A day at the Fetes

Last weekend the fete season was in full swing, with a number of villages celebrating spring!  Prades sur Vernazobre had its annual Foire Artisanale de Printemps, celebrating the diversity which exists in the village, with the various nationalities representing their countries mostly through food.  I stopped at the British stall, where I met Jane from Restaurant Les Platanes in Poilhes, who had helped making some of the delicious treats on offer.  I took home some of the carrot and lemon cakes as well as a couple of their pasties, and all of it got eaten up very quickly – it was yummy.  I wonder what the French locals made of the cream teas and the pasties??  Other stalls were offering treats from La Reunion (very nice looking spicy food), Germany (pretzels, sausages & beer), Holland (more beer and sausages) and Maghreb (delicious pastries), and the local Comite de Fete, the organisers of the day, were offering oreillettes (crispy thin sheets of deep-fried pastry) and grilled sausages with fries.  Further up was a stand with mussels done the Catalan way.  In between were stalls selling a variety of handicrafts, plants, gifts and someone was offering magic.  The band (La Fanfare “Paradix”) in their pink shirts and white trousers played a terrific mix of jazz and the sun shone brightly – what more do you need??

The very same day Olargues was holding its annual Fete de la Brouette (wheelbarrow fete).  The town hall building glowed against the blue skies and the whole village was awash with people browsing the essentially plant based selection of stalls.  There were rare varieties of tomatoes, some beautiful roses and lots of other flowers, and even a local saffron grower, who reassured me when I asked why my little patch of six saffron bulbs had not flowered this spring  and the leaves were drying up.  Apparently that’s completely normal, they’ll flower in the fall!!

We decided to have lunch at the cafe/restaurant opposite the old station building at the end of the high street. A lovely terrace in the shade of old plane trees, and there was just one table available. It turned out to be a memorable meal, but unfortunately not for the right reasons. The kitchen could not cope with the volume of customers even though the food was fairly simple (salads, omelette, steak etc), the very friendly but inexperienced waitress got her orders mixed up and the wait seemed interminable, but we did get fed and it was great to see the world go by. Perhaps better to be tried on a day when they are not run off their feet!? One definite plus of sitting on the terrace was the view of the band Les Buffarels who came to play just across the road. This was a traditional band of wind instruments with two drums, and their speciality were the bagpipes. I’d never seen bagpipes like these;  here you can see that they are made from the skin of a lamb or small sheep, and they did sound pretty good.

If you approach Olargues from Tarrassac the first thing you see is the old railway bridge, spanning the valley. A sign below it proudly proclaims it as the Pont Eiffel, 1889 – a claim which is dismissed on Wikipedia. Last year the bridge, which now carries a walking and cycling path (La Piste Verte) across the valley was re-painted bright red.

On the way back from Olargues we stopped at Roquebrun to have a drink, and a rest from all the activity of the day, in the local cafe. Sitting once more in the shade of old plane trees, we watched the world and the few tourists go by, including a group of motorcyclists with some serious gear! I am always fascinated by the fading signs on some of the buildings around the area – this one hints that the building might have housed the post office and telephone exchange at some point in the distant past, perhaps in 1911?  Driving home to Saint Chinian there was a field of irises in full flower. I just couldn’t resist and had to take a few shots!

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