Thursday 28th July
The first two or three were fairly quiet, not too many stalls and not too many people. But now we are in full swing; hundreds and probably a thousand or more people stream into the town, it is almost as if there is an escalator carrying them up from another level and disgorging its load at the ends of the roads leading into the square.
Monsieur Moules et Frites is right next to us and the queue forms before seven and doesn’t die down until after 9.30, the three big moules pots being replenished with mussels wine and spices at regular intervals. We are quite busy at the Café serving mostly cold drinks and ice creams, a few coffees and glasses of wine. We seem to be a magnet for our friends who, like iron filings attach themselves to our few tables, bottles and glasses of wine appear at regular intervals and we jump up to look after the occasional customers.
The real madness is in the square itself – it is full of stalls selling clothes and nick-nacks, hats, soap, pottery – and in fact anything and everything you never knew you wanted. There are pizza, barbequed duck, chicken and chips, a very good vegetarian stall, crepes, candy-floss (barbe de papa), cakes, toffee apples and donuts (chighis) and a few wine stalls too. And they are all doing business, tourists and residents alike opening their wallets and eating and drinking and buying presents for the children, teenage girls having their hair braided, women buying jewelry, Slowly and almost imperceptibly the tide turns and people start leaving – back down the escalators we presume. We close up around 10.30 and walk back through the square, which now in semi-darkness is still busy; the Café de Paris is packed with drinkers who will be there until the small hours of the morning.
And yet the next day the square is empty and clean, it looks just like usual – you would never have known that the madness had happened just a few hours ago.