Remembrances of parades past

In my last posting, I previewed what you might enjoy in this coming Sunday’s parade in Daglan. Posted on August 13, it was called “Lights! Camera! Action! (Our parade). ”

The Sunday afternoon parade each August is one of the highlights of our village’s four-day summer festival. (Okay, for me, it’s the only highlight). And the theme of this year’s parade, you may recall from my August 13th posting, is Le Cinema.

Today I’ll look back over a few of the parades of recent years, remind you of their themes, and show off some of my favourite entries. In other words, a hit parade of parades.

Let’s start with last year, when the parade was given the immodest theme of Les civilisations, thus allowing the entrants a lot of scope to deal with ancient history.

An obvious candidate was Ancient Egypt, whose entry featured our Mayor dressed as a Pharaoh. Here he is in person, chatting with my wife Jan (on the right) and another villager:

Mr. Mayor, as a Pharaoh, meets some subjects.

Another culture from long ago, featured in the 2016 parade, was the group we know as Vikings. And here are some of them, paddling  or poling their way through the main street of Daglan:

These guys managed to look fairly authentic.

The 2015 parade, in contrast, had a more modern (and more limited) scope, since the theme was the history of the automobile. This was probably my least favourite parade of recent years, since I don’t think the parade-makers were able to flaunt their creativity as spectacularly.

Still, there were a few good sights — including our Mayor (once again), this time dressed up as the Michelin Man. Have a look:

The Michelin Man, officially called Bibendum.

For the 2014 parade, the organizers offered the theme Carnaval, which allowed for a lot of creativity, with the chance to feature cultures from all around the world. Like, for instance, China:

The traditional dragon leads the way.

For sheer flamboyance, the Brazilian entry in the 2014 parade was the winner. It goes to prove that when you give some Daglan residents the chance to wear feathers and tight clothes, and dress in drag, they go all out, like this:

The Brazilian float in full swing.

But for a few reasons, I think my favourite parade of recent years was the one in 2013, when the theme was La Pub. I should explain that the phrase, in French, doesn’t refer to British taverns,  but rather to publicity, or advertising.

That theme gave parade-makers a lot of latitude to be creative while promoting, or making fun of, well known products. But there was another element to the 2013 parade — the buzz of local politics, including a few swipes at the village’s then-Mayor, a dour woman who brought to her post all the flair and warmth of a constipated actuary.

For instance, here is a huge boat with fishermen on top, representing a brand of canned fish.  On the ends of their fishing rods were actual fish (salmon, as I recall), which they swung over the heads of the onlookers. However, as they passed the office of the Mayor, they made a point of slamming the fish against its windows. And here are the fishermen, hugely enjoying themselves:

Fishermen working the crowd in Daglan.

Best of all, I think, was the entry designed to look like a well-known brand of laundry detergent. Not terribly amusing in itself, but there were some not-so-subtle messages on the box. One was the reference to “0% alcohol,” which was a dig at the local administration for cracking down on the sale of beer and other alcoholic beverages at various festivals and events. Here’s the entry, with the alcohol-free notice on the front of the package:

The OMO float — centre of attention at the parade.

For the 2013 parade, I actually posted twice — once on the parade as I first saw it, and again when some of the political messages became clearer. In that second posting, I wrote that:

… I pointed out that the front of the laundry soap package on the float said “0% alcohol.” What I missed at the time, however, were the words that you can just barely see on the side of the float: Promo. Printemps 2014. Grand lessivage.

Translation: “Special Offer. Spring 2014. Big clean-up.” In other words, “Look for a big cleaning out of the civic administration during next spring’s elections.”

Flowing out from the OMO entry was a flood of foam, that eventually pretty much covered the entire street. Here’s how it looked:

Care for a beer? Just wade through the foam.

Can we expect more local politics in this year’s parade? We’ll have to wait and see. Interestingly, the message on the side of the OMO box turned out to be prophetic — there really was a massive change in the village council, during the election of 2014. You just never know.


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Lights! Camera! Action! (Our parade)

The possibilities are mind-boggling: Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday in the  GDALast Year in Monpazier. L’Age d’or à Daglan. The Umbrellas of Castelnaud. Hilsenheim mon amour.  And of course, Last Tango in Daglan.

