Summer is here, les grandes vacances have begun and the foreign number plates in the area have multiplied. And to go with them, a little present from the French government: a drop in the speed limit on secondary roads from 90kph to 80kph. The exceptions are roads with a central reservation and stretches with two lanes on the same side.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says the aim is to prevent 400 deaths on the French roads every year. It’s a moot point whether it will achieve this or not. The move has raised a chorus of protest in France. Some believe that impatient drivers will become even more so and cause just as many accidents. I personally believe that teaching people to drive better wouldn’t go amiss, but that might just be an unattainable ideal.
So, if you are driving in France this summer, beware. The new limits came in on Sunday 1st July. No doubt the police will be lenient during the transition period. At least, I hope so. Driving to Villefranche-de-Rouergue today, I suddenly realised that I was merrily rolling along at 90, having forgotten all about the change. It was only when I approached the speed trap that I woke up. Mind you, that radar is usually out of action, having been successively covered in paint, gaffer tape, manure and old tractor tyres.
Summer also brings new life to our area. The number of market stalls burgeons and the variety of products increases. Colourful stalls pop up like mushrooms, selling olives and spices, brightly-coloured fabrics, hand-woven baskets and edible-looking soaps. The regular market stalls, too, carry a wider range, with tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and even colours, aubergines sheened like a starling’s wing, jolly red and yellow peppers and luscious peaches and nectarines.
The weather has obligingly followed suit with a seamless transition from early spring chill to summer heat about a fortnight ago. This is just as well, since many events are held outdoors and it’s not always possible to fall back on a Plan B.
Fêtes and festivities
This has meant that the inauguration of the newly-restored lavoir (wash-house) in our village could be held without the audience having to huddle underneath it. Although not built as a market hall, it now houses some of the stalls on a Saturday. Speeches from the president of the association, monsieur le Maire, la député (Member of Parliament) and the departmental representative were followed by an apéritif and some very tasty eats. The French are good at that.
The weather gods smiled on us the following weekend, too. Around 40 people attended an auberge espagnole (everyone brings a dish) to celebrate the lavoir’s new lease of life.
Even more important, since it’s held under the trees, the weather was perfect for our annual fête at Teysseroles, the 15th-century chapel we are helping to restore. Although the restoration work continues at a snail’s pace, much to my frustration, the journée festive is always a convivial event. Around 160 people came and consumed local specialities prepared by a traiteur (caterer), including magret de canard and pastis (a local apple pastry). I hope that next year we’ll have more progress to show them.
I wish you all a bon été and I’ll be back soon with more aperçus of French life.
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