14 July, France – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’

Had a fairly uneventful Sunday travelling from Nantes to Quimper. I’ve seen Christmas Days in Britain more lively than Sundays in Brittany. The only thing open in Quimper seemed to be creperies, which were doing a roaring trade with bored tourists.

Today was Bastille Day, when the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille in Paris, which led to years of anarchy, cutting people’s heads off and general revolutionary fun and games. And fun and games was what we were seeking as we made our way to Mahalon, a small village that likes to mark Bastille Day with its ‘Festival of the Unusual’.

First we met the mayor of Mahalon, who explained that the locals don’t like all the military pageantry that often goes with marking France’s national holiday (our French ‘fixer’ Remy said this is because many people from Brittany don’t consider the region part of France, much like some Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish people have an issue with the concept of Britain). They decided that their celebrations were going to involve some gentle mickey taking of French stereotypes, so they organised beret throwing, crepe hurling and the racing of beds painted in the colours of the tricolour.

It was the beds we were most interested in. Two runners push a third team member sitting on one down a hill, where they have to negotiate a tight corner and then head up a slope past the church back to the starting line. The whole course can be run in under 2 mins, and rather ominously we were issued with helmets and knee pads and told to hold on tight. Michelle and I competed against each other as the first race of the day, nervously clutching on to the sides of our iron bedsteads as some helpful French volunteers positioned themselves behind. We needn’t have worried too much, it was all fairly controlled, although the beds are quite hard to steer and we crashed into a few hays bales along the way – Michelle more than me, which led to me being crowned the victor.

Rounded off the day with some of the other French events, as the over excited MC very sweetly reminded everyone what an honour it was to have “Le BBC” in their village. As a thank you for taking part we were all invited for a free dinner in a large marquee stuffed full of villagers on benches at trestle tables and “treated” to some traditional Brittany folk music (sounds a bit like a snake charmer has gate crashed a guitar band that has already been gate crashed by someone playing the clarinet). Nice cake though.

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