Saturday night was the "fete petanque" - petanque is the southern France version of boche ball so this was the annual social event of the local petanque club. We were with a group of about 10 local French friends and John and I and our English friend John were probably the only non-French people there. It started at 8 pm and first you hang out for an hour and a half, talking, drinking (pastis, beer, or wine), and smoking (not us of course). Then they serve the dinner which was a nice salad and then a HUGE beef chop (unbelievably huge) and french fries. It was definitely quantity rather than quality. Most of the meat from our group ended up in a doggie bag for a real (big) dog belonging to one of the group. Then cheese of course and some kind of dessert which I didn't have. All of this was of course accompanied by pitchers of local wine.
After dinner was loud recorded music and dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing. First the music was old time French that the older people to a paso doble dance to (very beautiful to watch). Than the music changed to modern - much with a middle eastern influence. All the women danced alone or in groups. Many young children got on the dance floor and really rocked never stopping through the evening. Then some young men joined in (of course our older charming french friend Yves who is a wonderful dancer danced the whole time taking turns with the women in our group). Finally both Johns joined in and my John ended up in a circle of the women doing kind of a mock boy toy routine. There was also a major conga line number led by the mayor. Quite a raucous and fun evening ending (for us) after midnight. Goodness knows how long others stayed.
Unfortunately we didn't bring a camera to this event. The pictures would have been classic.
Then last night we were invited to a small dinner party at the home of a delightful French couple Jean Baptiste and Rosemary. Both grew up in this village. He is an architect. Her parent owned the building and grounds that is now their home. It was originally the house upstairs and the stables and work areas downstairs including what is now the garden and was previously where all the equipment was. In back originally was the huge garden. Her family owned vineyards. Jean Baptiste redesigned the place so that it is now an unbelievably beautiful home and is absolutely not expected from the street. It is an oasis of beautiful design, cool spaces, and many exceptional and eclectic art pieces. The garden in the rear is shaded by huge ancient trees and it is all light with tiny lights in the trees. Jean Baptiste has an outdoor kitchen in the garden from which he cooked much of the food.
The food and company were just wonderful with many, many appetizers - lots of seafood and then a lovely small main course. Of course after that lovely cheese, small apricot tarts, and then delicious watermelon with some kind of syrup to cleanse the palate. Jean Baptiste and Rosemary were skilled and warm hosts. We spoke both French and English - most guests were Brits living here. We left after midnight feeling very fortunate to have been included in such a lovely evening.
Dinner party at Jean Baptiste's and Rosemarie's.
Jean Baptiste cooks in his outdoor kitchen.
Throngs of tourists arrive in this part of southern France the first of August. The locals here avoid going anywhere close to the beaches this time of year as the crowds are oppressive. We did venture out one evening the Cap d'Agde in the middle of the northern invasion. We had a nice evening people watching and had one of the worst meals ever.
Yves, Jackie and I by the fountain
Us next to the fresh water spring in the center of the town square
This young fellow was happily drinking from the spring until we pointed out the sign "non potable".
Yesterday our friends Yves and Jackie invited us for an afternoon drive in the countryside just north of us. Yves was the chauffuer in his aging mercedes on winding roads up over the low mountains. From the summit we could see all the way to the Mediterranean overlooking the vineyards that go all the way to the sea. This is country we'd never been through although we've skirted all around it on other drives. Our first stop was the tiny village of Villeneuvette which I'd never heard of - what a charming out of the way place. It is the most beautiful village I've seen here.
The village was founded in 1671 as a textile factory to serve Louis XIV. The buildings housed the workers and the textile mill. It remained in operation until 1955 and since then all the buildings except for a hotel and a couple restaurants must be used as private housing. There are under 100 residents and it looks like most of them are artists. It is preserved beautifully with the stone buildings and wood trimming in a muted moss green. Even the wood piles are stacked artistically. The plane trees are thick around the tiny village so it is nicely shaded and there is always a cooling breeze.
There are a number of small shops selling wares by the owners - jewelry, potteries, sculptures, and paintings. One painter's works I fell in love with, hers were very much in the old style. I particularly liked one of a seated man who was apparently a fisherman in northern France. I expressed an interest in purchasing it but she showed no interest in negotiating - perhaps we will return.
This village is probably much like it has been for hundreds of years. There are no cars inside its walls, they park outside and you enter through gates that can be locked from the inside. It really isn't advertised, no one I've talked to has ever heard of it so there are only a few tourists. The result is that it is very tranquil, a soft breeze, bird chirps, and a feeling that you've returned to a time gone by.
This sign is over the main gateway to the village. Honor of Work.