Every town or village, no matter how small, will have at least one fête over the summer and some have two or three so there’s always something going on. When you are driving around you will suddenly see signs, often homemade and some even handwritten, advertising the upcoming events of neighboring villages. The biggest fete usually falls on and around the town’s Saint’s Day. In France, every town has a saint that it is associated with. In the past a French child would be given the name of the saint on whose day their own birth fell either as a first or middle name. More recently people pick any name but to be baptized Catholic, a child still needs to have at least one saint’s name. This means that French people have two special days to celebrate, their own birthday and the “Saint’s Day”. It is customary to offer flowers to someone on their saint’s day. Almost every day in the calendar has a saint’s name assigned to it, some have more than one and January 6 has five! It is not only individuals who celebrate a saint’s day. Towns and villages usually have a dedicated saint and special events are held in commemoration each year. The town of Le Bugue celebrates Saint Louis and the festivities are quite something. Firstly, they last a full week, this year it was from Tuesday, August 18 to Monday, August 24 and boy, was it a fun filled time! Pamphlets were handed out at the weekly market weeks in advance, the website was full of information and brightly colored poster boards starting appearing all around town and the surrounding area detailing what was happening and when. Even the newspaper, Sud Ouest, which is for the South West of France gave day by day details of all the activities. We were excited to join in some of the festivities and learn more about our area. The official opening took place at 18h00 on Tuesday, August 18 at the mairie or town hall by the mayor and included a complimentary aperitif for all. This was followed by the weekly marché gourmands, which I have written about in an earlier post. Great food and music get togethers. This week it was even fuller than usual. August is prime vacation month for french people and also for many foreigners. Here we get lots of Dutch, Belgian, British and German tourists. All the camping sites, gites, hotels and guest houses were fully booked. The music was playing, food was being eaten, cold rose sipped eagerly and a cacophony of different languages was heard while people made new friends or met old ones that they had not seen since the previous summer. That was just the beginning. Here is a brief rundown of the week’s events:
Tuesday, August 18: Official opening
Wednesday, August 19
Thursday, August 20
Urbain trail through the streets, a 10km race
Dinner at the mairie, by reservation
Friday, August 21
Gospel music concert in the church
Bal Musette/ dance to accordion music
Saturday, August 22
Fishing contest on the river banks of the Vézère river
Games for children
Course de garçons de café / waiters races
Traditional folk dance displays
Torch light procession
Pyrotechnic surprise in the streets
Sunday, August 23
Mass at the church
Ceremony at the Fallen Hero’s monument
Apéritif at the town hall
Parade with decorated floats, bands, horses
Exhibition of antique cars and wine tasting
Big fireworks display
Soul/funk music concert and dance
Monday, August 24
Dance and music concert
As you can see from the above list, we had a very busy and fun filled week. Obviously, we did not attend all the events and festivities but we certainly made a big dent in them.
The parade on Saturday was very sweet indeed, homemade floats with local families and children having made them, people joining in the parade as the floats, there were only 6, all pulled by old tractors, went by. Huge crowds turned out for most activities and the week was very well supported by both locals and tourists. One of my favorite events was the torch-light and candle procession through the main street of Le Bugue.
It was scheduled to start at 21h00 but the folk dancing had started later than expected, one of the elderly couples dancing arrived about 20 minutes late and everyone patiently waited for them. The mood was very jovial with people chatting to each other and no one seemed to mind at all. Children ran around, dogs greeted each other and all was good. By 21h30 a large crowd had assembled outside the mairie / townhall, everyone from infants in pushchairs to very elderly ladies helped along by other equally elderly ladies, young and old, dogs big and small.
When the mayor gave the signal we all went forward and were handed either a large torch or cute paper lanterns with candles in them. Once everyone had their candles lit, the procession started off down the main street slowly. Some residents were on their balconies watching, terraces of cafes were full of people watching and waving. The local old age home had installed some residents in wheelchairs on a terrace to watch and be able to be part of the evening. The friendly, local gendarmes / policemen closed the street to traffic but no one seemed to mind as cars waited patiently to traverse the town for the procession to end. We all walked down to the end of the town where the carnival was located and were treated to a very beautiful firework display.
The music started up with a live band and families went their own way, either home, to the rides in the carnival or just stayed to dance and listen to the music. We headed back but not before buying an ice cream cone at the carnival to eat as we walked to our car at the other end of town. What a lovely way to spend an evening.
Sunday we came to the flea market, wandered around the old car exhibition and had a great wine tasting at one of our favorite wine sellers, Château de la Lambertie. It is a small family run vineyard on the way to Bordeaux that makes excellent wines at amazingly reasonable prices and the owner is incredibly friendly. He has a stall at the weekly farmer’s market in town and sells via markets, fairs etc. Even though we know his wines and have already bought a few cases, he insisted we join for a tasting, always free, and we proceeded to try all his wines, a dry white Sauvignon blanc / Sémillion, a rose, several reds, Merlot / Cabernet blends and a sweet white to have as a dessert wine or with foie gras. All are excellent and we walked off with a case of assorted vintages to add to our cellar.
What a great week of festivities and activities!