Summer celebrations

By the time you get to read this post, the excitement of the past month will have abated a little!

Saint-Chinian has had a busy summer, packed with events!  Since the night markets were so successful last year, they were held each Tuesday throughout July and August.  There was music, food, and shopping, all in the main square, decorated with French flag bunting and coloured lights!

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The passing of the Tour de France through Saint-Chinian on July 13 was a day of great excitement for the village!  It took the same route as last time (in 2011).  First came the “Caravane”, a long line of all kinds of publicity vehicles!  They distributed all kinds of goodies: hats, bottled water, jelly beans, newspapers, shopping bags, pens – you name it.  All thrown at the bystanders!!

The cyclists came into the village along the Avenue de Villespassans, down the main street, and then they took a sharp right onto Avenue Raoul Bayou.  Luckily for us, the sharp turn slowed them down somewhat!! 😀

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And hot on the heels of the cyclists (excuse the pun) came Bastille Day!!  The national holiday celebrates the storming of the Bastille (a prison in Paris) on July 14, 1789, an important event of the French revolution, and also celebrates the Fete de la Federation, which took place on July 14, 1790, and which celebrated the unity of the French people.

In Paris there is a huge military parade, along with an impressive display of planes flying in formation overhead:

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And at night, the Eiffel Tower is lit up with the most amazing fireworks:

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But all over France, even the smallest villages ‘go to town’ and make the national holiday a festive event!  Look at how prettily the town hall in Saint-Chinian was decorated:

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The fireworks in Saint-Chinian are usually not be sniffed at either – they are pretty impressive!!

Unfortunately, this year’s fireworks in Saint-Chinan had to be postponed, due to very strong winds.  To everybody’s great distress, Bastille day ended in horror for the people of Nice and throughout France – next year it won’t feel the same.

After Bastille day came the Fete du Cru.  Since it was not really a celebration but a wine fair, it was deemed to be OK to go ahead during the mourning period for the victims of the terrorist attack in Nice.  As always, the market square had been lined with two rows of booths, and you could taste the wines on display simply by buying a glass at the booth by the entrance.  I’ve written about this great event a few years back.  You can read the post here.

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Did you go to any festivities this year?  What was your favourite?

Wheels in motion

By the time you read this, the 2013 Tour de France will be on day 7, the stage from Montpellier to Albi.  On the following day the race will start at Castres and head for the Pyrenees, as close to St Chinian as it’ll get this year.  The Tour de France 2013 is 21 days of sometimes gruelling physical exertion, with only a couple of rest days in between.  You can find the whole schedule at the official website.

A few years ago, Le Tour actually came right through St Chinian, and what a thrill that was!  For months before everyone was speculating exactly which roads the cyclists would be taking through the village.  Would they come past the windmill, or via Fontjun, or from the opposite direction altogether via St Pons?  And would they take the sharp corner from the grand rue to the avenue Raoul Bayou (impossible, some said) or go on towards the Cave Coop and take the bypass?  A few days before the event, excitement reached fever pitch in the village.

On the day, everyone lined up along the streets hours ahead of the race.  Then the Caravan started to come through.  If you’ve never seen the Tour de France sur place it really is worth the effort – at least once!  The caravan is a seemingly never-ending succession of promotional vehicles, and a lot of them have goodies to distribute among the waiting crowds.  The caravan can be more fun than the race!  The advertisers/sponsors always come up with fun ideas for their vehicles!

There are also the official souvenir vans, and of course I just had to get some for my nephews in Germany!

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In amongst the caravan are the support cars, laden with bicycles, the VIP limousines, and of course the photographers and TV cameras.

And once all the cars in the caravan had passed there was the road-sweeping truck – what a sensible idea!!  I hadn’t thought about that, but of course those racing bikes really don’t do all that well on loose gravel and other stuff!

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Now the crowds were beginning to get impatient – are they coming yet??  All kinds of nationalities were present among the spectators, and many had brought their national flags along!

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After several hours of watching the fun, I heard some shouting further up the road, there appeared the noise of a helicopter, and then the leading cyclists came whizzing round the corner.  And I really mean whizzing!!  I would never take that corner as fast as that in a car, let alone on a bike!

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There was a little lull, while I waited for the peloton (the pack, made up of all the cyclists except the leading riders), I think there was something like a three-minute gap.  And then more and more cyclists came pouring around the corner, it was almost as if someone had turned on a tap.  Everyone was clapping, cheering and shouting encouragement, and as fast as they’d arrived they were gone, whizzed by.  A few more cars came by, ostensibly with spare parts, and then one lone cyclist brought up the rear.

And then it was all over and we all went home… :-).  Oh, but some people put in a fair bit of effort afterwards, and put some wonderful videos of the event together.  I don’t take any credit or blame, but thank you for the two people who posted these on YouTube: