Camargue CowboyAlmost every weekend in the South of France there is a fete du village. People go to their own village party but they also go to the surrounding villages. I happened to be visiting my friend Juanita in Aigues Vives, near Nimes, when they had a particularly South of France phenomenon; the apero-mousse!
- L'apero is slang for 'aperitif', or as today's youth call it 'prinking' short for pre-drinking. The idea behind an apero-mousse is that you stand about drinking alcohol while being covered in foam and aurally assaulted by terrible euro-pop. The posters boast "Plus d'un metre de mousse!" (more than one metre high in foam!) As an experience it is a) surreal b) funny c) you get sunburnt from all the reflected light (this took place at midday in a canicule/heatwave) d) your eyes sting from the detergent e) you get very drunk. Drinks only cost a euro or two. Many girls only wear bikinis. Some wear rubber rings around their waists.
- In a nearby village there was another South of France tradition: bull running. In this village the bulls were locked in a lorry, the sides and rooves were banged to agitate them, then they were let out. Villagers on horseback , Camargue cowboys, chased them along the narrow streets to another lorry at the other end of the village. No bulls are harmed. Bull running, jumping and fighting, the rituals and ceremony, are dated back to Roman times, with matadors replacing gladiators. As a spectator, the bull running is quite frightening, even on the sidelines, where one is behind a temporary fence which isn't fixed to the ground. If the bull decided to take a charge at you, there isn't much you could do. There are also 'taureau piscine', bulls in a swimming pool, which I didn't get to see.
- Another tradition is the guinguette, a restaurant and dance hall with music next to a river. One of Renoir's greatest paintings depicted a guinguette just outside of Paris. In the oppressive mid-summer heat it is delightful to bathe in the clean rivers then have a typically southern dish such as bull stew 'la gardiane de taureau', or fried potatoes and calamari from plastic barquettes, drink sangria or pastis and listen to the band. I visited the guinguettes at Lecques and at Sommières.