Fait accompli!

The Saint Vincent 2005 is offically over. The decorations are still up, but on my walk this morning I witnessed the porta-potties being picked up, as well as the wealth of empty wine bottles strewn here and there.

It’s still too early for the official word on whether it was considered a success or not in terms of attendance, arrests, and the like. However, I do know that Franck and I crashed into bed last night very contented with our Saint Vincent weekend.

It started Friday night in frigid -10 temperatures and a brisk glacial wind curtesy of our friends the Russians up North. Earlier that week we had been given boxes of crepe paper flowers made by Franck’s great grandmother and his aunt in Volnay, but come Friday we still hadn’t got around to decorating our house yet, and the girls were giving us serious grief about it.

So as soon as we got home from picking the girls up at school Friday evening we set to work bedecking our nut tree out front with blossoms. The girls’ enthusiasm waned after about ten minutes in the freezing cold. At that point they declared that they were going inside and would watch us work from the window. After about fifteen minutes Franck and I still had two full boxes of flowers to go. It was getting dark and I could no longer feel my fingers. We eventually had to turn the headlights of the car on for light, and by the end we were just sticking them on any which way – esthetic considerations be damned!

But when we got up Saturday morning our decorations didn’t look nearly as half-hazard as they should have. We bolted breakfast, bundled up, and went in to the centre of the village in time to greet the cortege of Saint Vincent statues coming from Magny-les-Villers. Each village has their own wooden statue of Saint Vincent, and some of them are very, very old. Of course, everyone thinks that their villages’ statue is undeniably the most beautiful.

At first we thought we had missed the parade. But then the thin sound of an accordian wafted through the air, and we started walking towards Magny.

I had heard rumblings over the past few months that while many villagers were delighted to be hosting the Festival, we were still a long way from unanimity. Not only were there the usual concerns about noise and traffic, but the event also highlighted the feuds between the village winemakers, some of which date back not decades but generations. The upshot of this was that only about half of the ten or so big winemaking families were taking part in the festival and offering tastings. The other ones were firmly entrenched in the anti-festival camp.

So when I walked past the house of one of the rebel winemakers in question, I wasn’t suprised to see him standing on his porch with his hands on his hips, giving the oncoming delegation from Magny the hairy eyeball.

However, I was surprised to have him whip by us seconds later in his huge, expensive car and head straight for the Magny delegation at about 100 km an hour. I held my breath until at the statue of the Virgin Mary, just metres from the cortege, he braked suddenly and turned right onto a small path between the fields. Perhaps he had been swayed by the wildly gesticulating yellow-vested volunteer, or perhaps it was another miracle to chock up for notre Marie. Or, more likely, he had simply made his point.

When we finally met up with the Magny group nobody seemed phased by the incident; there was so much singling, accordian music, and general frivoloity going on that I rather doubted anyone really even noticed.

With Charlotte on one side of me and Camille on the other, we joined in the parade. The girls stared at the musicians and Saint Vincent statues and costumed participants (dressed up as old fashioned vignerons and vigneronnes) with wide eyes, and took the whole being part of the procession thing very seriously.

After our arrival in Villers the saints were all carried to the village church, where there was a special mass. By this point we were all starting to lose essential body parts to numbness so we decided to go home and prepare lunch.

We had invited our Canadian friends Heather and Bruce from Dijon, and our French friends Isabelle and Martial from Ladoix-Serrigny. We had opted for a raclette , melted cheese with charcuterie and boiled potatoes. Perfect calorie-loading to prepare ourselves for an afternoon winetasting in sub-zero temperatures.

In the end we had such a grand time a table, as the french say, that we didn’t get around to walking up to buy our degustation packs (each including a winetasting cup and tickets for ten tastings) until around 4:00. It was only at that point we realized that the caves and winetasting shut down at 5:30. Whoops.

But when we ventured out to hop on the free bus to Magny-les-Villers, we realized that maybe staying for so long at the table had actually been a very wise idea indeed. It was freezing out, with a brisk wind that seemed to blow in straight from the plains of Siberia. We rushed to the Cornu’s cave in Magny, and began tasting like crazy. The cold was great for the granitic whites of the Hautes-Cotes, but the reds were definitely too cold. We ambled on to the other cave in the village, where there was a loud gregarious crowd. Soon we found out why. The ticket taking at this cave was negligent at best, so basically you could drink as much as you pleased for free – something which many of the people there had obviously taken to heart.

We warmed up with an aperitif at my sister-in-law’s house in Magny, and then headed home, all unanimous that the amount of winasting we had done was just about right. That night, Heather had made a reservation for us at Le Charlemagne, the incredible Japanese-Burgundian fusion restaurant in Pernand-Vergelesses. A meal here is always a highly special event, and the food was amazing, as usual. I think the highlights for me this time were the tube of foie gras on a gingerbread cracker with a celery jam. Well…and then of course the dessert (no surpise there) – a pyramid of chocolate and coconut with sugared red beans that was out of this world.

The Sunday Franck and the girls and I took one of the free buses to check out the decorations in the neighbouring villages, which were truly amazing. Every village was bursting with coloured crepe flowers, some of them looking so real that you really had to look twice to convince yourself that they were not. There was also a good dash of whimsy everywhere you looked; fields of corn with crepe cornflowers and poppies, huge painted butterflies, and even a sandy “beach” area complete with a lawn lounge and beach ball.

After that we had everyone we could think of in for waffles and cider in the afternoon. There was a bit of a panic getting enough waffle batter ready, but Franck put his friends Martial and Jean-Yves to work.

At one point I walked into the kitchen to get another bottle of cider and through the smoke I could see Franck poking at the waffles heating in the oven while shouting out to Jean-Yves how much flour he needed to add to the batch of batter that Franck had him making. Martial, meanwhile, had donned my green and white striped apron and was going for broke with not one, but two waffle makers. When I had the gall to question whether it was cider or calvados that they all had in full glasses beside their makeshift work stations, I was chased out of the kitchen with shouts of “the men are at work!” and “no women allowed – it spoils the batter!”

But the waffles were delicious, and we spent a great afternoon catching up with friends and eating waffles in front of the fireplace. I would say a good Saint Vincent was had by all.