Continued from page 1
After DIY you might fancy a day at races. The legendary courses are mostly around Paris but elsewhere you will probably not be far from a hippodrome and a great day out. The French love racing; it’s for all family. Often, small rural courses overlook a beautiful chateau or run alongside a picturesque river, even though racing will probably take place on only two or three occasions each year, always on a Sunday or public holiday.
The action begins around midday for those who book a trestle table meal. Later arrivals bring picnic tables, chairs and boxes or baskets full of their own goodies and head for shade of trees. Those arriving just before first race, usually about 2.30pm, go straight to temporary bar for a liquid lunch and then search out whatever shade is left in quaint little stand.
Placing a bet is easy. You don’t have to be rich either. There are no bookies and minimum amount is 2 euros. You place your bet with pari mutual (like English tote), where a temporary screen shows you how odds are changing.
“Le cinq, deux euros gagnant, s’il vous plait”, will have you betting two euros on horse number five to win. For some reason, horse number one is l’as. I have problems saying this, consequently I never bet on this horse, even if it’s a dead cert!
It’s just as easy to bet that your horse will not win- but it must be placed -hence “place” instead of “gagnant” If you are a really serious punter then there are more complicated, costly and potentially lucrative bets to make. In any event, don’t be surprised to find a horse owned by Sheik Mohammed or even Aga Khan running alongside horses from local trainer.
After such a busy day you may be tempted by local thé dansant, (tea dance) or danse de diner, (dinner dance) at salle des fetes, (village hall). If waltz or foxtrot is beyond your capabilities then don’t worry. The French do a wonderful dance most of time, to apparently same or similar tune, which goes something like this: hold your partner as you would to a waltz, shuffle a bit to right, then shuffle to left. Turn your partner around, shuffle some more in any direction you wish, then repeat same , or different shuffles again. It’s a bit like dog-gem cars on dance floor but everyone attempts to look professional and avoid doing each other a serious injury. What’s more they thoroughly enjoy themselves.
You may also find that your local bar owner employs a live band from time to time for your entertainment. What luck for us to find a nostalgia group had been booked to appear in town. It’s great to hear sounds of sixties again even if it’s sung with a French accent. The bar was packed; feet were tapping and everyone was having a great time until suddenly tables and chairs in front of group were pushed to one side by intruders to provide a makeshift dance floor. The golden skinned medallion men strutted flamboyantly as they were joined by their mini skirted “mrs” who shook and shimmied in front of bemused young musicians and disbelieving audience. “Mon Dieu” cried someone, “Is this Costa del Sol?”
“Quick”, shouted someone else, “grab your coats, if we hurry, we’ll just be in time for last shuffle at salle des fete!”
Someone please prevent us from doing British things TO France.
Copyright 2005 B A Boyle. May be freely reproduced "as-is" for private and commercial use.
BA Boyle writes on PFS France (http://www.propertyforsalefrance.co.uk/) a website that helps French property owners advertise and sell, and potential buyers find, some of the finest and best cared for traditional French properties available.