Wackiness on parade, and the community’s spirit

Apology: So, you’re thinking, why has it taken a whole week just to post something about Daglan’s parade on Sunday, August 23 ? I do apologize, but my excuse is that I had severe technological problems: I simply could not get the WordPress system to upload photos. (And yes, of course I did the usual self-help tricks: synthesized the hard drive; reverse-engineered the soft- and medium-hard disk drives; and re-filtered the densitometer. Also I sent emails to WordPress.) Anyway, things are back to working, so here you go. Apology ends.

You have to hand it to residents of the Greater Daglan Area — despite being a generally quiet and picture-postcard-perfect village, Daglan goes quite wacky during its four-day August fête, which ended last Monday.

In my last post, I gave you a look at one of the features of last Sunday’s parade: A number of men in drag, contributing to the general wackiness of the automobile-themed parade. In today’s post, I’ll show how the community gets into the spirit of the festival.

Let’s start with the character at the head of the parade, Bibendum, better known as the Michelin Man. Here he is, walking ahead of one of the parade entries, which for reasons unknown was belching out red smoke:

The Michelin Man, officially called Bibendum.

The Michelin Man, officially called Bibendum.

What is particularly interesting about this particular version of the Michelin Man is that inside the costume was none other than Daglan’s Mayor. Here he is again, being friendly with a couple of young visitors from England:

Do they know, or care, that it's our Mayor inside?

Do they know, or care, that it’s our Mayor inside?

Another good example of community spirit was the effort of the team at Le Thé Vert, the tea room-cum-café in Daglan. Its proprietor, Judith, not only decorated her shop to resemble a service station (remember the parade theme — automobiles) but bought outfits for herself and her servers. Here’s a look at the exterior of the tea room:

Tea room becomes service station -- for parade day.

Tea room becomes service station — for parade day.

And here are the service-station outfits, as worn by Judith (on the right) and one of her friends, who was helping out on a particularly busy day:

Ready to serve -- in service station coveralls.

Ready to serve — in service station coveralls.

People along the parade route — including my wife Jan and me — also got into the spirit of things. For example, I hardly complained at all when the grandson of one of our neighbours, riding on one of the parade vehicles, doused me with water. And pretty much everyone was covered in confetti by the time the parade ended.

Also noteworthy for their community spirit  were the people who were caught up and arrested by the pretend gendarmes — namely, these guys who are shown just about to leap out of their vehicle:

Piling out of the car, to make an arrest.

Piling out of the car, to make an arrest.

And here’s one of the onlookers, arrested (all in good fun) and being hustled into the police car:

One of the parade viewers is grabbed, taken away, and placed in the gendarmes' car.

One of the parade viewers is grabbed, taken away, and placed in the gendarmes’ car.

For more wackiness, stay tuned. I’m planning one more post on the Daglan fête, before it becomes a distant memory.

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Wackiness on parade: A first look

One of the more interesting characteristics of the Greater Daglan Area is an abundance, so to speak, of young and middle-aged men who enjoy wobbling around in drag while wearing high heels.

Never is this more apparent (at least publicly) than during the Sunday parade which always takes place on the third day of our village’s four-day August  fête. (You know — the one that I call the Festival of Heat and Noise.)

I should explain that the parade always has a theme (last year, Carnaval; this year, the history of the automobile), and that no matter what the theme is, the men in drag always seem to find a way to fit in — sort of.

To kick off a few postings on the wackiness of the parade, which was held just a couple of days ago, here’s a look at one of the beauties strutting down our main street (in case you’re wondering, that is indeed a bumper-car ride in the background, set up in the main village square):

Now that's a perky lass!

Now that’s a perky lass!

Sometimes they travel in groups. I believe that this bunch was meant to be women working in a car wash (see how nicely that fits with “history of the automobile”):

Men in drag, travelling in a pack.

Men in drag, travelling in a pack.

And to close off this part of today’s report, here are a few more lovelies, walking along with one of the cars created for the parade:

Young women just love a hot car!

Young women just love a hot car!

Of course, there is much more wackiness involved in Daglan’s annual parade — and indeed the whole festival — than men in drag.

