Wednesday, April 11, 2012

French Easter at the Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard hosted a big, outdoor party over the Easter weekend. They called it Garrigues en Fête or Party in the Garrigue, named after the ecosystem found in this part of France. It encompasses the shrubs, flowers and low-lying growth of the Mediterranean region.We have the same ground in Central Texas, I don't know what it's called there but the garrigue sure reminds me of home.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, just warm enough in the sun and not too chilly in the shade, to enjoy a picnic lunch French style and wander around taking in all the spectacles and animations they'd thought up for our enjoyment.

We went with Ms Butt Bumper and her family and the fabulous Kirsty, her Mister and their quartet. That's eight, count 'em, huit kiddos to wrangle. They loved every minute of it and didn't slow down until the end when the toddlers hit the wall, all in turn.

Now back to the picnic basket or panier that we reserved in advance. You know I have to talk at length about the food, right? Just skip ahead if you're not as crazy about feeding yourself as I am.

We ordered these picnic baskets for 15 euro each thinking it would be nice to have something prepared and ready to go for the adults while the kids ate homemade sausage or ham on baguette sandwiches and chips.

I figured it would be good but I had no idea just how good. I will pack a picnic in just this way from now on.

In true French fashion we were handed three tickets to retrieve our basket, grilled sausage of duck or pork, and two glasses of wine. You had to present each booth with the proper ticket in order to get your goods. Even though they were all within spitting distance.We laughed at the love of paperwork as we dutifully took three paces to the left to grab our paper sacs, then another ten paces to the sausage stand and finally the short shuffle to the wine booth.

Inside the paper picnic sac was a variation of the following:
one crusty outside, chewy inside baguette roll
one glass pot of confit d'oignons
one glass jar of terrine, mine was duck
one small container of chèvre with a sprig of fragrant, blooming thyme
one medium container of fresh salad, mine was chickpea, onion and olive oil
one dessert, mine was nougat
and a set of wooden flatware with a napkin.
Plus the sausage from the grill and two, happy little glasses of pink wine.

We ate at two big picnic tables pushed together, listening to some bizarre form of line dancing music with a wailing singer who kept getting a little too close for comfort, while the kids drew ever bigger circles around the perimeter, bravely venturing further into the scrub oaks and olive trees.

After lunch we decided to have a look around at some of the shows or spectacles that were on the agenda, one of which was the most bizarrely cool thing I've ever seen. 

{Alpine Beasts Carousel}
It was a carousel made of petrified and twisted wood, propelled by a see-saw and accompanied by a temporarily (I imagine) mute man in a long, dusty looking gray cloak.

{Riders on the Storm}

He silently beckoned to the children to take his hand, placing them into the seats of his capricious wooden animals, motioned to two adults to take the see-saw seats, and then took his at the piano.
And began to play Riders on the Storm.

{my guys on the carousel}

Ma Fille and the Littlest shared a seat on a bounding wolf while the Middlest was placed on the back of an eagle.

{the see-saw engine}

We went back later and Ms Butt Bumper and I rode the see saw, pushing off the ground to the delight of the children, encouraging shouts of 'plus vite' helping us make the carousel spin faster and faster.

{hunky and rugged French man}
We also took a ride down the trails of the garrigue along the ruins of the Pont du Gard in a horse-drawn trailer. The ruggedly handsome French man who drove us around told us about the area and pointed out a huge rock formation attached to the side of the aqueduct.

{big hunk of calcified limestone}

He said it was formed from hundreds of years of limestone calcification where a farmer cheated his way to water his crops by boring a hole into the Roman aqueduct. He told us that some farmers were lucky and never got caught. Those who did, weren't and were sent to the arena in Nîmes. Tough punishment.

{stroller babies. BIG ones.}

And then there was this--the stroller babies. I laughed harder than I've laughed in ages, especially because P-Daddy couldn't stop laughing either. The 'baby' made faces and clicking noises and P-Daddy played right along, mimicking everything until the 'baby' started bobbing and shaking in her poussette and charged; tiny baby finger in her grown-up nose.
I don't have to tell you how weird and hilarious this was, do I? I'm laughing just remembering it.

{well, hello there. I'm going to climb on you now.}
There was also this duo of 'muscle men' who acted camp; telling jokes, spraying chewed cupcake and water from their mouths, and pretending to be annoyed with each other.

{I could definitely do this part}
The big guy lifted the little guy in between fake punches and slapstick humor.

{maybe I could do this. to the Littlest.}

{on the way up}

{there's no way I could do that}
And we all looked on in amazement. Ooooo, la, la and wow! Incroyable!

{that's the little guy in the air again}
He did this lift from lying down on his side, little guy held aloft this way the entire time.

{Littlest, P-Daddy, Butt Bumpers and Middlest}

The boys liked it. And proceeded to try it out for themselves afterwards.

{P-Daddy and Ma Fille taking a break}

Oh, yeah. We saw the Pont du Gard too. It's just there in the background, peacefully taking it all in over thousands of years of parties, bizarre carousels, accordion music and hollering toddlers with sticky hands.


  1. What a fun outing Aidan. I loved reading about it! My mom's side of the family hails from Montpellier and I lived in the area for a few years as a teenager. I rememember la garrigue, everywhere you look as soon as you leave the city. Love the show they put on for you. "La Garrigue en Fete": indeed it was! As for the picnic baskets you ordered. Don't get me started. I would have happily traded you (had hamburgers at the marina on Easter Sunday ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Betes de la Garrigue, indeed! What fun. My husband and I spend our summers right down the street (right down the river?) from here, I just wish we could be there in the spring to see this! The carousel is pure genius, by the way!

  3. There is way, way, way too much to respond to here Aidan! What a fabulous wacky day! When France goes wacky they really do, don't they? I love all of it--the baskets, the carousel, the performers...Hooray!

  4. I'm still recovering! My tastebuds (and sadly my thighs) will never forget that panier, soooo good. Yet another wonderful day with la famille d'Aidan! x x

  5. oh how fun! we were just at the pont du gard last july and your post brought back memories =)

  6. What a terrific day of merriment for the whole gang! It's been a long time since I visited the Pont du Gard, but I remember well the surrounding dried earth and scrub bushes. Is there still lots of camping in that area? The food sounded great too.

  7. All this picnic basket thing sounds so sophisticated and French.
    Gourmet picnic a la mode! What a great idea.

  8. When the French do weird and wacky they really go for it, don't they?! Sounds a fabulous day with some yummy food too, and for such a reasonable price.

  9. What an awesome time! The picnic seems like it was an amazing deal!!! I wish the US could still pull things like this one off. Sadly our state fair filed for bankruptcy :(

  10. I love Pont du Gard, but have only been when no one else was around and it was totally quiet. I have no idea how that happens! It sure sounds like you had a fun and busy day. I love the idea of the basket of food. How great to have it all nice and ready to eat. Happy Easter!
    Ashley (backyardprovence)

  11. Hello Aidan! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts( really interesting blog). Congrats! Would be great if you could visit also mine... I wish you a wonderful day with very smiles and peace. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Agreed with Sara, creepy carousel. However, would love to see it! I want just one of those animals for my home!

  13. As I said on Kirsty's blog - those babies are way too creepy for me! But the carousel looks absolutely great!! The reserved picnic basket is a great idea and so deliciously French!

    I love reading your blog, and reading about your life in France...very different to mine!


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