Tag: running of the bulls

Fête Votive: The Bulls are Here!

Oh my!  Every August the streets of Uzés turn from business into a carnival. It’s Fête Votive!   Bulls run in the streets;  brass bands with men and women in colorful uniforms “oomp-pa-pa” through the village; and parades with spectacular floats fill the place with music and lights.

The Uzés Fête Votive schedule goes on for six days. This is the running of the Bulls — Day One.

Fête Votive

 People line the “main” street of Uzes waiting for the entertainment to start.

Horse and riders from the Camargue wait for the action to start.

Horses and cowboys from the Camargue ready themselves for the action.

  Fête Votive   Fête Votive

Fête Votive

They know there’s an important, dangerous job ahead.

Fête Votive

 Horses are restless. Even so, this one made a special effort to pose for the camera.

 

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Handlers were listening for the signal to let out their cargo of Camargue bulls.

Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Your guess what this was about?

The crowds were anxious.

Fête Votive     Fête Votive  

Fête Votive

Then, in a flash, the truck gate was down and the bulls dashed out in a fury  … faster than the eye … and faster than my camera. The bulls were released in such a hurry … three of them at once … that I thought I had missed it all.

 

Fête Votive

You do see the bull? Right?

 In  just a few minutes a buzz from the excited crowd signaled the bulls were on the way back!

Fête Votive

Oops! Too fast. Missed again.

Fête Votive

Note: Bull on the bottom right .. or leg of bull.

Fête Votive

Thinking I had totally missed getting a shot of the bulls, I glanced around and saw that the young people standing near me — Arnaud and his friends from Normandy —  had captured  the action on video.  They were more than happy to share it for the blog.

(Thank you Arnaud!)

 

Yes, it was over that fast… 2+ seconds!

 What I didn’t know was that chasing the bulls up and down the boulevard goes on for an hour. Up and down, down and up.

Fête Votive

And if you walk down the street, there are better places to view the spectacle.

Fête Votive

After an hour of bulls and horses running up and down the street, I was able to catch a few decent shots.  Mind you, they  come storming down from the boulevard in a mass of horses with riders, bulls, and people chasing the bulls. Then they’re gone.

 

Fête Votive   Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Bulls running in Uzes

Fête Votive

Yes,  they were that close!

Fête Votive

If you wonder what it feels like to be standing in the middle of a street with horses and bulls headed your way, check out the video.

12 Ways To Calm The Overactive Mind

tour south france

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

When I heard there were going to be white horses racing on the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, I couldn’t wait to get there. I sent a note to my photographer friend, Alan McBride, and suggested he join me with his fancy cameras. It was an event neither of us should miss!

tour south france

Abrivado Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer

 

Not knowing what we were getting into, Alan and I determined a meeting place near the seaside town so we could drive together for photos and a story. All we knew from the online promotion was that there was an Abrivado taking place somewhere near Saintes-Maries-De-la-Mer. Since it’s a small town we felt confident that we couldn’t miss hundreds of horses and riders.

Wrong. The town looked deserted.

“Let’s head out the beach road,” Alan suggested, hoping we hadn’t missed it all. (I might add here that neither Alan nor I speak or read French. It’s very possible we’d misunderstood the promo.)

There on the road to the beach we began to see a few people on horseback and others walking.  A few cars were parked towards the far end of the beach road. Apparently we were headed the right way. We followed the traffic of people, horses and vehicles which was increasing as we walked along. Boldly I stopped several “pilgrims” to ask: “Do you speak English?”  Then to query “Where does the event start?” The only answer I got in return was a hand signal “straight ahead.”  So there we went – straight ahead down the road that paralleled the beach.

About this time I was getting concerned about taking photos to show off the event. “If the horses and riders come from in front of us, and the sun is shining on the water like it is now, how can you take pictures straight into the sun?”  Alan seemed nonplussed. “OK,” I said to myself. “He’s the pro. He must have a plan.” We kept walking along with the others.

By the time we were a good mile or so down the road, the numbers of observers increased significantly. Apparently they had gotten the information to approach the event from another vantage point. Never mind. We were on the way … hopefully not too late. Along with the others, we crossed a gully of water and climbed a slight sand bar to get closer to the sea. Once on the beach we saw there were gatherings of kindred folk who had set up viewing spots. As much as I would have liked to join them for a tumbler of wine, we kept walking. Our intent was to get to a point where Alan could take the best shots.

“Are we there yet?” I asked, repeatedly. We kept walking.

Then … straight ahead … we saw and heard a “crack” of light and fire… and hundreds of horses, riders and people were lined up.  They headed our way!

To my surprise there were bulls in between the horses and riders. What was I thinking? An “abrivado” Of course there were bulls! 

As the through of horses, bulls and humans passed, it was exhilarating. “When do they run through water?” I shouted to Alan.

