Our First Neighbours’ Day Party

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I’ve been wanting to have a neighbourhood party since we bought Closerie Falaiseau three years ago but it was a little tricky while we were still living in Paris … I check the date – 29th May – and ask what my oldest and dearest friends in the street think about it. Great  idea, they say, but neither will be able to attend.

Our neighbour Chantal at her snackbar Crousti'Pause, rue Denis Papin.
Our neighbour Chantal at her snackbar Crousti’Pause, rue Denis Papin.

I call in to see my next door neighbour (the one that ISN’T going to have a poultry yard) at her snackbar in Blois and she thinks it’s a wonderful idea. “We’ll come”, she says, “and so will our friends down the road that I knew from high school.” I ask for advice about food and she suggests that I simply tell people to bring a picnic basket with what they need.

The flyer presenting ourselves and inviting our neighbours to the party
The flyer presenting ourselves and inviting our neighbours to join us

Jean Michel and I spend some time finding the right wording for the flyer and I add a logo I find on a website. La fête des voisins also called Immeubles en fête (which roughly means “partying flats”) was created at the turn of the century (this one!), at the initiative of one Atanase Périfan in the 17th arrondissement in Paris. It was promoted by the mayors of Paris (all twenty-one of them) and low-income housing owners and its popularity rapidly spread to the rest of France. It is now held on the last Friday of May or the first Friday of June. It became Europe-wide in 2004.

Jean Michel putting a flyer in one of the letterboxes
Jean Michel putting a flyer in one of the letterboxes

I print out 70 copies (two flyers per page) because the last house in the street is 132 (it’s a long street) and we set out after dinner on the Monday 18th to put them in everyone’s letterboxes. We have lots left over so I can only surmise that many people have two numbers (like our neighbours on the other side).

At the end of the road, we see the Harley Davidson man whose wife’s car we ran into the first night we ever slept at the Closerie. He thinks it’s a wonderful idea and will come with his wife.

Outside our front gate
Outside our front gate

Next day, a lady walks past while I’m weeding on the footpath and we chat for a while. She says her husband has a pétanque game but they will try to come afterwards. Another neighbour we know also calls by to say he’s coming. We’re up to  12 which seems a decent number.  I invite Mr and Mrs Previous Owner and they are delighted to come.

We keep checking the weather and although it will be a little chilly and overcast, no rain is predicted. Responses trickle in and it looks like we might make it to twenty.

Balloons with "fête des voisins" written on them
Balloons with “fête des voisins” written on them

Jean Michel is going to set up a couple of trestle tables and a banner made of balloons saying “Fête des Voisins”.

Friday dawns and to my dismay, I am too sick to get out of bed. My terrible January flu seems to be back. I make my way to the sofa and finish off the two translations due that morning, then drag myself back to bed. I am feeling very miserable and very disappointed to say the least.

Waterlilies and irises in Chouzy-sur-Cisse
Waterlilies and irises in Chouzy-sur-Cisse

Jean Michel goes off and buys the balloons and at 5 pm is setting up the first trestle table in the area opposite where we park trailer. By then, I am feeling even worse than I did during my first flu so ask him to ring the doctor (whom I incidentally do not like). The doctor says to bring me straight over so I clutch my sick bag as we hurtle over to Chouzy-sur-Cisse.

The doctor reassures me that I don’t have Lyme’s disease from a recent tick bite, nor a urinary infection, nor encephalitis or meningitis from all my recent mosquito bites. We go home and I collapse into bed again fully clothed.

Being restored with a glass of rosé
Being restored with a glass of rosé (photo by Mrs Previous Owner)

At 8 pm, I wake up and take some aspirin, feeling slightly better. I can hear joyous voices wafting in from the outside. I go down and get my deck chair and wander across the road. Someone spies me and starts clapping. A loud “hourray” goes up !

Two new friends on their scooters
Two new friends on their scooters

I am amazed to count a total of 31 adults and 5 children. Everyone comes to talk to me in my deck chair and I can see they are all enjoying themselves.  There is plenty of food and I end up having a glass of rosé bought from the Cheverny Cooperative the day before. I slowly start to feel better and after an hour or so and a second glass of wine with a sandwich can actually get up and mingle.

