Follow the Flock

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in News | 0 comments

Follow the Flock

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep…. Not really. First of all, the sheep are definitely not lost – we know where to find them: In the Alps, the Pyrenees, the South West, and of course Provence.

Each year, around the end of May and beginning of June, transhumance takes place.  Transhumance is a Latin term where ‘trans’ means across and ‘humus’ means ground. The herders and their flocks travel to higher pastures in the spring. France loves celebrations and festivals, and a few thousand sheep crossing towns and villages is surely cause for a grand Fête, n’est-ce pas?

In some areas, as in Saint-Rémy de Provence, the feast is purely ceremonial. Two thousand sheep parade through the town – they go around twice so everyone can have a good look. There are marching bands, pretty ladies in traditional dress, herding demonstrations, and, of course, a giant banquet. The sheep are then transported by trucks up into the mountains – more efficient and less messy – all these closed roads clogged with thousands of sheep were disruptive.

Not all regions agree on this approach though – in the South West (which may need to promote tourism a tad more than in Provence), they have returned to the traditional ten day walk through towns, villages, highways and byways. A return to tradition? Rather, a boost to tourism. Tourist offices and regional councils felt that shepherds who guide their flocks the old fashioned way with the help of their excellent herding dogs attract tourists much more than a convoy of transport trucks. They even offer packages where you accompany the herds for a few kilometres with possible meal and accommodation add-ons!

Either way, these festivals are unique and a fun way to see yet another aspect of our favourite part of the world.

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