Friday, 30 July 2010

A Fete worse than death???

I’ve previously mentioned some of the strange ‘Fetes’ that the local villages celebrate – Cherries, Artichokes, Apricots, the Sardane, the Flame of the Canigou etc. etc. These pale into insignificance compared to the one I discovered last weekend. Prats-de-Mollo, a small medieval village up in the Pyrenees recently invited everyone to come and attend the annual “Fete du Slip”. Yes, the Underpants Festival! Here is my translation of an extract from the Tourist Office Website details:

The Programme: In the afternoon a 7-a-side rugby tournament and other diverse inter-village competitions will take place. This is a family occasion so everybody is therefore invited to remain fully-dressed. It is not until around 21h, after the aperitifs and barbecues that the participants will be invited to feel more relaxed. Underpants and swimwear will therefore be de rigueur when the foam party commences. Anybody is welcome to show off their underwear by taking part in the grand parade organised for the occasion.

Having done a little more research on the matter (thank you Google) I find that there is a story/legend that tells of a General who was so displeased by the performance of his troops that, as a punishment, he ordered them to complete an assault course dressed only in their underwear. The young men of Prats de Mollo decided that this was something worth celebrating and this is now an annual event run by a committee calling themselves ‘Les Slipards’. Who cares whether it is true or not – what a great excuse for a party!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Le Castillet - Perpignan

I was watching the Bastille Day fireworks last Wednesday – a fabulous display let off from the roof of the Castillet. What would Perpignan do without its' most famous landmark? So far I have seen it covered in Catalan Flags celebrating the local Rugby Team’s victory, it has had films played on the walls, it has had abseilers climbing up carrying the ‘sacred flame of the Canigou’ and it also housed the the clock counting down the days to the opening of the new TGV link to Barcelona (unfortunately I wasn’t there on the last day but presumably they put up a sign saying ‘Train Delayed’). It is always used as a focal point for any Perpignan festival or celebration and it is an ideal ‘meeting-point’ when arranging to meet visitors to the City as you cannot miss it! But what is it?
The Castillet was built in the 14th century as a gateway in the city ramparts. 100 years later, Louis 16th ordered its’ conversion to a state prison, and later its’ walls were fortified and it became a defensive bastion. Early in the 1900s many of Perpignan’s ramparts were pulled down to allow for the expansion of the City but the Castillet was left. It now houses the ‘Casa Pairal’, a museum of Roussillon folklore & culture, and you can also climb the steps to the tower for a spectacular view. It well deserves its’ role as the symbol for Perpignan – and even has its’ own page on Facebook!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Will I ever be able to speak French?

I’ve always considered myself as fluent in French - obviously some of the terms I have come across during my work as a property finder reveal gaps in my education (why was I never taught the words for ‘mains-drainage’ ‘down pipe’ and ‘public right of way’ at school) but a couple of hours with the dictionary always helps. What I now find confusing is that the French either use different words or even words that I have never heard of - they respond to my cheery greeting of ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Bonsoir’ with ‘Bon-journee’, ‘Bon fin-de l’apres midi’, ‘Bon appetit’ etc. This morning I answered a second telephone call from an agent who greeted me with ‘Rebonjour’ - that is not even in the dictionary! And nor is ‘Sandwicherie’ but that is another Blog entirely! The local paper has just run an article about visitors who take their holidays in July rather than August and refer to them as ‘Juillettistes’ and ‘Aoutiens’.

I have had to take up drinking black coffee as whenever I ordered Café-au-lait I was informed that I wanted Café-Crème (or Vice-Versa depending upon which part of France you are in). Actually, during these hot sunny days I seem to have even more trouble ordering coffee as I somehow always seem to end up with a beer or glass of rose in front of me - it must be my accent!

My husband is ‘fairly fluent’ but is always keen to improve his vocabulary. The other day I was explaining how ‘bouchon’ literally translates as ‘cork’ but also describes a traffic jam. He was still mulling this over as we walked over to the newsagent. There was a man with a dog on his way out of the doorway and two large ladies standing back to let him pass, and then out of nowhere a woman with a pushchair containing the ugliest baby I have ever seen tried to barge through the middle of everybody. My husband recognised that this was the perfect opportunity to use his new word - but unfortunately announced ‘C’est un cochon’.......