For example, there’s the fact that rides are set up in the heart of the village, which then blast out music from loudspeakers well into the night. While watching the parade on Sunday, in front of Daglan’s bakery, we got to watch this ride — on which young people spent a lot of time screaming while being whisked around in giant circles:

Round and round she goes...

Round and round she goes…

In my next posting, I’ll present some more scenes from Sunday’s parade. After all, what would life be without a dose of wackiness?

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Another banner year for the village

Several days ago, the banners began going up. They were installed in just about every corner of Daglan, on just about all the street lamps and other available poles. Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when our village is taken over by the annual four-day fête.

For those of us who live near the main village square, the Daglan fête is also known as the Festival of Heat and Noise. It takes place near the end of August (which accounts for the heat) and it includes a number of rides that blast music from loud speakers until well past midnight (which accounts for the noise). Most dreaded of all is the bumper-car ride, which was just being installed in the square as I drove past it this afternoon.

This year, the festival starts on Friday (August 21) and runs until Monday evening. Phew.

In fairness, there’s one aspect of the festival that my wife Jan and I like — the Sunday afternoon parade. It always has a theme (last year, it was Carnaval), and it’s the theme that’s featured on the banners that are hanging all over the village.

Here’s how I described the parade last August:

It’s a pretty wacky, homemade sort of affair, and everyone who takes part seems to enjoy the fun. The crowds along the way join in, usually accepting with good grace the water that’s sprayed on them and the confetti that’s tossed everywhere.

Here’s a banner for the year 1985, when the theme of the parade was the god of wine:

The parade theme in 1985 was Bacchus.

The parade theme in 1985 was Bacchus.

And here’s the banner for 2012, when the parade theme was heros — such as those from Greek and Roman mythology:

The banner for 2012.

The banner for 2012.

As for this Sunday’s parade, the chosen theme is the history of the automobile. Jan and I plan to be on hand, and once again will offer a selection of photos in Radio Free Daglan. If we haven’t succumbed to the heat and noise by then.

Posted in Festivals in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Lunching in Daglan: a few tidbits

There has been precious little blog-posting lately, because there has been precious lots of sweltering going on.

We are now stuck in the longest heat wave that my wife Jan and I can remember since we moved to Daglan. On our top floor, where I work away at my computer, the thermometer on our digitally-equipped fan was showing 28 degrees Celsius, which amounts to 82 Fahrenheit, when I started writing this. As I finish this post, it’s at 30.

But surely I can stay calm and cool enough to write a few words on a favourite topic — lunch. Let’s begin with a visit to the outlet of Fabrice le Chef, which started off simply as a shop selling meats, cheeses, local specialties and a number of prepared foods. But now Chef is offering actual meals, both lunches and dinners, on the patio next to the shop. (This is very easy to find, by the way, if you’re new to Daglan. It’s across the street from our post office, and just steps from the Mairie, or mayor’s office.)

Here’s Jan getting settled at our table, where we had lunch a few days ago:

Getting settled on the patio of Fabrice the Chef's shop.

Getting settled on the patio of Fabrice the Chef’s shop.

As you may have figured from the sign behind Jan, Chef is selling lunches, including a dessert and a glass of wine, for 12.50 euros. The lunch is easy, pleasant, and tasty, and comprises a fair amount of food — as you’ll see in the photo of my lunch platter below.

Clockwise from the bottom right, there’s a delicious paté, slices of cold roast pork, a baked potato (okay — a “jacket potato” for English readers), a salad, a small container of panna cotta with fruit syrup for dessert (okay — “pudding”), some cold roast beef, and a basket of bread.

My cold meat platter.

My cold meat platter.

We haven’t had dinner there yet, but friends who have tried it say the food — and the choice — is quite good. So, it’s worth a try.

And speaking of “worth a try,” a few Sundays ago we thought we would again try Daglan’s Le Petit Paris. We hadn’t eaten there in some months, as we hadn’t been thrilled with some previous experiences. For example, in “Two hits and a miss: Lunch at LPP,” which I posted on August 9, 2014, I pointed out that our considerably overcooked and therefore dried-out salmon was garnished with (wait for it) chunks of raw white onion. Ugh.

