Flamenco Festival in Gorbio

I wrote about our quick errand to Menton the other day.
What pure luck we had when, while walking the 6-km trek to and from the old town (because all car parks were full and we only found one in the next town), lo and behold, we saw a poster about the Flamenco Festival in Gorbio. Two things excited us that moment: One, Flamenco dancing is our Obsession (with a capital O)! Two, it’s about time we visit Gorbio again. The last time we were there was like ages ago (9 years in fact) and I was not a picture-taking freak then!

So, we ticked Friday (yesterday) as a non-(house)-renovating day for H (so that he won’t use EXHAUSTION as reason for not going that evening). His excitement extended to as far as searching for his long-time-no-used TomTom (GPS) so that we won’t get lost into the mountainous and torturous road to this hilltop village. He even asked me to pack a picnic bag so we won’t have to eat out for dinner (penny-pinching). And lastly, we even took a nap that afternoon so we are refreshed and energized for the whole night ahead.

Gorbio taken in April this year.

Upon entering the village, this inscription welcomes the visitor:

Gorbio, medieval village
Lascaris Castle, 12th century (Lascaris was a Count of Ventimiglia, Italy)
Chapel of Saint Lazarus, 12th century
Chapel of Saint Roch, 17th century
Chapel of Saint Barthelemy, 17th century
Elm Tree planted in 1713
Chapel of Penitents, 1445

The poster says “Entree Gratuite” (Free entrance) so we were surprised to see the square, where the show was to be held, barricaded, except for a little gap which served as an entrance gate. Hordes of people were already waiting at the entrance when we arrived. Different nationalities, different languages spoken: The biblical line “speaking in different tongues” is literally manifested here – Italian, German, French, Dutch, some eccentric Eastern European, English – everyone trying to speak to the lady at the gate in their own language and the latter, struggling to be a linguist but her strong French accent renders her responses barely comprehensible.

Yes, it’s technically free to see the show and some who were determined to keep it that way got seated at the far rear of the square, where, what they will most likely see, judging by the big crowd lining up, are just heads of the dancers. That would be utterly useless I think, because Flamenco dancing involves rapid audible footwork, intricate hand, arm and body movements and, to be able to see the orgasmic passion of the dancers’ facial expressions, the viewer has to be very very close, and I mean, even to squat at the foot of the stage!
The very first couple who I saw marching head high onto the “far rear” (ie., didn’t pay) was, surprisingly, the husband and wife whom I earlier concluded as “filthy rich” because they were dressed, coiffed and accessorized like one. Oh, did I hear them speaking in Dutch?

The village as seen from the show venue

H suddenly announced, and I thought I misunderstood, that he is buying dinner tickets.
M – “What about our picnic basket?”
H – “I’m starving! And if I am going to watch a Flamenco show, I’d rather do it with style”
M – “But supposing it’s 20euros per head!”
H – “I’ve got cash!”

Then that settles it!

Ok, stop talking now, say “Cheese!”

The food cooked in situ

The 40euros we paid covered the 3-course meal: a drink of sangria each, main dish and dessert, plus the chance to sit infront. Apparently, most of the front tables were already reserved for those who purchased their tickets earlier but since we arrived early, we got seated at a table right on the side of the stage! Hurray! isn’t that second time lucky!
The food was hearty, but the sauce bearnaise was a winner!

But what the #@~? …… the 7:30pm show was a disappointment! A monotonous massacre of the dance by flamenco students from Marseille (south of France). We felt we got ripped off of our 40euros!
The students. No passion here, just smiles!

They called the public to join in the massacre. Well, might as well photograph those nice dresses. I could get a Pinay dressmaker to sew exactly the same one for me!

These tots were all-eyes to the dancing. In split of a second, they were seen twirling their hands and tapping their feet, more gracefully than those on stage.

“Tita, I like your dress!”

Watching these kids were far more entertaining …..

