Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Lemon Festival and Other Adventures of Recent Import

Hello my friends.

And  not contrary to the rumors, I actually did disappear off the world this time. I just woke up and it was February. Man, don't you just hate when that happens?

People here keep asking if it's difficult to spend an entire year abroad; I tell them one year goes by so quickly I wish I could take five--heck ten! I recently spent several days at the house of an ex-patriot, ex-exchanger ('ex' perhaps there for extended exchanger, depending how you look at it.) She came to france for a gap year and basically never left. She has been leaving here now for about thirty years! And she's starting to give me some ideas..... mehahahahaaa.

Anyway, besides life passing me by with the swiftness of a 3,000 ton TGV train not stopping at the particular train station expected, everything has been just groovy lately. Let me tell you what has been happening lately, and then maybe someday in another post I'll go back and give you some highlights from the previous months if I ever find out what happened to them.

First of all lets talk about it snowing here on the Mediterranean coast. The Riviera. The Cote d'Azur. The South of France. Whatever glorious golden epithet you wish. It snowed. I saw it.
And the worst part is that its all my fault.

Here's a photo taken in Ripton, VT on February 1st.


Here's a picture in Hyeres, France on February 1st.

I can't help it, the irony is hilarious.

Anyway apparenetly it's all my fault, I brought all the snow from Vermont to France. The south of France has never seen snowfall like this before, and they're incredibly unprepared unequiped to deal with it.
I was planning on going out that night, but we basically couldn't move. Might I remind you that even the driveway here has two switchbacks and is rather steep, and then the whole hill down to town was a giant morbid car slip n' slide.
Thankfully we were able to get out the next morning because I had plans to take the train, which involved taking the bus to get to the train station. And the morning after an epic snowfall is not prime time to dabble in multiple forms of public transportation, when no one here is used to dealing with icy weather...

But it all worked out in the end! Here's my host dad trying to take care of the driveway with a spade shovel, and on the right is a somewhat thawed out vineyard with a little bit of snow remaining, taken from the train:

I was taking the train with my exchanger friend who lives in St. Cyr (near Marseille) to visit our other exchanger friend who lives in Cannes (where the film festival is!). It's approximately an hour and a quarter from Toulon to Cannes, so it's doable. And while we were there it snowed again, and we only had minor train delays. Speaking of Cannes, if all goes as planned I'll be there for the film festival with my class! More on that later... 

More importantly LA FETE DU CITRON!
So what exactly is this ridiculous homage to citrus fruits that has taken place for the past 79 years in Menton, the boarder town between France and Italy? 

Well basically every weekend for about a month, hundreds of thousands of people come to this small town to watch a crazy parade of dancers, musicians and....giant floats made entirely of real lemons and oranges! I mean, why not?! 
 So there were a lot of people there.
Like a lot a lot.
I've never seen SO many old french people fit in so many tour buses! Think of the big apple senior tour kind of buses ALL going to a small French town of 30,000. Menton is perched on a hill/gorge, if that's even possible (and I swear it is); here in the south of France they have managed to build cities in the most unlikely of environments. The perfect example would be Monaco, coming up in the next post.

Anyway, we parked the car about 3 km away and walked into the center of town because that's really the only way.
There were some pretty ridiculous costumes as well. The funny part was that some of them were so intricate and large that they couldn't make it through the street, the crowd pushing in so much for either side. Like this poor flower girl. Her petals couldn't make it through the crowd until some parade security helped her through. That was one unhappy flower. 
And there were even giant avatars on stilts! Why not?! 
Anyway, we bought silly string and confetti, and apparently so did thousands of other people. I cannot imagine the street sanitary crew's woes the day after. (Well apparently the festival happens three weekends in a row, so I can understand why everyone looks tired)
Also, more importantly I spotted the most badass tights-toting trumpeters ever seen on this side of the Atlantic.
And you can tell that he knows it. Apparently these kind of positions are passed down through the generations as well! Who'd of thunk it? But nothing is cooler than filling the shoes of your grandparents if that involves really odd trumpets and a cape like that!!

So the most surprising and bizarre part about all of this was not, in the end, the Eiffel Tower made of oranges, or the strange cow costumes, or even the large plush Mario Bros running around--it was the inane calmness and even disgruntledness of the crowd! I swear, French parade-goers are the least lively crowd ever seen since Kenny G's Christmas Special. It wasn't even that they weren't rowdy or drunk, like any festival you'd find north of French département 89, more that they were actively party poopers! Any moment when my exchanger friends and I would cheer for a float, dancers, or musicians, all the old français would turn around and give us indignant looks, like "Now what are those damned youngens doing ruining this nice little, tranquil event?" Meanwhile giant avatars are strolling by trying to stir up the crowd of 80% over-eighty French senior citizens. The kind that take bus tours. That's why we didn't get a good parking spot. So many buses. 

Anyway, my friend and I successfully tango danced down the parade street, sprayed silly string onto the big pink angry flower lady, and got about three collective pounds of confetti suck on the little bald sections of elders' heads. Another awkward moment was when we were yelling absurd motivating quips to the parade performers in English, then realized that the couple standing in front of us was British. Oh Europe. So diverse. They sure had some funny looks on their faces. 
Alright, so as usual, something like 25 days have gone by since I started this post, so I will give in and post it despite my previous ambitions of a multi-subject blog. I will just stick to the plan of publishing posts directly; otherwise it just get's ridiculous! 

much love,

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