The heartbreak in Paris

In the aftermath of the devastating attacks in Paris, messages of support started to come in from all corners of the world.  Thank you everyone – your thoughts mean a great deal!!  My heart goes out to the victims and their families and friends.

What I have seen of the coverage of the attacks has left me feeling devastated, and what I have read has been heartbreaking.

I went to Beziers last Saturday night for another flamenco show, and I went with very mixed feelings!  Two armed policemen stood at the entrance to the theatre, as theatregoers made their way in.  The theatre was packed, and before the start of the show an announcement called for a minute of silence to honour the victims of the attack.  Everybody rose to their feet, and you could have heard a pin drop during that minute!

After the end of the show, as the patrons left the theatre, there must have been at least eight police on the square in front of the theatre, all heavily armed.  I don’t usually like that kind of thing, but I was glad to see them there.  It made me feel less fearful and more protected.

Striking fear into our hearts is what the terrorists are probably aiming for.  Fear will affect everything we do, stopping us from going out or travelling, paralysing our lives and making us miserable.  Not allowing fear to steal into our hearts is one way of holding out.  Solidarity with the people who were affected by the attacks is another.

I leave you with these images of Le Tricolor flying in the Paris skies.

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Fabulous flamenco

The Beziers municipal theatre sits proudly at the upper end of the Allees Paul Riquet.  The Allees is a magnificent public space, a long, wide space, lined by huge plane trees, and bordered by impressive buildings.  The theatre was opened in 1844, when Beziers was in its “golden age”, a time of prosperity and expansion.  The building, with its classic, Greek-style façade, was designed by the architect Charles Isabelle.

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The auditorium is in the Italian style, with several tiers of U-shaped balconies stacked on top of one another.  It has been written that the municipal theatre in Beziers is unique in France, in that it has preserved its original decorative scheme throughout.  I had long admired the building from the outside, but until recently I had not seen any of the interior.

All that changed when I booked to go and see a performance of &dentidades with the dancer Pastora Galvan.  Walking along the Allees after sunset, with the theatre brightly lit up, I was not on my own – there were many other people going to see the same show!

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The entrance foyer was crowded with people and there were columns everywhere.  A sign indicated directions to the various parts of the theatre.  French theatres have a different seat numbering system to the ones I have encountered in other countries.  They start with seat one in the centre of the row, and work outwards, with even numbers running to the left and uneven to the right, as you face the stage.  The first time I went to a theatre in France, I was a little anxious as I thought I did not have a seat next to my companion.  I wasn’t sure that my French was up to persuading the person sitting between us to change seats with me :)!  Anyhow, in Beziers we had seats Y07 and Y09, towards the centre of the last row in the first balcony (there are three).  Luckily there was an usher to help me find the seats!

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On the first floor of the theatre, an enormous, colonnaded room awaited patrons, perhaps for drinks during the interval?

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The wooden staircase climbed to almost vertiginous heights!

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And then I was inside the auditorium!!  A riot of colour and painted ornamentation surrounded me, presided over by a huge, sparkling crystal chandelier.

One website has it that the original chandelier was removed by the Germans during the war, and melted down, and another site was lamenting the removal of the ornate stage curtain.  I’ll try and find the official book on the history of the theatre to verify those details, and perhaps I’ll be able to go on a “behind-the-scenes” tour at some point.

The theatre management had thought that we would all be feeling a little chilly, and so the heating was turned on full blast.  I managed to remove many layers and got nicely comfortable in my seat!

When the curtain opened there were a couple of chairs on the left, and a clothes rail, a coat rack, a small table and a chair on the right of the stage.  Two guitarists took their seats on the chairs, and three men stood beside them – two of them singers, and the third in charge of clapping.  In flamenco there is a lot of rhythmic clapping, and it’s quite an art to get it right. After a few minutes, Pastora Galvan appeared on stage, in a very elaborate white dress, and sat at the little table by the side of the stage, listening to the musicians for a little while.  When she started her performance, it was with slow movements, gracefully moving the train of her dress as she turned.  After that first dance she changed her costume and style of dancing, and continued to do this for each subsequent dance.

The idea behind the show was to pay tribute to seven heroes of the flamenco universe: Matilde Coral, Manuela Carrasco, Milagros Mengíbar, Loli Flores, Carmen Ledesma, Eugenia de los Reyes and Jose Galvan, the last two being Pastora Galvan’s mother and father.

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The whole show was brilliantly conceived and executed, and highly enjoyable to watch!  The costumes were sumptuous and the music was very emotionally charged.  I don’t know enough about flamenco to be able to fully appreciate the gestures and moves, the texts of the songs etc, but what I watched left me awestruck.

My camera did not work too well with the low light levels inside the theatre, so my pictures and videos of the show are not as sharp and clear as I would have wanted.  All the same I hope that they’ll give you a taste of what it was like!

And here are three videos of &dentidades (e-mail subscribers, please visit the website to watch them):

The videos will give you an idea of what it was like, but nothing beats seeing a live performance.  If you are tempted to visit the area and see a show, drop me a line, I’ll try and help!!

Tucked away . . .

. . .  in a valley along the Orb River, is the little village of Vieussan.  If you approach it from the direction of Berlou, along the D177, you round a corner and find the village scattered on the hill on the other side of the river, almost as if someone had emptied a box of toy houses over it.  The road from Berlou to Vieussan winds and twists across the hills, and affords the most gorgeous views – well worth the drive!

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I had a reason for driving to Vieussan on that particular day:  I was to have lunch with friends at Le Lezard Bleu in Vieussan.  It’s a restaurant that sits unassumingly by the side of the road, a building just like any other, save for the distinctive pale blue shutters.  A blue iron gate leads to ancient stone steps, which take you up to the first floor and a terrace that overlooks the road.  Inside, the old floor tiles are beautifully patterned.

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At the back of the building is an enormous garden, where old trees shade the tables – that’s where we all sat for our meal!

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The price of the three-course lunch menu was 15.50 Euro and the food was simple but very well cooked.  The starter was a refreshing salad of water melon, feta cheese, red onion and black olives.  Pretty as a picture and oh-so-delicious!

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The main course of the day was loin of pork with a grainy mustard sauce, served on mashed potatoes with rocket.

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For dessert we had little strawberry tarts – pastry shells filled with cream, and topped with fresh strawberries.  They were delicious and disappeared before I had a chance to photograph them!!

After our wonderful lunch we went for a little stroll – across the road and down to the river, to just below the stone bridge that spans the Orb River.

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It’s a great spot for swimming in the summer!  If you go on a canoeing trip from Roquebrun, you could come by here too!

We retraced out steps towards the road, but turned right before we got all the way there.  A path runs parallel to the river, and along the vegetable gardens which are so typical of the area.

If you would like to experience Le Lezard Bleu for yourself, be sure to book – they have a limited amount of seating.  You can contact the restaurant either by phone (+33 467 971 021) or by e-mail (manuerik.kat@free.fr).