France has 11 national holidays every year. In the UK we have a 2 minute silence on Remembrance Day - the French have at least one day off (depending upon what day of the week the 11th November falls on). If a ‘moveable’ Public Holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday then there appears to be very little point in working on the Monday or the Friday! Last week my suspicions were aroused when a sign appeared in the Supermarket window stating that ‘The Supermarket will remain open all day on Saturday’. The Supermarket is, in fact, always open all day on Saturdays so the sign could only mean one thing - yet another public holiday was on the cards even ’though it is only 5 minutes since we commemorated Labour Day (by not labouring at all!).
I had forgotten all about this by Saturday when I drove down to Canet-Plage to wander round the market and spend an hour or two sunbathing by the sea. Much to my surprise, there was a US Army encampment consisting of tents, guns and soldiers dressed in World War II uniforms installed on the beach. This was part of La Fete de la Victoire or V.E. day as we know it. Towards lunchtime there was a procession of army vehicles around the town - jeeps, tanks & lorries filled with very authentic looking soldiers waving flags (and a couple of dogs wearing flags). The military vehicles were followed by a parade of Cadillacs, Limousines & Harley Davidsons which I think was stretching credibility a little! The only problem was that this coincided with the closure of the market so the procession was halted every few minutes while the local gendarme shouted at various traders who were trying to load up their vans & were blocking the road. Vive la France!
If there was a health and safety department in France they would be kept extremely busy - but, as there isn’t, these Festivals can be very exciting. I particularly remember one that was held in the evening in Perpignan which involved horses, fire-eaters etc. parading around the town - with just one gendarme and a whistle to stop the crowds from being burnt alive or trampled underfoot by horses! And I was once in Ceret watching the preparations for the annual bull-running festival - preparations which only seemed to involve setting up temporary bars on trestle-tables on every corner and tying flimsy bits of cardboard to shop-windows….
Apart from the National Holidays they seem also to have a ‘Fete’ for every occasion whether it be religious, cultural or even fruit & vegetable related. I am sorry to say that I have just missed the Artichoke Festival up in the ski-resort of Font Romeu - the mind boggles.
PS. As you may have noticed, I have not written for a while - due to the fact that I have been on holiday….hence the theme!
PPS. My thanks must go to Marie-Louise, a young lady who I met in the crowd who kindly forwarded these pictures to me.