Fun at fětes

We have entered the fěte season here in France, when almost every village finds a reason to celebrate itself and its residents. Typically, there are boules competitions, a dinner and dance, and folksy little carnivals (Jennifer won us a bag of groceries when she was eleven, by tossing a wooden ring over a live goose’s neck).

There are other, more commercial celebrations too, and yesterday we attended one, the Fěte du Vin de Cahors, where nine local vintners showed off their wines, accompanied by performances of almost as many musical groups. The fěte was in Albas, a pretty village hanging from a cliff over the river Lot, just down the road from where we’re staying. We went with American friends who arrived a few days ago to house-sit for the Tobias’s. They were fighting jet-lag and we were fighting ennui, and together we managed to stave off both.

The sky was overcast but the temperatures were mild as we handed over our 13-euro fee and received a souvenir wine glass in return. That was the hard part. From there we simply wandered the winding streets, going from one vaulted stone cave to the next, tasting the wine, eating foie gras and goat cheese sandwiches and crowding in to hear the music, which ranged from Cuban to jazz, to American folk. My favorites were a funky jazz band calling themselves Le Mystere des Elephants (Ray bought a CD), and four over-50 a cappella singers performing French and Spanish folk songs. Their strong voices echoed nicely in the low, vaulted cave.

About half-way through our stay a light rain began to fall, doing nothing to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm. A tall, blond American woman in a red and white sundress appeared with a television cameraman, who filmed several takes of her walking and talking while carrying a glass of wine—so daring—and reminding us we were in a place worthy of a travelogue; and we thought we were just having fun.

Eventually the rain fell harder, the wine portions became more generous, the crowd more raucous and we, after three hours of tasting and music, were well sated and looking like drowned rats. We drove the eight kilometers home, to a light dinner and good conversation accompanied by the music of le mystère des éléphants.

In a few days we leave for Italy.