We visited Lavardens just over a year ago to try out the Watchtower Pub located round the back of the prominent chateau. Like many of the smaller bastide communes around the Gers, they seem like ghost towns most of the time, and then there’s a big event and suddenly you can’t move. Tonight there’s a night-market, which I found out about via some advertising from a Brit expat band performing there.
The main street (rather than the two back streets) was fully lined with booths of artisans, food sellers and trestle tables for casual dining. The chateau and eglise are on a higher bit of ground, split off from the lower town by a few connecting alleys and stairways. That divides the commune up enough to be able to have several musical artists performing at the same time without any sound leaking between them. That was a small relief, as the woman singing some old song about having no regrets to a backing tape of synthesized accordion-playing wasn’t as interesting as the two combos playing at the other ends of town.
The crowd was pretty mixed between Gersois locals, resident foreigners of many nations and French people holidaying in the area, with accent being my only guide to sort them out. Generally some subtle difference in physiognomy, dress or gait will help sort them out and then some Dutch person or Brit teenager with unaccented French will fool me.
On my first transit of the main drag I witnessed one peculiar conversation between a mother and her young daughter. The child pointed at Munson and said something about “un beau chien”, and her mother promptly corrected her with “pas chien, chieng!”, driving in the local Gascon pronunciation over what I guess is the “received French” that might be heard on TV (or language tapes).
We wandered up and down a bit, first to make a dinner selection, and then to rewater Munson back at the car which was parked by the chateau. I took the opportunity to capture this early evening scene of the countryside west of Lavardens from whence we’d come today. Somewhere over the horizon before home is the similar-sounding Lagardère – so don’t confuse them!
We returned to the front of the town where the band were playing Dire Straits and Van Morrison. I perched on the steps of the winged figure on a pillar while Munson received supplicants and got jiggy with des juiletists – those who vacation in July, as opposed to the later aoûtians of August. Apparently one does not want to be on the roads when these two flocks of migratory birds criss-cross at the end of this month.
Can I just say how nice it is to have companions like Bondi and Munson who bring so much simple and unexpected joy to people in the street? You don’t have to work hard at it, people will find you. I’d been talking to the smiling couple above for a while as they were quite curious about our Australian origins. Because it had been quite a hot day, people were concerned that it was hard for Munson. I would explain that we’re both Australians and this weather is comme hiver (like winter) down under, and then you’re off rocking-and-rolling conversation-wise. Except for the young English guy there who thought I’d said we came from Portsmouth. Maybe that’s as far south as he could grasp.
Anyway the holidayers were impressed by the extra Gascon –eng I was throwing in – so I guess they were easy to please after the Munson warm-up act.
We called it a night about 9.30pm as it had been a long day and Munson was probably keen for dinner. I’m sure things were only getting started in Lavardens that night, but it was time to roll off into the soft light of sunset.