Friday, October 27, 2017

GR653 Day 25: Gallargues-le-Montaux - Saint-Géniès-de-la-Mourgues

From Gallargues-le-Montaux to Saint-Géniès-de-la-Mourgues, via Villetelle, Saturargues, and Vérargues... and tomorrow morning I'll be going through Vendargues... the place names around here are so tricky I hope I never need to ask for directions, or explain to people where I've just come from or where I'm going to... otherwise I have to consult my map again before I can answer them! This is a new stretch of trail, a change made to the Grand Randonnée 653 where it used to go along beside the motorway for a long way. A lot of people used to skip this section for that reason, but the new route meanders between sleepy little villages, through vineyards and garrigue, past the Vidourle river and along the banks of a canal. It is one of the pleasantest legs of all so far!

No-one seems to agree on the distance to St Jacques... here it appears to have gone up a hundred km over the previous sign!

It was only lunch time when I arrived at Saint-Christol so I decided to continue on to Saint-Geniès and take a room in a bed and breakfast there. 

Gallargues-le-Montaux - Saint-Géniès-de-la-Mourgues 24.5 km

What all the little villages have in common is tauromachie... Jeux taurines. There are no bullfights in France, but a variety of other bull-related sports, primarily the one in which contestants have to get a ribbon that is attached between the bull's horns without getting themselves gored.
If I had arrived in Gallargues a day later, I would have been there for something like the running of the bulls.

All the warnings signs and barriers were up ready for the event. In Villetelle, the entrances to the houses are all marked with strange symbols. I guess they have something to do with tauromachy as well. They made me feel like I was in a really foreign place. Might they have an identifying function, something like the colours and symbols of the contrade in Siena, or the house poles in Haida Gwaii? 

... Mystery revealed! I asked my hostess (who is Danish, originally) at breakfast. She said that in every town there is an association of young people that organises the town's week-long festival and games (all centring around the bull) and they go from house to house asking for donations. If you contribute, you get the symbol of the year's festival spray-painted on your wall! 

There are some of these in Saint-Geniès too.

The houses are surrounded by walls, so that you cannot see into the garden, as in Islamic countries. Many architectural details suggest Spanish and even Moorish influences. Added to the strange symbols, they make me feel I have surely come a long way from home! 

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