“Flamenco is culture. Flamenco is alive. Flamenco is a way of life”


These were the words of the host who introduced the authentic “all-Spanish” show that started at 10pm.
He then acknowledged the presence of the mayors of neighbouring villages and the Vice-President of the Conseil General (Regional Council) of Provence Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA region) who were seated among the crowd. We have been to many concerts, fiestas, les aperitifs d’honneur organized by village/town halls and the presence of government personalities such as the above, sometimes even a member of the Senate (French Parliament), is noticeable. It’s because these cultural events get 100% funding from the state via the Conseil General. The promotion of Culture is a top priority of the State. In 2008 alone, 50million euros were alloted to our region (PACA) of 5 million inhabitants. France is divided into 26 regions. Ile de France where Paris belongs has a population of 12million.

He introduced the young performers called “Flamenco Joven” age range from 14 to 22 as a group with lots and lots of talent. I noticed these adolescents earlier, sitting just two tables away from us munching on pizzas and coke looking like they were just stopping for a bite on their way to a night out. I was actually wondering at that time why the host was very friendly with them, looking after their needs and taking care of their food. Who are they? They couldn’t be part of the show? They are just high school students!

Never did i imagine that, the girls, after dressing up into their elegant flamenco costumes, hair tied into buns and secured with ribbons, came out on stage looking very beautiful, like brides on their wedding day, and the boys, looking like handsome young men who were raised with perfect manners by their perfect mothers.


They started the show with a percussive harmonic tapping of the cajon. Then the cantaores, the two young men, started singing with utmost feeling and power that you start to wonder how could they have gotten those powerful voices when they have just came out of puberty. And of course, the guitarist who strummed his guitar with flamenco magic.

dancer no. 1

While the cantaor was chanting with a crying passion, she slowly rose up from her seat and astounded the crowd with her bodily movements…her dancing set the crowd ablaze!

dancer no. 2
She gave the most impossible footwork! Her legs vibrated in half-inch steps!

dancer no. 3
Fluid movements, feeling her every step, she is a moving artwork!

They all are!

Dancing together
The look on the dancers faces, their immense concentration, passion and energy astonished the crowd for the entire two hours of the performance. Some people were standing, some squatted at the foot of the stage not wanting to miss a single step, others were putting their hands to their heads like, their dancing is out of this world! How could they do that!

What an exhilarating performance! It was the most spectacular display of human ability! These young kids of 14 to 22 made the audience weep and clap like crazy! The whole place was buzzing with powerful emotion. We instantly loved these girls!

All the performers, their teachers and everyone involved with the “Flamenco Joven” gave his/her own short dance exhibition. They were all fantastic! They were given a standing ovation. Everybody was shouting “Bravo!”

After the show, I was raving how our 40 euros was worth every penny! The food and the two-hour performance. We went home with our hearts beating with excitement! And I swear, what I saw that night gave me the urge to run to the nearest flamenco school and beg them to turn me into a dancer like these girls! And H? he is now talking about taking our caravan to Seville and go on a Flamenco legend route holiday!

Day out in Cuneo

The Tuesday market







The shops of Cuneo















Friends enjoying a chat over an apero


Then they all stood up, paid the bill and disappeared

The hardworking Italian


The money he earns from his key-duplicating/knife-sharpening business is just enough to survive. He has to earn on the side to bring in the extra money…


In his little van, little things give him inspiration….






The Sistine Chapel of the south of France

We were on our way to a late afternoon walk when we saw on the village bulletin board a notice of a concert to be held at a neighbouring village tonight. We looked at our watch, gosh, the show starts in 1.5 hours! So we cut short our hike to a 20-minuter, got changed and quickly drove to the venue.

Notre Dame des Fontaines

Situated in a remote woodland 8-minute drive from the medieval village of La Brigue, we have come across this chapel a few times during our walking tours but we never had the chance to see the interior as the door and windows were always locked.

The chapel

The writing says:
“Sanctuary of Notre Dame des Fontaines
12th century chapel, 15th century frescoes
Place of prayer and pilgrimage
Visitors, silence (please)”

Upon entering the chapel, we couldn’t believe what we saw! Frescoes covering the entire interior: the two side walls, the altar, the rear, the ceiling….we were instantly put in a trance!




Judas Iscariot being de-gutted by a monkey (yikes!)

