It's Market Day in Le Puy and the main streets of the old city are crowded with people--not only local people but hundreds of tourists who have come to visit the historic city. The early morning fog did not deter anyone. If anything, it made the climb up to the city more mystical, more intriguing, more intentional. The coolness of the air is especially refreshing after so many hot days.
The sights here are colorful in a setting of cobblestone streets and gray plastered buildings with painted wooden shutters. People mill about the countless stands of vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats, sausages, seafoods, honey, liquors, nuts, clothes, soaps, jewelry, antiques, food trucks and roasted chickens. Everything you'd ever want is here. The smell of the cheese stinks, but the lines are long so it must be good. Some things are strange delicacies. And the familiar hot dogs, hamburgers and ribs are missing, but pinch me, this is France!
quail all set for Babette's feast
their eggs (I think)
green lentils of Le Puy
(a.k.a. French lentils)
distinguishing a product stand with a funny hat
the spice of life in France
As with American farm markets, people are happy and curious. Even children are engaged. Those who want to walk their dogs frequently end up carrying them, at least the small ones, to avoid getting them hurt by the crush of the crowd.
Then there are those who advertise something or another. This morning some very strange-looking, almost medieval-like animators were attracting crowds.
I'd love to see whatever entertainment they offer. It's got to be good.
International Folk Festival -- July 17-23
|Malaysian Band marches down street to find a place to perform|
|Spanish dancers from Extremadura use their castanets to the approval of the woman in the back|
|Macedonian band plays romp pah pah|
|Malaysians provide a dramatic drum and "tambourine" performance|
|shy boy clings to his mother as they pose with Serbian dancers|
People aren't afraid of the street nor do they shun or condemn it. I'm sure they don't think about it, but they seem to celebrate the street and use it as a gathering place whether they have business to attend to or not. They certainly guard this kind of life. For example, on November 13, 2015 when gunmen and suicide bombers almost simultaneously hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars in Paris and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded, a French friend of mine said he and his countrymen were not about to give up on their way of life (meaning life on the street) no matter what.
In the USA we've largely gotten away from this sensibility and retreated instead to our cars and secured our houses. People who "live on the street" are seen as poor people, and loitering is not allowed. Even so, I think one reason why Americans enjoy places like Europe so much is that they encounter an open-air celebration of life that the Italians call "la dolce di non fare niente" (the sweetness of just doing nothing).
Dr. Colleen Long was featured in a September 2014 article in Psychology Today talking about "la dolce di non fare niente." She says:
"The idea that “doing nothing,” is actually an event in and of itself. The idea that we no longer run on a treadmill of activity from getting the kids ready for school, to brushing our teeth, to conference calls, to picking up kids, fixing dinner, and bed- only to start over again. The idea that our actions day to day become influenced by our instincts and no longer by routines, shoulds, and musts."It's the Puritan ethic of hard work and avoidance of idleness that gets to us, she says, even though we yearn for a little relaxation.
The kind of relaxation we are looking for, we all yearn for--does not exist on the side of a volcano, in a rare flower, or on a desolate island far away. That kind of relaxation exists within each of us and is ours for the taking if we’re willing to put in the effort.La dolce di non fare niente is something we can aspire to in our daily lives. And maybe we could get a little push toward it if we made the street a little more attractive and a little more lively.