It’s hard to believe that we are already at the end of October and staring November in the face. Over the last few weeks, the weather has been utterly glorious, with blue skies, gentle breezes and pretty much wall to wall, warm sunshine. We’ve been making the most of it too, getting out cycling….
Putting on our boots and walking….
And pottering in Fifi, making the most of the mild weather, before the cold nights start to settle and we finally have to think about lighting the fire.
It seems as if autumn just hasn’t really been able to get its act into gear yet, as if it’s still a bit drained after the incredibly hot summer. Whereas this time last year, the landscape was already decorated with shades of gold and the cherry orchards were wearing vibrant shades of red, this year the trees seem defiantly green.
But despite appearances, autumn is slowly marching on towards winter and this weekend sees France celebrating Toussaint, the last big holiday of the year before Christmas. The shutters on holiday homes have been thrown open again and there’s plenty going on, to keep visitors to the area entertained over the long weekend.
Over the next couple of days, we’ll be heading off to fuddle around the stalls at the Antiques, Art and You festival in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue, but today pottered up to the pretty village of Revest Du Bion for the annual Fete de la Chataigne, celebrating everything that can possibly done with a chestnut.
I first heard about this festival, a few years ago, but this was the first time we have been able to visit and experience it for ourselves. The village is a beautiful and normally a quiet little place, set high on the Albion Plateau, between Simiane La Rotonde, Banon and Sault, surrounded by lavender fields and (as the festival may suggest) forests of sweet chestnut trees.
We drove up in Fifi, stopping for breakfast at the delightful boulangerie in Rustrel, before taking to road up to the village, gathering quite a queue behind us, as Fifi tackled the climb at about 30 kph, hardly fast enough to even ruffle our hair, but on a glorious day like today, that was pretty much perfect… You can see a bit of our drive here Postcard from Provence – driving to the Chestnut Festival
Normally the road is really quiet, but today there was a steady stream of cars, making their way toward the festival and by the time we arrived, just before 10, the fields that had been designated as parking areas were almost full and every verge was filled with cars and people making their way towards the village centre and the woodlands, which had been fenced off to allow visitors to go and forage for their own chestnuts.
We managed to find a parking spot and walked up into the village, which was far from the quiet little place that we have come to know. All the roads into the centre were blocked off and the streets and greens were packed with stalls that were already thronged with crowds of people, with many already waiting for the shuttle buses that would take them to the chestnut collecting areas.
I love these events, which are a true celebration of local produce and artisans and of course, as the name of the festival suggests, there was every possible chestnut-related product available that I could imagine. It’s the 21st year of the festival in the village, which is obviously thriving and the day is packed with a list of events that include guided walks in the forests, parades, dancing, a church service and a 23 euro, chestnut-packed dinner, which today was :
Dariole of carrots, spinach and chestnuts
Forest fowl with chestnuts and crozets (a speciality pasta from the Savoie region)
Local goats cheese
Revest is surrounded by chestnut woodlands and the leaves are used to wrap the cheese, made in nearby Banon (which is one of my favourites – especially served warm, on salad, with perhaps some fresh figs or chutney) and there were plenty of cheese stalls offering tasters that could easily have kept us going all day….
There were stands offering ‘creme de marron’, a chestnut conserve, which is a critical ingredient of the Mont Blanc ice cream dessert. The creme was originally created in the Ardeche region in 1885, by Clement Faugier, who was a manufacturer of marron glace (candied chestnuts) and wanted to find a use for the nuts that were broken during production. They were cooked and pureed, with vanilla and sugar syrup added to made a thick, sweet chestnut-scented cream, which has become a popular, store-cupboard staple and today could be bought, scented with other flavours too, including candied orange, which sounded divine…
There were cakes scented with chestnuts….
And beers, made by local artisan breweries, sold with others flavoured with local lavender honey and spelt (which is widely grown across the Ventoux area), with one ‘brasserie’ also selling chestnut syrup …..
There were local honey producers too, selling chestnut honey too, much darker and runnier than the creamy lavender honey, but just as delicious….
On the large village green, there was an area set aside, where big braziers were set up, roasting vast quantities of sweet chestnuts, which are so tasty, even if they always make me think of Christmas visits to London….
And in the same space were two wonderful old wooden fruit presses, constantly being packed with chopped apples that were being pressed to make fresh juice, that was then being sold from a table at the side of the road…
There were also lots of artisan stalls, with some beautiful hand-made crafts, including some beautiful baskets, perfect for chestnut collection….
Wonderful leather work, including one stall that specialised in creating unique pieces for children, with delightful animal-inspired rucksacks and these pretty milk-teeth mice….
And quilted pieces with a vintage feel, reminiscent of the antique linens we see at brocante markets….
It was a perfectly lovely way to pass a morning and it was great to see such a celebration of local produce, so well supported by people from across the area. By the time we left, the parking areas were even more packed, with cars parked in every possible space and more people making their way in (in time for lunch I’m sure)
It may have been our first visit, but I have a feeling that it won’t be our last….. You can find out more about the festival here http://www.fetedelachataigne.com/revest.html