Le Grand Bouillon 2

Wednesday. Two days before it all kicked off, Aidín and I went for a walk around the village to see what was happening.

St Denis, the church that overlooks Reillanne, was to be the scene of a spectacle on Friday and Saturday evening.  Would there be any sign of preparations there?

Nope, not much happening here…

We carried on down to the main square, passing some caterpillar rehearsal as we went (more on the caterpillar later!).  Work had started on constructing the stage on the corner in front of the bookshop and the butchers.

Not looking like a whole lot of stage just yet.

Work had also begun in the opposite corner, making a bar out of pallets.  You can do a lot with pallets when you put your mind to it…

All pallets. I swear, barring some painted plywood at the front

Signs were up for the art exhibitions…

Archway! Signs!

Damn, he’s organised, my LSH!

The weather forecast was being watched closely by many anxious Reillannaises.  That day, Wednesday, torrential rain was still being forecast for Saturday evening.  Everyone was hoping that the meteorologists had it wrong.  When a Luck Dragon appeared in the sky at lunchtime, I knew that all would be ok.

Luck Dragon over the Luberon

Seriously.  If you’ve watched the NeverEnding Story, you can only describe that as a Luck Dragon.  It had to be a good omen.

A closer look at the Luck Dragon.

Thursday. There was activity and a buzz of excitement everywhere.  The stage was beginning to look a bit more like an actual stage – there were lights and sound equipment lying around and metal thingies to hang them off.

Lights! Action! Music?

A group of people were industriously preparing mountains of vegetables in the shade of a large tree.

Chopping and slicing and dicing and cubing

The extra toilets had arrived, but this is Reillane so these were no grim, smelly little portaloos.  This was a full-on, in-your-face Cacaravane.  Caca being the French kiddiespeak word for pooh.  Or poop.  Or number 2.  Or whatever you call it in your family.

The Cacaravane

Funnily enough, not many people noticed the turd on the left, or the gremlin-like creature on the right producing an impressive yellow stream.  To me, it was blatantly obvious what this caravan was for!

Speaking of streams, coloured and otherwise, I passed this on the way down to the village.  I’m not sure if someone was practising mixing dyes for the caterpillar or if someone had a leak of coolant from their AC unit.

Green dye. A touch of Paddy’s Day?

Let’s say it was the caterpillar team working on their dye mixes. A coolant leak would be less…. ehhhhh…. coooool.  Anyway, it added to the festive feel of the village, intenionally or otherwise.

On Thursday evening, we had the vernissage (opening) for the LSH’s expo.  He’s part of a shared exhibition in the Galerie des Arts en Luberon.  There are two other artists showing their works as well, Valerie Néron who I’m currently having lessons with (Ha! There’s a surprise! Bet ye didn’t know I’m trying to get back into art again!) and Marie Passarelli.

The three artists all have completely different styles and use completely different media, but their works complement each other really well.

I will talk more about the arty side of the Grand Bouillon 2 in a later post.  Suffice to say, for the moment, that Thursday finished on a high, with almost two hundred people crammed into the gallery for the opening.

Yarn Bombers

Friday.  Friday morning was yarn-bombing time.  I had never done this before, so I was nerdishly excited about it.  A Scottish lady called Keebe was the driving force (and chief knitter) behind the yarn-bombing, so all kudos belong 100% to her.  I’d made fifteen piece of bunting, which I thought was great, until Keebe mentioned casually that her mother had made 150.  I shut up and proceed to sew and hang things on trees as directed, after that…

It looked amazing, I have to say, and it will stay in place for a while yet.  If you’re in the area, stop in the main street for a look.  And give me a shout – I’ll come down to the Café du Cour and have a drink with you!

Aidín and I brought Granny down for a look in the afternoon.

Granny and the Doctor Who scarf I knitted in the early eighties.

I never imagined, all those years ago, that my mad Doctor Who scarf would end its days in a tiny village in the heart of Provence.  Better to go out in a blaze of glory as part of a yarn-bombing scheme than be eaten away to nothing by moths in a dusty drawer somewhere.  If I was a scarf, that’s what I’d want, anyway.

By mid-afternoon, you got the feeling that everything was in place.  The bar was complete.

The BarBouillon

The giant octopus barbecue was ready for action.

This thing cooked a lot of merguez over the weekend!

The Grand Bouillon itself – a giant stew pot, which was used to turn all of those chopped vegetables into a lamb sauce for couscous.

That’s a serious pot

So Friday built up gradually to the grand opening parade.  The giant caterpillar was scheduled to wind its way from the village square, all the way up to St Denis, where the first spectacle would take place.

The Giant Caterpillar ©George Greenlee

The caterpillar was more of an artist’s impression of a caterpillar, rather than something you might have seen at an Olympic closing ceremony.


But the kids had a ball and, frankly, it was a wonderful sight as it danced and drummed its way past us, with the Grand Luberon providing the most magnificent backdrop imaginable.  Something that will be forever etched upon my brain.

Aidín and I were planning to go to the spectacle at St Denis on our own.  The LSH was off taking photos and we felt that Granny wouldn’t manage the walk up the hill to the ancient church, so she had stayed at home.  What we didn’t realise was that, although all the roads were closed, there was a shuttle bus running, so she could have gone… Oh well…

We arrived at St Denis to find a completely different scene to two days before.  There was a large round stage set out between the church and the single remaining wall of the original church, with a bar and grill set up in another corner, serving sausages, wine, beer and water.

