Our village held its annual fête recently, a wonderfully, traditional 3 day long event. Called the Fête Patronale. It included parades, rifle marksmanship competitions, petanque, fair ground rides for kids and even a flea market.
The occasion began in 1427 as a bird shooting competition, hence the rifle marksmanship. This time it began with a petanque match. Petanque is a bit like the UK’s bowls, or Canada’s curling (but without ice and brooms), or the US’s horseshoes (but with metal balls instead of horseshoes). It is the most popular outdoor sport in France, especially because any age can do it. Every village, no matter its size, has a petanque area.
A parade of the riflemen, accompanied by the village marching band, went along our main street, and by our house. Three times. No, actually six. Marching from one end of the village to the other, and then back.
The morning march commemorated the start of the marksmanship competition. The afternoon march, the culmination and celebration of the winner. And an evening, after dark, march, because… well, I think, just because they were already all dressed up for it as they wear traditional clothing. A bit like New England’s Minute Men or Civil War re-enactment costumes. Then there were some fireworks.
For me, the Marche aux Puce (literally translates as Market of the Flea) was the best bit. Held on Sunday, they closed a small village street that leads off the main square. Stalls were set up outside homes and locals sold their unwanted possessions. There were clothes, dishes, jewellery, and lots of conversation. It was a good chance to catch up on gossip with neighbours as well as enjoy a chat with visitors from all over. I could hear the odd bit of English dotted amongst the French.
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