Yes, it’s time to celebrate films in our village, all because of our annual August fête. Officially, it’s the Fête de la Saint-Louis, although my wife Jan and I like to think of it as The Festival of Heat and Noise.

The one element of the four-day fun-fest that Jan and I actually enjoy is Sunday’s Défilé de chars, or parade with floats. Which always has a theme, to inspire the float-makers and marchers and to amuse the spectators. And this year, it’s Le Cinema (to put that in English, it’s The Cinema).

Here is the full program, as posted on the front of the village’s convenience store, and photographed today in real time by me:

All the festival details.

Boiling all that down a bit, the highlights are: A dinner and music on Friday night; a dinner and a concert on Saturday night; the parade on Sunday afternoon and fireworks at night; and a Bal musette on Monday night. (The Monday bicycle race of years past clearly has disappeared from the program.)

The festival comes at a time when the crowds, and the temperatures, are usually at their summer peaks. Here’s a look at our weekly market this morning, which was pretty much packed with visitors:

Market activity in Daglan’s square.

Here’s another look at the market action. In the background, you may be able to see a yellow banner, fluttering from one of the buildings near our convenience store. These banners are all through the village, and each one shows the theme of a previous festival parade.

High up, in the background, a banner.

The banners showing each year and that year’s parade theme can be seen all over the place — as you’ll see in this view up the Rue de la République:

Yellow banners are all over the place.

And what’s so good about the Sunday parade? Well, a bunch of stuff. (1) It can get pretty whacky. Lots of guys in the GDA, for instance, seem to like dressing in drag. Go figure. (2) It’s often pretty creative. Some of the work that goes into the floats is amazing. (3) The atmosphere is all about fun. This is an event for the whole family, so if you’re in the area and are vacationing with kids, be sure to visit. (4) It’s free. What else is there to say? Well, I suppose you could shout: “Lights! Camera! Action!”

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Back to Trémolat (for lunch, of course)

Driving to the village of Trémolat, west of Daglan, takes just 45 minutes or so, and it’s worth the drive. Trémolat is a lovely village with several nice places to lunch.

So when my wife Jan and I heard from English friends Ian and Suzanne that they and their two lovely daughters would be vacationing in the Greater Daglan Area (the GDA), we thought that Trémolat would be a great place for the six of us to meet. And it was.

We met up there yesterday, at Le Bistro de la Place, the sister restaurant of the Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant at Le Vieux Logis. I’ve written about the fine-dining restaurant recently (July 16)  in “A four-hour lunch (with sticker shock),” but today I’ll highlight the qualities of the bistro.

Le Bistro de la Place is a cosy place, with several outdoor areas for dining. It’s literally across the street from the rather posh inn, Le Vieux Logis. Here’s the view from our table, which was just outside the bistro:

Le Vieux Logis is just across the street.

The bistro is one of our favourites in the GDA because we’ve always found the food well prepared, served nicely, and reasonably priced. The dishes are not particularly inventive, but neither are they ordinary. For example, my entrée yesterday was a bowl of very good gazpacho, served with a scoop of tomato ice cream in the centre, and accompanied by a slice of grilled bread topped with cheese and Spanish ham.

My plat principal was a generous helping of roast chicken, served on top of a layer of long, tubed macaroni with cheese, and slices of mushroom. Here it is:

Golden chicken on a bed of macaroni.

The dessert was a bowl of most of the things you probably like — fresh fruit, whipped cream, and ice cream. How could you go wrong with something like this:

Not super-elegant, but super-delicious.

Along with all the good food, Jan and I had a wonderful chat with our friends, who first met us near Daglan a couple of years ago.

After a lot of catching up, we finished our desserts, our wine, and our coffees, and walked across the street to Le Vieux Logis, so that Ian and Suzanne could see why Jan and I like the restaurant there so much. I’m pretty sure they understood.

