Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Although I've never had an opportunity of witnessing the start of the Sydney/Hobart yacht race or the Melbourne Cup or Sydney's Royal Easter Show, I'm aware that major annual events of this nature divide up the year and punctuate life in Australia like mileposts in time. Here in France, Bastille Day and the Tour de France (which coincide in fact) play a similar role.

In the next few days, two major events will be taking place in the region where I live. One is the biennial International Hotel Catering and Food Trade Exhibition in Lyon, which lasts for no less than five days. I attended it a few years ago, and was highly impressed by this lavish celebration of luxurious eating, set in a city that many people think of as the French capital of great restaurants. [Click the image to go to an English-language website concerning this exhibition.]

Tomorrow evening, the nearby village of Saint-Jean-en-Royans will be the center of the automobile rally world. For the first time in a dozen years, the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo has returned to the Vercors. I last watched it taking off from down at the corner of my property, the year I bought Gamone. But the drivers later complained that the Vercors was too dangerous, in the sense that leaving the road would often amount to running over the edge of a cliff. So, they never came back here. Tomorrow's opening leg is a short night drive from Saint-Jean up towards Bouvante (the place where the Chartreux monks—those who made wine here at Choranche—had their monastery) and then across to a popular resort on the plateau for cross-country skiing... when there's snow, which is not the case at present. [Click the image to go to an English-language website concerning the Monte-Carlo Rally.]

I've just driven to Saint-Jean to do some shopping in their small supermarket. The village is covered in red and white balloons and ribbons: the colors of the principality of Monaco. There'll be huge crowds there tomorrow. I haven't yet figured out where I'll go to watch. If I drive up to the plateau, I'll be stuck there until late in the evening. So, I might simply stay in Saint-Jean and watch the start. Some of the local ecologists are scandalized by the idea of an automobile rally in a nature park such as the Vercors, and they've issued a petition against it. I don't really agree with them, because I look upon the Monte-Carlo leg as a very special event, which is unlikely to harm the environment. I hope that no silly buggers decide to cut down a tree that falls cross the road, or to pour oil on the road (as they did a few years ago, up behind Gamone, for the local Saint-Marcellin rally).

One thing is certain. At the food fair in Lyon, it's unlikely that anybody will be demonstrating against ecological dangers. But it's probably a fact that rich food and wine in France have harmed many more people than the automobiles of the the Monte-Carlo Rally.

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