Celebrating in the South of France

Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

In addition to our scheduled tours, we’re happy to put together private customized tours, including just what our guests desire, and in May we had the pleasure of designing a Grand Tour of Provence & the Riviera for a vacation-starved gentleman. On his wish list was the seaside village of Saint Tropez…. and on the day we stopped there for lunch on our way to another town, what a surprise awaited us – the 455th annual Bravade!05161301 heavy rain travel should we or should we not st tropez
What, we ask a passing soldier in historic dress, is the Bravade? St. Tropez’ annual celebration of the town saint, and just the biggest festival of the year! And the parade will soon be passing by, marching along the port and up to the town hall square in the historic center. ???????????????????????????????Well, we had other highlights planned for the day, but our quick lunch stop deserves more time to take this in! So we claim a spot, portside at Le Quai, and bask in the sun a bit before ordering our meal.
Another soldier pulls up on a motorcycle, takes off his helmet, retrieves his drum strapped to the back and heads for the gathering.05161302 arrival by bikeWe’ve learned through the years that a great location often means that less care is taken with the food – the restaurant depends on locale rather than cuisine for their business. Le Quai is a definite exception to the rule, and we’re delighted to enjoy a terrific lunch as, with a rat-a- tat- tat of drums, the parade approaches, jauntily marching by the port on their way to the center. 05161302 marchWe enjoy every fife- and – drum note along with the impressive uniforms from our comfortable white leather lounge chairs – there couldn’t be a better place to take it all in!
Walking up to the town hall square, we join the crowd to  watch the review, and soon find out why the soldiers and town policemen standing on the perimeter all have earplugs stuffed in their ears – those muskets and blunderbusses make a lot of noise –  magnified tenfold off the ancient walls surrounding the square!???????????????????????????????
Things quiet down a bit as the bishop enters to perform his part of the ceremony, circling around the square with a blessing, sprinkling the participants with a branch dipped in water, then all the bells in town begin to peal in celebration of another year… imagine this memorial taking place for 455 years in this same town square…before the USA was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye!
As we’re admiring the handsome uniforms, the guns load up again, so we escape the main square to pay a visit to the saint, whose image has been brought to the door of the church, solemnly watching the celebrations beyond.05161304 escape the thunderous blunderbusses to church and saintWe soon find out, though, that this is not the quiet corner we had hoped for, as the troops come down the narrow lane we’re trapped in, and stop two at a time in front of the church, right beside us, firing their guns to the ground in front of Saint Tropez – help!!!
Plugging our ears, we dart down a passage, breathing a sigh of relief, and walk to the parking garage, passing shops decorated with red and white bouquets and stripes – everyone’s celebrating!???????????????????????????????Goodbye Saint Tropez, thanks for inviting us to the party!

2009 Anne and Kirk ViasThe best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.

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