The long march to Soustons Fête


So finally the Soustons Fête has arrived and this year we’re still here! The Fête’s are a local tradition to this region with all the major (and many minor) towns hosting them as a ‘tourist advertisement’.

Soustons Fête is one of the largest for a minor town with people coming from all over to visit. During the day there are markets (to be honest, it looked like a load of second-hand tat being sold), various parades – many for the kids and some sporting events (Pétanque of course [a Bayonne form of Boules], the Soustons 10 Km run [I declined] and a Rugby match) – and of course don’t forget the fun fair! During the evening there are various types of music, including street “disco’s” for the kids until about midnight and plenty of street bars where each one has their own moniker’d plastic glass. The nearby streets smell pleasant the next day as the kids seem to ignore the portaloos and pissoirs that have been setup!  Down by the lake the next day is carnage as this is where all the drunk kids sleep in their cars.

Each town has its own ‘costume’ and colour, generally red or blue. The Soustons one is blue and consists of a blue beret or trilby-type hat, white shirt or t-shirt, white trousers, a blue neckerchief and a blue sash worn around the waist. Women also have blue handbags. Many people just wear blue and white clothing. Jasmin and I adopted a simple stylie of t-shirt and neckerchief …

Soustins Fête Uniform
Beer!

There was also a novel way to mix Mojito’s …

Cocktails

Not sure if it had been pre-used, but seeing as the barmen use their fingers to deliver the ice-cubes into the glass it wouldn’t surprise me to find cement in there.

Back to the title – as mentioned in previous posts, it is about an hour and a half to walk into Soustons.  Not so bad going, but coming home along the track through the forest in the dark seems never ending. The first part of the journey is past the rear of the holiday houses, which all host parties on the Saturday night, but didn’t see us in the dark to invite us in 😦
Luckily on the second occasion Lauren PJ was off to the supermarket and offered us a lift in. We were quite late getting back as the closing ceremony on Monday night didn’t finish until midnight … and rain was forecast. Not too bad as it didn’t start raining until we got to la Paillotte, the holiday centre, about 10 minutes away from our ‘Rig’.

Music …Saturday night, outside the Hôtel du Centre, was a brass band led by a couple of Sax players. Bit of singing from the lead, one that we recognised, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” which he accomplished with flying colours, but it was mainly typically French ‘Chanson’ songs, all very pleasant.

Monday evening was very different, a folk music band with locals who encouraged people to dance. Very unusual steps, one forward, then one back with a twirling skip, and I suspect very regional.  We didn’t join in! Everyone had a good time. Not being particularly folksy this could all be normal!  As I said on FB, lots of strange instruments, including a type of bagpipes …

Folk Band

Monday is also the Fête finale and we had already purchased tickets to the ‘Course Landaise’ which was once described to me as ‘Bull Dancing’ where the animal isn’t injured. The Matador’s wear the typical costume, but have to dodge the Bull as it goes by. The Bull is partially controlled by a set of ropes over its horns, but this is released for the charge. The best ‘dodges’ involve the Bull brushing its flanks against the Matador without him falling over.

The very first ‘dodge’ was Bull 1 : Matador 0, as he failed to get out of the way in time and was caught on the buttocks by the horns (they have the tips flattened). He was very lucky as the Bull turned for a stomping and just missed. The other Matador’s shepherded the Bull away and out, then on rushed the first-aiders, but he managed to hobble off after a few minutes not looking too pleased.  To his credit he come back on towards the end of the show for another go. He wasn’t having a good night because the Bull’s body caught him in the same place. Ouch!! He wasn’t so badly hurt this time and hobbled off mouthing obscenities! The best ‘dodger’ all night was a Matador with only one eye, wore a patch!! The Bull brushed him on each turn.

The other side of ‘Course Landaise’ are the, for use of a better word ‘Bull gymnasts’. These guys are often announced as ‘Champions of France’ and wear white shirts and black ties with the white trousers. So no fancy Matador jacket. I think these Guys are the stars as they vault over the charging Bull! Double-somersaults, somersaults with a twist, a dive with a forward roll and toe-touching v-jumps. Very impressive gymnastic skills that are a must when a Bull is bearing down on you!

The middle part of the show is an invite for parents or guardians to sacrifice a child aged between 5 and 15 years old! Yes, children are invited into the ring to dodge a bullock that I reckon must weigh 70 kgs (no horns). At this point I am usually not seeing much – looking away in horror? Err, No, crying with laughter! Absolutely no way this would be allowed in the UK. No sign of disclaimers being signed, the kids are just lifted down by their parents or guardians.  There were 50 kids running around with the bullock and plenty of screaming. I expect when the younger kids found out how fast the bullock could motor! The older ones were wise enough the keep an eye out, but the smaller ones just run and don’t see the bullock behind them. This year only one kid got bounced hard that I could see and didn’t seem too hurt.

During the week there had been a couple of other shows at the Bull Arena, described by the Tourist Info people as 1) Corrida Portuaise, which is the traditional Spanish bullfighting, but the bull doesn’t get killed, he is just damaged from the cutting of the neck muscles, NOT for us!! and 2) Novillada, in which younger Bulls get the same treatment, again NOT for us!!

At midnight each night there is the ” Toro de Fuego” which I understand to be a Bull’s Head (not a real Bull, but a model) stuffed with fireworks which chases the general public down the streets.  I believe there is a warning that you could get burnt by the sparks from the fireworks!! Again no sign of any disclaimers. Sadly couldn’t stay out quite that late.

Wildlife …

While the walk home from Soustons is long, at night you get to see little green fluorescent blobs in the grass created by the female Lampyris noctiluca, the common glow-worm of Europe. All to attract a mate!

Female Glow Worm

Passed a really tame Jay today who hopped down to a culvert to get a drink of water and then disappeared through a hole under the fence into la Paillotte …

Jay

Finally the effort of bringing British birdfood back to Aquitaine has been worthwhile as we have tempted down the last Great Tit left in France (possibly false news, as I’ve seen a couple and no silly comments please!) …

Last Great Tit in France?

Other news … Jasmin was down at the pontoon the other evening and spotted some Wedding snaps being taken.  A popular spot, as it’s a beautiful setting and it has the ‘walk on water’ path (which turns out a bit wet for the Bride) …

Wedding Snaps

If you own a large SUP then get hold of a set of straps.  It makes carrying the board for a long distance so much easier. Thank you for mine Lauren PJ …

SUP Strap

The “Sardinade au Lac” is on for Samedi 12th Août.  This appears to be a parallel celebration of the Sardine festival that happens in Spain when the great catch is taken. For us, it means Sardines and Frites (I mean me, as J doesn’t like Sardines), mucho Beer (that means lots of beer in Spanish) and a late night disco with ‘Boom Light Animations’ not 100m from our ‘Rig’. I’m resigned to staying up late and partying!! It might mean setting up the bed ‘downstairs’ thus avoiding the climb up the ladder!

And the Fête season isn’t quite over yet, as Azur holds its own, on Vendredi 18th Août. You can pay €15 for a meal and spectacular show, however the single choice of main course (Moules and Frites) isn’t popular with Jasmin. So drinks only? Not sure what to expect with this one.

Au revoir!

 

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