The thing that strikes you most about the Gard is the amazing mix of social activities, it could almost be described as a complex mix, such is the variety on offer. Not so long after our sublime evening of wine, food and jazz whilst watching the sun set over the vineyards, a few of us took ourselves off to a Course Camarguaise event in the Arènes in Nimes.
The Course Camarguaise is a summer pastime between a bull and a team of men dressed in white and is practised around the Nimes and Arles regions, those being close to the locations of the true Camargue people. There are local leagues amongst many of the small towns which ultimately end up in the Finale in one of the larger arenas.
The objective is for a team, to remove ribbons (ficelles) that are attached to the bull’s horns. The team consists of the tourneurs (those who attract the bull’s attention) and the raseteurs (those who remove the ribbons). The Manadier is also an important part of the event as he is the one who breeds and rears the bulls for this purpose.
It is taken very seriously as much pride rests on the performance of the bull and the outcome of the event. It is important to add that the bulls are unhurt.
I was sitting next to a couple of aficionados who filled me in on the finer details and also recognised some of the bulls from previous events (some bulls become so well known that the trophies are named after them). It was a slightly bizarre event but one that you wouldn’t experience in any other region and for that reason I was glad that I had gone there. The drama of the bull chasing the men out of the ring and the colours and spectacle turned the Arena into a truly amazing theatre and you felt that you could really absorb one of the ancient cultures of the region.
Sitting here on a sunny October afternoon, I can reflect on the rich experiences we’ve had here – and look forward to many more to come – in particular the “LA FIESTA DES VEDEMIAN ” this coming Sunday, where the lovely village of Valflaunès at the foot of the Pic Saint Loup transforms its streets for the day into a huge festival of wine tasting from the fabulous Pic Saint Loup domaines. Life can be very tough sometimes…