The party soon moved into the street
The party soon moved into the street

Most of the people present are our neighbours who are geographically the closest, although lady comes from the top of the street.  She tells me she felt a little shy at first so drove past. One of the other neighbours recognised her and called out so she stopped and joined us.

I’m told by another neighbour that she once tried to initiate a fête des voisins and met with little enthusiasm. My principle is that when you hold a party, even if only one person comes, then it’s worth it because that person wants to be there !

Most of the people didn't know each other before the party, but the conversation never stopped
Most of the people didn’t know each other before the party, but the conversation never stopped (photo by Mrs Previous Owner)

Another lady tells me she and her husband are moving away in a couple of months’ time because they have never managed to establish a social network in Blois. How lucky we are !

About 10.30 pm, as night falls, the party spontaneously breaks up and everyone helps to clean up. Next morning only the balloon banner still remains. At the market, we meet no fewer that three of our neighbours present at the fête. All repeat how much they enjoyed themselves.

And off comes the cork! (photo by Mrs Previous Owner)
And off comes the cork! (photo by Mrs Previous Owner)

So we’ll be on the ball next year for the 2ème fête de voisins (and I won’t be sick because spending three days in bed is no fun!)

All About France #5

All_About_France_blog_link_up_2I would like to dedicate this post to Phoebe Thomas from Lou Messugo, who’s neighbour day party two years ago inspired me, and at the same time participate in her All About France #5 blog link. For other contributions, click here.

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20 thoughts on “Our First Neighbours’ Day Party”

  1. So pleased your party went well. I enjoy reading all your posts – I live in Tasmania, but would love to one day be able to share my time between Tassie and the south of France. What a blessed life that would be!

    1. Thank you, Judi. I’m so pleased that you enjoy my posts. I hope your dream to divide your time between Tassie and the south of France will come true one day!

  2. Oh you poor thing. So relieved that you did finally manage to join in. Fantastic that so many arrived and have now extended their friendship group. The initiative should spread to Aus.

    1. Maybe it will although I think that neighbours in Australia might generally be more friendly.

      1. I’m surprised that you think Australian neighbours would be more friendly. In the past 10 years or so everyone has built 6 foot high colour bond fences around their homes.

        1. Just goes to show I’ve been out of the country too long! How disappointing … When I lived in Townsville, we were practically the only ones that had a fence (and that was to stop the four kids getting out).

  3. The Fete des voisins is such a good idea. I didn’t realise the history behind it so thank you for that. The streets up by the chateau in Preuilly have a fete des voisins, but we are not included as we are too far away 🙁

    I’m so glad yours was a success, and so sorry you were ill on the day. I really like the way you worded the last sentence in your invitation. I’m going to steal it for next time we have a summer barn party. I don’t know when we are going to fit this year’s summer party in — sometime in July with luck, so I hope you and JM can come.

    1. You’ll just have to have one of your own Susan! Jean Michel and I wrote half that sentence each (he wrote the first part!). You’re very welcome to use any or all of the flyer. Hope we can have the summer party and that we can come to it.

  4. How lovely, Rosemary. I’ve seen a few posters in neighbourhoods around Nice but sadly our street did nothing. Hopefully next year 🙂 Hope you’re feeling better too. Chrissie

    1. Hi and thank you for stopping by! We have other community fetes but they involve the whole neighbourhood rather than just our street, so we were really pleased it went to well.

  5. Thanks for the lovely dedication Rosemary, I feel very happy that my post years ago inspired you in a little way to get you very own fête going. I’m so pleased it was such a success, but what a terrible shame you weren’t 100% well for it. Luckily you managed to get to it and enjoy it a bit after all your hard work and expectations. This year we had a band at ours, provided by the Mairie, all the way from Monaco. It was great fun and I should write it up. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

    1. Wow! a band provided by the Mairie. I can’t quite imagine that here (our neighbourhood has practically no services) but I’m hoping that each year, we’ll attract a few more people.

  6. I first heard about these neighbors day parties a few months ago via #AllAboutFrance and I think it’s a fabulous idea. Enjoyed reading about your 1st party and the interactions with your neighbors. I like what you said about “…when you hold a party, even if only one person comes, then it’s worth it because that person wants to be there !” Good point!

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