Lost In Limoges

From the sheep-dotted pastures of France's underpopulated Southwest, Limoges rises in all its grey glory. The city's claim to fame: fine porcelain. The half-timbered houses of the Medieval center are surrounded by strip malls and McDo. Land-hungry Brits descend with flailing pocketbooks (thanks, RyanAir). The weather is remarkably cool year-round. Sure, I live on rue de Nice, but this is NOT the Cote d'Azur. Welcome to Limoges, "the middle of nowhere"-- or as Pierre says "everywhere"-- France.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Music Festival at Saint Chartier

I was surrounded by French hippies. Bared breasts beneath accordeon straps, dreadlocks dangling, and a sea of tents stretching as far as the eye could see across a field. This could be Woodstock, except that the musical focus is entirely different. Here at Saint Chartier, a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere (truly), ancient musical traditions are celebrated and brought to life. Music is everywhere. Violins, accordions, guitars, mandolins, bagpipes. It's awesome.

On the main stage, major artists performed in the evening (July 13-16), including a French group from Canada called Vent du Nord, which rocked my world with the tap-dancing and fiddle. A lot of the music reminds me of blue grass, lively cajun, gypsy songs, or even some traditional tunes from the Middle Ages.

Just wandering through the streets of the town, checking out the displays of instruments designed by craftsmen who have come from all over Europe, is worth the trip. We stopped to have an aperitif-- local wine flavored with peche-- and the table next to us was jamming some wonderful Django tunes. Everywhere you turn, there are musicians assembled, playing all sorts of fantastic music, from funky bagpipes to tzigane. Check out this music clip on Videovista.

I was impressed by the facilities at the campground (they even had showers set up, for public use.) But the heat was sweltering, so we slept outside next to the car, which we angled perfectly to block the heat when the sun rose in the morning. At 4 am, we watched magnificent fireworks explode their colors overhead.


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