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Village Fêtes: GO!

If you ever find yourself in the country when a village is sponsoring a feast, cancel whatever you had planned and go! We saw a sign for "sanglier a la broche" in a village near where we were staying and decided to go.

We arrived about quarter to 8 and bought tickets for dinner, 18€ each. At 8pm, cars started to stream in. A bar was set up outside the Salle Polyvalenti or village multi-use hall. Everyone was drinking kirs. Inside, women were holding down large sections of tables for their families or friends. Around 9, everyone drifted inside and looked for seating. We were adopted by several couples when they found that we were visitors and, "No way!" Americans. Word soon traveled and we became the curiosities of the evening: crazy Californians who didn't speak the language, miles from a destination town, bellied up to the table for barbequed boar and beans.

Men bought bottles of wine. Baskets of bread arrived. Cantaloupe halves were served and a man came around filling the centers with cassis. Next, platters of boar and bowls of kill-me-now flageolets with thyme and lardons were plunked down between every 8 or so people. Then seconds arrived. Then huge bowls of green salad. Then thirds of boar and beans. Then fromage blanc. Of course, many bottles of wine miraculously appeared and disappeared during the courses. Many toasts. A group of sonneurs (players of hunting horns) entertained. And sang. And a few drinking songs were remembered and sung. Tributes to those who had worked on the fete and even a thank you to us for visiting. Then a drawing for door prizes.

At this point, we were sated and exhausted from being on good behavior so publicly and for so long. My husband signaled that he was about to crash, and we left to protestations that dessert was yet to come! It was 1:30am. We made our thanks to the table and MC and found our way out, amazingly remembering our route back to our beds on dark and narrow and unfamiliar country roads.

If we ever have to choose between another fête and keeping a reservation at a nearby 3star, there will be no hesitation in choosing the former. If you have the opportunity to attend one, grab it!

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  1. Completely agree.
    We have been to two village fêtes, 8 euro and 15 euro each, both in Calvignac, in the Lot, both for the Fête de St Jean. It was the greatest. And foreigners were treated like VIP guests. In fact, for the last fête, the Americans received extra kind treatment. The time coincided with the start of a very unpopular war, and many villagers came over to toast us and tell us that they wanted us to feel welcome and not be bothered by respective governments' stands.
    But then they tried to talk DH and me into jumping over the raging bonfire, which was a tradition for young couples . Well, we were half of those things, so we declined.
    Indeed one of the most exhilirating dining experience ever.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi

      Manguer, what a great report and reminder of some of the pleasures of the deep countryside. This reminds us to be on the lookout. Speaking of reminders, PS to Parigi's post -- this reminds us of this recent fun article:
      http://www.paris-update.com/fr/hot-to.... -- Jake

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Well, DCM is rife with envy no more.
          He and we went to an awesome village méchoui in the Basque village of Sare.
          We had the best blood sausages and piperade ever. in fact I never liked either of those things before. Now I am converted for life.
          And that was only the starter.
          Main was barbecued lamb and Tarbais beans in a rich lamb broth. Thinking back I want to weep.
          Much, or most, of the village was there, plus neighboring villages. Our neighboring dining companions, young men in charge of the village festival concert production, told us that the fête de Sare was the village festival that they look forward to all year, that it was serious partying.
          In fact I am very proud to say we were the most boisterous party among the 500 feasters.
          They snobé'd the banquet's red which we found quite good, and had brought their own bottles and insisted on sharing them with us. I can't tell you what they were. The feast now gets very hazy.
          We were an absolute hit with the young men. Two were draped over my DH. Another one sang songs with our girlfriend R in the post-dessert Basque singalong. She didn't know Basque; they were probably singing they wanted to kill all the French and Spanish.
          Sorriest, the cheese (ok) and the dessert (quite good gâteau basque, not as revelatory as the 1st 2 courses) were honestly more blur than reality.
          But just the starter and main alone - both of which we were offered seconds - were among the best things we have eaten in the Basque country, and we had some awesome meals.
          Oh. Price. 22 euro for 3 courses plus wine/cidre and mineral water and coffee.
          The next day DH and I ran into one of the young men on the village square, who caused a commotion screaming in English: AMERICAN FRIENDS ! I LOVE YOU ! AND I LOVE YOU !

