When viewed from across the River Vienne at nine o’clock in the evening during the Medieval Marché the Old Town of Chinon appears to be heaving with activity. The noise of several bands drifts over the still waters. Floodlights light up the yellow cliffs and castle walls, forming a backdrop to the festivities. And through it all comes the cacophony of sounds made by a lot of people enjoying themselves.
There are no charges on the barriers across the streets into the Old Town this evening. People of all ages and in all forms of dress come and go as they wish. In each of the main squares a different band is playing – here a folk group, up the road a jazz band, in the main square a small orchestra rendering popular classics. And there are discos underground in the caves.
Around the squares people sit at tables in the warm night under the acacia trees. They get up to dance when they wish. In the main square it will be formal waltzes and tangos. In jazz square they are jiving. In the caves it’s all modern gyrations. Everyone can choose where they want to be. Old, black-shawled peasant women watch the dancers and youngsters are trying their skill at the quickstep. The whole town and its visitors have come together to celebrate.
In the warm night air there seems to be no desire to bring the festivities to an end. The music and the dancing and of, course (being France), the eating continue into the small hours. When you get back to your hotel you can fall asleep to the gentle wash of sound from alongside the river.
Next week I will tell you about the forest of Chinon where the duel in The Eighth Child takes place.