Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A concert

I'm just back from my first day at the office after my wonderful trip to France. I usually don't come home this early - it's only lunchtime - but I have a painter in who's putting a new protective coating on the window frames. This operation was scheduled for last March, but most of the time we didn't have three or four consecutive days of dry weather and the job was postponed every week. I don't really need to be here to 'supervise' the work, but I don't want the apartment unoccupied with all the windows wide open. It's not so much burglars that I fear. No, it’s the weather, which is very unstable. A thunder or rainstorm can be lurking just around the corner, and I don’t want to come home to a flooded apartment. Anyway, here I am with ample time to continue my Loire Valley trip report. So back to our first day in Amboise …

Vera and Mats walking up the street leading to Amboise castle.

The reason for the road to Amboise castle being closed became clear as soon as we turned the corner of the street. On the small square a band stand had been set up and a large crowd had gathered around it. Sunday was the last day of the International Brass Band Festival. This event takes place every year. I’ve assisted to this last day performance of the winning band three times. As far as I can remember it was always on the first weekend of June. The competition starts on Friday evening with a concert in the town’s community hall. It continues on Saturday. When all the bands have performed, the evening ends with the proclamation of the winning band. On Sunday morning all bands randomly walk around town, stopping at the local hospital and by side walk terraces where they give a short concert.

The percussion section of the brass band. The rest of the band is sitting to the left on a lower level. The crowd was blocking the view.

The winning band enjoys the privilege of giving a concert at the foot of Amboise castle. By the time we arrived the performance was well on its way and the crowd standing around the band stand was three rows thick in some places. I walked over to our favourite bar: Le Café du Château, but all the seats on the terrace were taken. Then I noticed a new bar two houses up the road. The last time I was in Amboise this place used to be a souvenir shop. Now it was an attractive modern establishment with a very inviting terrace. We found an empty table and ordered beer and coffee.

The sidewalk terraces facing the band stand.

We stayed for well over half an hour, during which the band performed four more numbers, all different in style and rhythm. It was fantastic. They finished with the exhilarating and ever popular ‘French Cancan’. The audience, including us, got really carried away and enthusiastically started clapping hands to the beat of the percussion session. I even saw some people actually jumping up and down to the rhythm of the music. The music stopped with an impressive and breathtaking percussion solo by the two kettle drum players, making the audience burst into a loud applause and calls for an ‘encore’. The musicians, who were clearly having fun, obliged willingly and replayed the last part of the ‘French Cancan’ and the powerful kettle drum solo. The crowd went wild …

I couldn’t have wished for a better welcome to France for my Swedish friends. After the music had died down, we decided it was time to have lunch. I had booked a table at the Lion d’Or for 1 p.m. and it was almost that. It was only a short walk to the restaurant and when we got there, well before the said time, we found the place really full and a sign ‘restaurant complet’ (restaurant full) pinned on the door. The door was open though. On our way in, we crossed a party of five on their way out, looking very disappointed. They hadn’t taken the trouble of booking a table and had just been told by one of the waitresses that they were sorry not to be able to accommodate them. After all, this was mother’s day in France and many families were taking this opportunity to celebrate the occasion with a nice lunch.

I congratulated myself for having the perceptiveness of booking a table from Brussels last week. The young lady at reception showed us into the traditional yet freshly and tastefully decorated dining room. We were given a nice and quiet table in a corner and sat down in anticipation of our first lunch in France.

Tomorrow will be a restaurant post; you'd better prepare yourself to see some mouth watering photos!


Carolyn said...

Wouldn't it be great if every time a visitor came to a new place there'd be lively welcoming music? Kind of to say, "We're glad you're here; enjoy yourselves."

Amboise welcomed you with the Cancan. Paris could play something from Edith Piaf. Cherbourg could play that sappy theme from Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Lots of places probably have a song with local associations. The welcome centers at the border of Georgia (US) play Ray Charles, Georgia on my mind.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Looking forward to the food photos...

The Broad said...

Amboise is such a lovely town, which I hope to visit again some day. You could not have chosen a better time or place for your friends -- it sounds so perfect and welcoming. Well done, reserving a table -- always a good idea when you can in France.

Louise said...

Martine, your wonderful descriptions are so graphic I could almost hear the music! Many thanks, Louise

ladybird said...

Carolyn, Excellent idea, because there is nothing like music to put you in the mood.

Ken, Coming up! Bon appétit :)

Kathie, Amboise is my favourite town in the Loire Valley. It's lively and quiet at the same time. As for the table, French restaurants are always very busy on Mother's and/or Father's day.

Louise, I wish I could have added a sound tape of the performance for my readers to enjoy.