Tag: white horses

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.

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Fête Votive

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

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 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.

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Fête Votive

Fête Votive

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Your guess what this was about?

The crowds were anxious.

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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!

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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

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

It is important White horses, bulls, pink flamingos, rice, salt, culture, and the economics of the Camargue region are all interconnected in this surreal geo-triangle in the south of France.

The Camargue region spreads over more than 360 square miles of pastureland and wetlands formed by the two branches of the River Rhône and the Mediterranean. The largest river delta in Europe, the Camargue is a thriving center of agriculture and tourism.

Camargue region

Wetlands and grasslands of the Camargue

While the area appears to be a “natural” wilderness, it is, in fact, “manipulated” to maintain its sophisticated biodiversity. Most specifically, in the last century alone, enlightened promoters of the Camargue have demonstrated how the creative and sensitive management of water levels can create a productive environment for man and living creatures instead of a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.

Camargue region

Homes in the Camargue are for residents and popular as vacation rentals.

 

Camargue region

A ferry carries passengers between two areas of the region every 30 minutes.

Camargue region

Ferry over the Rhone

Camargue region

The distinctive symbol of the area. The Camargue Cross.

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue region

White horses of the Camargue

The breed of “white horses” found in the Camargue is believed to have appeared in the Paleozoic era (Solutre horses).  They are thought by some to have come from along the Silk Roads, the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia that run from modern Hungary to Mongolia.

Camargue region

Nomad horseback riders from the Steppe are typified by Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols; and the Huns, led by Attila. Steppe warriors migrated south, seeking better lands. They waged war with inhabitants on the way, including the Romans. Along with them, the nomads brought their strong horses that had ruled the marshes for centuries.

The horses had large hooves for walking in muddy waters and white coats to endure the sun.

Those who believe in mythology say the white horses were a gift from Neptune, “Poseidon’s Horses,” given to man as his faithful companion and put on earth to share the everyday riches.

Camargue region

Image by Walter Crane of Neptune’s horses

While the Camargue horses appear to run free, they are well-managed by “cowboys”  or “les gardians.”

Camargue region

Camargue Cowboy

Stallions roam the rocky grasslands– a tradition that has been respected for generations. The rustic breed only eats grass from the soil — no additives.

Camargue region

Bred properly, a Camargue mare produces only one foal a year — by natural childbirth. There is no help from vets. One year after giving birth, female horses must be quarantined to allow time for rest.


Camargue region

Those who know these animals recognize they are intelligent. They are suitable for all types of endeavors — for work or show. It is important to treat them gently but firmly. The trainer or handler needs to be in charge.

Visitors to the Camargue who wish to ride the white horses will find numerous stables and excursions available for all ages of riders. Entering the area is like a vacation playground with horses as one of the main attractions.

Camargue region

A hotel with stable for horseback riding in the Camargue

If you have a few minutes, take the time to watch this video I found on YouTube. The majesty of the magnificent creatures and the accompanying music will make your day.

 

Camargue region

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7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

It’s hard to say when the Barefoot Blogger will ever get her fill of visiting the Camargue.

The preserved area south of Arles,  the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes and grain.

The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all feed only on natural feed and grasses. Salt mines that create pink-tinted lagoons and canals produce some of the world’s finest salts.  Shrimp that thrive on the algae in the pinkish waterways feed flamingoes that gather in ponds and pools alongside the fields and roads. The shrimp diet colors the birds’ feathers pink.  It’s all a grand circle of life.

The Camargue Safari

The most recent jaunt to the Camargue was with my guests from the States, including 10-year-old McKenna. While her mother and I thought a safari would be a huge thrill for McKenna, we all totally enjoyed the 4-hour tour by jeep. It wasn’t just because of our adorable and multi-lingual guide, we learned there are at least 7 reasons this place is so amazing … and so popular for tourists. 

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Reason #1: The Camarguais horses

 

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visiting the camargue

 

Reason #2: The Camargue bulls

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Camargues Bulls

 

Reason #3: Flamingos

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Flamingos in the Camargue

 

 

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Flamingo

 

Reason #4: Salt mines

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Salt processed in the Camargue

 

 

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Balin Salt brand from the Camargue is exported worldwide

 

Reason #5: Rice

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Rice fields in the Camargue

 

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Reason #6: Wine

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visiting the camargue

 

Reason #7: The culture

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A home of a Gardian, or “rancher”

 

 

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The Camargue cross is a symbol of “faith, hope and charity” to dwellers of the region

 

For more about the Camargues, please see these earlier posts:

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

For your own Camargue Safari, contact Nancy McGee at southernfranceluxury.com

 

visiting the camargue

 

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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Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

 

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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.

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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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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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French folklore

French Folklore: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer


What I love about living in France is the opportunity to re-learn history. I never expected French folklore from the Bible.

Who knew, for example, that Lazarus and Mary Magdalene ended up in France? According to Provencal tales, which I learned upon my recent day trip to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, Jesus’s friend Lazarus; his sister, Martha; Mary Magdalene; Mary of James, sister of the Virgin; and a servant girl, Sarah the Egyptian, all arrived in the south of France around 40 A.D. Albeit under less than desirable circumstances.

Legend has it that after the Crucifixion, while Jews continued to be persecuted in Jerusalem, the extended “family” of Christ was cast into the sea in a small boat equipped with neither oars nor food. Miraculously they landed safely here, now Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, where they erected a small chapel and dedicated it to the Virgin. The two Marys and Sarah remained at the church while Mary Magdalene and Martha went on throughout Provence preaching. Catholic tradition says that Lazarus was the first Bishop of Marseilles. In the 11th century the chapel became a church and was reconstructed as a fortress.  

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Miracles attributed to the Saints are shown in paintings displayed inside the Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer.

French folklore

Sainte Maria dela Mer

Sarah the Egyptian: Revered by Gypsies

St. Sarah is highly venerated by gypsies. Around the 15th century the nomadic groups from Spain and other regions began annual pilgrimages to the church. In a colorful procession, the gypsies would carry the statue of St. Sarah and immerse it in sea. Modern day pilgrimages honoring St. Sarah take place in May and October. The events are celebrated with horse races, parades of costumed ladies from Arles, and “the running of bulls”, staged by herders from the nearby Camargue. Gypsies march the statue of St. Sarah to the sea.

Gypsy Blessings  

While visiting the Church, I was sighted and stopped by a gypsy woman who pinned a religious symbol on my shirt. Looking straight into my eyes, she placed a finger on my forehead and gave me a blessing. As I thanked her and started to walk away, she stuck out her hand… for an “offering”. When I kept walking, she quickly removed the pin from my shirt. Oh well… guess “blessings” come at a price.

 

More about the Camargue

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

 

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