French Mayo on Tour

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French Mayo is the place to be this weekend. It’s all kicking off in Military Quarter, as Deirdre Lane reports from the Giro de Baile – now in its 3rd year – from Ballycatle on the 31st of July last

“I’ve done sportives before but never in Ireland.” This French lady Cecilia is no longer a virgin to Mayo on the go. She really enjoyed the food stations and rally cries in the rain midway up challenging hills, just when a gee up is essential.

This Ballycastle 10k and 60K charity cycle race explores the sights and steps witnessed by 1798 French troops as they arrived to free Ireland. Clearly some enjoyed the Wild Atlantic way so much that they stayed. Now is the time to get book your 2017 spot – free camping, food and great welcomes for cyclists, their families and fans. Bring the French cousins and bum cushions – it’s tough going on the rear. Don red, white and blue and save the cost of a flight to France yet enjoy France… well, well French Mayo at least. You have to meet the Mayo volunteer teams and feel their warmth to truly appreciate the magic of this event, the Giro de Baile.

Mrs Brown meets some lusty French liberators

Mrs Brown meets some lusty French liberators

Poor Mrs Brown got a French feeling she did not barging for and the upon arrival was Ballycastle’s own singer/DJ/poet/farmer Martin RasTinny Naarendorp playing Dub tunes. Two of the lady re-enactors took to the stage amid the Giro inflatable stage and Dub-stepped in their 1798 garb plus weapons reggae dancing to Mayo Rasta music. The locals watched on nonchalantly. I guess the French have been at this lark for some centuries. Mayonians did not bat an eye as the French Ladies swivelled their hips and throw in the moves to RasTinny’s beats.

Culture Clash: Humbert delves into reggae/dubstep

Culture Clash: Humbert delves into reggae/dubstep

The 1798 United Irish re-enactment crew from the South of France and Red Coats marched to be the guard of honour. This year’s General Humbert stopped to swap notes on his Ethiopian music adventure with soulful DJ RasTinny. Let’s just say this is non trad Mayo but the new Ballycastle trad.

I had been coaching General Humbert’s French re-enactment champion- the dashing General Walter- on the correct pronunciation of Taoiseach “TeaShock” to ensure polish to the Republic of Connaught founders greeting. Monsieur Enda Kenny, one unlikely looking cyclist, approached the starting line stuffed into a tracksuit,. The General Humbert was alarmed at Mayo’s own Prime Minister bounding his way. “C’est qui ce mec?” he hissed perplexed as Enda sauntered closer. “C’est LE TeaShock!”, I whispered loudly as the General swiftly removed black leather glove and proffered his hand to meet Enda’s.

"C'est qui, ce mec?" Taoiseach meets a special foreign dignitary

“C’est qui, ce mec?” Taoiseach meets a special foreign dignitary

With a flirty smile, this tall blond bedecked with 1798 military hat emitted a French gravelly “Hullo TeaShock, pleezed to meet you” to grace Enda. The respectful incline of his red, white and blue plumes risked an international incident as his hat flicked perilously close to Enda’s eyeballs as he retorted in a reciprocal flirty smile.

Both Humbert’s and the RedCoat squadrons fired pistol shots to the on-your-marks-get-set-go many times delayed signal in the air and not each other as the fumes belched to the revving cyclist lungs. Meanwhile the Mayo hospitality was rolled out, young maidens, the cups of tea and enrolment of French Michel for next year’s Giro De Baile in the bag.

The French Mayo theme continued. Fittingly, French flag colours blue, white and red (Krzysztof Kieślowski’s famous Three Colours trilogy) featured in the French Mayo Film festival at the Ballina Arts Centre.

1798 looms again this French Mayo festival – am off to taste the French element of the Wild Atlantic Way, Mayo’s unique Gallic links through music, food and pageantry in Ballina, 26th-27th August 2016
So to the August 26 French Mayo Programme of Events

– 6.30pm: Laying of wreaths at the “Maid of Erin” monument on Humbert Street, Ballina
– 7.30pm: French-themed Pageant Spectacular with music and theatre performances in Ballina Military Quarter – undercover in case of Wild Atlantic Weather outburst.

August 27 plays witness to the 3rd year of the Food Fleadh with a French theme in Ballina will indulge some Franco Mayo delicacies. Live cookery demos and children’s cookery classes – will this show how to hunt snails? Chasse aux escargots? Am wondering just what this may be. Shall report findings, post multiple tasting bien sûr!

– 12pm – 6pm: French Mayo Session Trail – traditional music in various Ballina venues . All trad music groups and individuals are welcome to come along and join French too. Will there be reggae? Come see.
– 8pm – late: Live Music on stage in Ballina Military Barracks with Jeanette Byrne singing in French, plus French Tunes from her releases “Une Femme”, “Elegy” and “Café Diva”. More Franco-Mayo blood. Jeanette has sang in Cannes and grew up listening to French music thanks to her French grand-mère.

The Stunning, Kila and a host of local acts too will play on Saturday Tickets €22.50. Will Kíla sing in French? A Mark French was their manager so fingers cross Kíla tunes to woo and tantalise your Celtic core may just turn on a Franco flare. The excitement is just too much. Oh la Kíla!

Some streamed pics of the Giro…

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