I can’t help it – I’m a sucker for a local Festival in France – so you can imagine I was delighted when, on a planned bike ride last week, we arrived in Saint Didier and noticed a sign for the Fig Festival taking place in Caromb that day.I feel I should explain that Caromb was (by quite some miles) in exactly the opposite direction to the route we had planned, but the chance of spending a couple of hours wandering around, learning more about figs and hopefully tasting some, proved too much of a draw and so we bought a map from the local Tabac and then turned left instead of right and headed out towards the village.
It was a lovely ride through the small town of Mazan, through vineyards towards Caromb, which sits against the backdrop of the Dentelles, with Le Barroux perched high on a spur of rock beyond. Needless to say the mass of Ventoux was ever-present on our right as we cycled along the quiet roads.
When we arrived it was clear from the signs advertising a ‘navette’ to shuttle visitors in and out, that this was going to be quite an event – so we cycled through and found the Fete in full swing, taking over the main road and squares in the centre of the pretty little village.
We had clearly arrived at a perfect moment as there was a parade of different groups of people, representing local producers, making its way through the streets, led by a traditional provencal band. The people in these groups were dressed in long, brightly coloured capes, with one of their members carrying a banner for their particular ‘Confrerie’ – including garlic and of course figs.It was evident from this that the Fete was an opportunity for a celebration of all local foods and traditions as well as the local figs. I must admit I love figs and can’t think of anything nicer than a simple breakfast of sun-warmed, freshly picked figs with yogurt. What I hadn’t realised though was the variety of figs that are grown or that Caromb had its own local fig – the ‘Noire de Caromb’, which is at its best at this time of year. These slightly elongated, dark skinned figs have a wonderful flavour & almost burst when you bite into them and they were available in many different forms at the Fete. There was also lots of information available on so many types of figs to help you decide what to plant & where You could also sample just about every possible version of a fig from the fruit itself to ‘fig tapenade’…… ‘fig bread’, ‘fig jam,’ ‘nougat with fig’ -or simply satisfy yourself by buying a tree to take home with you. The ‘Fete’ was an absolute delight and we would have loved to have stayed for the communal lunch that was just starting in the main square – accompanied by the provencal band that had led the parade through the streets earlier. However knowing that we were on our bikes with a considerable distance to cover to get back to Fontaine De Vaucluse that evening – the last thing we needed was a long and ‘winey’ lunch, however pleasant that would have been…… (note to self – next time stay near Caromb when the Fig Festival is on)
Of course, as with the other local festivals we have visited over the years, there were many other stalls selling local handicrafts, which are always lovely and Caromb was no exception. I was particularly taken by the pottery on this stall, particularly the large and rather lurid snails, which seemed ready to crawl down onto the next shelf…..also the games made from local river pebbles…… simple but beautifully presented and a great idea………….. there were also some nice paintings …………. and some particularly stunning silver jewellery…… As ever I was very tempted by many things, but with only having handlebar-bags on the bikes our carrying space was especially limited so we restricted ourselves to buying figs (in a variety of guises) for lunch, before moving on.
The whole occasion was delightful. The centre of the village had a lovely buzz about it and it was a great way to spend a couple of hours on Bastille Day, providing us with a perfect break and lunch-stop during our cycle-ride, which was further diverted when we noticed a sign for a ‘Melon Festival’ that afternoon in Pernes-Les-Fontaines (so many festivals….. so little time!)
There was one thing though that did leave us rather intrigued and that was why the horse taking part in the main parade was wearing a tweed ‘flat-cap’ …………It didn’t seem to be doing much to keep the sun off its face, nor did it appear to be acting as a particularly effective fly-repellant. For us it was just one of those rather ‘bizarre’ sights that helps make France what is is and to be honest we can’t wait to return.
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