Sunday, July 14, 2013

Castellers Road Trip To Montpellier France

A mere three days after our whirlwind two-week-plus tour of Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands, I was on a corner in Poble Sec waiting to get on a tour bus. The castellers were going on a road trip - to Montpellier, France!

The two buses left Barcelona on Friday afternoon and made the four-hour drive north to Montpellier to participate as representatives of Barcelona at the Uni Cities Festival, which is a sister-city event held there each year. Look at all those blue-shirted castellers!

Montpellier is located in the south of France about 120 miles or so north of the Spanish-French, which is about 100 miles from Barcelona. The sister-city event had representatives from many of the cities but our group was by far the largest. The Louisville (Kentucky, United States) booth:

We did two demonstrations on Saturday with the first at noon in the town's main plaza followed by another at 5pm in the middle of the sister-city event. In between, the sponsors fed us a very nice catered lunch that included all-you-can-drink wine and beer, which, when thinking about it now, may not be the best plan when you're going to be building human towers later in the day, but whatever...Vive la France!!!

After lunch I had about an hour-and-a-half to walk around and check out the center of Montpellier. The historic core is full of medieval-style winding streets but, with a French flavor, of course. There were a bunch of events taking place at the same time as the sister-city one. This one was some sort of 1920's-themed fashion show or something:

I didn't have a map or really any idea where I was headed while wandering around but I ended up coming across this exceptionally cool and beautiful Roman aqueduct. Those Romans were crafty and seemed to have been everywhere!

The group performing just before our 5pm demonstration was a western-style line-dancing group from Montpellier. Even as I write this I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of French people doing the two-step dressed as and imitating cowboys. The castellers were very good sports and probably about 40-or-so joined in during group-participation. Of course, I got pushed in because, as far as I know, I was the sole representative of the U.S. I'll save you the awkward photos of me trying to dance and put this very nice one of a bunch of castellers being adventurous...

The event organizers also had dinner planned for us but we had about two hours to kill before we could eat. The group went out to explore the town and get some adult beverages to celebrate. The group I was with walked around for about an hour until we arrived at this corner where a bunch of castellers were hanging out. What's funny about this photo is the group seated at one of the tables. They could be straight out of 500 years ago!

Getting the chance to visit Montepellier FOR FREE was awesome. The city was fun especially for a quick trip. Every trip that I've taken to France has been great and this one to the south of France was no exception. Montpellier's main plaza at about 10pm on a Saturday night:

The group (approximately 120 people) was able to stay together at what seemed to me to be part of a school located across the street from the beach about 15 minutes outside of Montpellier. We slept five to a room, which was an interesting experience for me as I've never, if you can believe it, stayed at a youth hostel or other communal-style lodging place. It and the small town we stayed in were surprisingly nice. Getting to walk across the street to sit on the beach after breakfast was a great bonus. Palavas les Flots beach scene for my dad. Sorta' looks like Wildwood, doesn't it? Or is it that all beach towns look the same???

But our work wasn't done. We left France about noon on Sunday and headed straight to the small village of Sant Climent de Llobregat, which is not far from the Barcelona airport, for a demonstration at the town's annual cherry festival. There were two other groups of castellers and it lasted about two hours after which the organizers served a light dinner of more sandwiches just like the ones we made in the rest-stop's parking lot earlier in the day. Still, definitely not bad for FREE! The Sant Climent de Llobregat cherry festival:

I was talking to one of the other castellers about the weekend and he, being a fellow engineer, commented that it was cheaper for him to go away for the weekend than it was to stay in Barcelona. I have to agree as I splurged for 6 euros ($8 U.S.) on some fresh-100%-pure-French croissants and a coffee from a bakery near where we stayed. That was it for the entire weekend. Eight dollars. What a great three-day adventure for $8! Who says travel and adventure have to cost a lot???

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