Still, we had heard from various friends that Chef had pulled up his culinary socks, so to speak, and so we headed to the restaurant’s terrace. Here I am (in the red shirt at the centre of the photo), starting proceedings with a glass of Champagne, which was served nicely chilled, with no onion chunks in sight.

Champagne on the terrace, as Sunday lunch begins.

Champagne on the terrace, as Sunday lunch begins.

For our plat principal, both Jan and I ordered the lamb dish that various friends had praised. The lamb had been slow-cooked in a rich sauce, then shredded and rolled into a sort of sausage, and served on a bed of potato.  It really was delicious.

But what’s with the bits of lettuce and other greens strewn around the plate? I’m in full agreement with our friend Judith, who (a) would prefer some actual vegetables and (b) thinks the lettuce is not really all that attractive as a garnish. Had the lamb been accompanied by a few spears of grilled asparagus, or a few roasted baby carrots, the dish would have been a real winner.

A ring of leaves surrounds the lamb dish.

A ring of leaves surrounds the lamb dish.

And so, tasty as it was, it wasn’t enough to make us want to rush back. Yes, the overall meal was “fine.” As in, “quite good.” But in the past, it seems we could expect more.

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Check the Links if you’re headed this way

If you’re fortunate enough to be heading to the Greater Daglan Area, you might like a basic introduction to the village of Daglan, places to eat, and places to visit.

Radio Free Daglan to your aid.

I’ve just added a page of Links, allowing you to check easily and quickly on restaurants, tourist attractions and more.

To use it, click on Links in the black bar at the top of this blog, and then click on any of the websites that might be of interest and use to you.

If you have any suggestions for useful links to be added, just let me know.

Posted in Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Tourist attractions, Travels in and out of France | Tagged | 4 Comments

Our favourite night market gets a split personality

One of our favourite summer activities over the past couple of years has been attending the Saturday night market — le  Marché Gourmand Nocturne — in the village of St. Pompon,  about five kilometres from Daglan.

Unfortunately, it seems that the market has become something of a victim of its own success.

If you plan to be in the Greater Daglan Area this summer, give this post a close read. Otherwise, you may be excused.

In case you’ve forgotten, the St. Pompon night market isn’t the usual weekly French  marché; it’s not about picking over cheeses, fresh vegetables and flowers.  Instead, it includes buying prepared foods (fresh oysters, curries, sausages, paella and much more) and local wine, and enjoying them at rough picnic tables with friends and neighbours and strangers. Dancing to the music provided by a DJ is another big part of the fun — and the event had been attracting all sorts of people.

As I wrote more than a year ago,

The organizers of the …  market deserve full marks, because they have created a treat of an event, one that really captures the community spirit of a small French village, bringing people together for food and fun.

Here are just two photos from night markets in previous years. First, have a look at the crowd of people enjoying themselves right on the main drag of the village:

It was hard to find a place to sit and eat.

It was hard to find a place to sit and eat.

And then this photo of the dance platform in front of the DJ’s stand, where little kids liked to spin and twist and jump, before the older folks took over, later in the evening:

For some reason, the kids were especially active on the dance floor this evening.

For some reason, the kids were especially active on the dance floor this evening.

So what’s new? Well, it turns out that St.-Pompon’s weekly event was simply too successful. Earlier this year, I happened to be chatting with the Mayor of the village, and I told him that my wife Jan  and I really admired the community spirit demonstrated by the summer night market.

Somewhat sadly, he said that the market had been generating too much money — and attracting too much of the attention of the tax authorities. I couldn’t follow all the intricacies of the tax situation. (Too much money earned by the food and wine vendors? Too much revenue for the village? I really don’t know.)  But the short story is that the Mayor had to cut back the event to just five per summer. And that’s what has happened.

So now there is a hybrid sort of structure. On Thursday and Saturday nights, there has been a night market at a ferme auberge several kilometres out of the village, high up on a hill. And then  in late July and early August, there is supposed to be a run of the “normal” St. Pompon night market.

