMG_3530

 

Electricians among you must be freaking out.

The problem has solved itself now. The electricity is back on, including the hot water tank!

 

 

Another storm is expected tomorrow that may be the worse yet.IMG_3532

The night of the biggest downpour I went out to the terrace several times to sweep away debris from a drain that empties water down the side of the building to the street below.

Today in the sunshine I cleaned the floor of the terrace with a scrub brush and swept away as much trash as I could find. If the water accumulate again, it might creep under the sliding glass door of the guest room.

I’m certain the terrace hasn’t been this clean in years.

 

The Duche

One thing I noticed while cleaning the terrace is the flagpole at the Duche.  The flag that flies on top of his tower indicates if the Duke is in town.

Apparently the Duke’s not at home.  I guess he’s left for higher ground …. perhaps to his apartment in Paris.

 

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The Palace of the Duche with no flag.

Saturday Market

Another coincidence of the stormy weather is that Saturday Market was nearly empty of vendors and shoppers. Where the streets and cafes are generally mobbed, this day was a different story.

 

Saturday Market in Uzes after the October flood

Saturday Market in Uzes after the October flood

 

Saturday Market cafes were open but few customers after the October flood

Saturday Market cafes were open but few customers after the October flood

 

 

A few shoppers wandered around the usually busy Saturday Market in Uzes

A few shoppers wandered around the usually busy Saturday Market in Uzes

 

Amazing photos

If anything good could be said about the stormy weather, the skies have been putting on a quite a show.

This photo was "borrowed" from a local news source and shows one of the powerful lightning strikes during the storm.

This photo was “borrowed” from a local news source and shows one of the powerful lightning strikes during the storm.

 

A view of the street without Saturday Market crowds and vendors.

A view of the street from my terrace showing  the street on  that is generally packed with shoppers and vendors

 

 

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The view from my living room window just prior to the first rain event

The view from my living room window just prior to the first rain event

 

If you note in the last photo, there are swarms of birds flying near the 11th century Tour Fenestrelle (“Window Tower”). It may be only me that thinks this, but the birds always seem to know when there’s a big change in the weather. Today they are unusually silent.

Perhaps the birds are resting up for what is ahead….. stay tuned.

 

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I’m Still Not Learning French

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I’m still not learning French

Remember when I returned to France in April and promised I’d know French by Christmas? Here’s the update in mid October.

Like those 20 pounds I was going to lose. It’s just not happening.

Priorities

My French teacher, Annabelle says it’s all about priorities. She says that if I spent as much time on learning French as I do on writing blogs, I’d be on track now.

So friends, if you enjoy reading the blogs as much as I enjoy writing them you’re to blame, too.

I mean, which would you rather do? Sit and study a book, listen to CDs and French radio? Or go out on an adventure where you meet all kinds of people and run into new and fascinating things?

Time’s up.

Judging from your silence, you agree blogging is more fun.

Excuses

“I’m getting by.”  

There are days when I don’t get into any trouble at all not knowing French. Of course that’s mostly when I stay inside writing posts.

“Helpful friends.”

You know the friends and strangers who have helped me out umpteen times. They’re still around and put up with my antics. French friends I run into less frequently; however, now shrug when they ask “comment allez-vous?” (How are you?) and I say no more than “très bien, et vous?” (Very well, and you?)

“Compliments.”

Every once in a while someone will congratulate me on saying a simple sentence in French. My recent visitor from the States, in fact, told me she was impressed that I could communicate so well. She didn’t see I constantly use sign language and she didn’t recognize the mispronounced words.

“Leaving town early.”

'So much effort to meet me? Man, you just should have visited my website!'

Leaving France before Christmas is the excuse I give now for not learning French by the holiday deadline.  A trip to Istanbul and a tour of Nepal and Kathmandu is on the calendar for mid November into December.

With that there’s planning, packing and studying up for another Barefoot Blogger adventure.

The  new plan

When I return to the States for a visit in December ‘ll get back to my lessons. It’ll be something to do and help keep me from getting homesick for France.

Maybe my grandson who will be nine-months old can learn along with me. They say that six-months is the perfect age to start a second language.

Perhaps we’ll make a bet.

“Let’s see who learns French first? ” Little girl to baby: Is that a good book?

 

 

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Nuit Blanche Uzes: A Grand First Edition

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Nuit Blanche Uzes: A Grand First Edition

This week Uzes celebrated its first Nuit Blanche , “White Night”.  By all accounts, the event that is an annual affair in Paris will be back in Uzes by popular demand.

Nuit Blanche was conceived as a nighttime event in October when art of all forms — natural and man-made — are highlighted by the community. The idea is to create art venues among historical architecture and places of beauty in the town or village.

For me, Nuit Blanche started off early in the day. Artful masterpieces appeared everywhere I ventured. The show began only a short walk away from where I live — on the way to the Valle d’Eur.

Cathedral in Uzes France

The Cathedral seemed more beautiful on this day of Nuit Blanche

 

Cathedral in Uzes, France

… and so magestic

 

For some reason the walk which I take to the Valle d’Eur was different this day. There were details of the Cathedral I never noticed before. Perhaps I had never really stopped to gaze up at the cathedral tower.

I would have pondered the beauty of the Cathedral longer but it was delaying my walk. With my head obviously still in a cloud, I took a first step forward — and tripped. Catching myself I said to me: “Pay attention! Look down before you walk.”

Fortunately the lesson prepared me for the stairs down to the Valle d’Eur —  treacherous.

