The fête several years ago. Are we in a Pagnol film? It got too big for the little square by the church and was moved under the giant platanes at the community hall.

If you’re in France during the summer, it’s worth keeping an eye out for local fêtes, where a big helping of charm is served with your meal.

P1030849But the ways of the village fête can be mysterious. To even find out about it, you must keep your eyes peeled for little flyers posted at, say, the local grocer or bakery or café. Or you might hear about it, literally, when the town hall makes an announcement over the local loudspeakers. You might have to buy tickets in advance, usually possible at one of the local businesses.

Place settings carried in shopping bags or your typical cute French basket

And don’t forget to bring your own place settings (BYOP!), or, as they stipulate on the flyers, il faut apporter ses couverts–plates, silver, glass, napkins. This is a very practical solution, in my opinion.

These places are taken!

Our village football team organizes a dinner, followed by fireworks at the château sponsored by the mayor, on July 13, not to compete with the huge fireworks in Carcassonne on Bastille Day. As if!

I love the before and after of the apéritif:

The meal is simple but good and hearty. This time was salad, followed by a duck stew, then cheese and a piece of fruit tart.

Sated, everybody headed to the château for the fireworks. Not big, but very correct.

In French, “correct” means not just not wrong but fair, reasonable, good value, in good taste. It can apply to a meal, clothing, people, work or effort….a useful word.


The waterfall effect on the stone bridge was more than correct.


Blazing, Amazing


Let’s not lose sight of  beauty. Let’s not forget how to feel wonder and excitement and awe.

P1040105I would have posted this on Friday, but events interfered. Looking through the photos, I thought, wait, this is what is right with France.

IMG_2425Carcassonne put on a fantastic show. It was so democratic. It was free of charge. It drew  half a million people. They came on foot. They were well-mannered, even after the street lights were turned off (seriously, doesn’t it say something when the street lights are off and people still behave?). They didn’t even litter very much.

IMG_2421There were all ages, but all were the same age–kids–before the spectacle in the sky. The crowd sent up ooohs and aaahs in unison, frequently breaking out in applause, which the pyrotechnicians across the river had no way to hear.

IMG_2341The show began with a few small, bright flashes and big, deep booms. They picked up the cadence, then the lights started to bloom across the sky, illuminating the ramparts of la Cité in ghostly, colored light.


IMG_2342It continued, like this, building ferocity until there was a storm of explosions overhead. Then it paused, letting us relax a little and realize that our hearts were racing and that we’d gotten goosebumps from the excitement.


IMG_2478And it would pick up again. At one point, there were waves of fireworks from left to right, then right to left. They began lazily, then grew faster, then came from both directions at once, then led to a new round higher in the sky.

P1040092It was a ballet of light. Looking at the photos, I thought time and again of dancers in formation.

IMG_2350The highlight is the “embrasement” or burning, of la Cité, which dates to 1898. Though it was under siege in 1209 in the Albigensian Crusade, and finally surrendered, it never was burned down.

1 before dark
3 embrasement

After 20 or 25 minutes, the explosions came so fast and furious, and were so spectacular, we thought it was the finale a couple of times over. Some 25,000 to 30,000 projectiles were fired. But the real finale was far bigger, building, building into a riot of light and color in the sky.


Bravo, Carcassonne.