Today the weather definitely changed which was a relief after all the heat and humidity, and we drove to the town of Cognac, about half an hour away. We parked the car and quickly found the tourist office. Of course we wanted to visit one of the cognac distilleries, so we walked quite some distance to the Hennessey plant. Since the English tour wouldn’t start for another hour-and-a-half, we decided to move the car closer. Bad decision! Did you know that it’s SO easy to get lost in these medieval towns, with their narrow, twisting roadways going every which way! The buildings are just tall enough so that you cannot get your bearings to know which way to go.
By the time we finally figured out where to go, our tour had already started, and there was no one in the ticket office. We had to go next door to the boutique and they called the boat back to the office to pick us up. It turned out we were with a bunch of Americans from St. Paul, MN.
Tonight’s concert was an all-instrumental program of music by François Couperin (by a group called Les Talens Lyriques) and it was again a world-class performance. There were 2 violins, 2 traverse flutes, 1 baroque bassoon, 1 viola da gamba, 2 baroque oboes and 1 harpsichord — and every single player was an absolute virtuoso.
An observation on the concertgoers here in Saintes: I would guess that of the 500 people who attend the concerts nightly, we are the ONLY Americans. I occasionally hear German spoken, but I’ve heard absolutely no English, only French. They are all extremely quiet during the performances, and no one dares cough or open candy wrappers or even whisper to one another.
All of these concerts are absolutely world-class and we wonder how it is that this festival came to be here in this medieval town. The audience does not give standing ovations, but instead starts clapping in unison. The performers have not prepared a separate encore, but repeat a piece from the concert, truly an “encore.”