|Transhumance in Saint-Justin
||[Sep. 22nd, 2015|06:48 pm]
What could have been an agreeable but very bitty day, a day in transit, given focus by serendipity:
We made a leisurely departure from Bordeaux, breakfasting in our little nest at the Victoria Garden, dithering about how to spend the time before we were due at our next destination. Should we explore Bordeaux a little further, maybe the wine merchants' quartier? No, maybe next time. Well, should we detour to Arcachon, and see the seabirds that gather there? But after two glorious days it was raining; besides, time was passing, so maybe not a detour of that length! Eventually we settled on a visit to a supermarket on the ring road to buy fuel and a road atlas, then down the motorway up to a point to be decided, then on the minor roads to our destination, stopping to explore a small town or so.
We would have stopped in Roquefort (as far as I can discover, this isn't that Roquefort, but another town of the same name), but couldn't find anywhere to park. Villeneuve de Marsan seemed promising, and the nice lady at the tourist office (the oldest building in town, and probably the most interesting) gave us a leaflet with a suggested walk. But she was also able to explain a sign we had seen, announcing that the transhumance would pass through the neighbouring village of Saint-Justin this afternoon.
Transhumance we knew: it's the practice of taking the livestock up to the high pastures for the summer months. It seems that there are a pair of shepherds, father and son, who have turned this into an event - La Route de la transhumance: une aventure humaine - visiting a sequence of villages throughout the region where their arrival would be celebrated, mostly in the traditional French way, with a communal meal. We have other plans for this evening, but at least we could watch the arrival of the sheep. So we took the winding country road to Saint-Justin, a drive which would have been worthwhile for its own sake, and then we waited - and waited. This was exactly the kind of bastide town I'd been hoping to visit, so I was happy wandering around with my camera, snooping down alleyways and trying to get entire buildings into shot, watching the group of men who had decided that if the square was standing empty in expectation, then they'd have a game of boules...
And then there was the sound of bells, and the flock flooded in:
By the time we had taken all the pictures we could possibly want, it was beginning to rain again, and we dashed for the car and another scenic drive through Armagnac country to the Relais du Bastidou, where we have a date with our friend Helen Savage.