Bec – 20 August 2011
Bievenue Uzes…. and what a welcome we received!
We arrived in Avignon via the TGV, which is an excellent way to travel with children. Jamie had kindly booked us into a First Class carriage (cheap tickets if you buy prior over the net) which had us seated facing each other with a table between us so that the children could do their schoolwork, eat snacks or play UNO. They were incredibly well behaved and the three hours flew by.
We collected our car that we have leased from Avignon and we are now the proud owners of a Renault ‘Espace’ or a ‘Socccer Mum Wagon’ as I prefer to call it. Whatever you want to call it…it fits our luggage and family and that folks, is the only thing that matters at this point.
With a short stop to pick up some scooters for the kids, we were off to Uzes…guided by Jane from England …. aka our lady of the GPS.
I am a complete convert thanks to this trip and will be purchasing a TOM TOM when we get back to Melbourne. There is no way that we could have found where we had to go via a street map. Most of the Rues or Chemins are unsigned and only known to locals. Thank goodness Jane from England seems to be one of those in the know!
We entered the town of Uzes in what can only be described as ‘shock and awe’. Take every stereotype you’ve ever imagined about the south of France and Provence and roll them into one town and you’ve got yourself UZES.
Cobbled streets, sandstone buildings with pale aqua and green wooden shutters, jasmin, grape vines and ivy mimicing archways, blue and white enamel house numbers and several old and loved Citroens working their way around the town.
Our contact in Uzes, Suzy from New Zealand, check us into our home for the next month and happened to mention that she was heading off to the Festival for the Snail Harvest. My ears pricked up and when we dug a little deeper we discovered that it was a festival to celebrate the harvesting of 280,000 snails, along with organic local produce from the surrounding regions.
Despite our fatigue we decided that it would be a sin to miss such festivities so we headed off with our directions loaded in the GPS and our tummies crying out for escargot.
A few towns and 1 hour later we finally drove down an unmarked, uncharted, dusty driveway to the Snail Festival. Locals were arriving by the car load and the sound of the beret wearing accordian player was enough to satisfy a weary traveller. We had stumbled on Francophile heaven!
Better than any episode of Rick Stein’s French Odyssey (sorry Rick) … this was trestle tables of men and women, young and old, enjoying local food, wine and each other in a paddock. The French don’t really need a reason to be festive….but if the snails are to be harvested …why wouldn’t you make it a celebration.
Snails, beignets, canard sausscion, artisan nougat, crepes, glace, framboise, rouge et blanc vin and of course the obligatory frites were available for purchase…. and purchase we did.
If we ever needed confirmation that our sons are adventurous eaters, even after the mussels in Paris, then the Escargots in Uzes rammed it home. Foster finished off a dozen of the creatures and proclaimed that his favourite was Escargot a la Bourguignonne, which is snails in their shells packed with garlic butter and baked in the oven.
There was laughing, singing and dancing along to the accordions but the show was slightly stolen when Sari got up to dance and another 4 year old named Nida joined her and showed her how to slow dance. The crowd went crazy and everyone clapped along ……Sari was absolutely delighted by her surroundings and her new found audience of around 250 french people who were already well lubricated.
At 10pm we headed home… with the children on a high and Jamie and I thinking about how lucky we were to have shared that evening with all those people.
You’ve really got to hand it to the French…they know how to live the good life…they are passionate about all the most important things in life…food, family, friends, music and wine. They don’t have the time or inclination for anything else..it would simply be a waste of precious time. The French are often characterised as being somewhat aloof and maybe even a little rude. I have not personally found this to be true…but I feel that if it were the case..it would only be because they do not and can not understand us.
We are the opposite to them…we think bigger is better…we think food should last for weeks and be packed in 10 layers of plastic. We send our children to bed when the sun goes down and celebrate things without them. We want every fruit and every vegetable available all year round even when it is not in season. We waste a large percentage of the animals we kill and foods we harvest because we don’t have a deep, rich cultural history which celebrates the continuation of tradition… but most of all we work to build our little nest eggs for all the things we dream of doing in the future – whilst the french are busy living each day and celebrating the here and now.
I’m sure that everyone one who travels has these moments of clarity when they can see the negatives of their own lives and the positives of the culture they are presently in…but I am really hoping that I can pack a few of the positives into my suitcase and bring them back with me.
Speaking of moments of clarity….Foster shared with us today some of his wisdom…he announced that girls like shopping and doing peaceful things and boys like adventure.
Truer words have never been spoken.