Due South

There are still a few little jewels the French keep for themselves. in the small town of Sète, which looks remarkably like a rather raffish Venice, it was the Feast of Saint Louis the Something, the French King who got a passport to Paradise by going to the Crusades. These days his Feast Day is celebrated by the locals having too much to drink and engaging in what can only be described as jousting with gondolas. A team of galley slaves rows two boats towards each other, and in the stern of each boat is a solidly built gentleman carrying a shield and a kind of extended billiard cue. As the boats pass, they attempt to poke each other’s shields and push the other guy into the water. Points are awarded for either a fair topple into the water, and deducted by unsportsmanlike behaviour with one’s cue, or baton, perhaps aiming it at the other guy’s crotch – a favourite gambit which sometimes seemed to escape the referees on the bank. The Victor Ludorum wins prizes, it seems, of women and beer.

A quiet dinner in Collioure. Castles, churches and, yes, windmills. You can just see one on the hill in the foreground.

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