Friday, July 10, 2009

Preying Upon Peyrepetuse

The most rewarding thing about doing "tourist things" is when you stumble upon something unexpected. We had such a moment at Peyrepetuse the other day. Doug and I visited there last year (see our 9/13/2008 post for photos and commentary on the Cathar castle), so I won't repeat myself. The endless Steps of St. Louis threatened to cause permanent damage to Doug's knees, so he retreated to the car while Peggy, Kate, Tony and I ascended to the top.

On our return trip, we encountered a group of folks spread out in an opening, paying curious attention to three individuals decked out in leather garb standing in a triangle formation. They were releasing a large bird of prey from one to the other. The bird swooped low over the crowd, its wings almost touching heads that quickly bowed.

Peggy, our 'expert' in French, was able to pick up considerably more than the rest of us. But it was obvious the leader was quite entertaining, and easily held the attention of the audience.

They worked with one bird at a time, allowing it to soar freely and luring it back with scrumptious hunks of well-rotted meat. Watching them take off and land on the falconer's forearm was astounding. They were spheres of ruffled feathers. A couple of times, the birds apparently exercised a little too much freedom and the trainers headed off down the trail to reclaim their charges. That signaled the end of that bird's performance, and they were sent to their room (without dinner I presume).

The vulture, never a bird praised for its beauty, proved its talents by walking back and forth on the back of a prone young lady lying on the ground. He never went after her eyeballs.

I did a little checking on this exhibition, and discovered that the gentleman with the beard is Patrice Potier, a graduate from the famous grand ecole Puy du Fou. Throughout the summer he demonstrates and explains the habits of American and European birds of prey including owls, vultures, eagles and falcons.

Even though we didn't understand all (OK, even very much) that Patrice said about the birds of prey, we might not have listened anyway. We were so mesmerized watching them soar and dive. It was a right place, right time kind of moment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've always found birds a little scary...even before Alfred Hitchcock gave them the movie treatment! But your pictures of these birds of prey are quite incredible.

It looks like your houseguests are getting a first-class "adventures in France" experience!