That’s when he made his move.  He’d observed there was another group of horses and riders and bulls at the “starting line.”  Another running of the bulls was ready to take off. In an instant, Alan disappeared. I looked back and watched him head for the beach road.  Up and over the sand bar. Through the water, then to the side of the road.  I ran to join him just before … behind me …the sight I was waiting for… horses in the water! The riders on horses were rushing the bulls through the gully. Splash! The herd followed en masse. They headed for a pool of water at the end of the road.

Oh that I had only known the rules of the game … the course of the Abrivados But … who cares!?? Could there be anything better than this?

I’m not certain how many “runs” were made that morning along the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Almost as quickly as it started, it was over. The movement of people, beasts and vehicles headed back the way we started — towards town.  Soon we were in a “traffic jam.” Rather than fight the crowd, we did what any story-teller and photographer would do. We watched and took advantage of the photo opportunity.

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Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this tour South France and the telling of the Abrivados at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Thanks so very much to Alan McBride for making our day so memorable with his amazing vision and his artful photography.

For more about the white horses and the Camargues:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

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Uzes Fete Votive

Summer’s in Full Swing in the South of France: It’s Uzès Fete Votive

There’s lots going on and plenty of people around to enjoy Uzès Fete Votive.

Uzès Fete Votive

A summer event that everyone looks forward to attending is Uzès 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!

Uzes Fete Votive

Abrivado in Uzes for Fete Votive 2016

What is a Fete Votive?

Uzes Fete Votive

St. Theodoret Cathedral n Uzes

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 Uzès 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.)

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Uzes Fete Votive

Steak tartare at Ma Cantine

Uzès Fete Votive 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.

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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!

For photos and sounds from previous Fete Votive parades in Uzes, click here.

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Time for Fete Votive Uzes. Which Year Was Best? You Decide.

Fete Votive Uzes 2015 was spectacular. How will this year’s event compare?

By far, one of the most exciting events of the year in Uzes, in my opinion, is Fete Votive. Next week it’s live along the main street in Uzes with lights, action and extraordinary booming sounds. The imaginative “électros soirée” on August 5, 2016 will be the third I’ve experienced. Oh what a night that will be! 

Below are photos and a video from 2015 and there’s a link to highlights from Fete Votive 2014 for you to preview.  When I post the Fete Votive 2016 extravaganza, let me know which you think is the best of the best from the three years.

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

 

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A true fantasy!

Here’s just a sample of the sight and sounds…

Will they outdo themselves this year? All I can say is, “I can’t wait to see it!”

See Fete Votive Parade 2014 revisited here. 

Here’s the schedule for this year’s event — 

 

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Fete Votive 2015 Uzes: Explosive!

There are few words better than “explosive” to describe the late night parade in Uzes that accompanied Fete Votive 2015.

After waiting for hours to see what event organizers had in store for this year’s Fete Votive parade, the crowds went wild. Justly so. The contrast of the loud, bright, huge moving floats against the pale, regal, ancient buildings along the streets of Uzes was striking. And exhilarating!

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

 

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A true fantasy!

Here’s just a sample of the sight and sounds…

 

Did they outdo themselves this year? All I can say is, “I can’t wait until same time, same place 2016!

See Fete Votive Parade 2014 revisited. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Bullfights and Fanfare

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately attending as many types of events that feature bulls as the main attraction as possible. It’s becoming an obsession.

Someday soon I’m going to write a post about a bullfight. Right now I’m trying to sort out all my emotions about the controversal pastime that’s such a rage in this part of France.

Arles

 

The Feria du Riz in Arles was the perfect opportunity for me to do more research on the subject. Not only was there a bullfight, or “corrida,” there were also bulls running in the streets, an abrivado.

 

Arles

Running of the bulls – abrivado

Now that I’ve witnessed a few abrivados this year, I’m catching on to how they’re staged. Most importantly, I’m  finding there are certain vantage points that are better than others if you want to actually see the bulls.

It works like this.

Both sides of the street are lined with metal fencing. That keeps out people who wouldn’t get near the bulls anyway because it’s easy to squeeze between the bars of the fencing.  At the starting place of the abrivado there’s an enclosed truck that’s filled with bulls. At the opposite end of the route, in Arles, a flatbed trailer truck was stationed between the two sides of fencing.

 

Arles

 

For my first abrivado/bandido, I watched from the starting point when the bulls ran out of the truck. In Arles, I wised up a bit and went to the opposite end to get a better view. That’s where the bulls and horses turn around to run back to the starting place.

At the beginning of the abrivado, men and women on horseback — bandidos — start the spectacle by riding in tandem along the route, which is usually the main street of the town or village. These “cowboys” proudly parade their white Camargue horses before an appreciative crowd.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

After the horses and riders parade past a few times, the bulls are released.The bandidos run along beside and in front of the bulls to keep them herded together.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

When they reach the end of the course, they all turn around and race back up the street. 

 

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That’s when all the kids in town chase after them all.

 

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Arles

 

Arles

 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

Now, if that sounds boring, it’s not. It’s exhilarating — for me, at least. Let’s just say, it beats watching grown men run back and forth for hours chasing a football. (Sorry sports fans!)

