We had a lazy day putzing around Maussane, today. We began by putzing into town to do some shopping where we found a wonderful shop selling all manner of produce from Les Alpilles. I love the way the French are intensely proud of their local regions and the products from them.
There are three or four restaurants/cafes with shaded seating in te square outside the church and on our shopping putz, I noticed a waiter crossing the street (from the restaurant itself to the outside seating area on the opposite side of the road) armed with a circular metal frame of the sort used to support a Plateau de Fruits de Mer. Sure enough, this restaurant’s menu offered a Plateau de Fruits de Mer with crab, prawns whelks, clams mussels and three different types of oyster. We putzed back to Guillaume and then immediately putzed back to the restaurant to indulge ourselves with a posh Saturday lunch assisted by a Ricard and some local white wine.
As we were munching various morsels of seafood from various shells, Francine suggested that, in the afternoon, I might try to find her “a wren”. At least, that’s what it sounded like. I was confused – we’ve seen lots of birds but no wrens. All became clear when she explained that there were signs advertising a course of taureaux jeunes at 3:30 PM at the arènes. Not knowing quite what to expect, after snoozing off a splendid lunch, we putzed back down and found Francine her arènes.
For €3 each, what we got was a hard concrete step from which to watch Une Course Camarguaise, a bull fight French style. Last August in Spain, we’d been less than impressed by watching a bunch of testosterone-enriched teenagers taunt some Spanish black bulls. This French version of playing with bulls seemed a much more acceptable affair. The first official task was to introduce les raseteurs [fit young men with a good turn of speed] to the modest crowd.
Getting the excitement underway, the first bull is let into the arènes, it’s head adorned with various trophies: a cocarde [rosette? between its horns],two glands [tassles? at the base of its horns] and two ficelles [strings – tying the tassles to its horns, I think]. Assisted by a tourneur [bull provoker], the raseteurs [fit young men with a good turn of speed] take turns attempting to run a glancing course in front of the now charging bull and snatch one of the trophies from the bull’s head. After their run, the fit young men leap athletically over the barricade to nominal safety. Successfully grabbing a trophy wins the raseteur some money. The trick, or course, is to avoid becoming another trophy on the bull’s head yourself.
I said they leap to nominal safety over the barricade because, quite frequently, the bull also decides to leap over the barricade, somewhat less athletically than the fit young men, and proceeds to run round the perimeter. It’s as if the bull knows where the raseteurs are hiding. Suddenly, the arènes becomes the area of safety until, that is, the bull is guided back inside.
Each bull – there were eight – gets to chase raseteurs for up to 15 minutes, depending upon how long its trophies last. After the first four bulls, we got a beer break for the blood to return to our backsides.
This was quite entertaining and an unusual new spectacle for us. One poor bull seemed to bite its own tongue and draw blood, probably jumping the barricade, but that appeared to be the extent of any injuries. The bulls ranged between 4- and 9-years old.