The very best part about actually living someplace with a new culture are the surprises that – well – just happen. Often when you least expect them. That doesn’t happen often when you are traveling. Let me be more specific with an example or two.

We were in that lovely pause after the renovation when we heard about a dance concert in a neighboring village from our English friends, Brenda and Phil Hayes. Unfortunately, I was beginning to have some back problems and the community center was standing room only. So we gave up on the concert and looked for the local bar where we could sit and wait for the Hayes to join us for a beer.

Along our way we noticed some men putting a contraption together. It appeared to be a mechanical horse made of copper attached to a band stand. Fascinated, we watched as they rigged the thing. There was much discussion about what went where. We got tired of standing and went on over to the bar where tables were set up outside.

When our pals arrived we asked about the odd copper horse and bandstand. Brenda replied they were some traveling musicians. The Hayes own a large tourist house in the village that they rent during the season. This not begin the season, she agreed to let the musicians have it for their stay. So we had front row seats for whatever was about to happen. AND IT DID!

At the far end of the village we heard the 5 musicians tuning up with a lovely piece I recognized as a Dvorak Slavonic Dance, interrupted now and then by a ca-plop, ca-plop that could only be the copper mechanical horse headed our way being pulled by a local farmer’s tractor. Behind the copper horse (who actually pranced!) was the bandstand with the five nusicians in white face make-up and brilliant costumes (maybe 19th century?). Not bothered at all by the clothesline holding their laundry attached to the awning and a large metal drum full of a roaring fire.  Dancing along behind all this were a couple of costumed dancers inviting their audience to join them. AMAZING! Their selection of music was mostly classical and well performed it was. It didn’t take long for a small crowd of villagers to join the dancers. The girl dancer swept my husband into her arms before my startled eyes. The performance continued until the musicians needed fortification from the food tent that had been erected nearby. They left their rig and enjoyed hot soup and baguettes and beer before returning to travel on down the road. It was a memorable event we could not have planned!

The next event was the Tour de France coming our way. Of course, we heard all about this one in advance and planned where we could see the cylcists pass us by. And pass us by they did in grand style. Being new to La Tour, we had no idea what to expect. First came the entourage of media and gendarmes, then the boys who were well ahead of the pack (called a Peloton in French). Reg held Kimi by the side of the road while I snapped away. You can see a sliver of Reg (and his bald spot) on the right in the photo.

That’s Reg’s hand on Kimi as the Peloton swiftly passes by. I call this shot The Agony. You can see the stress on their faces. It was all over in seconds but what a thrill!

And that’s Life in France – You gotta love the French… for their fun lifestyle full of surprises!