 

Stairway to the Valle d'Eur Uzes France

Stairway to the Valle D’eur

 

The Valle d’Eur

The Valle d’Eur has been in several previous blog posts. I love that place. On this day in addition to the scenery —  the truest form of art —  I ran into these most interesting creatures and objects.

 

Valle d'Eur stream that feeds Pont du Gard

Swans and more swans live peacefully along the stream that once fed the might Pont du Gard

 

 

Swan at Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

Swan at Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

Swan at Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

A swinging bridge extends from one side of the valley to another. From the middle of the bridge onlookers stop to watch the swans that glide by at their own nonchalant pace. 

 

Swan at Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

The swinging bridge at Valle d'Eur Uzes France

The swinging bridge stretches from the natural areas of the river bed to an athletic field on the other side

 

 

This day a  bride and groom were enjoying their special occasion in a most unique chapel.

 

Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

Walking along the sides of the stream I discovered art of a most unusual kind. Donkeys, squirrels, fish and other clever sculptures sprang out of the ground — otherwise known as tree stumps. 

 

 

Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

 

Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

 

Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

 

Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

 

 

Valle d'Eur Uzes France

 

 

Blanc Nuit

After a vigorous walk and climb back up the stairs from the Valle d’Eur, I was ready for a night on the town — Nuit Blanche
.

 

The Place des Herbes Uzes France

The Place des Herbes

 

The Nuit Blanche symbol Uzes France

The Nuit Blanche symbo

 

Nuit Blanche Uzes France

Streets decorations set the tone for the evening

 

Street decorations included the Nuit Blanche symbol that was scattered on walkways and buildings where events were taking place.  Driveway posts were dusted with white powder giving the surroundings an even more ethereal look.

 

Nuit Blanche Uzes France

 

 

A hidden Roman well was the site of a subterranean art gallery.

 

Roman subterrerean well Uzes France

 

 

 

 

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Some of my favorite galleries and places ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuit Blanche Uzes FranceThe Mairie (Town Hall) joined in the theme with theatrical presentations and with floor art reminiscent of an ancient sundial. 

 

 

 

 

Nuit Blanche Uzes France

 

 

 

Nuit Blanche Uzes France

 

 

Oh that I could have stayed awake until midnight to enjoy it all.  

Next year!

 

Nuit Blanche Uzes France

 

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French Bobo Fashion for Fall: A New Look from Long Ago

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As published in France Today

There’s a dress shop in the village square of my adopted home in France where finding what’s new in fall fashions takes you back a century or two.

A visit to the store reminds you of rummaging through your grandmother’s closet, or uncovering an old trunk that’s filled with brown tweed jackets and checkered woolen blankets from somebody’s past.

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You walk through the front door of L’Atelier des Ours and hear jingle bells tingling behind you. When you look down at the sand covered, tile floor, it’s hard to know exactly why you’re there. Yet you have to take only a few steps to discover there’s something special in this tiny place, waiting to be discovered.

 

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L’Atelier des Ours, translated “the teddy bear’s workshop”, caters to a unique clientele of European women, mostly from France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.

The style of clothing, shoes and accessories they purchase in the shop can be called “bobo”,”bourgeois bohème”, or “bohème chic”. The look isn’t for everyone, but for those who define themselves by these flash-back fashions, it is irresistible.

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David Brooks, New York Times columnist, identified and named “bobos” in his book, “Bobos in Paradise,” published in the year 2000. Quoting from his review of his own book, Brooks says about bobos: “These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemian. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are bobos.”

According to Brooks, bobos are identified by having “rebel attitudes and social-climbing attitudes all scrambled together.”
Helen Bonham Carter, actress and wife of Tim Burton, is the poster child for extreme “bobo” dressing with her unconventional style. The Olsen twins’ non-conformist, bohème fashions could be considered “bobo” — somber colored, layered, and heavily laden with scarves.

For the bobo chic who shop at L’Atelier des Ours — in the store and online — the style is neither “hippy”, nor dull and frumpy, nor make-believe. It is elegant, eccentric, and smart. In fact it is so “smart” that it takes an understanding of each piece of clothing to put together the perfect outfit.

Start with a ruffled organza petticoat

A multi-ruffled organza petticoat is the basic element of “bobo chic” for daytime. Add a tee-shirt that’s delicately fringed around the top and cover it with a dotted swiss tunic. Wrap it all in a soft pewter sweater and shawl; pull on cotton stockings and mary jane shoes; and voilà!
A simple little dress and scarf

Grab one of the dresses with tiny stripes or granny checks off the rack. Slip on an crinkled organdy petticoat underneath (not to be confused with “organza” which is netting). Swirl a matching scarf around your neck; a floppy handbag over your shoulder; and there, you have a dashing afternoon ensemble.

Smocks, frocks and pantaloons

Heavy cotton smocks and baggy linen pantaloons are the mainstays of a “bobo” wardrobe for all types of occasions. Worn with a woolen shawl and crocheted beret you’re off to market. Add a long, flannel, three-button jacket with knee-high, black boots and you’re ready for cold weather.

Poplin dresses and taffeta skirts

When visiting L’Atelier des Ours, I can never leave without trying on one of the “fantasy” dresses and ruffled skirts.
Picture a very pale gray, ankle-length, crushed poplin dress with a scooped neckline and long crinkled sleeves. Below the hemline of the dress are layers and layers of off-white ruffles showing off from the taffeta skirts worn underneath. To complete the fairy-tale costume, a lushiously soft scarf is tied loosely around the neck and shoulders.

I feel like a princess.

Another place and time

Around my little village the “bobo chic” ladies are easy to sight. Occasionally, I put on my checkered frock, tee-shirt and pantaloons and join them among the crowd of towns people and tourists. No one stops and stares.

Fall and winter 2014 bobo style is neither glitzy nor glamorous. It’s more like comfort food and a warm fireplace. A new look from long ago. A different attitude. A way of life.

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Fashion elements for “bobo chic”

A short list of the items that “bobos” stock in their wardrobe doesn’t vary much by season, just by color and weight.

Loose, layered clothing made of natural fabrics
Smocks, tunics, loose trousers, pantaloons
Ruffles, organdy, and lace petticoats
Stapped shoes, boots, and sandals
Mixing patterns of prints and flowers
Simple or no jewelry
Basic-colored scarves in a variety of soft fabrics
Lacy bloomers
Simple tee-shirts, long and short sleeved
Sweaters, wraps, jackets and long coats

For a virtual visit of L’Atelier des Ours, visit the website and catalogue. Better yet, treat yourself with a stop at the store in Uzes, France.

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Heros of the Week

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Update to yesterday’s blog, “One Step Forward, Two Back“. Lucy needed a new battery after all.

Hoping to drive to Nimes to deal with my lost phone at SFR, I went to the parking garage to pick up Lucy. Soon I discovered the battery was dead … again. I walked upstairs to ask for help from the garage attendant. Now that I have my own battery cables the garage was supposedly able to give Lucy a jump if, when, I needed it.

The manager of the garage said the attendant would be right down. Or maybe that’s not what she said at all.

Maybe the manager really said “he’ll be down sometime today.”

Darn that I can’t understand when they speak French.

Anyway, while spending quality time with Lucy in the garage, I was rummaging around and … I found my cellphone! It had fallen between the front seat onto the floor in the back, under the seat.9201

Elated that I had my phone, I didn’t have to buy a new one, and I didn’t have to drive to Nimes, I spent a moment rejoicing.

 

Soon the reality that I was still stuck in the garage hit me again. By that time I had tried to flag down every car that drove by me. Lucy’s hood was open and there I was, sweaty from head to toe. No one stopped.

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For almost an hour I stood in the sweltering underground lot waiting for the garage truck to pull up. No one stopped to help even though it’s hard to believe they could miss my distress signals.

In the defense of many who passed, it was market day in Uzes. That means most of the cars were driven by women. I wouldn’t have known how to help if I stopped either.

Then, to my delight and amazement, my real estate agent, David appeared.  Sadly for him he had come to the garage to pick up his car.

In case you’ve forgotten, he’s the one that I trapped the day before when he was coming out of his office. He filled out the papers for my car registration when I bribed him with a cafe noir.

Here he is after wrestling to get the plastic cover off the battery. 2014-09-10 11.06.33

The photo captured him just after he muttered something like “—- French cars!”

David had Lucy started in just moments after masterfully connecting the cables between our cars,

So…. to wrap up what I accomplished during the week …. pretty much nothing. Except the nice lady in the Marie did get the papers to register my car and Lucy has a new battery. All the escapades surrounding the lost/stolen phone were a waste of time.

Heroes of the week

A friend once asked how I was able to get people to do stuff for me. To that my reply was:

“People always want to help. You just have to ask.”

Heroes have been with me this year, through thick and thin. With friends like these, life in France is easier than it could be. And a lot more fun.

Geoffrey 

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Geoffrey – For putting up with my antics. For dealing with the trash company about the dumpster. For rescuing me at the garage the first time. For being my translator at the police station and driving with me to Nimes to report the “stolen” phone to SFR, and for loaning me a phone to use.

 

JJ 

JJ - For rescuing me at the garage the second time. For taking me to Carrefour to buy battery cables and a charger. For spending the afternoon dealing with me and charging the car at his home.

JJ – For rescuing me at the garage the second time. For taking me to Carrefour to buy battery cables and a charger. For spending the afternoon dealing with me and charging the car at his home.

 

David

 

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David – A little worn from the whole experience, he promised I wouldn’t get a letter from Fonzia telling me my apartment lease has been revoked because they couldn’t deal with “Deborah.”

 I love these guys!

 

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One Step Forward, Two Back

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If you think living in France is buttery croissants and fancy red wine, welcome to my week.

Wednesday

The calendar said I was to pick up Geoffrey to visit vineyards up north to take photos for my blog. The chosen location was more than an hour’s drive from Uzes. Geoffrey wanted me to pick him up no later than 9 am —  an early start for me.

Getting up early was no problem that day. I even had time to wash dishes and gather the trash. When the time came to leave the apartment, I picked up the bag of trash, my purse, and my iphone; I walked down the spiral steps of the apartment; opened the glass front door; locked the door behind me; then headed out of the building into the parking lot of the Place des Duche. At the nearby trash dumpster,  I lobbed the bag of garbage into the big turbine roller drawer; waited to hear the bag drop to the bottom of the giant can; then, I  headed off to the underground parking garage where I would pick up Lucy.

Finding Lucy in her regular parking spot, I pushed the button on my keypad to unlock the drivers’ door. Nothing happened. Undaunted, I slipped the key into the lock and sat in Lucy’s driver’s seat. I put the key in the ignition, turned it on and … nothing. Not a beep, not a chug, not a light on the dashboard. Nothing. Dead battery.

Reaching for my phone in my handbag so that I could call Geoffrey to tell him the news, I came up empty-handed. “Where’s the phone?” says I to myself.

Dumping the handbag contents into the passenger seat,  I started to panic. No phone.

“Hmmm” says I. “It’s either in the apartment, the dumpster, or somewhere on the street.”

