Living like a Gypsy

By Eliane

Un Siecle de Roulottes is an open-air caravan museum in the French countryside near Uzes, not far from Avignon. Most of the caravans are Gypsy caravans, but some were owned by famous bull fighters or other people, or made specially for movies.

Checking out the Gypsy caravans was a really fun experience because we learned so much more about them from the stories Pierre told. The first caravan Pierre showed us was owned by a clown. We saw some photos of him dressed up and they were all very creepy. I think I liked the clown’s caravan the most because it had a window for looking out above the bed and it seemed the most welcoming.

Pierre opening the clown’s caravan for us to peek inside.

The caravans are absolutely tiny compared to the ones people use these days. You may find it hard to believe, but big families had the same sized caravans, even though they sometimes had 10 to 16 children. In the summer the boys slept outside and the girls slept inside. Then in the winter they all had to cram in together because it would be too cold to sleep outside. Underneath the parent’s bed was another bed, for the children. The caravans were only for sleeping in. They had a little stove for heating in winter, but they never used it for cooking, which was always done outside.

Genuine Gypsy caravans
Imagine a family with 10 kids living here!

Pierre told us a story about how before the parents died, they would tell their children to burn their caravan. If the children burned the caravan the fire would melt a fortune hidden inside, that they would find. But if they didn’t do what their parents asked, they would never be able to find it.

The smallest caravan was definitely the shepherds caravan. We did not get to see the inside, but from the outside it looked like only a tiny bed would be able to fit in. If a baby lamb’s mother died the shepherd would sleep with it inside the caravan to keep it warm, so there would be barely any room for luggage.

Inside a Gypsy fortune-teller’s caravan. Just room for her table and a small bed.

There was also another caravan that was used for a movie called “Chocolate”. They couldn’t use a Gypsy Caravan because they couldn’t fit the camera crew inside. So, Pierre had to make a bigger one with flaps at the sides to stick the cameras through.

Have you seen the movie Chocolate? Does this look familiar?

The very last caravan we saw was a modern one that Pierre had decorated especially for girls. I liked the Gypsy caravans better but Maille really liked the girls caravan, which was very pink and full of toys.