Ailsa, who hosts Where’s my backpack has described a time when music and rhythm made a deep impact on her while she was traveling in a foreign country. She set a challenge for others to also share their musical experiences. The following is one of my most favourite travel recollections.
I was introduced to the French language at school and immediately fell in love with it. It became an obsession of mine to visit France to hear French being spoken ‘for real’! However, it would be a number of decades before this dream became reality. When I finally landed in Paris in late 2009 with my partner and our bicycles, I was very excited and ready to see France in style! We had decided to start our cycling tour in Dijon, for no other reason than it sounded like a nice place and it had a fabulous canal – wonderful for riding!
Our train got us into Dijon about mid morning. It was early autumn, a balmy Sunday. We dropped our luggage at the hotel and set off to explore the city centre. But amazingly, Dijon must have been waiting for us to arrive, to turn on a most amazing event.
Citizens were out on the streets in their hundreds. The mood was one of fun, happiness and relaxation. Café crowds spilled out onto the streets and children splashed happily in the fountains. Wherever we went, there was music and laughter. It did not take long to find the source of the music. It was coming from a beautifully maintained Merry-Go-Round which was giving rides to some squealing children while their parents looked on.
But that was just the start of a total street music extravaganza. The old cobbled streets leading away from the centre of Dijon were lined with numerous street organs. Lovingly cared for and meticulously maintained, they were spaced out so that the melodies from each could be heard without interference from the others.
Not just any old street organs though, these were each an amazing work of art. The larger ones were mounted on trailers, while the small hand pushed ones had their own wheels and could be pushed about at will.
The mood of Dijon was festive – general wellbeing and communal happiness. Everywhere you looked, people were smiling and tapping their toes to the melodies and tunes that were all around them.
People dressed as clowns took balloons and twisted them into intricate animal shapes in front of fascinated children.
There were many different tunes and rhythms in each street, creating different pavement moods. Some were slow and melancholy, others quick and bouncy, some a combination of both. Organ owners bristled with pride and happily showed off the working innards of their lovely machines to anyone who showed interest.
In the large main square of Dijon we came across the most magnificent street organ. The king of them all! It absolutely captivated the crowds that formed to not only listen, but also to watch the mechanical animations on the ‘stage’. The music flowed across the large open space, enchanting the crowds relaxing at the cafés and bars around the edge of the square.
Not only had my dream of going to France come true, but I was being welcomed in incredible musical rhythmic style. But the very best part? Everywhere I went, all around me, I also heard the wonderful melodious sound of spoken French!