Getting out of the car and retracing my route back to the apartment, I saw no phone on the street. Up 55 steps to the apartment, there was no phone in the aimagespartment. The only thing left was the dumpster.

By this time I was well past the appointed time for picking up Geoffrey. On the way to his house I ran into his girlfriend, Annabelle, and told her my dilemma. She phoned Geoffrey to tell him the news and to ask him to come over to rescue me …. for the umpteenth time.

Geoffrey met me in front of the trash dumpster wearing his usual “what mess are you in now” expression. After a brief explanation of my dilemma, he noticed a number posted on the front of the dumpster and called the trash men for help. No luck. Lost car keys they’ll rescue. Telephones? No. Besides, was the phone really in the dumpster?

While Geoffrey was dealing with the trash, I set off to get a jump for the car battery. On the way to the garage, I met a neighbor standing in front of his house and, thinking he might have jumper cables to start my car, I asked my usual question when meeting a stranger: “Do you speak English?”

To my surprise, he was an American. He had jumper cables in his car, and the car was parked in the same garage as Lucy. Long story short, Lucy’s engine was started and, instead of going to see vineyards, Geoffrey and I took off to the police station to report the stolen/lost phone,  and to drive to Nimes to deal with the SFR (the French equivalent of Verizon) about a replacement phone.

Thursday 

Nothing settled. The phone company gave me the number of the insurance company where I could place a claim for the lost phone.. The insurance company’s automated answering service has no command for “if you want to speak to someone in English, press #.”

Geoffrey was MIA, perhaps in hiding. 

With no solution for the phone in mind, I changed gears to deal with another pressing issue. My bank debit card was “broken.”  For some reason, the card would no longer work in a store or at an automated teller machine. After ordering new cards on two different occasions, they never arrived at the bank. I met with the bank manager — the only person in the branch who speaks English — and he assured me the problem would be solved by next week. I withdrew money from my account to make it through the weekend without a debit card. Again.

Friday

It was the day to meet an American friend visiting Avignon. We were to have lunch together, then tour the town.

Calculating how much time it would take me to get to Avignon from Uzes, I went to the garage to pick up Lucy for the drive. With little time to spare, I punched the automatic key, praying the car door would open.

“Click.”

“Whew”, says I. But when I got in the car and put the key in the ignition to start the motor … nothing. “AAACHHHH!!!” Not again!

With no phone to call my friend in Avignon, I walked back to the apartment, back up the 55 steps and called on my land line to cancel our lunch date.

Now, mind you, I have no phone and, after frantically checking on Google and iCloud for my contacts, I must have forgotten to do an update. Luckily, I had the number for JJ, my young friend who I call when I’m desperate for help.

In no time, JJ was on the spot. He jumped the car battery, accompanied me to Carrefour to buy cables and a battery charger, and set Lucy in front of his garage to charge up the battery for the rest of the afternoon.

The verdict on why the battery goes dead? There’s a little switch on the handle for the lights that I’m not putting on “off”. 

Since JJ had solved the battery problem,  I asked him to tackle another issue — call the insurance company about the lost phone. Trying the number several times with no luck, he told me how to make the call myself. Just press “1” each time the automated voice says “pumpa-oooh” or something like that, he said. Do it three times.

JJ left town on Saturday for a month to pick grapes in the north. 

Saturday, Sunday, Monday

No businesses were open to do anything on these days… no insurance company, no bank .. no nothing. I spent the weekend close to home, hoping to stay out of trouble.

Meanwhile, another crisis was looming. The allotted time to register my new car was running out.

Tuesday

OK, this is the day to settle as much as I can. Starting out early I tackled the bank problem first. To my delight, a new card was there … and this time it worked.

Next, the car registration. With forms in hand that had to be filled out in French, I stalked and captured my English-speaking agent at the real estate office. With the promise of a free cup of cafe, I had him lassoed into sitting down with me to help.

I was ready to take on the Marie (town hall).

Fortunately I’d been in the Marie on another occasion to deal with my long-stay visa. It wasn’t as daunting as it could have been, although I knew for a fact that no one speaks English.  As soon as I reached the registar’s desk I began explaining that I speak no French  Graciously she went through the forms and she needed to ask only a few questions. Since she speaks no English, we communicated through sign language and my poor French. One important document was missing that I should have received from the car dealer. Knowing I wouldn’t know what to ask the car dealer, since he speaks no English, the registrar placed a call to him and asked him to email the needed information. The conclusion to this story is on hold until the beginning of office hours tomorrow.

The insurance for the phone? JJ’s suggestion to punch #1 three times during the automated answering system’s messages worked like a charm. A human being answered after the third round and  I was routed to someone who could speak English — somewhat. That person ended up emailing the instructions for filing a claim which I luckily received. Now I just have to drive back to Nimes for more information from SFR — which could never be explained over the phone.

When all else fails, Southerners eat mayonnaise

So that’s how I spent my week in France. The best news is that I had a half loaf of crusty French bread in the freezer and three boiled eggs in the refrigerator. That made a mighty good deviled egg sandwich. With a glass of red wine, of course.

 

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Barefooting in Sete, France

Sete, France on a weekend in the summer is more than a bar scene. It’s a multi-cultural extravaganza.

In fact, there are so many activities going on in Sete it’s hard to decide what to do first. Regardless of what you choose, you can’t go wrong. It’s going to be different from anything this Southern girl has ever seen. Just a walk around town is an experience.