          1. re: Parigi

            Drink that was passed around most was Pacharan, a Navarro liqueur made with sloe berries.
            l still dream about the two lamb dishes, just wonderful.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              P and DCM, thanks for the vicarious song and food bites. Now I am rife with envy! (I kill for good blood sausage.)

            2. re: Parigi

              That sounds so awesome on so many levels.

              1. re: Parigi

                Sounds really good - was it on Saturday 7th September? If so we saw them setting up but had reservations Olhabidea and I was loathe to cancel.

            3. Glad you enjoyed your fete. Sounds as if it was a good one.

              Our problem in this area is that we're spoiled for choice. Every village has it's fete during July & August. I fact the local Mayors get together to schedule them so that they don't conflict.
              We have to ration ourselves, otherwise we're shattered by the end of the season.

              When we first lived in France we went to one of our first fetes & the local lads adopted me. They insisted that I try their homemade eau de vie, each claiming his was best. My wife had to drive me home and a friend helped me up the stairs. A lesson learned!
              No more eau de vie! Its lethal.

              1. We'll be going to our village fete in the Haut Languedoc in a couple of weeks time. It's four days long, culminating in a meal for 600 people in the square. It's normally something simple like sausages and aligot (French version of bangers and mash I guess) or squid stew. We've had the melon filled with eau de vie for starters and usually a simple pudding and cheese - but I love the all eating together aspect of it - a great tradition.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Theresa

                  Our village fête in Calvignac was like that. There were about 120 of us (everyone in the small village wa there), sharing charcuterie&salad, a gigantic cassolet and pie.

                2. Another upcoming fete (September 16) is the Fete des Vendanges in Cleebourge (Alsace) a few km from the German border. This is a larger fete that encourages public attendance: town band, folk dancing exhibition, traditional costumes, pork-and-noodle banquet, desserts made by the village women, extraordinary parade at 3 in the afternoon. Lots of bubbly (crement de Alsace). Really needs to be an overnight affair. Closest lodging is in Wissembourg. This fete was a day long grin.

                  (Is anyone interested in posting about upcoming fetes with their location and date?)

                  1. Woo, sounds awesome!

                    Just as aside for anyone attending a rural fête -- do beware of France's rather strict drunk-driving laws -- 0.05 is considered a DUI, and they have no sense of humour whatsoever...penalties can range from steep fines, up to and including immediately impounding your car.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Yes, and don't forget that the new law requiring you to have breathalysers in your car just came into effect.
                      You can buy these in a lot of places, if that is you can find them.My local stores all seem to have run out of stock.

                      1. re: Yank

                        The law went into effect but., supposedly, no actual tickets will be issued until Nov 1 - because of the difficulty in finding the breathalyzers. We got ours at Norauto, who claim to have a regular stock. If there's one near you, try going there (or order on-line). Good luck.

                    2. Sounds like you were at the Repas des Chasseurs (Hunters) - we have one in our village, where we have wild boar, venison, and then wild board AND venison. Then we have a repas during our Fete des Crepes where we (I) cook several hundred pieces of confit , along with beans, other courses, etc., and serve about 300 people on the grounds of the chateau. Two weeks later, the Mechoui, whole lambs roasted on a spit. Recently the hunters have added a repas Tete de Veau (and rosbif for those who dont want Tete de Veau) Not many vegetarians here, and it's not easy to lose weight.

                      Not complaining though, and I certainly second the recommendation to take advantage of this type of meal if you can. Our experience is that someone will always adopt the non-French speakers, and enjoy explaining it all to them.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: carlux

                        Carlux, where do you live?
                        The food at your fetes sounds better than that served at ours.
                        We may have to move.

                          1. re: Yank

                            Carlux (and others), can you give us names of locales and approximate dates of these events? (e.g., late June, early November)

                            We'd all hate to move to the wrong neighborhood.

                            1. re: mangeur

                              I live in a village called, oddly enough 'Carlux' in the Dordogne. We do have good fetes here, but generally villages all over the region will have fetes in the summer. I didn't even mention the 5000 crepes we make over the weekend. Some photos:

                              Repas des Chasseurs tend to be in the spring, after the hunting season is over. Mechoui , lamb on the spit, at least here is in ( http://cettesemaineacarlux.blogspot.f...
                              Photos at the beginning I took as we showed a friend from South Africa around. Mechouil photos follow


                              We moved here from Canada in 1994, and never a minute's regret.

