On your broomstick!

About 10 years ago, at the wine harvest fete in Cessenon, I met Didier Duserre, who was making brooms.  He was demonstrating how traditional brooms were made from sorghum straw, and he explained that his production was 100% French, since he grew his own sorghum.  I was fascinated by the process, and even more fascinated when he told me about the Marche des Sorcieres, a witches’ market, which was held in his home town of Saint Chaptes on the 1st of November every year.  I mentally filed that bit of information away, in the hope that I might be able to visit the market one day.

That day came this year, and I’m very happy that I finally was able to visit the market.  The drive to Saint Chaptes was beautiful, taking me across the mountains as I gave the motorway a miss.  I visited a couple of places on the way, and stayed overnight in Uzes, which enabled me to be at the market early.

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I met Didier Duserre again, who was at the centre of the market with his broom-making demonstration.  He explained that the market was started over 10 years ago by a group of women artists and artisans, who were looking for somewhere to sell their wares.  He suggested that they hold a market, and the ladies came up with the name.  It was a success from day one, and nowadays the market draws thousands of visitors each year!

Didier makes all kinds of brooms, all from the sorghum that he grows himself.  To find out a little more about the process, you can visit his website here.

At the market, the witch theme was to be seen everywhere, from the witches’ cauldron in front of Didier’s stall …

… to the items for sale at some of the stalls…

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… and it extended to the dress of some of the visitors!

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The market stalls offered a wonderful variety of goodies, from clothes to food to traditional handicrafts.

The storyteller kept young and old entertained:

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Some of the artisans were demonstrating their art:

There was another broom-maker at the market – to my mind his brooms looked more like the brooms a witch would use!! 🙂

A lady on stilts was walking through the crowds, holding people spellbound with her graceful movements and her puppet which moved as if by magic.  Her costume was very original – have a close look at her hat, it’s a re-purposed funnel!

We’ve come to the end of this post, and I hope you enjoyed our visit to the Marche des Sorcieres in Saint Chaptes.  Remember, all you aspiring witches, it is always on the 1st of November!

Nuts for patchwork

Perhaps you’re wondering where this post will go after you have read the title – if you are concerned please be reassured, all will be fine!!

Patchwork always plays a role in the Fete de la Chataigne in St Pons, and this year was no exception.  Past tense because the Fete took place on the weekend of October 26/27, 2013.  As ever the Fete de la Chataigne was worth a visit, if for no other reasons than for the sheer variety of stands and the entertainment on offer.  Let me start with the patchwork though.  The exhibition is always held in the Chapelle des Penitents, a former chapel which is now used as a community space.

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The stone walls provide a good backdrop for the quilts and embroideries, which have been lovingly stitched by the 20 or so members of L’Atelier Picoutaille. Every two years a new exhibition sees the light of day, and this year’s new show had ‘the home’ as its theme. The variety of works is amazing and I hesitate to hazard a guess as to how many hours must have gone into the combined works – perhaps too many to count.

Pieces ranged from large bed-cover-sized to much smaller works.

There was also a display case of old boutis work, where the relief is produced by padding with cotton wool.  Exquisite to look at, but I’m sure not very easy to produce!

Some of the ladies of the Atelier Picoutaille were working away as we got there, mostly on small things such as pincushions, which were sold on the spot.

Maisons de Campagne, a haberdasher’s shop from Montpellier, had a stand next to the ladies and their projects, selling a beautiful selection of patchwork fabrics and embroidery patterns, and everything in between.   I find that this exhibition is usually a great stop for small christmas presents!!

As for the rest of the fete, there were many wonderful stalls – a good few of them selling food of course,

…and baskets of many kinds.

This year the entertainment was a re-enactment of the visit of the bishop of St Pons to the building site of the cathedral, during the early 18th century.  The local theater group, La Compagnie de la Source, had set the scene outside the cathedral, with a big stage to one side and a squirrel wheel (or treadmill crane) on the other.  The squirrel wheel has people inside, walking back or forward to raise or descend heavy loads.  The rope winds around the axle so even a relatively light person can lift heavy stones.  Next to the squirrel wheel was a stonemason, who was working on a cross vault.

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There was also a machine for making rope, and I managed to take a video for you of how it works.  Note to e-mail subscribers:  please go to the website for the blog to see the videos.

The soundtrack in the background is of the stonemason chipping away at his stone and chatting with the onlookers.  Right at the end of the video you can hear the little band of soldiers singing Alouette, a popular children’s song, as they march towards the square.

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The soldiers and the capitan were very amusing and entertained the crowd before the main show started.

The costumes for this year’s show were amazing, and it seemed as though a good part of the town was participating!

And then there was the band – Pescaluna – playing traditional and mediaeval music.

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To escape the drizzle I visited the cathedral – amazing what can be found in some churches!  I seem to have photographed a lot of grotesque faces which are carved in the wooden panelling!

The sacristy was open, and I couldn’t resist a look.  The structure alone is impressive, and the items on display are beautiful.

The embroidery is incredible and some of the metal objects are amazing – I’m glad I don’t have to polish any of them :-)!

Then there was a corner of seemingly abandoned things.  The statue looked rather sad and left out, and the tabernacle had definitely seen better days!

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IMG_8658But hey, I almost forgot!  We are here to celebrate the chestnut harvest!!  So here you are, enjoy your cornet of hot, roasted chestnuts!  And remember to come back again next year.

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