The arena and corrida

Anything that takes place in Arles is going to be a unique experience. It is an ancient city where the present and the past intermingle seamlessly.

Arles

 

When walking down the street, on several occasions, it took my breath away when I realized I was standing beside a Roman forum, or strolling through a park Van Gogh had sketched.

Arles

 

 

The arena in Arles is not just a shrine to the Roman days of Gaul, it’s a lively gathering place for local events, including ferias and rock concerts.

 

Arles

 

During the Feria du Riz the steps of the arena were the stage for a “battle of the bands.”

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The inside of the arena is a vision straight out of a history book. Having attended events at both the arena in Arles and in Nimes, I’m surprised there has been so little “modernizing” of either structure. These facilities would be off-limits to visitors if in the States. Getting up and around in the seating areas in the arenas is treacherous, even for the able-bodied. I’m not complaining… just saying .

Arles

 

Arles

 

Seating in the arena is on stones. Some sections have wooden seats over the stones. Depending on how close you want to get to the “action”, the price of seats runs accordingly. The most expensive spots are less than midway up the side of the arena and out of the direct sun.

Arles

 

 

As mentioned at the start, more detail about bullfights is yet to come. I’m finishing up Hemingway’s novels on the subject.  He studied bullfighting with some of the greatest matadors of all times. Next my mission is to learn more about the modern corrida and the local controversies.

Stay tuned.

 

Arles

 

For  more posts on bulls, bullfighting and events, check these out:

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Food and Fashion

The Bulls are Here!

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

Uzes’ Fete Votive: The Psychedelic and Bizarre

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

 

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Arles: Feria du Riz Food and Fashion

In Arles there seems to always be a party going. Arles’ Feria du Riz is one of the best.

Arles, a town less than an hour down the road that’s mostly famous for being one of Van Gogh’s “hangouts”.  The Feria du Riz, the annual Rice Harvest Festival, celebrates one of the region’s top crops — rice.

Rice in Arles

Arles is on the northern edge of the Camargue which has been the subject of a few earlier blogs. Just as bulls, white horses and flamingos are indigenous to the area, rice has been produced in the Camargue since the Middle Ages. Today there are some 200 rice producers in this small area, representing about 5% of rice production in Europe. Camargue’s “red rice” is a popular local souvenir.

 

The Feria du Riz is, interestingly, a very Spanish celebration to be in France. The food and the fashions are straight from Spain.

Before I get much farther, though, let me set the scene for Arles’ Feria du Riz

When you drive into the old city of Arles, there’s a long avenue with cafes and shops that leads to a lovely park with a walkway that leads to the ancient areas of the town — the arena and the amphitheater. For the Feria, the avenue is spread with carnival-like booths with food vendors and souvenirs.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

At cafes along the way, the ohm-pah-pah bands are warming up the crowd for the afternoon festivities.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Road barriers lined the street for the running of the bulls scheduled for the early afternoon.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Since this is a Rice Harvest Festival the food booths along the way were showing off their take on  — a Spanish favorite that matches with the theme of the Feria.

I was starving when I hit town and this was the first paella stand in line, so it was my pick.

Arles' Feria du Riz

I sat on the steps of a fancy hotel and restaurant and gulped down the serving of paella with a bottle of water. It hit the spot on the already hot day.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

As I walked down the street, I wasn’t certain the place I stopped was the best choice. It all looked so good!

Arles' Feria du Riz

These photo-perfect folks were putting out some fabulous kebab dishes.

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about food

One popular food offering was kebabs — in all varieties. There were kebabs in sandwiches and kebab “stew” served over frites (french fries). The kebab mixtures were steaming away in huge pans, just as the paella.

Then there were the fish specialties — a Fisherman’s plate with calamari and pots of steaming moule (mussels).

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about fashion

My favorite stop of the day was a sidewalk shop with the Spanish dresses, skirts and all the frills. I had to hold myself back from buying one of the skirts. Imagine a holiday party wearing one of these!

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Arles’ Feria du Riz is about the scenery

Beyond the vendors I walked to the entrance to the park and walkway to the old town.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

When up the steps and around the town building, there lay before me the beautiful village of Arles, with buildings and roadways centuries ago. People were everywhere, in every square, eating and enjoying festivities and socializing the warm September Sunday.

One of the famous squares in the city, during the Feria, is a showcase of artisans and regional foods.

Arles' Feria du Riz

To my surprise, one of the new products being displayed was barbeque sauces. In France? I could hardly believe my eyes. Of course, I had to strike up a conversation with the owners to tell him I’d been to Memphis in May — the barbeque event of the year. He knew it well and hopes to make it there someday himself.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

After spending most of the afternoon walking around the town and checking out the food stands, it was time for the bulls running in the street. This time I knew how to get up close and personal. For the next post, though. Along with all the fanfare that surrounds a bullfight in the south of France. Stay tuned!

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

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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