Despite what it looks like, I did not spend my weekend in some Scottish influenced square dance enclave in the US. This is in fact the annual bagpipe festival in Cassel, a beautiful midievel town perched up on one of the Flemish mont (a laughable little thing that isn't much higher than a big hill but called a mountain in these parts because anything is a mountain compared to the flat plains in this area).
We attended the Fête de la Cournemuse yesterday which turned out to be an extremely cacophonous (read loud!) event which left my aurally sensitive 10 month old rubbing his ears. But it was funny...and it felt really familiar in a Twighlight Zone kind of way, especially when the drunk Flems (what do you call a French Flem? a Chti*?) got up and started do-si-doing...
And it wasn't just bagpipes. An old family friend plays the vielle à roue (hurdy gurdy in English) which is pretty cool, but not as cool as accordeons.
Cassel is a beautiful little town, with a cobble stone road up the hill, a working windmill (hourly tours) and a frite truck smack dab in the middle of the cobble stone main square. And who can resist a bar on the main square that has a sign outside, "Nous acceptons les frites". (meaning you can bring your fries here while you drink your beer although I wondered if it meant you could pay in fries...)
I always wonder what it's like for these places located on the border - half French/half Flemish. And yesterday reinforced that they definitely have an identity complex.
*chti=local name for people from Northern France. The name comes from the local dialect which use the sound "chti" frequently
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