 

 

Sete, France on a weekend

A walk to the “central park” presented a chance to see a ride for kids I wish was in every town. Children LOVE getting the exercise racing each other on their make-believe ponies.

Sete, France on a weekend

Park “ponies” for kids in Sete

 

The city is a major seaport for France so Sete takes advantage of every aspect of being an international coastal town, from seafood markets to private beaches.

Oysters are so abundant in Sete, people of the town enjoy the salty, tender mollusks all times of day. These pictures were the “small” version. On weekend mornings, people of Sete are gathered in the city market (Halles) enjoying oysters and beer. In fact, shell fish of all types are ready for eating on the spot, or to bag up to take away. If you’ve never tried sea snails, you must. But then, you’d better like chewy things, because they will remind you of a tasty pencil eraser.

 

Nighttime in Sete is a thrill to the senses. The views, the music, the whole atmosphere is as exciting as to see as it is to feel and to enjoy.

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Daytime is Sete is beach time and unique water sports.

Beach club in Sete

Beach club in Sete

 

If you’re going to Sete in the summer and you want to go to a private club on the beach, MAKE A RESERVATION. We didn’t and ended up with one beach chair and one umbrella.
As much as I love the French, there are a few things I just don’t get. The biggest thing is why business people don’t understand the concept of “turning over” tables, etc. For example. we went to a beach club without a reservation. We arrived at 11 o’clock in the morning and almost all the chairs were empty. Nevertheless, we were turned away because all seats were reserved. Even when we said we were only staying until 3pm and we’d be willing to move seats if people with the reservation arrived, we were denied our request.

We left and went down the beach to another “club”. There the nice hostess found us one umbrella and one chair, even though others on her beach were empty. The four of us took turns sitting on the chair and on the sand. I figure the first establishment lost 40 euros business, plus our lunch trade. The second club could have seated us all, then taken in another 30 euros for chairs and umbrellas that were still empty when we left.

Go figure.

Sete, France on a weekend

 

 

Joutes nautiques in Sete

Water jousting, or “joutes nautique” has been a summer sport and spectacle in Sete since 1666 when the seaport was formally opened. I thought I had missed the season since the biggest events are held earlier in August. Sea jousting is held throughout sea towns on the Mediterranean, though Sete is world famous for its teams and tournaments.

To my surprise and delight, we literally ran into an event one afternoon where two teams from Sete were up against each other. 

 

Sete, France on a weekend

 

You would never know that the home town team would win either way by the enthusiasm the crews on the jousting boats performed. They were both elegant and fierce.

Each boat is filled with a team of ten oarsmen, one jouster and a “spare”, a helmsman and two musicians.  The “spare” is onboard for the next joust.

Sete, France on a weekend

 

 

One jouster on each boat stands on a raised platform, called a “la tintaine” at the stern of the boat. He stands about 10 feet (three metres) above the surface of the water.

 

Sete, France on a weekend

 

After a polite “pass by” the jousters and crew are ready for the duel.

 

Sete, France on a weekend

 

It would seem the red team stacked the deck … so to speak.

Sete, France on a weekend

 

Even so, the blue team was victorious.

Sete, France on a weekend

 

Sete, France on a weekend

 

Afterwards, it’s all about teamwork and getting quickly out of the boat to have a smoke and to celebrate.

Sete, France on a weekend

Is it any wonder I love Sete?

 

Thanks, Nancy for being the “hostess with the mostest.” To readers who want to visit Sete, be sure to look up Nancy’s apartment on AIRBNB. She has amazing tours of Sete and the area, too. Sete, France on a weekend

 

 

Also, thanks Christina Rabaste for welcoming me back to your studio and home to view your art. I’m looking for spaces to put them all! Love!

 

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Check out these earlier posts for more information about Sete, Nancy’s tours and Christina’s art.

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

Sete: Eat, Pray (to eat), Love (to eat)

Final Days in Sete: Parties, Artist Friends and Days at the Beach

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

The Bad Girls in Sete

For more about water jousting, here’s the Men’s Journal’s view.

 

 

Sete, France on a weekend

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San Quentin la Poterie for Art and Lawrence Durrell

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There must be something in the air in the little village of San Quentin la Poterie that stokes a fire in the creative minds of artists. They are everywhere.

Known especially for fine works of pottery, the town has more than its fair share of painters and sculptors. That’s why a visit to San Quentin la Poterie, which is only down the road from Uzes, is one of my favorite pastimes.

Last week, for instance. Geoffrey called to invite me to tag along with him and Annabelle to an art exhibit in San Quentin. He knew I’d be more than ready to go to the opening event hosted by one of his longtime friends — Antony Daniells.

The venue was a scene straight out of a Romance novel.

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The exhibition was not in a “proper” art gallery but on the grounds of a private home, or maison de ville.  In fact, the art work was displayed on the walls of the ancient stables. 

 

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Entering from the street, through the open wooden gate, there was a courtyard and a garden layered with lush vines, trees and seasonal plantings.

 

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Le chat found the best view for the event

 

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Inside the “stable” the paintings reminded me of the work of the Great Impressionists. (Photos are a poor reflection of the art itself. Hopefully you get the idea.) 

 

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The artist – Antony Daniells

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Anthony Daniells is an American who lived in France, now in Spain. This night he was quite busy entertaining guests for the show. I had not pre-arranged a meeting with him so the blog post was to be short and sweet — just showing the gallery and the art. Later I found out more about the artist. He and Geoffrey have known each other since “before the beginning of time,” Geoffrey says.

Like other things the Barefoot Blogger runs into living in France, there’s a story behind everything. Anthony and Geoffrey’s friendship also involves famous British novelist and poet, Lawrence Durrell.

