Summer of France 3

Mialet – Saturday-Sunday, July 27-28, 2002

Friday night was our last gig. Afterwards Brandon and I walked around until about 5 am. Found a few restaurants that were open on the Champs de Elysee. I mention this mainly because we had to be packed and checked out of the hotel by about 7am. I got an hours sleep which I thought would be fine since I could sleep on the train. I later payed dearly for that. We got to the train station just fine but ended up having to make a mad dash to the train anyway. The trains do not wait, by the way. Carrying a five foot long, 50lb. box, and pulling a rolling suitcase behind you through a crowded train station is not easy. I had a lot of trouble keeping up. Every once in a while at the train stations Roger would appear out of nowhere and make sure I got help. Otherwise, it was every man/woman for him/herself until everyone got used to the mad dashes we had to do to get to our train connections. To my credit, I only kneecapped one elderly lady. Collateral damage–ugly but necessary.

It was a long day of traveling.

We were headed to Anduze to a Best Western hotel. Actually, we were headed to Mialet to a wedding. Christian and Francoise’s son’s wedding. Christian and Francois are good friends of Roger’s. Where do I even begin about the wedding.

Midnight?!

We got to the Best Western around 1pm or so. We had time to unpack and much of the group went swimming as it was very hot there. At 4pm we were picked up to go to the wedding. The wedding was at 5pm in Mialet. After the wedding was over we walked to the reception area with drinks and hors d’ouvres. The thing I remember most about that time was that no matter how much water or juice I drank I was still thirsty. Something about that place was very hot and thirsty. We were all very tired and a little grumpy because we just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep. Some of us were working on one hour of sleep, remember.

Then we found out from Roger that we were going to be performing at the wedding party at midnight. “So relax and have a good time,” he said. Somehow we all managed to stay awake even though we were sleep-deprived to the point of mild psychosis. We got a ride to the party area, which was outdoors with a big white tent. Next to a small river, a cliff up to the narrow, two-lane road, and beyond that the side of a small mountain, more or less. There was a large cave opening in the rocky hillside that was apparently used as a hospital during the “religious” wars in the area. I got a lot of history and background from the people that drove us. Most of that knowledge is gone deep in the far recesses of my brain so I can’t relay any of it here.

I sat for a while. Waded in the river and tried to skip stones. Brandon is the king of stone-skipping and in addition to that the banks of the river were made up of smooth, round flat stones. He had them skipping down the river and up onto the opposite side. Nine or ten skips, some of them. Amazing.

So we went back and somewhere in the 9 o’ clock hour they started serving food. Big, big shrimp and all kinds of cold pasta-ish things. Fruit with fishy, bacony meat wrapped around it. Lots of wine. I don’t drink but I was still impressed by how much wine was there. Over a hundred people and a constant supply of wine, white and red. As I was pigging out (some of us were seated at a table specifically loaded with English speakers) we were informed that this was just the appetizer. The entrée was some kind of small bird. Not chicken, not quail or pheasant. Something else. Maybe quail. Squab? I don’t remember.

Fireworks

Then they showed a video presentation of some sort. All of which was in French of course and I didn’t understand, but I got the gist. Then came the cheeses. Then came dessert. It was about 12:30am now. And then came the fireworks. They actually had fireworks. And good ones, too. Like, professional fireworks in the hills of Mialet in southern France, lighting up the hills behind it. It was surreal. After the fireworks we performed for about half an hour.

And then the DJ went to work. The dancing started at 1:30 in the morning. By this point I was about to pass out. Oh. I should mention that Herve, the drummer, had not traveled with us. He and Candi drove to their home in Lyon through horrible holiday weekend traffic. Somehow, and no one knows how, Herve found his way at night through the labyrinth of the mountain roads of Mialet despite the fact that some of the roads were closed due to wildfires. I mean, at one point you have to drive up to an unmarked turnabout, which is there specifically to drive across a historic one lane stone bridge and then along unpaved roads. I’m sure he could see the lights but still. None of us thought he would make it but he did. At about 11:30pm he showed up.

The band, more or less, left the party at 3:30am or so to get back to the hotel. The singers, from what I hear, partied until about 5:30 in the morning. I got a good seven hours of sleep in.

Here’s the interesting thing about a good French wedding. That was just the first leg of the party. We were picked up around noon to go back to the party. When we got there they were serving food again and people were either swimming in or returning from swimming in the river. We hung out at the river until it was time to go. And it wasn’t time to go until Noah did a flip off of an overhang into the river. We were very proud. Nothing says “crazy American” like diving with flair into a river of not-quite-safe depth.

And we headed to the train station on our way to Grenoble, except Noah and Sadie who stayed behind since they were going to Normandy to see the beaches of the D-Day invasion.

In Grenoble we met Yves and Bernadette Goarant, who housed myself, Brandon, Kenny, Janna and Pia.

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