If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately attending as many events with bulls as the main attraction as possible. It’s becoming an obsession.
Someday soon, I’m going to write a post about a bullfight. Right now, I’m trying to sort out all my emotions about the controversial pastime that’s such a rage in this part of France.
The Feria du Riz in Arles was the perfect opportunity for me to do more research on the subject. Not only was there a bullfight, or “corrida,” there were also bulls running in the streets, an abrivado.
Running of the bulls – abrivado
I’ve witnessed a few abrivados this year, so I’m catching on to how they’re staged. Most importantly, I’m finding certain vantage points that are better than others if you want to see the bulls.
It works like this.
Both sides of the street are lined with metal fencing. That keeps out people who wouldn’t get near the bulls anyway because it’s easy to squeeze between the bars of the fencing. At the starting place of the abrivado, there’s an enclosed truck filled with bulls. At the opposite end of the route, in Arles, a flatbed trailer truck was stationed between the two sides of the fencing.
For my first abrivado/bandido, I watched from the starting point when the bulls ran out of the truck. In Arles, I woke up and went to the opposite end to get a better view. That’s where the bulls and horses turn around to run back to the starting place.
At the beginning of the abrivado, men and women on horseback — bandidos — start the spectacle by riding in tandem along the route, usually the town’s main street or village. These “cowboys” proudly parade their white Camargue horses before an appreciative crowd.
The bulls are released after the horses and riders parade past a few times. The Bandidos run beside and in front of the bulls to keep them herded together.
When they reach the end of the course, they all turn around and race back up the street.
That’s when all the kids in town chase after them all.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Now, if that sounds boring, it’s not. It’s exhilarating — for me, at least. Let’s just say it beats watching grown men run back and forth for hours chasing a football. (Sorry, sports fans!)
The arena and corrida
Anything that takes place in Arles is going to be a unique experience. It is an ancient city where the present and the past intermingle seamlessly.
When walking down the street, on several occasions, it took my breath away when I realized I was standing beside a Roman forum or strolling through a park Van Gogh had sketched.
The arena in Arles is not just a shrine to the Roman days of Gaul; it’s a lively gathering place for local events, including ferias and rock concerts.
During the Feria du Riz, the steps of the arena were the stage for a “battle of the bands.”
Inside the arena is a vision straight out of a history book. Having attended events at the Arles and Nimes arena, I’m surprised there has been so little “modernizing” of either structure. These facilities would be off-limits to visitors if in the States. Getting up and around the seating areas in the arenas is treacherous, even for the able-bodied. I’m not complaining; I’m just saying.
Seating in the arena is on stones. Some sections have wooden seats over the stones. Depending on how close you want to get to the “action,” the price of seats runs accordingly. The most expensive spots are less than midway up the side of the arena and out of the direct sun.
As mentioned at the start, more detail about bullfights is yet to come. I’m finishing up Hemingway’s novels on the subject. He studied bullfighting with some of the greatest matadors of all time. Next, my mission is to learn more about the modern corrida and the local controversies.
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