Yesterday was a holiday here (Assumption, as you may have assumed) but that didn’t stop the workers who were setting up stalls and rides for Daglan’s annual Festival of Heat and Noise (my definition), which begins today. Chaos reined supreme, as cars were parked pretty much everywhere and anywhere, and tourists wandered around wondering what was going on. In other words: A great time for us to leave.
So my wife Jan and I headed off to Belvès for an informal (but long) lunch, followed by an air show. In case you’ve forgotten, Belvès is a great destination for a trip from Daglan. It’s perched fairly high up, and has the look of a town in Tuscany.
Jan and I ate on the shaded terrace of the Pizzeria les 7 Clochers (the 7 Clock Towers), and enjoyed a bottle of rosé wine from Provence while waiting for the air show to begin. Here’s the view from just across the street where we ate:
Once lunch was done, we left Belvès and drove west to find the airfield where the air show was to take place. Eventually the signs led us to a turn-off — and there we joined an incredibly long line of traffic, snaking over a dusty country road for what seemed like five kilometres:
When we arrived, we were startled to find that the strange man who regularly directs traffic in Sarlat, apparently with no official function whatsoever, had made his way to the airshow and was chatting up the drivers who were trying to find a place to park. I introduced you to him in “Meet the wacky traffic guy,” in a posting on Dec. 18, 2010, and here is how he looked yesterday; you’ll notice that he’s wearing his usual cap, and that he lacks the lime-green vest of an actual sanctioned volunteer:
Was the air show crowded? Well, as I told a friend in Daglan this morning, “If you weren’t at the air show, you were probably the only person in the Dordogne who wasn’t.” In other words, yes — it was packed with people. Here’s just a small taste:
Jan and I did see some good action — like two wing-walkers who were strapped onto biplanes that were twisting and twirling in the air, and then a number of stunt pilots doing all kinds of aerial acrobatics.
But after just an hour or so, we found the heat and the crowds a bit too much, and were further put off by the possibility of a three-hour traffic jam as everyone tried to leave the parking lot. So we headed out early, drove back into Belvés, and washed Jan’s dust-covered car.
Then we drove back out towards the airfield, and parked on a country road with several other onlookers, and waited for the main attraction — the Patrouille de France, which is the French Air Force’s aerial acrobatic team, like Canada’s Snowbirds and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. We had seen the Patrouille not long ago in Paris, swooping down over the military parade on France’s national holiday and letting go with their streamers of coloured smoke.
It was well worth the wait, as it turned out, because we had a great view of all the action, as the eight jets of the Patrouille streaked across the sky, climbed vertically, dove, swooped, and managed all kinds of hair-raising twists, turns and precise formations.
It would be great to show you some of the action photos we took, but in fact we didn’t take any: Our digital camera decided that this would be a great time for its battery to die. Instead, I leave you with two photos that I picked up from the Patrouille’s website. First is a close-up of one of the planes:
And here’s a picture of the eight planes in action:
So our plan worked — we saw lots of action in the air, and experienced no traffic jam on the ground, at least leaving Belvès. The traffic in Daglan’s main square this morning was another matter.