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You see, Geoffrey and Lawrence Darrell were patrons of the same book store in London — Bernard Stone’s Turret Bookshop.

“Bernie Stone published some of Durrell’s early works,” stated Geoffrey who lived in London at the time of Stone’s bookstore. “When Durrell would come to town, he’d stop in at the bookstore,” he added. “That’s where we met.”

Lawrence Durrell was born to Irish and English parents living in India. After years in India, then Corfu as an adult, Lawrence lived in the village of Sommières, near Uzes, in France until his death in 1990. His younger brother, Gerald, was a renowned naturalist and author of “”My Family and Other Animals.”

“Lawrence had the most beautiful voice,” reminisced Geoffrey about his time with Durrell. “He would read his poetry when I’d see him in the bookstore, ” he said; “.. and later when I lived with him,” he added nonchalantly.

“You lived with Lawrence Durrell?” I exclaimed, almost shouting.

“Why yes,” claimed Geoffrey in his most calm voice. “Well, I didn’t exactly live with him, ” he confessed. “I stayed a few weeks at his home in Sommières before I moved to Uzes,” he explained.

“That’s how I met Tony Daniells,” he continued. “He was a friend of Durrell’s.

“Ah-ha,” said I. “Now I get the connection.”

“I lived in Lawrence’s large chateau in Sommières,” said Geoffrey, “along with he and his exquisitely beautiful wife,” he added. “That’s when I decided to move my family to France,” he remembered; “then I went back to England.”

When Geoffrey returned to France to live, he rented the home of Antony Daniells in Flaux, another small village near Uzes.

“Antony was spending most of his time at his house in Spain so the home in Flaux was empty,” Geoffrey stated. “It was a perfect arrangement,” he added.

The beginning of a long friendship, I discovered.

Although Geoffrey and Antony had not seen each other for years, they were obviously happy to meet again. Daniells now stays in Spain and returns to the Uzes area for his annual art show.

 

On another note, just to peak your interest and curiosity, I met a most delightful woman at the exhibition — Panna Grady — the southern heiress of the 60’s who ran with the likes of Andy Warhol and the “Godfather of Punk”, William Burroughs. These days she is frail and mostly known as a recluse. On the way home from meeting her, I couldn’t help but imagine the stories she has to tell about her life in New York City, living at The Dakota along with John Lennon and Yoko. Perhaps we will meet again.

For more about Lawrence Durrell click here 

 

While thinking about San Quentin la Poterie here are more posts for you to explore:

Off the beaten path: Part 2

Oh la la, La Poterie!

Uzes in November: A Two-Day Tour

Sunday Fetes in France: Wine Tasting and Pottery

 

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Visit Nimes

Party Time in Nimes: Jeudi de Nimes

Visit Nimes on a Thursday night during July and August if you want to see how to throw a party. Tourists, locals, singles and families join in the festivities referred to as Jeudi de Nimes that center around the ancient Roman arena and forum (Maison Carrée).

Visit Nimes

Maison Carrée

 This visit to Jeudi de Nimes I was intent on watching the Tango exhibition. Along the way, however, there were markets; lively cafes on every street; as well as music and dancing of all sorts and origins.

Visit Nimes

80’s Rock Bands

Visit Nimes

Flamenco Band

Visit NimesThere, in the back streets of Nimes, was the event I was looking forward to seeing. Tango dancers from around the area merged together for an evening of music that lasted until midnight. Not a moment longer. City authorities in Nimes and other towns are very strict about noise. Fines are steep for anyone who disobeys party closing times.

Definitely a few dancers stood out from the rest

Oh, that I could learn Tango just by watching.

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 I did learn there’s a strict Tango tradition. A woman can never asks a man to dance. It’s just not done. So women pretty much sit around the dance floor and wait until someone invites them to join them to Tango.

Visit Nimes

The men check out the available crop of dancers.

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Then assuming everything goes well … and everybody gets along…

 

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…almost all are matched up for the next Tango.

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Thursday nights won’t be the same until this Jeudi de Nimes next year. I can’t wait to visit Nimes again. Meanwhile, tango classes start in Uzes in September. Hmmm…

 

Visit Nimes

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Goodbye “Mustang Sally”, Hello “Lucy”

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Remember Mustang Sally? She’s a thing of the past. Geoffrey put her to “pasture” for too many mechanical problems. It was a sad day.

Mustang Sally

Mustang Sally

Last week I bought a car. Not only is it the first car I’ve bought in my life, it’s a French car, bought in France. Like many things in this new world of mine, where I don’t speak the language, buying my new voiture wasn’t easy.  I had to enlist help.

When friends learned I wanted a car, they all had suggestions. The most prevalent one was “don’t buy a French car.” Sorry, but that’s just what I did. The next tip was “don’t buy from a dealer.” Yep, I did that too.

Buying a car at all, I am double handicapped. I have never bought one for myself, by myself. My first car was a hand-me-down from my Mother. My next cars were arranged by my brother who owned a VW dealership. I drove VWs for years. Then my ex bought our cars. If he told me he was car shopping, I’d say: “Tell me when it’s over, and by the way, I get the new one.”

Of course, not speaking French is my second handicap buying a car — a big one.

Uzes has no car dealers, so I turned to Leboncoin. Car shopping online became my passion. I looked at cars constantly. But when I’d be interested in one, I’d just sigh. There was no way to communicate with the seller. Email didn’t work. They didn’t reply. If I telephoned, I could write out a script in French to tell what I wanted, but their response was unintelligible to me. Going to Nimes to car shop was a consideration, but finding someone to drive me there who knew anything about cars just wasn’t happening.