                              1. re: mangeur

                                If you follow this link:


                                There is a pretty good list of what's happening in our area. That is the Eastern tip of Tarn et Garonne. We border Aveyron, Tart & Lot. Lots going on!

                          2. Hi, I am flying into Paris on August 5th and am planning to be there for a week. I will be with three girlfriends and we would absolutely love to attend a village fete. Any information on whether any of these celebrations will be going on during this time is greatly appreciated. We are more than willing to travel wherever might be necessary. Thanks very much.

                            7 Replies
                              1. re: Parigi

                                Sorry for the confusion. I understand you need to be in a village to attend one of these celebrations. We are flying into Paris but hoping to locate a village that would be having a fete during the time we are in France. I realize it's a big country, but we would be willing to travel a fare distance outside of Paris in order to go to a village and attend one.

                              2. re: austineatsworld

                                Well, here's a starting point. http://www.adagionline.com/selectionm...

                                Summer weekend fetes take place throughout France and are based on different motifs: produce, religion, etc. I would just Google "Fete aout 2013" and see what comes up that struck my fancy.

                                1. re: mangeur

                                  Mangeur's adagio list may include some genuine fêtes de village but most are rather touristic/ entrepreneurial to bring in visitors during the August vac season. And since so many people from northern France flee south during August, I suspect that there will be very few, if any, fêtes de village in easy reach from Paris or worth a tiring day trip during your week's stay.

                                  Most villages/ towns have a "comité des fêtes" to organize these things and I did find a central website http://www.comitedesfetes.org/ . But not very user friendly (organized by region and then by department and then by town/ village... lots of clicking involved... I gave up after 5 mins), not totally up-to-date, includes events other than genuine fêtes de village, and no English version. Sorry can't be more helpful.

                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                    As Parn says, it would be necessary for you to plan time outside of Paris in order to visit one of these Fetes. I found one, Googling by date, that includes the usual events such as demonstrations of old time crafts, traditional food, folk dancing, etc., but as Parn suggests, it is in Provence. "Fete de Moissons d'Anton, St. Julien de Montagnier" is typical of the genre. http://www.saintjulienlemontagnier.co...

                                    To visit a fete would probably require an investment of at least 3 days out of Paris. i.e., for this one, TGV to Aix, car rental and 50km drive to the village.

                                    These events are most practically visited by finding oneself near one while in the country.

                                    1. re: Parnassien

                                      Thanks very much for the information. I would agree that the comitedesfetes.org site is not very user friendly. Tried to navigate the central region area of the site as best I could with Google Translate and did not find anything during the time we will be there. None-the-less I know we will have a great time and thanks again for the help.

                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                        You are right. You might want to try this link:


                                        You can use the map to locate fetes by Department. (28,45 & 89 being good nearby locations if flying into Paris


                                        Click on the Department you want to get a list of the fetes in that area. Again, the information isn't very detailed. These are after all very local events thus there's not a lot of detailed on line information.

                                        If you go the http://www.comitedesfetes.org/. site you can get to individual fetes with a few clicks.Start by clicking on" Accès à l'annuaire des Comités des Fêtes". On the next page click on a region. If you're coming in via Paris then the "centre" is a good region to try. Once you get the region you'll get a list for the villages that hold fetes. Unfortunately, these vary widely in quality. None have English, but you can puzzle things out.
                                        This is not all that helpful I know, but the fetes are local indeed.
                                        I don't know the local/regional newspapers up North, but our regional paper does a pretty good job of covering the fetes. ( you can see it at: http://www.ladepeche.fr/.) Maybe some other Chowhound knows.
                                        Good luck. Alas, you've just missed the festival of St Jean which is celebrated all over France. We had aperos, watched some folk dancing, ogled some gorgeous old cars & had a 'repas' in our village today.

                                  2. Today sent to à St. Michel célébration in thé haute Pyrénées in thé village of Guchan.
                                    Menu was salade de gésiers, cochon au lait,garlic potatoes, bethmale cheese, Apple crumble, and à new dessert gâteau à la broche.
                                    200 people With very little else going on, but both flood and company wonderful.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger


                                      Gâteau à la broche! Cool. Not often seen.

                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                        Forgot to mention they had à few singers that made me look for the. Vaudeville hook, very very funny.