Yesterday was Armistice Day, and ceremonies were held around the world to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Based on news coverage, I know that many were grand and impressive and memorable. But our village put its heart and soul into its own ceremony, and made it quite an event.
Thankfully, the day was sunny and a bit cool, but not cold. The weekly Sunday market took place as usual — certainly scaled down from its size in the tourist season — but still useful. It included a wine stall, a chèvre (goat cheese) stall, the vegetable man, and the flower lady. Here’s a look:
Across the street from the market, beside the war memorial, the November 11 ceremony began quite promptly at 11 a.m., as the bells in our church spire started to toll the hour. In fact, they kept tolling through much of the ceremony’s beginning, including the playing of The Last Post and the address by our Mayor, which included a lengthy message from France’s President. Here’s our Mayor (with the blue, white and red ribbons of France) as the trumpet played:
A key feature of the ceremony each year is the reading of the list of the war’s victims from the Daglan area. Here is the veteran reading the list, and after each name is called, all of us say: “Mort pour la France” (that is, Died for France):
This year’s extended ceremony included major participation by the students at Daglan’s primary school. They sang, recited poetry, and read stories that detailed the exploits of family members who had taken part in World War I. Here are some of the students:
As the ceremony came to a close, our Mayor asked us all to step around to the other side of the war monument. And there was a new plaque on the side of the monument, covered over with a plastic sheet. Here is the unveiling:
And here is the plaque — the text of which appears first in Occitan (the old language of the area, and a few other spots in Europe) and then in French. The author was Jacques Coudon, modestly listed on the plaque as Paysan-Poète Daglanais, and M. Coudon himself read out his text to the crowd:
Once the ceremony at the war memorial had ended, many of the crowd followed the village officials up to the cemetery, to place flowers on the tombs of World War I victims.
And then it was off to the school yard, for the traditional vin d’honneur — which is to say, drinks and snacks. Finally, there was a lovely lunch at Le Petit Paris — heavily subsidized by the village, because my wife Jan and I had to pay only 10 euros each. Here’s our long table (other guests were up on the next level of the restaurant):
At each place setting, there was an attractive card for the Repas du Souvenir (or Remembrance Meal), which included the text of M. Coudon’s plaque, as well as the menu for lunch. Here’s my card:
Also at each place with this attractive badge, which we all pinned (or tried to pin) to our shirts, sweaters or jackets:
And now for the food: We began with a salad of warm lentils and lardons, topped with a poached egg and a crunchy crouton; it was delicious, but far too large for Jan and me, so half was left un-eaten. Then came the main course — Limousin beef that had been slow-cooked in Bergerac wine, and served with a variety of légumes oubliés, or forgotten vegetables, like white beets and yellow carrots. Deliciously tender. And here’s my plate:
For dessert, we had a baba au rhum maison, which was sweet and sloshed with run, and quite good. Here’s mine:
And then it was off to home — for us, just a short walk from the restaurant. We were both so satisfied after the lunch that neither of us ate anything for dinner. A very good, very impressive day: So some congratulations are due to the organizers, but also to the many Daglanais who turned out to mark the occasion.
For the next really big memorial event, we will have to wait until 2045 — the 100th anniversary of the end of World War II. And let’s just hope we don’t have any other major wars before then. Two were more than enough.