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We are jumping on our brooms and taking you to the South of France just before Halloween. There, most wineries finished their wines and are celebrating this week with their Vin Primeur in Languedoc Roussillon or their Vin Nouveau in Bordeaux. These are the biggest wine celebrations of the year where there is a lot of great food, castle and winery visits, winetasting, mountain hikes, etc. for the 0-100 year old audience.
Meanwhile, the witches from the Medieval town of Villefranche-de-Conflent are preparing to spend their winter in the Canalettes caves with the most amazing calcite crystals formations in the world to keep warm until Spring.
Those witches belong to the Catalan folklore of a rich cultural and wine-growing region in France.
In Villefranche-de-Conflent it is the tradition to give a close relation or a child, a witch as a sign of love.
If you suspend the witch inside a home or better in the room of a child it will move away the bad spirits and leave peace and happiness instead.
Last winter, following our forced departure from the United States (this is another long story that I am not ready to tell yet), my son fell in love with those witches, the calcite crystals of the Canalettes caves as well as the Vauban-built Fort Liberia towering the fortified town of Villefranche which we decided to visit on a Sunday (bad idea…You’ll see why as you read along). He also insisted on us taking the underground secret passage with 734 steps linking the fort to the town.
After a very steep and long descent, we found out that our car would not start because I had left the lights turned on. The battery was completely drained and I had parked the car in the only flat place in town. Forget about pushing the old Peugeot! There was no live soul around us on that late Sunday afternoon. Everything was closed except bars and restaurants. My eight year old daughter and I decided to beg for help in the town while the rest of the family was trying to figure out how to get the car started. We hit the first bar and asked the bartender for help. He told us that he was not fixing batteries only drinks. Fortunately, the bartender was well intentioned and sent us to his friend’s souvenir store which was still open in town. His friend’s store sold witches, only witches.
I did not see how witches would fix the car battery but when we returned to our base the old Peugeot started running again not by magic but thanks to a handful of villagers that came to my husband and son’s rescue and pushed and pushed and pushed. My son also had a mega meltdown because his sister and I had been gone for too long while hitting every single bar and asking for help.
As the car kept running, my son wanted to buy a witch. We returned to the witch store where he spent a very long time checking them all out. He finally chose one with red and yellow stripes – the colors of the Catalan flag. He added that he would give it to a child with autism for Halloween for good luck and good health. A huge milestone for him!
Empathy in a tricky situation!
I happily paid for the hand-made witch and returned to our car (still running) while the villagers were shaking their heads and making bad jokes about women’s driving skills.
While living in the South of France, I have found a deep sense of community and “joie de vivre” that tremendoulsy benefited my son after his very traumatic events last February. He thrived while living there and never got sick. We "blamed" some of his social awkwardness to the fact that he came from the other side of the Atlantic and that he had to adjust to a new lifestyle... Indeed, he adjusted very quickly and was well accepted.
People do take the time to slow down there and spend more quality time with their families while obsessing less about money. And of course they always have an excuse to celebrate life with wine and food!
Cheers from the friendly Witches!