How many times have you driven through a French village and seen no one? How many times have you asked yourself what do these people do? Where are they?
Sometimes we assume that because a place is quiet for the short time we are passing through, it must be like that all the time…..well guess again!
Under that sleepy exterior lies the beating heart of a lively village.
Our First French Fete
My husband and I were invited by some friends to a Village Fete. We were excited as this was the first “local” fete we were to experience, and one to which you need to be invited to by someone from the village hosting the event. We arrived at the location and couldn’t believe our eyes.
A freshly cut field had been transformed into an extremely large outdoor dining area, ready to accommodate about 400 people on long tables with bench seating and long strings of lights above, which lit up the whole area as the sun started to set. The dining area was surrounded by a bar, a covered area with a stage for the band and a dance floor, plus an outdoor kitchen where the lamb, or should I say flock was being slowly spit roasted.
Local Food and Wines
We sipped ice cold slightly sparkling rose as we savoured the atmosphere. Then we were all asked to take a seat and within a short time we were chatting to people beside us, as Sangria was poured into our glasses.
Having been in the restaurant trade, we know only too well how tough it can be to feed large numbers of people, but to do it for around 400, in a field and serve everyone at the table – well that was really impressive.
Our banquet began with soup and French bread, of course, followed by cured ham and the sweetest, juiciest, locally produced melon. The wine flowed, as wine does in France, with empty bottles on the tables being quickly replaced with full ones, by the very efficient waiting staff. Then came the main course, spit roasted lamb and sausages served with a tasty bean cassoulet – it was delicious.
Brilliant Live Music
As everyone finished, the tables were cleared and the musical entertainment began. This band were very good – drummer, trumpet player, guitarist, accordion player and singer – all in fancy dress and their instruments and mikes all Bluetoothed, allowing them to mingle with everyone seated at the tables.
Within minutes the band had progressed to dancing and singing on top of the tables with many of the guests already standing on their chairs and joining in. The trumpeter played a particularly catchy 7 note riff, which was the signal for the crowd to lift their arms in the style of a Mexican wave whilst shouting ‘Olé!’
We were mesmerised by the pied piper qualities of the drummer and trumpet player – they had everyone eating out of their very musical hands, within 10 minutes! It was a shame when they played their last number but they had certainly warmed up the crowd.
There was a short break for us all to enjoy cheese followed by ice cream and then coffee to finish. Then the wandering musicians returned, having been transformed from their funny fancy dress costumes into glamorous white outfits, as the main stage was lit and their performance continued. It took only seconds for everyone to be lured towards the stage and dance the night away, with the dance floor still as full when we decided to call it a night at around 1:30 a.m.
The Morning After
I woke up the following morning and began to smile as I remembered the Fete as if it had been some kind of surreal dream, although my mildly sore throat did bring me back to reality – did I really shout Olé that many times?
The whole evening was really special as it combined a simple yet tasty meal, in a wonderful setting, amongst lovely people, who made us very welcome.
So the next time you are driving through a sleepy French village don’t let that tranquility fool you – they are probably just recovering from a celebration the night before!