We’re definitely in autumn now. This year it has started off rather damp and gloomy, although the weather is often glorious at this time. But I make no secret of the fact that autumn is my favourite season. After a particularly hot summer this year, it’s nice to feel a nip in the morning air and settle down in front of the wood burner in the evening. And wouldn’t life be monotonous if all the seasons were the same?
This is the time of year for long walks (when it’s not raining, of course), which are impossible in high summer. The landscape dons its gold and russet clothing. Autumn produce is coming into its own. And life has returned to its normal rhythms after the influx of summer visitors.
This is not to say that nothing happens in autumn down here; rather, that it has a different focus from the summer fêtes and festivals laid on in the tourist season. It’s often about celebrating produce that has been safely gathered in before the winter or that ripens in the autumn.
Quercy’s red gold in Cajarc
Saffron is harvested from the stamens of crocus flowers and the labour-intensive process makes it expensive – hence its nickname. But a small amount goes a long way. The riverside town of Cajarc in Lot is noted for its production of saffron, which was rescued from near oblivion only in recent decades.
Every October, the town holds a saffron fair. You can buy products made with saffron, see cookery demonstrations using the spice and visit a safranière, where the crocuses are grown.
I visited one year, which I am horrified to see is already eight years ago. You can read my post about it here.
Chestnut fair in Laguépie
Hard on the heels of the saffron fête comes the Foire à la Châtaigne in Laguépie, also a riverside town, but at the confluence of the Viaur and Aveyron rivers.
Sweet chestnuts once played an important part in the local economy. As well as being a staple crop in place of wheat or rye, they also became a luxury item in the big cities. Trainloads of the nuts were sent off to destinations throughout France.
I visited the fair the same autumn as the saffron fête and wrote about it here. Naturally, you can buy products made from or including chestnuts: liqueurs, bread, cakes, savoury dishes. You can also consume grilled chestnuts sur place and see various demonstrations and attractions.
Truffle market in Limogne-en-Quercy
Later, from December to March, the weekly truffle market takes place in Limogne, Lot. This is a much smaller event than its nearby cousin, the market in Lalbenque, but its intimacy makes it somehow more authentic. I say this not yet having visited the Lalbenque truffle market in 22 years! However, I have visited the Limogne version, and fascinating it was.
Lalbenque normally holds a fête de la truffe in late January/early February. Details on the website.
Our area is not a wine-producing area, but there are still some fêtes des vendanges to come in other parts of the region. The vin nouveau also has various events associated with it in October in Gaillac and Fronton, which are the closest commercial vineyards.
The Occitanie Tourist Board site lists the traditional fêtes taking place.
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