Gascony, in the south-west, is very different to other parts of France. La Gascogne has its own culture, language and local cuisine.
The people too are very different to Parisians or people from northern France. I see lots of similarities with the Irish. Compare:
- Le quart d'heure gascon - punctuality means turning up 15 mins after the agreed time
- The apéritif: any excuse for a drink... Ah sure, one more for the road!
- The weather (OK, that's just today!)
I play the flute in the village orchestra and we're often invited to play at local festivals but our biggest demand is from the priests of the canton. We're lured to the Sunday mass gig with the promise of an apéritif afterwards.
Sunday mass... Ah! The memory of cold churches and long sermons. The prayers may be in French, but the intonation is familiar. Today we played in Beaumarchés, a village in the hills with wonderful views of the snowy Pyrenees, and afterwards we went to the village hall for foie gras, saucisson and a glass of something warming. There's a great community spirit here - a good way to spend a Sunday.
* 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' in gascon