The circus comes to town (sort of)

Small travelling circuses are a regular feature of summer life in villages throughout the Greater Daglan Area. They move in trailers and trucks from place to place, usually performing just one or two shows, and then packing away the tents and moving on.

For several days before each performance, villages are papered with posters to promote the coming event. Sometimes you can hear vans passing through our village, with loudspeakers blaring, informing the tourists and locals alike that the circus is in town.

The circus I’m most familiar with is Cirque Cancy. The photo below shows daughter Anne, son Michael and me on our bikes in Daglan, posing with the Cancy clown in the late summer of 2011, as the circus was advertising its next séance, or performance.  (Photo by Radio Free Daglan Guest Photographer Vanessa Cassels.)

Daughter Anne, son Michael and me -- with friend.

Clowning around: Daughter Anne, son Michael and me — with smiling friend.

But as I wrote at the start of this posting, a circus in town is a summer event — providing some entertainment for the children of the tourists who pour into the GDA. But in mid-October? Not so much.

So imagine my surprise when I came upon this sight as I cycled out of the village last weekend, heading north towards St. Cybranet:

Here are the circus trailers.

Here are the circus trailers.

Yes, it’s a complete caravan of Cirque Piccolino trucks and trailers, tents and animals, all camped on the parking grounds next to Daglan’s Stade Municipal, the field where rugby is played regularly.

I climbed off my bike, and started walking into the field, taking photos as I went. There didn’t seem to be any humans around, and all the trailer doors were closed. As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day, and the bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus, as I’m sure you know) seemed to be enjoying the weather. You just might be able to see a much larger and darker camel in the distance, at the far right of the field. Dromedary, I presumed — but I didn’t get all that close.

A field of circus animals, including two camels -- one up close, one in the distance.

A field of circus animals, including two camels — one up close, one in the distance.

Among the farm-type animals in the field (sheep, goats, donkeys and so on) there was also a large dark bull with immense horns, tied or chained to a walnut tree (see below). Not wanting to push my luck too far, in case the bull decided to see if he could break his rope or chain, I retreated.

The horns on this beast looked just a bit too menacing.

The horns on this beast looked just a bit too menacing.

Then on Wednesday I rode past the circus again, and got a bit closer to our friend the bactrian camel (see the photo below).  But this time, a family was sitting outside their trailer, so I called down to ask if there would be a séance any time soon. “No,” the man hollered back, and then made the international symbol for “all finished” — waving his arms in front of him, and crossing them to show that the circus season was over.

Bactrian, I presume?

Bactrian, I presume?

So the question is: How long will they be in the field? A few more days, or all winter? I’m not sure, but I’ll keep checking.

Almost final note: You’re probably wondering whether we’ve ever attended a circus performance in Daglan. The answer is no. I admit that my instincts as a reporter tell me to visit at least one circus, but I’m not really very keen. In general, I’m all in favour of zoos — especially the excellent ones like the zoo in Toronto, that maintain large, natural-looking habitats for animals — but I find circuses mildly creepy, and not very entertaining.

Final note: My parents must have taken me to a circus or two when we lived in the Chicago area, but I really don’t remember. But two circus performances do stand out in my memory. One was a huge circus in Toronto, which I attended with my girlfriend at that time. The big surprise was that a gorilla escaped from the centre ring, and charged up into the stands — scaring everyone out of their wits. Turned out that it was a guy in a gorilla suit, and I still marvel that no one in the audience died of a heart attack. The second memory is of a smaller circus in King City, north of Toronto, where we lived many years ago. I remember taking my two children, and I recall it as a miserable time — they seemed completely bored, anxious to walk around (instead of watching the performances), and generally not very happy. But not long ago, the three of us discussed my memory, and Mike and Anne disagreed wholeheartedly. In their minds, it was a wonderful experience. What can I say? It’s obviously a matter of perspective.

This entry was posted in Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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