Finally I threw money at the problem. A young French man who I’ve met several times at one of the cafes told me he’d help. He needs money. I needed a car. It was a perfect match. Except that he wasn’t quite on the same timeline as me.

After several weeks of back and forth emails to “JJ” with links to cars on Leboncoin, he finally saw one that appealed to him. It was with an “independent” dealer in Remoulins. After a trip to see the car, then back to sign the papers, it was mine.

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Geoffrey went along to witness the car deal

JJ has also agreed to go with me to the “préfecture” to change over the title and help with whatever else is needed. I have no idea about insurance. The garage insurance runs out on Monday. Surely that will be solved, too.

Signed, sealed and delivered

Signed, sealed and delivered

This is all to say that, nothing is easy in France. But as the Beatles say: “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.”IMG_1699

Here’s Lucy! With her shiny red body, she’s the female version of “Lucifer”.

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While I’m on a Beatles kick: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Now for that diamond-encrusted steering wheel cover. Leboncoin?

 

 

 

Happy memories of Mustang Sally

Saying “goodbye” to Mustang Sally hasn’t been easy. Looking back at some of the posts of our adventures together makes me happy and sad. If you’d like to walk back through “memory lane” with me, here are some posts where Sally played a starring role. Click on the titles to view the posts.

May in Uzes

Geoffrey and Sally

Geoffrey and Sally

 

On the Road with Mustang Sally

On the Road with Mustang Sally

On the Road with Mustang Sally

 

Uzes on Sundays

 

An afternoon drive with Geoffrey and Mustang Sally

An afternoon drive with Geoffrey and Mustang Sally

 

Golden Girls Loving Italy: Pisa

 

Mustang Sally left behind in Girona, Spain

Mustang Sally left behind in Girona, Spain

 

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 9-10 Port Vendres and Collioure

 

Mustang Sally looking over Collieure

Mustang Sally looking over Collieure

 

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-7 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

 

Mustang Sally with Golden Girls in Collioure

Mustang Sally with Golden Girls in Collioure

 

“The Golden Girls” in France and Italy: Day 1-4 Uzes, France

 

Mustang Sally prepping for "The Golden Girls'"

Mustang Sally prepping for “The Golden Girls'”

 

Uzes to Nice: Nice!

Showing off at Carrefour

Showing off at Carrefour

 

Then there are memories of Mustang Sally at her last car wash.

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Happy Trails, Mustang Sally!Happy Trails!

 

 

 

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Drama Queen

A friend on Facebook asked recently how everything that happens to me in France sounds like an adventure. Wish I knew.

I do have a theory: Perhaps we mistake the “drama” in our lives with “adventure.”

Last week, for example,  my French teacher loaned me her car. It’s a 20-year-old blue French “something.” I didn’t really care what it was before I borrowed it. I could use almost anything with wheels to help me run some errands. Particularly , I needed to take my ancient Raleigh bicycle to the repair shop for a new tire.

My teacher, Annabelle,  met me at the public parking lot in Uzes on the appointed day and she gave me a few instructions about driving the car. She showed me the “reverse” gear, but I drove straight ahead to get out of the parking lot, not needing to back up.

Blue_car_cartoonThere’s only one way to get out of downtown Uzes. That’s to go all the way around the circular main street. The parking lot where I picked up the car was  as far away from the street where I needed to take the bike as you can go on the circle. Traffic was stop and go because there are tons of tourists here. Nevertheless, I made it out of town.

Reaching the bike repair place, I realized I didn’t have my bike! Back I went, all the way through town again to my apartment.

Getting the bike into the back of “Old Nellie” wasn’t an easy job. And there wasn’t one person passing by who offered to help a poor old woman in distress. C’est la vie. Finally, with bike in tow, I jumped into the car to back out of the parking space in front of my building.

With the car in gear, I stepped on the gas …. and headed straight ahead …  for the stone front of the building.

Eyeek!”

Slamming on the brakes I put the gear into reverse again. And again. And again. Each time I went forward, closer to a stone-on-bumper impact.

When I was literally inches before crushing into the building, I called my friend, Geoffrey. Annabelle is Geoffrey’s girlfriend, so I assumed he would know her car. Fortunately, he answered. and quickly got the picture.

Do you know where neutral is on the gear shift?” he asked.

Of course I do, ” I replied smuggly, wiggling the stick in the gear.

Are you sure,” warned Geoffrey, speaking in his most calm British accent. He knows me well.

“Oh!,” said I as the gear went into a new place. “So that’s neutral?!”

Put you hand on the gear stick and pull it up, then up to the right, ” said Geoffrey.

Obediently I pulled the gear into position and said to Geoffrey, “you’d better hang up now.”

Why’s that?” he asked, puzzled..

I don’t want you to witness this,” I said. images (1)

Hanging up the cellphone, I pulled up the emergency brake and gunned the gas pedal.

“Voila!”  The car moved backwards., away from the stone wall that was no more than two inches away.

On my way…

Around town again on the traffic circle, I finally reached the repair shop and dropped off the bike.  The next destination was  Carrefour. It was time to stock up on house supplies.

No more than a block down the road, I realized I’d left my billfold and money behind. There was only a ten euro bill in my handbag. Unwilling to drive all the way back to town and around the circle again, I said to myself: “what is it I really need at Carrefour?”  Plant food.. Fortunately plant food was less than five euros. Mission accomplished.

Not so fast!

Back in the car and ready to return home for money for the bike repair, I turned on the ignition. Nothing happened.  Except that every light on “Old Nellie’s” dashboard was red.

Good grief,” I cried, “now the car’s out of gas!”

Fortunately the car was parked close to the Carrefour gas station. Hoping there was a gas can in the back, I jumped out of the car. No can.

I turned around to look at the gas pumps. A man on a motorcycle was at one of the tanks. He had a gas can!  Never afraid to talk to  a stranger when I’m desperate, I walked up to the man who was facing away from me and I tapped him on the shoulder. He was dressed in motorcycle attire from head to toe.

Do you speak English?” I said to the startled man.

Man Riding Motorcycle Clip ArtMotorcycle Man turned quickly around and took off his helmet.  Talking with a German accent he responded “yes, I know some English.”

I explained my dilemma, including the fact that I had only six euros on me to pay for gas. Hoping he wouldn’t think I was giving him a “pick up” line, I was anxious for his reply.

No problem,” he said as he filled the can with gas.

“Whew!” I was saved.

Not so fast

Does the car use gas or diesel?” he asked.

It’s not my car.” I replied.  “I have no idea.”

There’s gasoline in this can now,” said Motorcycle Man, “and I’m pretty sure that cars burns diesel.”

Bummer,” I said, although thankful he thought of the potential disaster before it happened.

Here’s what you should do,” said Motorcycle Man. “Ask some young people over there to push the car to the gas pump.” He added, “I have a bad back.

With that, I turned around to find some lucky suspects. Meanwhile, Motorcycle Man disappeared.

To the rescue

Sighting two young men who were just coming out of Carrefour, I ran up to talk with them. Fortunately, they both spoke enough English that we could communicate the problem.

I asked if they knew if the car used diesel or gas fuel. Looking under the hood, they announced: “Gas”.

With that, I got into the car. Thinking about the red can with “gasoline” Motorcycle Man had offered earlier, I unconsciously put the key in the ignition.  It took a few seconds to realize the car started. It wasn’t out of gas at all. In fact,  there was over a half tank of gas.

Thanking my new friends profusely, I tried to assure them I wasn’t a nut case. They agreed to let me take their picture for my blog.

Ahmed and Walid, this is for you.  I really do have a blog.

And to you, mystery Motorcycle Man, “Thank you wherever you are!”

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Ouch!! The French Dentist

It’s bad enough to have a crown fall out of your mouth when you’re in a new country. Finding out your French dentist speaks no English is worse.

Unless, of course, your French dentist is Dr. Espeso. French dentist

So who’s complaining? This lovely man speaks Spanish and French, which means we could almost carry on a conversation. My Spanish is just a little better than my French. With sign language and a few broken sentences in English, French and Spanish,  the doctor managed to understand my problem. It helped that I was carrying a tooth  and that I had a hole in my mouth where the tooth fit.

Looking at the tooth and motioning, I think he said something like “I’m not sure this is going to last.”

At that point, I had no options. A visit to a dentist to get a crown glued in is one thing.  Having serious dental work done isn’t a choice. Can you imagine trying to figure out a dental procedure with my French? AAACCCCHHH

You’re curious to see the inside of a dental office in Uzes, right?

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 Coming from the street into the old building, I was a bit concerned.

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The door to the dentist’s office is on the “premier etage.” (The lower level is the street floor.)

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The room where the dental chair and equipment were set up was all so familiar. Relief!

 

French dentist

French dentist

Familiar or not,  a visit to the dentist is never fun.

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French dentistThanks all, for making it a day to remember!

French dentist

The Fete Votive 2014 Finale: Bulls, Belles, Bands and Bubbles.

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The Fete Votive in Uzes 2014 has come to a successful end. Although the weather could have been better for some of the events, the spirit of the crowd was hardly dampened.

Bulls in UzesFinal days and nights of the annual festival were filled with the  more bulls, horses, men and young boys and girls running through the streets.

While the opportunity for disaster was always possible with the huge animals galloping down the crowded road, it was amazing how there were no injuries to man or beast.

It makes me wonder about the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Is it tamer than we think? If so, would it draw the crowds?

 
Bulls in UzesSaying I was in the middle of the road waiting for the bulls to rush at me, it’s not a joke.

Guess it was fool’s luck that there wasn’t a wayward bull that pulled away from the herd.

Has this given me the courage for Pamplona next year?

Only time will tell.

 

 

 

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It takes a whole village

During the Fete Votive there are activities that all the town’s people and visitors enjoy.

 

(The photos in this slide show courtesy of the town of Uzes website)

 

Memorable moments

Attending all the Fete Votive activities would have been difficult for anyone. I squeezed in.as many as possible. As you may recall,  my top priority is to LEARN FRENCH by December. That means I have lessons almost everyday

That said, my favorite events were the crowd scenes — the running of the bulls, the parades, and the brass bands that appeared  almost everywhere you’d go around the village.

 

Brass Band in the Street

 

 

 

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Brass Bands on the sidewalks.

Brass Bands on the sidewalks.

 

More brass bands in the street

More brass bands in the street

 

People cheering the brass bands

People cheering the brass bands

 

 

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      Brass bands playing in your ear.

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Brass bands heading for the watering hole.

Brass bands heading for the watering hole.

 

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The crowds

The crowds

 

 

The flashback to early times in Uzes

The flashback to early times in Uzes

 

 

The artists

The artists

 

The art

 

 

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The little girl blowing bubbles

 

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                                    The welcomed cleanup

 

 

 

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… and the best part?

It comes again next year!

 

 

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