Having already been to Limoux Carnaval to see the Mardi Gras celebrations I was determined to revisit Limoux before the carnaval ended. We got the opportunity last Sunday when a friend and her two daughters (aged 16 and 6) came to visit.
“It'll be great entertainment for the kids”, I told Caroline, “masked figures process and dance around the square. Hopefully we'll see some Pierrots”
I confess I felt obliged to inform Caroline (a social worker by profession) that it might be a little lewd and not terribly politically correct by British standards. I think I quelled her doubts by droning on about how terribly French it is and how it's harmless fun really. We bundled them back into the car before there could be too many enquiries made as to the nature of the spectacle and on arriving in Limoux installed ourselves at one of the crowded cafés in the Place de la République. The offical start time of 1630 came and went and six-year-old Alice was rapidly getting bored of wearing her sequinned gold cat mask and was beginning to monotonously enquire if we could go home yet. Mum attempted to distract her by taking her to use the café's facilities and returned giggling that the bar was “trashed” inside and there were people of all shapes and sizes putting on their costumes upstairs. Shortly after this the accompanying band ambled across the square and La Sortie (the performance) began with three members of the bande dancing a slow waltz in front of the café.
The bande, Les Arcadiens, on the final day of Limoux carnaval. At last, lots and lots of Pierrots.
The bande slowly danced the fécos towards the next cafe with goudils bringing up the rear. The goudils are an eclectic array of men, women and children who dress up and dance behind the bande. On this occasion the goudils included Michael Jackson (yes, really), a hump-backed old “lady” and an array of “nurses” with large plastic breasts and over-sized hyperdermic syringes which they inserted into the mouths of onlookers. I am guessing, dear reader, that you are beginning to appreciate why I stressed the somewhat unorthodox and rather risqué nature of the spectacle to my friends!
I hadn't appreciated that I was dangerously close to this Pierrot in order to get this picture. The large velvet bag slung over his shoulder is stuffed full of confetti …
Gotcha! Thanks to Imogen for this picture. That is me almost disappearing under a cloud of confetti and having it liberally stuffed down my top. A week later I have managed to extract most of the confetti from my underwear but am still discovering small piles in the corner of rooms and in the car.
Sadly we were not able to stay to see the crémation, the ritual burning of the carnaval king, who appeared to be Don Quixote seated on a rotund wooden horse and his sidekick Sancho Panza astride a cardboard donkey set against a backdrop of windmills. We'll definitely be back next year to witness the torchlight procession for La nuit de la Blanquette – I can't wait but I will make sure I wear a high-necked top and stay out of arms-length of the Pierrots.