This past Saturday, Jan and I drove up to Ferme Dauriat for one of the Marchés Gourmands Champetres, or Rural Food Markets. (To find it, drive out of St. Pompon to where the road splits for Saint-Laurent-la-Vallée on the right, and Prats-du-Périgord at the left. Stay left, in the direction of Fumel, and follow the long, twisting road all the way to the top of the hill; then turn left onto the little country road marked with signs for Ferme Dauriat.)

We arrived just as it opened, at 7 p.m., and were among the first people there, other than the food vendors. We had a glass of rosé wine; wandered around the various stalls; and then sat at a picnic table with our modest selections (cheeseburger for me, grilled sausage for Jan) and drank some more rosé wine. Then we went home.

Now it may have become lively later, but it certainly wasn’t while we where there. Here are a few photos to give you a flavour of the event, starting with a look at the DJ’s stand and makeshift dance platform:

By 8 p.m. last Saturday, there was still no music.

By 8 p.m. last Saturday, there was still no music.

Here are some of the food vendors, preparing a variety of the usual local favourites, next to the wooden structure (at the right) where wine and other drinks were on offer:

The usual local dishes -- sausage, duck and so on -- were being prepared.

The usual local dishes — sausage, duck and so on — were being prepared.

Finally, here’s a look at some of the tables, showing that by 8 p.m. or so, there were a few participants, but certainly not a crowd:

A few of the picnic tables were in use, by the time we left.

A few of the picnic tables were in use, by the time we left.

I’m sure the event would be more fun if we went with a few friends, but it certainly lacked the lively village atmosphere — and the huge variety of foods — that Jan and I like so much in St. Pompon proper.

In any case, here’s the schedule of events for your use, alternating between Ferme Dauriat and the village of St. Pompon:

  • Ferme Dauriat on Saturday evenings: July 11, then August 22 and 29.
  • Ferme Dauriat on Thursday evenings: Every Thursday from July 9 through August 27.
  • St. Pompon on Saturday evenings: July 18 and 25; then August 1, 8 and 15.

Chances are good that Jan and I won’t be attending the night market in the field, but for sure we’ll be in St. Pompon on Saturday evening, July 18. Maybe we’ll see you there.


Posted in Festivals in France, Food, French food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No stars in sight — but that’s okay, M. Croque

Occasional readers of Radio Free Daglan may well  believe that my wife Jan and I eat exclusively at Michelin-starred restaurants. But that’s absolutely false! Why, just three years ago, Jan and I had lunch in a restaurant that was barely mentioned in  the red Michelin guide!

Seriously, however, Jan and I do eat at home quite often, and quite well. And we also eat at what normal people would call casual restaurants. Like, for instance, the café La Plage (it means The Beach) in Castelnaud, about 10 kilometres north of our village. There are no Michelin stars in sight, nor will there be. Ever.

However, La Plage has a pleasant terrace to visit if you’re out riding your bike, or renting a canoe or kayak for a Dordogne River trip, or driving around to see the sights. Here it is, as seen from the front parking lot:

A view of the La Plage terrace.

A view of the La Plage terrace.

Sometimes I have a pizza there, since I find La Plage’s pizzas are pretty acceptable by French standards. Jan, with her gluten allergy, usually has something involving meat, like a cheeseburger served with no bun, or beef steak served en brochette. My personal favourite, however, is a plate of that French classic sandwich, a croque-monsieur.

If you’ve never had one, it’s simply a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, but served with a béchamel sauce on top; then it’s broiled (grilled) briefly, to puff up the sauce and brown it a bit.

For nine euros, this is what you get when you order a croque-monsieur at La Plage — the sandwich plus a decent green salad plus some nice, crispy French fries:

A tasty lunch plate for just nine euros.

A tasty lunch plate for just nine euros.

And if you look closely, you’ll see not only two halves of a cherry tomato on the left of the plate, but also a decorative dusting of paprika. Hmmmm … maybe Chef does have some higher ambitions.

Posted in Cafés in France, Food, French food, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments