Jousting anyone? and on water?

There’s been some more wonderful food this week, and some seriously gorgeous produce in the market.  I know, I get a little carried away on a Sunday morning from time to time, and when it happens I have to drag myself away from the stalls, loaded down with bags!  There’s just too much choice at times, and the smells can be intoxicating. Take the melons for instance, they were fragrant and juicy, and as these are the first of the local crop they’ll be here all summer!!

Valerie from Agel (one of my favourite growers) had a very attractive selection of produce, and I splashed out on a selection of heirloom tomatoes – the ones in my garden won’t be ripe for another couple of weeks or so.  Valerie’s tomatoes are delicious, either just with a little olive oil and pepper or with mozzarella and basil, and at lunchtime today I made a salad with cubed tomato, cucumber, yellow courgette and feta cheese, with basil and mint.  Sorry, there was no time for a picture, it got eaten very quickly!Apricots are also getting into their stride, and we’re now on the third variety.  Charles and Barbara Cathala have their orchards in Argeliers and they grow apricots, peaches, nectarines and apples.  During the height of the harvesting season they can pick anything up to a ton and a half a day. Last weekend the town of Valras Plage was celebrating the “Fete de St Pierre”.

I got there just as the boats were going out to sea, taking St Pierre for a run and dropping a wreath at sea.  All manner of craft were participating, including some guys on jetskis, who kept racing through the other boats.  The boat procession was great to watch, the main boat had a brass band on board, and the “Vieux Crabe” a choir.

One of my neighbour plays for a Fanfare, a traditional brass band and he had told me about the fete in Valras – here’s what they sound like.

With weather so good the beach was pretty busy, but my group had decided on watching the water jousting, so no lounging on the beach for me.  The water jousting has a long tradition in the region and there is a big championship in Sete in August.  Two boats are being rowed by ten oarsmen each and also on board is someone steering, two musicians and in this case 10 jousters.The weight of the two boats has to be equal so when a particularly heavy jouster got on the red boat some of the others got off into the dinghy.  The jousters stand on a platform at the back of the boat, carrying a shield and a lance.  The goal is to destabilize the opponent and ideally get him to fall into the water, or get disqualified on faults.  It was pretty interesting to watch the audience reaction, especially when they deemed the jury to have made a wrong decision.  At one point a particularly irate spectator stormed up to the jury desk and started shouting at them – I was waiting for fisticuffs to start, but it all got calmed down, until it happened again a little while later…
(The two jousting pictures are animated gif files, you might have to click on them to see the animation)After the excitement of the jousting we meandered round the streets and ended up in the square where all the restaurants are.  At the “Auberge Provencale” we sat down to some excellent Moules Frites followed by ice cream, and were entertained by two passing bands.  At the hotel across the road a group of bag pipers were getting ready to do the rounds, dressed in blue kilts.  The band was called the Bagdad d’Aix en Provence and I’ve since found out that the bags and music are Breton.

On the way back towards the car the beach was almost deserted, but by now the restaurants and bars were all humming. 

We came across another band called Skamanians, playing wonderful jazz with a Caribbean beat – I’d not come across that before, and was mesmerised.

We followed them around as they were going in the direction of the car, and when they took a short break a little chat revealed that the band leader is from Newcastle, the Sousaphonist from Germany and one of the other musicians from Belgium, and that their home is Perpignan.  They have a page on facebook where you can listen to their music!  What a great ending to a fantastic day out!