Posts Tagged ‘rural france’

The wedding crashers

August 23, 2010

Getting hitched

The question among pilgrims is, Did Jesus really come to Paray Le Monial? Each year, that questions draws a hundred thousand pilgrims to the quaint Bourgogne town.

Arriving on the 10am train, I was tackling a more pressing question: “If Jesus indeed did come, how did he manage to leave?”

I was due at a wedding in four hours time in the nearby village of Anzy le Duc but was stuck in Paray having exhausted public transport options for the last 20km.

Perhaps Jesus hired a bicycle. I asked the tourist information desk but all they could tell me was that the only bike left to hire was a novelty one that would require 4 people to ride it. No wonder Jesus liked to travel with disciples.

I instead headed to the southern outbound road to try my luck thumbing a ride. If I was lucky, Cam and Clem wouldn’t be the only ones getting hitched today.

A man in an electric wheelchair seemed a promising first lead. He had good pace and was heading in the right direction. I estimated he could probably make the journey in about 2 hours assuming we had a good tail wind and I didn’t have to push him up any hills. But he got away from me on the straight as I waited at a pedestrian crossing.

An electrician picked me up soon enough and in the cabin of his truck we small-talked about our lives in Paris. “It’s such a youthful and cultural city,” I said. “So many accessible museums, and very social too.”

He looked at me sceptically then told me he worked long hours on the road putting power line cables underground. Only later did I twig that while I’d been crapping on about Paris, he’d been talking about ‘Paray’.

Anzy is usually a town of 509 people (2006 census), but this week its population had swelled by 30%. This was mainly due to the wedding, but probably also to the rodeo and flea market that were taking place around the same time.

More than 50 odd Australians had made a special journey to the bride’s home town in preparation for the celebrations. I say “odd” because in the eyes of the Frenchthese visitors brought with them such strange customs as drinking large amounts of beer from midday, and falling asleep in their crops at night.

Australians in rural France: Germans of the 21st century?

But on the wedding day, Saturday, not even the bar’s cheap prices could retain the Australians for long. After just one quick pot we headed across the driveway to the church for the service.

The priest stepped outside the rustic 11th century Roman church to greet us; though looking at his perfectly trimmed moustache he might just as easily have stepped out from a barbershop quartet, or even a Freddie Mercury tribute band.

The parallel was not without merit: he loved to sing, and during the ceremony, if not a word was spoken, it was because he was too busy singing everything. Friends must rarely have heard Cam’s name uttered so melodically, let alone with all three syllables in tact, “Cam-er-on”.

The priest’s modus opera-ndi of service ensured the ceremony continued with levity if perhaps not brevity. After 1.5 hours, the guests poured out in the sun blinking and, catching the bartenders by surprise, also poured their own beers, from the exotic beer kegs neatly arranged on a trestle table.

I see a little silhouetto of a man Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango

With all guests mingling it was time to play ‘spot the Aussie’. Not too hard, truth be told – they were the only ones wearing Ray Bans and drinking beer. They were also the only ones who mistook the foie gras for crème caramel, which one aptly described as, “like biting into Nutella and getting Vegemite!”

French guests meanwhile could be spotted for their beige-coloured clothing, and blanching expressions upon seeing the kegs of beer.

Skip forward a few hours and the reception was in full swing. I say “Swing,” because that’s the way the older generations were dancing.

On the decks – or at least on a raised stage – DJ Butt was presiding over the music. More used to playing the Big Day Out, on this occasion she had gladly substituted the Boiler Room for a room full of Boyles – that being the name of the groom in question.

As the night wore on, French cougars started circling poor innocent Australian men, who in turn formed their own circle and started doing the worm. The inevitable wedding breakdance competition had begun.

Bona fide Australian

Prize Australian meat for cougars

With the kegs eventually depleted of beer and the last of the stashed vodka bottles emptied, the dregs of the wedding started on their own pilgrimage back to the dorms.

And I say “pilgrimage” here on purpose too, for it should be noted that the Australians were more than mindful of the sanctity of the region they were visiting. For this reason more than one stopped by at the bathroom for a quick porcelain ‘pray’ before hitting either the hay or their bed, whichever they saw first.


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