So, Friday was one of those days where the cultural experience was a good one, (I’ve previously written about the more frustrating versions of it). The day started peacefully, and after some rain on Thursday it was now sunny, but with the crisp bite of the fall air. It’s good to know that summer is now done…
We worked at home and then set out into Metz. Some of it was a repeated journey, to see shops previously shut, now open. So small wrongs were righted. Then an adventure began as a new part of Metz was revealed to us. Place St. Louis for example, and the English language bookstore. A good evening. And then it all began.
Perhaps it began in Place St. Louis when the sax band started up, playing what K thought was a theme song from a 70s T.V. show in the U.S. Curious. But it could be explained as Friday night buskers. Right.
But, it got weirder in Place St. Jacques. The first time the float passed by, the only float, led by two policemen on bicycles, drawn by a tractor, nuns (male) and accompanied by St. Nicolas the patron saint of Christmas (probably not, but that’s how I like to see it). That was the first time, the next time they came back as sailors… and later, much later, we would see them as a combination float of nuns, sailors, and barbie in her box.
That’s when we remembered (shortly after the nuns), that the Mirabelle Festival was going on. The Mirabelle Festival celebrates the Mirabelle plum, yeah, a piece of fruit, and you know it’s a nice plum, but a whole festival, pretty impressive. Festival implies some things to me, largely shaped by my life in the United States. An opportunity to shop, for art, a well organized parade, often featuring floats that are sponsored by corporations. Of course there are exceptions but that’s the usual fare. We’ve not yet even encountered the parade, but already things are clearly going to be different.
One of the first things I noticed was the underwear hanging on large lines across the covered market. There appeared to be clothes stapled to the booths set up to dispense beer. There were small caravans selling “jeton”s, tokens that would allow you to buy beer and food. Well when I say you could get beer, yes, you could, but apparently it was difficult to dispense, we watched in amusement as the pony kegs seemed to dispense nothing but foam. Intriguing. It was, of course, an opportunity, for people to come together and talk a lot and wonder what was happening, while customers waited for a beer that they had already paid for…
Another sign that things had gotten strange (that was where I was going), when we saw couches lined up next to the cathedral. Yeah, couches and tables, and people sitting there and enjoying a libation. But, accompanied by each transported living room was a picture of Jesus or Mary. This was peculiar to say the least.
It turned out it was the ball night. The Queen of the Mirabelle had already been crowned, but it was an opportunity for the people to participate and nominate their own Queen of the Mirabelle. And that meant that it was an opportunity to dress up. For a mere 2euros there was a tent, full of the best of the worst garments that people could and were (at a frightening pace) trying on.
Good days inspire courage. So it was clearly time to plunge in. We weren’t really sure what was going on, or why, but for 2euros how far wrong could we go. And so it was that K&I transformed our normally urban-trendy selves into potential candidates for what I like to call “people’s choice mirabelle queen/king.” And we did well. Well enough that the French TV decided to interview us. Which would have been awesome if we’d understood what the interviewer was asking. Ho hum. A particular high for me was that I thought the interviewer asked me whether the Queen of England liked Mirabelles, and in the spirit of continued Anglo-French relations I said yes I thought the Queen would like them, like all of the English, but perhaps on retrospect what he had been asking was whether I thought I was Queen of the Mirabelles. Oh well, I am sure that I spoke well for the Queen.
It was a long and exhilarating evening. We plunged into the Mirabelle Festival, to what we would learn on Saturday was the ball. But it was fun, and fun in a way that you can’t have when you know what’s going on. The fun was made in the experience of working through an incomprehensible situation, and finding the pleasure in it, just because.
And of course, the clothes we wore make perfect souvenirs.