Richard's Blog

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Return to France

     So many of my friends in Canmore love to travel to the Far East.  Riding elephants in Thailand; bathing in the Ganges; trekking the Himalayas.  It all sounds magical and made of the dreams of our youth...... the mountains touching the ceiling of the world and strange curries and maniac drivers on scooters.

     But for me, and there is no simple answer, it is France (and maybe Italy as well) that beckon me.  Maybe it was Miss Crawford my high school french teacher who tolerated my pranks and laziness but recognized my gift of mimicry and interest in a language far removed from my welsh grandparents.  I might not know the right word but I could pronounce it in a way that sounded like I knew what I was saying.  And if it wasn't Miss Crawford.... then it was grad school in Ottawa and Jocelynne.  But that is another story and no cameras were involved........sadly.
     It likely has lots to do with the wine and the food especially in Provence.  I could visit this area every year and still find new and exciting things to experience.  This is my third visit to France and my third visit to Arles for the Fetes des Gardians, a celebration of a way of life in the Camargue that goes back hundreds of years.  These French cowboys and their beautiful women have an annual festival every May 1st with parades, benedictions and then a Roman amphitheatre in which they have many equestrian games plus get some bulls really pissed off. They don't kill the bulls, they just tease them and  then apologize over wine.  One has to love the French.
      The morning of the parade was wet and gloomy.... it had rained most of the night and a wet arena floor meant that the games might be cancelled.  Slippery footing for these horses.  But somehow, between the parade and the church, things changed.  One felt a warm breeze taking away the chill and then the clouds parted above the ancient church and the sun started to make an appearance.  By the time the benediction of the Gardians finished, the sun was out and the afternoon's festivities were a success.
The image of the men carrying a statue of St. George slaying a dragon reflects the roots of a fraternity dating back 501 years.
       And what is truly beautiful is the participation of young and old in keeping these traditions both alive and also an integral part of their lives.  I especially love the image of the mother with her baby in the church.  For me, it reinforces my belief that family, friendships and a love of beauty are what makes the world go round.

Now I must add some photos and get ready for an afternoon at a ranch..... met a lovely young woman driving a taxi and am invited to the family ranch.  I think that is what she said ????? Then again I may have agreed to harvest turnips for the afternoon...... report to follow.