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To the market! (And, of course, lunch)

Today’s special Sunday market seemed to be another success for Daglan, with plenty of tourists (and locals) crowding into La Place de la Liberté, shopping at the stalls, and picking up sandwiches and similar fare at the grill. My wife Jan and I were there — but, perhaps not surprisingly, we chose to have lunch in an actual restaurant.

The occasion was Daglan’s annual Promenade en Gastronomie, as I revealed in my last posting (July 28, “Ready, set, pack ’em in!”). Here’s a very quick look, starting with a stall that seemed to be “overweight garlic,” as a securities analyst might put it:

Looking up and over the rows of garlic.

There were lots and lots of vegetables, of course. At this stall, located at the side of  Daglan’s main street, Jan and I bought a few veggies, including some lovely thin green beans:

Some lovely veggies.

And here’s another look at the same stall, a bit further along the road:

Tomatoes, melons, and more.

Of course this could hardly be a market in France without a wide variety of sausages on offer, and our market had plenty:

From pork to wild boar to venison to kangaroo.

But enough of that — what about our lunch? Well, we ate outdoors on the terrace of La Cantine, the restaurant that Fabrice Lemonnier (Fabrice le Chef) runs near the Mairie (the office of our Mayor). There, Jan and I began with three oysters each, accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine. Very nice.

For the meal itself, we chose the full menu (three courses) at 25 euros, plus a bottle of rosé wine. My entrée was a crisp pastry shell surrounding some melted chèvre (goats’ cheese) and bits of apple, garnished with a small salad and walnut halves, like this:

Nice mix of flavours, textures and temperatures.

For her entrée, Jan opted for a serving of foie gras terrine, decorated with a few crisp vegetables. Here it is:

She’s a real fan of foie gras, and why not?

For the main event, we both ordered the same plat principal — a (very) generous serving of pork roasted in Marsala, served atop a bed of various vegetables. Couldn’t quite make our ways through all of our servings, as you might imagine:

That’s a very crispy top!

Of course, by cleverly avoiding the last bits of pork, we both managed to find room for the dessert — a nice serving of Peach Melba, made with local peaches:

Invented by Chef Auguste Escoffier, by the way.

Then, finally, we enjoyed cups of a good strong coffee, and headed for home. Which is, mercifully, not far from the restaurant.


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Ready, set, pack ’em in!

As summer rolls along each year, Daglan gets more and more packed with tourists each Sunday as they visit our weekly market. This coming Sunday (July 30), the village will really be packing them in, and our main square should be “heaving,” as our Scottish friend Suzanne would put it.

The reason is that on Sunday Daglan will be hosting the annual Promenade en Gastronomie, which is basically a much-expanded weekly market featuring all kinds of goodies — including tapas à la truffe d’été, which is to say summer truffles.

Also included in the festivities will be Démonstrations, chiens truffiers, which is to say demonstrations of how a trained dog sniffs out truffles among the forest roots.

Already, the container that represents a small piece of the forest is in place in the Place de la Liberté, the village’s main square. (Making it a bit of a trick to drive out of our little street, through the square, and onto the village’s main thoroughfare.) The container is built out of railway timbers, and filled in with soil.

Here’s a look at the truffle-sniffer from last year’s special market:

Our shaggy truffle hunter is closing in.

As you might expect, watching a dog find truffles that have been hidden under an inch or two of soil is about as full of suspense and tension as watching someone shoot fish in a barrel. In any case, it’s worth a look if you’ve never seen a truffle dog. (Actually, they look remarkably like, well, dogs.)

As for my wife Jan and me, Sunday will begin with a rousing session of intense French tutoring, and then proceed to a lunch at La Cantine, the restaurant of Chef Fabrice Lemonnier. We’ve seen the truffle demonstrations several times before, so we won’t be crushed if we miss this year’s version.

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Polishing off the Tour de France

The time frame may be different, but our basic idea for finishing off the Tour de France — the Sunday “Ride into Paris” — is the same. Namely, Champagne, good food, good friends.

When my wife Jan and I lived in Toronto, the last day of the TDF was when we joined close friends (members of the Wild Forest Pig Contrada) at the home of Keith and Kathy for a Champagne brunch. That’s because it’s six hours earlier in Toronto than in Paris, where the Tour action starts in the late afternoon as the riders reach Paris.