Roller-skating Clown ©George Greenlee

There was about an hour’s wait before the spectacle began, so we chatted with our friends, drank the odd glass of wine, the odder glass of water, and ate the odd sausage.

The theme of the show was a cabaret being put on especially for the Faerie King and Queen (there were lots of faeries, dressed in white, who filled various rôles over the weekend, including parking attendant!).

The Faerie King ©George Greenlee

The cabaret was typical French street circus-y stuff – jugglers, a clown on roller skates, acrobats, a unicyclist – but there was quite a bit of spoken French. This wasn’t a problem for me, although to be sure I probably missed a few jokes, but we agreed that Granny would have been quite lost, so maybe it was just as well she missed that one.

Mary and me watching the roller-skating clown. Tears streaming down my face. Choking with laughter. Thanks Aidín for recording this not-at-all-embarrassing moment

After the cabaret, we had music and dancing late into the night.  Only the youngest survived to 2am.  The oldies were in bed some time between midnight and one.

SaturdayWe chose carefully on Saturday – we wanted to do things that Granny could enjoy too.  Aidín suggested the Tibetan bowl meditation at 11 in the morning, so we arrived in a tiny, shaded garden, sat Granny in a chair under an olive tree and settled ourselves on the blankets and cushions that were spread out on the ground.  For the next hour, we lost ourselves in the ringing vibrations of bowls and bells, and the rhythmic chanting of the performer.  It was wonderful.  About halfway through, I started to worry about whether Granny was comfortable/enjoying it/not too hot/needing a drink but then those negative thoughts were carried away into the sky, where swifts and eagles were swooping and diving overhead. (Yes. Really.) And when it was over, Granny said she absolutely loved it.  Good idea, Aidín.

We went home for lunch, with the intention of coming back for a circus-type show at 3pm. Unfortunately, some rain arrived.  It wasn’t torrential, but it was enough to make us want to stay under some sort of shelter.  So we settled ourselves under an umbrella at a bar and, eventually, the rain and time passed by.

There was another spectacle at St Denis that evening.  This time, I asked about a shuttle bus, to be told it wasn’t running that day.  There were no road barriers up , so I thought “What the heck”, got the car, drove Granny up to the top, displayed her handicapped card and parked.  We even brought a chair and some cushions for her and settled ourselves beside her at a prime viewing spot.

This time, the show was just two guys, doing a routine that was part clown, part aerial acrobatics using a giant see-saw.

Slightly crappy iPhone photo but you get the idea…

They are called Toi d’Abord (You First) and they were outstanding.  This YouTube clip (not mine) gives a good flavour of their act. 


Granny loved it – she said she’d never seen anything like it.  I’m so glad we took her up there!

She then stayed at home for the rest of Saturday night – loud modern music is not her thing.  We met up with friends, ate some food and then waited for the music to get going.  The music did indeed get going, but it turned out it wasn’t my thing either, so I left a bit before midnight.

Sunday.  Sunday is Mass day for most Irish Grannies.  Mass was at 11, so we dropped Granny off and then Aidín and I legged it around all of the art exhibitions.  Some of it I liked, some of it was not my taste… that’s art for you.  The regular Sunday market was on, so I did our usual shopping.  Then there was Indian dancing, which was another thing Granny really wanted to see.  The weather had suddenly decided that Hey! It’s summer time! Let’s hit 28C! so it was pretty hot and sticky.  Granny was safely sitting in the shade, with water, but Aidín and I were rather melty sitting on the ground beside the performers.  Who were all very elegant and wonderful.

So colourful! So elegant! ©George Greenlee

A very tired Granny decided to go home and sleep for the remainder of the day, as she was travelling back to Ireland the following day.  The rest of us sat around, talked to friends, and listened to a Breton band, who were the winding-down group.

To be honest, they were more of a winding-people-up group than a winding-down group.  They were very lively and got everyone moving.  Great craic.

(Almost) finally, there was a fantastic parade of exotic insects, who emerged one by one from a dark cocoon.

Some of the insects ©George Greenlee

We followed them around the square and up towards the war memorial, from where the very last event of the Grand Bouillon was launched (literally).

Some more insects ©George Greenlee

Everybody was given the paper programmes, which had been circulating all weekend, and we had to turn them into aeroplanes and throw them all into the air simultaneously.  Nice idea, but it’s a pity the wind wasn’t more favourable.  One of my friends used to be in the aeroplane insurance business.  He was gutted he hadn’t sold a few policies beforehand.

Next time, Glen, next time. You’ll be prepared.

A final word :

Everything about the Grand Bouillon is voluntary.  Sure, the big-name bands, printers of programmes and some other essentials like that have to be paid, but everything else is 100% volunteer based.  Security, parking, construction and deconstruction of facilities, food preparation, workshops, demos, most of the performances.  And those blessed Faeries who danced around all weekend had one other task to do – they gathered money in shrimping nets in order to pay for all those things that could not be voluntary.  And, to be fair to all of the Josef le Savons who attended, nobody was shy about stuffing a note or two into their nets.  

Well played, Reillanne, well played.  Once again you have shown how a tiny village can box way, way above its weight.  

I am so unbelievably lucky to live here.

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