Festival of Liars
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Perched on a hillside overlooking the Baīse River, a tributary of the Garonne, sits the village of Moncrabeau, the self proclaimed “Capital of Liars”. Numerous castles, fortified chateaux and rural farmhouses dot this bucolic landscape between Bordeaux and Nerac where the department of the Gers (32) and the department of the Lot-et-Garoone (47) meet.
The village of Moncrabeau, (old gascon for my goat), has been hosting the Festival of Liars or Festival des Menteurs, as it’s known locally, on the first Sunday of August since the 18th century. A 40 member Academy of Liars chooses 12 contestants in advance. Competition is fierce and is open to entrants worldwide. To enter, one must simply tell the best story, ardently misrepresenting the truth, avoiding the topics of religion, politics and sex, within 5 minutes. Those chosen must swear an oath to continue to perversely mock the truth to the best of their abilities.
The 40 academics, dressed in ecclesiastically inspired, red velvet, ceremonial robes, introduces each contestant with hyperbolic fanfare. The day I was there, the temperature reached a sweltering 39/95 degrees, but the enthusiastic crowd was undaunted and thundered applause. The verdict is determined by spoonfuls of salt – the weight of the salt determines the quality of the lie. This year the winner, Nicole Laporte, was crowned Queen of Liars, for her tale about the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the village of Moncrabeau and her liaison with a dover hunter. Truth be told, however, Queen Elizabeth II did actually visit the village of Moncrabeau and a photographic plaque is mounted on the wall of the Mairie’s building.
The day begins with local wine and cheese tastings – goat cheese, of course – and displays of regional crafts. Gascony fare of confit de canard, melons, fois gras and world class armagnac is offered in the plane tree covered square. Throughout the day and late into the evening, Gasonne folk dances are performed. There is also a Circuit de Menteurs, a self guided walk around the village, with tongue in cheek histories and glorious panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
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