September 21, 2010

courses camarguaise

***disclaimer*** If you have ever thought of joining PETA, you should just skip this post...

While Jamie and I were planning the trip (Ryan and Taylor weren't involved in the slightest) we tapped into a gold mine in the form of a longtime friend, Ron Peeleman, who has a home in Saint Siffret and knows the area well. He gave us recommendations on what to do, where to eat, where to park, where not to park, and all kinds of other helpful hints. We were so grateful for his help. He was better than Frommer's, Lonely Planet and Rick Steve's combined.

One of the things he told us about was the courses camarguaise. It is a local event, a bull fight of sorts. But the goal is for the matadors to get rings off of the bulls back, not to harm the bull. Here's an excerpt from Ron's email

Each contest lasts about ten minutes. If the bull has not given up his last string, he is given warm applause. The bull is NOT harmed in the slightest. Music will play and the bull trots off, horns held high--I swear, with a smirk on his face--knowing that he won this time. The bulls are the stars. Some come with a reputation (the announcer will read off the bull's accomplishments as he enters the arena).

It's bizarre, it's local, it's dangerous, it's entertaining--and I swear, the bulls love it.

We were stoked. Something off the beaten path to give us a little more local flavor. So we went to the tourism office (on Ron's recommendation) to find out where the courses were happening and how to get tickets. In my excellent French, I asked, "Do you know about the courses camarguaise?" Blank stare. "Bullfight?" "Oh, of course. Here, there's one in Nimes this weekend." And, in her excellent English she helps us figure out the details.

So we head to Nimes. The event was held in an amazingly well preserved Roman Colosseum. There was a band, people were excited...we were loving it. It starts with a parade of horses and then the matadors showing off their moves. Sweet.

Then they bring in the bull. The matadors fling their capes, and then duck behind a small wall to protect themselves.

We're cheering, clapping, taking pictures. Then a rider atop one of the horses with the fancy coats is brought in. The horse and the bull have a little scuffle, and suddenly the bull has something sticking out of its back. And then we see that the bull's coat is wet and looks red. Paint, I think. They are pretending they have hurt the bull and using red paint to make it look more real. Okay. Still fun. But then it gets worse (I'll spare you the details) and I realize that the red I see is not paint, this is an actual bullfight, and in the end the bull very much gets hurt. Jamie and I could not believe it. We were shocked, gasping, covering our eyes. We left after the first bull and went shopping around Nimes. Ryan and Taylor embraced the local culture and stayed for a bit longer.

We realized that the courses camarguaise are the warm-ups for the actual bullfight. The woman in the toursim office did not understand my botched pronunciation of "courses camarguaise", and when she heard "bullfight" she automatically thought we wanted the real deal, not the practice match. (Which explains the slightly disgusted look she gave me. I had chalked it up to her being French.) And Ron was mostly right. It was bizarre. It was local. It was dangerous, and it was entertaining in an odd way.

But somehow I don't think the bulls loved it...

Paris at night

September 20, 2010

france, 2010

We just got back from a wonderful week long trip with Jamie and Taylor. Compared to last year's Italian adventure, this year was low-key and relaxing. We did a lot of nothing, and it was perfect. We ate good food, read lots of books, wandered through quaint villages and enjoyed one another's company. We decided my French is nearly fluent ("I want 6 chicken nuggets...{hold up 6 fingers}...Thanks...Merci"), Taylor's love affair with cheese and crackers should not be disrupted, Jamie looks significantly more pregnant than I do, and I am a really good photographer.

she's totally in focus

We are glad to be home, and again, many many thanks to Ma Sue for watching Ella. You know your child is in good hands (and you feel a little guilty) when she says, "I've got two mommies: Mommy and Ma Sue!"

We didn't take many pictures, but I'm going to do a few separate posts for those we have.

September 2, 2010


For her birthday Ella got a gift card to Barnes and Noble from a dear friend. But I'm not up on the 2-year-old book scene. What are your favorites?