08 September 2002

Austria/France 2002 - Sunday

We got up, had breakfast at the hotel and took a cab into Toulouse for Mass at St Sernin. This is the 4th Mass I've ever attended and none of them were in the U.S. It was an awesome service. We were a little late getting there so we ended up standing in the back. Of course, it was all in French so I didn't understand more than a word here and there. But it was a lovely service with all the incense, pomp, and ceremony of a high mass.

After the service, we walked to the Capitol and walked through the Great Halls there. Each hall has floor-to-ceiling (20-foot) paintings and frescoes. The ceilings are paintings, too. Each hall had different styles and subjects. The first hall is mostly pastoral scenes in a romantic style. The next hall was Impressionist work. The third hall had monumental statues and scenes from Toulouse's history.

Then we wound our way down to the river where we discovered a sort of festival going on. They had these two long boats...each boat had 10 rowers, a captain running the tiller, and musicians (an oboe sort of thing and a drum). On one end of each boat was a long ramp or ladder-like thing ending in a platform that had 5-6 people on it. One person would stand on the platform with a shield and pole and they would 'charge' the boats at each other. As they got close, the oarsmen on the inside of both boats would fold up their oars and the guys with the poles would joust, trying to knock each other off. sometimes both would fall off, sometimes only one, sometimes neither.

Apparently, it's an annual event. I don't know how they decide who 'wins' since the people who get knocked off climb back into the boat and onto the ramp. But the crowd loved it...they would cheer their favorite boat and roar when one or both jousters fell off.