The annual spectacle of the féria at Villeneuve-lès-Béziers, this year had three visitors from Wrington - John
Adams and John and Val Urquhart. John Adams wrote this report, illustrated with his photographs.
Subsequent photographs came from Yves Blérard Léglise.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In the third week of July John and Val Urquhart and myself, on holiday in different parts of the Languedoc, met
to spend some time at the annual féria at Villeneuve- a three-day fair with its origins in rural traditions of the
Midi. Although we missed the opening fireworks on the first evening we received a warm reception from
members of the twinning committee on the Saturday and were invited to join 50 or so Villeneuvois for an open
air lunch of delicious seafood on the banks of the Canal du Midi, hosted by the Société des Gardiens
Provençaux, to the accompaniment of live 'musique gitane'.
This had been preceded by a number of abrivados - events that demonstrate the equestrian skills of the
gardiens as they worked with a herd of semi-wild white horses from the Camargue in the open spaces beside
the Canal. We then went on to watch an intensely serious (at least for the participants) boules competition
where, under the shade of a plane tree, our hosts explained the more advanced strategies of pétanque.
We returned to the village centre to watch the spectacular final abrivado where young bulls are run through
the village streets, herded by the members of the Gardians on horseback, with several young men from the
village (rattrapeurs) giving chase in ritual (and largely unsuccessful) attempts to engage with the bull.
Now this isn't Pamplona since there is no bullfight at the end of the day but the tradition of these abrivados
has the same origin, which lies in the annual journey to bring the bulls to the central arena from the pastures
outside the town.
As the heat of the day gave way to the cooler evening, the village came alive again with the bodegas - open-
air parties at different sites in and around the centre of the village, each organised by a different club with live
music, stalls of local crafts and produce, and food ranging from small snacks to a full supper. The atmosphere
of each differs, ranging from restrained to raucous, but there is a strict injunction in the official programme that
activities should draw to a close no later than 2.00 a.m!
Click thumbnail to enlarge
Now for the crunch … the twinning group at Villeneuve is very keen for Wrington to create its own bodega at
next year's féria. This could include the display and sale of village crafts and regional produce, cooking an
open-air meal, and possibly music to accompany the meal and dancing afterwards …
I will co-ordinate this in the first instance so let me know as soon as possible if you are interested. The date
of the 2012 féria is 6-8 July.
This was a highly enjoyable short visit which nevertheless gave a real sense of developing friendships.
Everybody in Wrington has an open invitation from the Mayor and twinning committee of Villeneuve to visit at
any time, with special encouragement to come to celebratory events (see Villeneuve calendar).