The many rewards of staying in a French village
When we were planning our trip to France, Libby (the daughter we’re visiting) said she and Daniel would like to spend a week with us in the south of France.
So we put her to work choosing a likely place through Airbnb. She came up with two choices in Flayosc, a village on a rocky hill about 35 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea.
Poor John asked me to choose. One was quaint and 100+ euros a night. The other was modern and 65 euros a night. Quaint was really, really tempting until Poor John pointed out there was no shower, only a bathtub.
The combo of four adults and a bathtub was never going to work, so we went with modern. The two-bedroom apartment had been perfect—it opens almost directly on to the main square—and so has Flayosc and surrounds.
Of course, when we booked, we had no idea that our visit would coincide with Flayosc’s second annual billy-cart (go-cart) races, a wine tasting and open day (with medieval demonstrations) at a nearby winery, heritage days in the local towns and villages, a Division 5 handball match, and several nearby market days.
What a fantastic way to immerse ourselves into life in the French countryside.
One of our first excursions was to the nearby ‘Big Smoke’ of Draguignan, where we visited the markets, had crepes for lunch, toured the folk museum (more about that separately) and ordered a new pair of eyeglasses for Poor John, who lost his while cycling in the Loire Valley. He even finagled a discount for coming so far to make his purchase.
Then it was back to Flayosc for the billy-cart races that went over two days. The main street through town was blocked off from the night we arrived, so we knew something was going to happen, and when we emerged from the flat on Saturday morning the fairy floss/cotton candy stand was a giveaway that the festivities were about to begin. In case you didn’t know, the French calls fairy floss ‘papa’s beard’.
The races were hilarious. The kids’ races went all morning and the adults were in the afternoon. It looked like someone was timing each race, but winning didn’t seem to be the goal. Having fun did. A few of the carts went so slowly that they had to be given a push by the spectators.
Lunch was served between the two sets of races. There was a buvette—in this case, a kind of pop-up restaurant—serving daube, a stew. We dawdled so missed out on the daube and had delicious chicken sandwiches instead.
There were a couple of bands playing and all the shops that would normally have been closed were open. One band was drums and percussion and included a few kids who had a great time banging on their drums and any hard surface at hand. The second band was beautifully colour-coordinated in blue and orange. The French horn player used orange clothespegs/clothespins as clips in her hair, and the tuba player created stripes on his ‘uniform’ with knives and spoons.
The handball game was a nail-biter. It was Draguignan versus we-don’t-know-who, and played at the local high school. The scores ran pretty much neck-and-neck until a dramatic goal by Draguignan was disallowed. None of us know the game well enough to understand what happened, but we booed and heckled along with the rest of the home crowd. And I got a pic of the goal being made. I wonder if it could be used as evidence? Anyway, Draguignan lost steam after that and the visitors ended up winning by eight goals. We were appropriately disgruntled.
However, I was super-impressed by the rock-climbing wall at the school. The French love rock climbing and are good at it. It’s no wonder that the school sunk a lot of money and effort into creating the best climbing wall I’ve ever seen. Another bonus was the dance display at half-time. Six young men did a sort-of rap/hip hop dance routine.
And of course, we’ve made it to a couple of markets including the one in Flayosc where we met Sylvie who is bringing unknown spices and herbs to France. She was super impressed that I knew chimichurri (a South American flavouring) and I told her all about turmeric. I’ll try to send her some from Australia.
We head back to Paris in a couple of days, but until then we are savouring being locals in a small French village. Oh, and Poor John is our bread master. He’s out the door about 6:30 every morning to buy as many baguettes as we think we’ll need to get us through breakfast and sometimes lunch.
Speaking of bread, I reckon a muffuletta sandwich would be great on a baguette.