A rockabilly festival and a 2CV convention – an extraordinary night out in rural France

At some point in the future I would like to spend some time living in the area of rural South West France where the French side of my family is from. The idea is especially appealing when on holiday in that part of the world. But I often wonder, what would day-to-day life be like?

During our recent stay at my grandmother’s house, we went out on a Saturday night. As I drove down the dark and empty Route Nationale, I thought, is this what a big weekend night out might feel like, somewhat downbeat about the prospect.

Our first stop was a community centre situated above our local river beach. We had seen advertised that there would be a night of live swing music. The roads en route had been empty, and the town centre equally so, so we were surprised to find the venue packed with groups of people of all ages eating piles of moulles frites around long tables. The band came on – a manouche ensemble – and they played a lively set, although my flip flops and the empty dance floor made me disinclined to want to bust out any moves.

On the way in we’d seen there was a campsite and we went to check it out. At the entrance were parked two 2CVs; another was parked in the car park. Unusual – almost like a 2CV convention I thought. Exactly like a 2CV convention it turns out: every car in the camping site was a 2CV. They came in all models and colours, with modifications, some in classic colours. Large groups of people sat around gas lights, or the full beams from the cars, eating and drinking together. 2CV drivers seem to be happy people!

Coming home we thought we’d check out the next village where we’d heard there was a weekend-long rockabilly festival. Not expecting to find much (I am ashamed to say – who am I to be sceptical?) we could barely enter the village for the lines of cars parked down either side of the busy Route Nationale – some even parked down the middle. We came upon the school field and found hundreds of people gathered wearing rockabilly finery, lit by the sideways glare of flood lights and the lamps of dozens and dozens of Harley Davidsons parked up in rows. In the big tent that rockabilly band was jumpin’, the crowds were dancing, and we dived in, flip-flops and all.

At the exit there was a souvenir stand selling posters and tins of the local confit de canard.

Every time I return to this part of France I find more and more things going on, and only partly I think, because I wasn’t looking hard enough before! And while there would be obvious differences between a night out there and just hoping on the Victoria line, there is plenty to do, and perhaps even more opportunities to make your own fun.