So yesterday at about 5 p.m. we left Daglan and drove up to the lovely home of friends Suzanne and Mark, joined by friends Rosemary and Richard, to watch the cyclists complete the Tour with that series of mad dashes around the Avenue des Champs-Elysées,

Our role was to bring the Champagne (and Proscecco and white wine). Here’s one of the bottles:

Was there ever a bad Champagne?

While relaxing on the deck, before the cycling action really got hot, we sat back with our drinks and devoured oysters on the half shell. Like these, which Suzanne and Mark had bought from Fabrice le Chef in Daglan:

One of the plates of oysters we consumed.

Then it was indoors, to watch the exciting end of the Tour. Here’s one of the commentators, a chap we like for his dry wit:

Commenting on the Tour results.

Once the racing was over, and it was confirmed that Sky’s Chris Froome had won his fourth Tour de France, we headed back outdoors, to sit near the pool and enjoy a lovely evening. Here’s the table:

The glasses were sparkling properly.

At this point, dinner was set out on the table, starting with a couple of bowls of salad:

The veg makes an appearance.

And then came the baked potatoes, and grilled vegetables like mushrooms and peppers, and a selection of meats off the barbecue, including sausages and lamb cubes on skewers:

Some serious platters of food.

Finally, it was time to enjoy a delicious apricot tart that Rosemary made for our celebratory dinner. We celebrated by attacking it, cutting off slices before I could take my first photo:

Dessert for a summer’s evening.

When everything was polished off, and the sky had grown dark, it was time to head home. And so off we went, secure in the knowledge that while Chris Froome had won the Tour, we probably ate better that evening.

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Day tripping to Toulouse

Whether you’re a regular visitor to the Greater Daglan Area, or a first-timer, I’d recommend a trip to the city of Toulouse, if you can spare the time. It’s about two hours by train from Gourdon, the station that often serves people from Daglan. You  could of course drive (highways are excellent), although traffic within the city itself can be pretty congested.

Over the years, my wife Jan and I have become fairly familiar with the place, and happy to be there. You might like it too.

We visited Toulouse again yesterday, because I had my annual check-up by the charming surgeon who performed spinal surgery on me in April 2014, Dr. Pierre Moreno.

Because we were finished at the Centre Toulousain du Rachis (the Toulouse Spine Centre) not much after 11 a.m., we called for a taxi and headed to la Place du Capitole, the city’s central square. Here’s what it looks like:

The Capitolium dominates Place du Capitole.

Why even consider a trip to Toulouse? Lots of reasons. La Ville Rose (the Pink City) is France’s fourth largest, has lots for tourists to see (historic sites, galleries, museums and so on), supports much of the country’s aerospace industry (Airbus), and is home to the huge University of Toulouse (founded in 1229).

I confess that Jan and I haven’t explored many of the typical tourist attractions, and are quite content to use the area around Place du Capitole as our base. The square is usually busy, but not packed; it’s lined with shops and cafés and restaurants; both pedestrians and cyclists travel through it regularly; and it has a young, fresh, cosmopolitan feeling.

So yesterday, for instance, I had a coffee at a sidewalk café while Jan shopped for clothes (she happily scored a lovely blouse) and cosmetics (including my favourite shaving products, on sale at Sephora) . Then we walked along the covered gallery past any number of shops and cafés, and had a pre-lunch drink at Les Tenors, on a table out on the central terrace.

Then it was lunch at a favourite spot, the Grand Café de l’Opéra. I won’t go on and on about it, as I’ve written about the restaurant previously. (For a fuller description of the restaurant, and more details on central Toulouse, see “Hearty fare in fair Toulouse,” posted July 9, 2014.)

The food is always good, the place is large and comfortable (and nicely air-conditioned), the (all-male) staff is made up of professionals who are friendly, polished and efficient. In short, it’s the kind of French café you would expect to find in a good movie.

There’s lots more to learn about Toulouse, and if this has piqued your interest, you can find lots more useful information on sites like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor. You can also take a look at the information here:




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