Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Orleans Weekend

What a day, what a day. The festivities don't start until 10, the music not until afternoon. I take a pre-festival turn around town, looking at the angles of light, catching some views before the cars and crowds are too thick.
The riverfront where the activity is is actually quite short. I didn't realize last night I had started two blocks from one end, then turned around two blocks short of the other. Less than a mile in all.
Boat Jousting!
Colorful boats and riggings and pennants.
Plain wooden boats.
Riverboats of many sorts, though nothing really large. No grand American paddlewheels, nor anything modern except the glowing handmade wooden canoes. The Loire looks shallow enough to wade across in most places (but I bet if I tried that I would indeed have to swim).
The food stands are numerous. Yes, I taste their wares. Many times. Without regret. With all this walking I'm sure my calorie balance is fine!
Walking all day. Upriver. Downriver. In town. Back and forth and around. Swept along with the crowd or stopped because of it, or off in alleys with only a trickle of company. I pause at the hotel midafternoon for a bath and half and hour's lie-down, and to drop off the prettybook I bought. Alas, it is too wide to fit into my backpack.
I spend too long loading pictures to Facebook, and by the time I go out there's no place - I mean No Place - to sit down for a meal. OK; I'll grab whatever at the stands, then stake out my spot for the 10 pm Spectacle.
Discovering Fire tonight.
Man, it is packed on the quay. Even sitting down for a quick meal I'd never have got a place here. So much the better to stand here with my hot goat cheese sandwich and a honey-beer and a small hazelnut cake. But weren't there thousands of people sitting in every restaurant in town? Why didn't that lighten this crowd? At 8:45 most sidewalk tables I passed were full of people impatiently contemplating their empty placemats. They must still be at their meals...
I'm writing this with a bic in a notebook while my feet get really tired of staking out my square yard of stones here across from the main firework setup. They declare there's no particular spot to see the show from, but this seems to be about the center of the kilometer-long set-up. They promise it will start soon. Ah, here we are...
That was the best fireworks display I'd ever seen.
And it wasn't a bad thing that the sound system gave up just a few minutes into the show. We watched the rest to the boom and sizzle of the rockets. The display was so wide you couldn't see it all at once, but had to look left and right. The only real glitch was they set fire to some trees on the island, which were still burning when I left some time later.
The sound system came back for the grande finale, followed by a tribute to all the sailors (it's sailors in French, on the river or the sea) which itself ended with more fireworks.
Then everybody went home.
Drunken youth were still straggling home quite some time later, many of them passing under my window.
Sunday I figure I have plenty of boat pictures, so early I take the tram nearly to its end to visit Chateauroux and the Parc Floral.
I love castles. The Loire valley is famous for them... Only, it turns out that "Chateauroux" is not the name of a neato chateau sporting towers and crenellations and pennants fluttering in the breeze. Nope. It's just the name of a bus stop. The "chateau" that merits a little castle symbol on the maps is just the university president's mansion.
The park is nice. (many pictures follow)
Around noon it's time to head back to the city for one last meal riverside. This time I mean to be patient for a table with a view of the boats. It shouldn't be so crowded on a Sunday.
Or maybe not. On the tram back, which is packed, there's an announcement:
"You are warned to take care of your belongings. After the festival being on the news last night, people are expected from Paris."
Seems Parisians have quite a reputation.
Parisian hordes or not, the riverside is crowded but not more so than yesterday. Some of the stands have packed up already. The places serving tables are reservation-only, so I get a baked potato with cream & salmon and a glass of local white wine, and eventually squeeze in at a picnic table left sticky with spilled coke. Nobody picks my pocket. Nobody ever has, though I'm told it is a real hazard.
The early afternoon is spent wandering about, killing time before the Papermen street performance. At random I find the Fish Parade display. Thirty-odd meter-long carp, decorated in all sorts of ways. Prettycarp, Funnycarp, Carp with a Message. Vote for your Favoritecarp. There's one as pink as Maurice, but my favorite is Prettycarp number 26, all Impressionistic blues and greens.
The Papermen arrive at the clang of 15:00. Eight hyperactive figures in black and red costumes, sporting long bamboo poles and shouting in a made-up language. They have a very large roll of paper, which they proceed to unroll and fling the paper about in the air with their poles. The paper accumulates into a beast they are quite afraid of, alternately attacking and running away from it. The frenzy lasts 20 minutes, we understand not a word, but great fun is had by all.
Random observation at dinner:
the way the French have of leaving a restaurant with their cigarettes already installed in their mouths, lighters in hand. If anything slows down their progress toward the door, they may actually light up while still indoors, the dance is so tightly timed to get that first drag into the lungs as quickly as possible.


steven said...

nanu - wickedgood writing post!!! such a good heap of little vignettes to dive inside. i really want to see the fish parade. have a lovely day. steven

GingerV said...

am looking forward to all the photos. sounds like a wonderful time. and YEH we go to Paris for Christmas. I know will be cold and wet BUT less fight for space.

NanU said...

Hi steven; thanks! Sometimes I start thinking that writing anything is superfluous with all the pictures, but it should be the pictures that are extra.

And I will try to post some more, but it's soooo slow I'm not sure how far I'll get before taking off again. The best is to put photos there where I talk about them, but just no time to be so organized...

Ginger - I'm sure you two will have a wonderful time in Paris for the holidays. The decoration is always very nice, and Paris is a place you've got to see at least once in life. If I'm going to be up that way, I'll let you know, but it's likely I'll stick around Clermont (though if you'd like to come down & see some of non-Paris France, I'd be happy to host you!).


Reya Mellicker said...

Wow! The banner pic took my breath away. Beautiful.

Can we be FB friends? I would love to see pics of this event.