Le Cami des Encantats Revisited

It’s that time of the month when I re-visit a blog post written during our years in France.  I’ve chosen this one because of the perspective it offers on rural life there,  a hundred or more years ago.  Because France – certainly where we were in the foothills of the Pyrenees – had no Industrial  Revolution, country life continued more or less unchanged for many until villages devastatingly lost their menfolk during the First World War.

Country life is country life, and some of these occupations would seem familiar to our own grandparents.  Others less so.  Have a look and see.

Le Cami des Encantats

July 26th 2012

Today we visited Benac, one of those  small and almost picture-postcard-pretty  villages outside Foix.  I think it’s unlikely that too many horny-handed sons and daughters of toil live there these days.  Too many freshly painted facades and cheery boxes of geraniums at the windows. Too many sleek and highly-polished cars.

But once upon a time it was a busy working community. For the last few years, every summer the villagers here and in nearby hamlets arrange carefully constructed and dressed figures into appropriate corners of both village and countryside.  These figures celebrate the way of life that persisted here – and throughout France – for centuries, and only died out some time after the First World War.  They call the route you follow to hunt out all these scenes Le Cami des Encantats: Occitan for something like ‘the Enchanted Path’.  Come with me and take a look. Click on any image for a closer look and a caption.

Square Perspectives

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

47 thoughts on “Le Cami des Encantats Revisited”

  1. All nicely ‘skwared’, just for Becky 🙂 🙂 Love the pudding basin haircut, and the haughty lady at the end reminds me of Margo in The Good Life. Have a good weekend! A little socially distanced mingling?

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    1. A good socially-distanced yomp north of Richmond. A slightly different area will make a nice change. Eeh, no luv, that last woman is a right peasant, not a bit like our Margo.

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  2. Most interesting….a trip to Romania a decade and a half ago had us going back 200 years, people working the soil with no modern implements, not a museum, real life. And as an aside I’m reading Gillian Tindall’s Celestine….a recreation of the vanished world of a village in the Indre region of France from a stash of letters found in a deserted house

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    1. A Romanian friend in France showed me a picture of her little brother’s christening only a few years before. The family had the fields as the backdrop – horse and cart, peasant dress with headscarves, that kind of thing. Another world, and one which is still in evidence in many parts of Europe.

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      1. So do I. Much better than calloused. Looking its history up, dates back to at least 1913 that exact phrase. Found quite a few novels using it!


  3. Horny handed sons (and daughters) of toil sums up an outdoor life a few centuries ago well. I thought at first glance it was a scarecrow event, but these faces all have a serious look to them.

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  4. what a wonderful re-visited post! I’d never seen it before as it was before I got to know your posts or you. I thought the figures were really brought to life and I loved the care taken over their clothing and implements. I went on several vocabulary hunts. ‘Estamarron’ – meaning ‘it’s brown’? Just how did he bring cutlery back to life in that bucket of his? ‘Pelharot’ – coming from ‘pel’ as in pelt or skin? ‘Colporteur’ meaning someone who carried things from his neck? And then there’s alambic and alcohol which I know to be of Arabic origin – we tend to use (or tended to in the past!) ‘alembic’ with an e but the French use an a which is pronounced a bit differently from ours? And so on and so on. All v instructive. I have stayed in a French village in Burgundy with a lavoir, lovingly preserved and still the heart of the place.

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  5. What a wonderful tradition. It certainly depicts a bygone age. I like the way you display the walk around too. Gives an all in one impression of so much variety. Or a shortcut! Hope all going well. We have been busy getting ready to return to UK to be with family and perhaps for a while.

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      1. I think if you heavily varnish the surface with a non water-based varnish like the modern Ronseal options or in past times layers and layers of shellac it makes them sort of waterproof, but I am surprised about them being out in the rain. Really quite wonderful in their individuality.


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