Oh, les fetes of summer in this southwestern region of France. They seem to pop up in just about every village, celebrating, I'm not exactly sure what, other than: while the weather is good, enjoy life! Brightly colored tissue flowers are strung high above rows and rows of seating areas which are surrounded by food and drink booths serving anything from moules frites and confit de canard to fresh chevre salad or fois gras. Everything is reasonably priced under 5 euros for food, 3 euros for a great bottle of wine so it's a wonderful cheap date. There are often carnival rides and the treats that typically accompany them like cotton candy (barbe à papa - or "dad's beard") although fresh crepes covered with lemon and sugar or nutella seem to replace the fried twinkies or oreos you can find at home.
Because of our schedule and ultimate fatigue at the end of the day, we had not made a huge effort at attending one of these yet although I knew we should - not only for ourselves - but also to research one of the many activities in the area for our future guests. Thankfully, our neighbors and fast-becoming, dear friends, Dominique and Patricia, invited us to join them at the fete in Signoules. They are the couple we attended the wonderful 14 Juliet (Bastille Day) luncheon at the Coutancie winery just a few weeks earlier and this was the third time that they had included us in their plans and introduced us to their friends and patiently spent an entire evening trying to decipher what the hell we were trying to say in French (I've told them that it must feel "comme parler à un bébé," or like talking to a baby) when we're over.
This time we were re-introduced to M. et Mme. Rambo who were the same farmers we bought our chickens from. Very nice couple although I could tell it took a little bit longer for the missus to warm up to us, but Hank had her almost in tears after performing a charade about having a colonoscopy. You can just imagine.
At the fete in Signoules last night, we each grabbed something to eat and drink and sat down just in time for "le Spectacle" to begin on the stage. "What is 'le spectacle?" I kept trying to find out until I could finally see for myself just what is was when about 8 singers in brightly colored sequined short shorts and wigs, fish-net stockings and high heels (some of which I'm sure were men in drag) began a karaoke show covering french classics on the stage. It sort of reminded me of a large Abba ensemble and at first, I wasn't really sure if I liked it or not (other than admiring the whole kitschy surrealism of the performances). That was, until I looked around me - and at Patricia and Marie-Christine right next to me - and saw how much fun people were having. Young and old were singing along to "Aux Champs d'Elysées," with their arms over their heads clapping or just swaying to the music. Everyone, with the exception of myself, Hank and the British contingency there, knew the words of every Dalida song and many would just stand up and begin dancing in the rain (literally, as it started raining about half way through the show). After a while, I couldn't stand it and tried joining in and ended up having the time of my life.
After Le Spectacle, we had ice creams and walked back to our cars about 11:30pm thinking "boy, that was fun. Can't wait to get home in my jammies and dream about what a great experience that was." Dominique had driven with us so we dropped him off and were preparing to say our goodbyes to everyone when he tells Hank, "No, you're coming in. Turn off the motor." Hank and I look at each other like, "What should we do?" since I knew he was exhausted, but everyone was talking excitedly and making their way into the house and I just shrugged and said, "I guess we're staying for a bit," thinking that maybe it was just for a little night cap.
In the kitchen, Patricia and Marie-Christine begin making "Le Tourain" a local garlic soup and Dominique tries to explain a local Sud Quest campagne custom that they have here about making food late at night after a wedding for the newlyweds, supposedly to give them the energy for later on... nudge, nudge, wink, wink. I'm really not sure how that applied to all of us last night, so I'm certain I missed something in the translation, but in any case, we were staying and were going to eat because that's what the french do best according to Dominique. Anyway, in the matter of a half hour, we're having soup and having a glass of wine. Now it's after 1am and after the bowls are cleared, again, Patricia and Marie-Christine begin preparing something else. It's then that I jokingly ask Dominique, "a quel heure nous arretons manger?" (what time do we stop eating?) He tells us on Lundi, which is actually now the case since it's after midnight. Before we knew it, they brought l'omellete d'sucre (a large scrambled egg-like loaf and covered with sugar cubes and then doused in "l'eau de vie," or 40 % local homemade moonshine. Uh oh. Luckily, they light the whole thing and Marie-Christine works her magic continuing to spoon the liquid over the cubes as the blue flame engulfs the loaf and hopefully cooks off some of the alcohol. So, then we are served this incredible flambe dessert with a glass of a sweeter wine, Monbazillac, when Hank does his hysterical impression, cracking up our new friends. Filled with this delicious feast and a nip of l'eau de vie, rather than the supposed renewed energy, we were more likely to call it a night and bid everyone a bonne nuit at 2am ;)