These remarkable frescoes created by two Italian masters Canavesio and Baleison in 1492 recount the life of the Virgin Mary and the Passion of Christ in 25 scenes. More amazing is the Last Judgment painted on the rear of the chapel (picture above).

The choir sang a cappella mediterranean songs typical of gypsy music from Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey and beyond

They sang beautifully and with so much passion that I was on the edge of having goose pimples. And listen to this, when my attention momentarily turned to the frescoes on the wall, i felt there and then that their singing was perfectly blending into each holy scene! Just like in the movies, when the director calls for a choir chant as a musical background to render the scene more powerful! Truly, this group has the makings of a movie soundtrack chanters!

For their exceptional performance, they were actually given a standing ovation! And again, this show is free but we had to give 5-euros on our way out, otherwise, it’s embarrassing not to while the others brushing elbows with us were happily donating away

The Route of Organs, a heritage to listen to..

“If you pass a church and hear the organ being played, go inside and listen. If you are fortunate enough to be allowed to sit on the organist’s bench, then put your little fingers on the keys and be astonished at the omnipotence of Music”….Robert Schumann, Musical House- and Life-Rules

 Notre Dame de la Visitacion

We just came from an organ concert tonight held in our church (above), one of the eight village churches where the annual International Festival of Historic Organs in the Roya Bevera Valley is held every summer. Entrance is free but you can drop any amount at the cash basket on your way out, or buy a music CD by the same performers

To find out what are the scheduled cultural programs in and around your village, just check the posters on your village noticeboard.

One of the perks of living in France is the abundance of free cultural shows particularly in the summer. It’s just a matter of organizing your calendar and your determination to go. So even if it’s raining or you just finished tiling the bathroom (as what H just did today), and the show is at 9pm, going to the concert (without digging into your pocket except for 5euros as donation) is total relaxation to the soul. I can’t explain but listening to actual performance is different than just listening to it from a CD.


I take pride in saying that our church organ is the oldest of them all, aged 350 years old, but the sound is still glorious creating the feeling that I am soaring up to heaven…


What made the concert a total audial bliss is the accompaniment of two woodwind instruments – the oboe and the oboe of love (“hautbois” and “hautbois d’amour” in French).
This young man was explaining to us which is which. I was not really listening because I was more mesmerized staring at his young and angelic face and yet, a genie in playing the two oboes.

Torri, the jewel of Ventimiglia

Behind the hustle and bustle of the coastal market town of Ventimiglia, a few kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea and the French border,  is the medieval village of Torri  Inferior and its hamlet, Torri Superior. 

T. Superior is a 13th century fortress and with T. Inferior, they comprise a series stone arches, covered labirynthal passageways and interconnecting houses. 



Torri Inferior viewed from T. Superior.  The bald mountain in the background is a quarry spot which, everytime we drive past on our way to Ventimiglia, is emitting clouds of dust in the area. 



Notice the thickness of the arched entrance





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tiles.jpg tiles21.jpg

Stone mosaics on the footpaths

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Art in TORRI

Mosaics featuring the paintings of renowned artists decorate the stone walls of the T. Inferior


“Hector and Andromache” by Giorgio de Chirico, Italian Surrealist artist


“Danzatrice” by Olimpia


Pablo Picasso


“Hermaphrodite idol”, Carlo Carra


“Still life with violin”, Fernando Botero
Interestingly enough, this Colombian artist painted images of torture in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


Simply said, “Please don’t pick the flowers”



In the olden times, holes above doors held shrines of religious icons.  With the shrines gone a-missing, the holes are now used to let in some light.





How cute!


Blue paint is meant to ward off flies and mosquitoes


The owner of this house must be an architect





I wonder what happened to the owner of this bicycle


In the olden times, villages used to bake their bread in the village oven.  Saves on firewood!


The Bevera river


Illusion of grandeur.  This is just a toy I saw on the dirt road.


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The cemetery. 


We saw a lot of fish swimming in the river.  Tried to take photos of them but I got my shadow instead.


Swimming alongside the fish are the locals. 


“Those pomodoros (tomatoes) are squashed on the garden soil for their seeds to grow”, explained the village woman.


In memory of their war heroes (and their photos).  This inscription is found on the facade of the church.