Boating with Bulls, Swinging on the Square and Boules A-blasting…

Seasoned equestrians escort bulls from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to Lac Barreau during the Fête Votive.

There’s no rest for Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in late September. The town hums with a variety of events to delight both town and country types, little shavers to seniors.

Bulls huddle together for a swim across Lac Barreau through a gauntlet of small crafts and rafts.

While most of les taureaux are relaxing after an active summer, many are still stomping and charging–and swimming–during the Fête Votive. The bulls trot along a highway from St. Rémy to a nearby lake where they swim across an inlet, hemmed in by colorful rubber rafts and pint-sized boats, to the cheers of hundreds of exuberant onlookers.

A motorcycle is this tyke’s choice for his spin around the Magic-Land “racetrack” during in the center of Saint-Rémy.

Around L’Église Saint-Martin, the party continues throughout the afternoon and into the night with carnival rides, games and cotton candy for the kids.

Les Mélomanes muscial group belts out crowd-pleasers from Nick Waterhouse and Leon Bridges’ “She Give Me Katchi All Night Long” to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”

Around 10 PM, adults gravitate to the historic center for a Las Vegas-style revue, featuring flamboyant dancers outfitted in dramatic costumes. This year the dynamic musical group, Les Mélomanes, wowed the swinging revelers well past minuit.

Saint-Rémy rocks during the Fête Votive.

A short sleep later—at precisely 9 AM—a shot rings out to announce the grilled “lunch,” is ready to be served from portable BBQs positioned along the péripherique near the main square, Place de la République. After the cowboys have enjoyed a substantial morning meal, they are back in the saddle, accompanying bulls around town. Onlookers are well-advised to seek cover.

Villagers and visitors gather for a grilled “lunch” for breakfast.
Dangerous-Bull-Zone warning signs are hard to miss in Saint-Rémy.
Wherever the bull goeth, so goeth the sanitation convoy.
Dedicated boules players perfect their technique before the tournament begins.

That afternoon, at a former bull ring, boules replace bulls. There, pétanques players gather to square off, in teams of pairs or triplets. Before dispensing their boules–much like golf pros–players often examine the terrain or squat to size up their preferred trajectory. Then comes an easy roll of the heavy metal boule, a forceful toss or a gentle arc, executed with grace and precision. Occasionally, the boule smashes into an opponent’s ball, blasting it out of the “ballpark”–much like a homerun, French-style.

When the week-long pétanques tournament comes to an end, Saint-Rémy may say au revoir to summer and its shimmering heat–but not with regret. Autumn promises invigorating crisp days and rejuvenating rainfall, not to mention, stark blue skies.  And the olive harvest…






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