Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime-Day 2

Our bus for France- heading to St. Affrique
Just one night in Toulouse and we had to get on the bus. It was early and we were tired but we had to get to St. Affrique, check in at the hotel, rehearse and then get to the village of Le Truel for a 9PM concert. This was our first meeting of Jose the bus driver. He spoke only Castillion Spanish. His abilities in English amounted to the word "no".

French countryside in Tarn and Avyron
The drive out of Toulouse was on a major highway until we got to Albi. There a right turn into rural France. Some of the most beautiful areas that echoed our California rural areas when there is sufficient rain! Lots of small farm plots, no huge acreage covered in one crop as we do here. We found out that the French do not import food so everything you eat is grown close to home.

climbing into the Mid-Pyrenees
Lark at the WC
We finally had to stop at a small village for a "short" break. In Vocal Arts there are no "short" breaks. The public WC (bathroom) must be located and used by 40+ people. There must be a source of libation and consumables. And short exploration must happen.
But first, the WC.

European squat toilet
To be fair, this is the only one I saw on the entire trip. But after relief comes the exploration.

 And a wonderful discovery.

Bastille Day
A tiny village shows up to pay homage to its past and those that died in defense of there country.

Every town and village that we visited had a memorial to those that died in WWI and WWII.

Then it was back on the road. More gorgeous landscapes and isolated houses.

And finally St. Affrique where we rehearsed in their church,

and explored,
and eat
Chicken tetrazzini
salmon quiche and fresh salad

This was an amazing restaurant. Called Terres du Sud, it is the dream of a woman and her partner. He asked me not to print their names or their pictures to Facebook but asked that I show the food. You can find them on Trip Advisor.  They spoke no English and we spoke little French (Melodie was trying to remember her college French!) But the language of food was sufficient. I had purchased some yarn and left it in its bag by the table. The next day (yes, I am getting ahead of myself) we went back and she had saved it for me!

And then we are off to sing. I was a bit brain dead and forgot to take my phone so you are stuck with my descriptions. The village was Le Truel. Look it up on Google maps and use the street view. Getting there was a real adventure. Jose managed to get that bus down a steep road that makes Tioga Pass seem tame. But he couldn't get us very far into town. The roads were too narrow for a bus.

But the festival organizers were right there leading Jose to a parking lot by a town hall. In the hall, where we would eventually change into our uniforms, were festival staff with bottles and bottles of COLD water. The heat was really bad and we were sweating buckets so hydration was of chief concern.

The concert was scheduled for nine in the evening. So about 7:30 we change and head up to the church. Up a flight of stairs, down a narrow road and the church appears. It is overlooking the river and valley below and is exquisite. Made of stone in ages past it has a natural reverberation that was perfect for the songs we would sing.

To be honest, I didn't expect much of an audience. I was wrong.

The church was full to capacity. These people wanted to hear us. And we gave them a great concert. And they gave us a standing ovation! They stayed afterwards and communicated that they were emotionally affected by our music. They kept describing "goosebumps". They called it "chicken skin"!

Afterwards, their festival committee feed us pizza, smoked meats, cheeses, salads, bread, and deserts. And we sang for them. So much fun and such friendly, outgoing people. We were stunned and humbled.

Then it was back the hotel. I use that term VERY loosely. It was a converted dorm. Without air conditioning or fans. The tiniest of bathrooms (if you bent over in the shower you shut off the water!). Linoleum floors. Oh, and a nice patch of mold in the bathroom.

But it had a pool. Thank whatever.

In that pool, three of our bathing beauties performed Ode to a Grecian Urn. Marvelous!
But again, I get ahead of myself. That was on day 3.

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