Written by Mel:
It just so happened that this year, the annual châtaigne (chestnut) festival at the local town of Laguépie fell on my birthday so we decided if ever we needed an excuse to make the trip this would be it. Mainly because not only do they sell copious amounts of delicious chestnut inspired breads, cakes and pastries, you can also watch the chestnuts being roasted, and soak up the friendly atmosphere whilst drinking an apero.
We arrived relatively early as parking appeared virtually impossible by the time we were parked up at 10.00. On entering the market along with the masses we were greeted with the smell of chestnuts roasting and many other delights including roasted Lamb, chestnuts soups, crepes filled with chestnut confiture and roasted coffee beans. After buying some crepes and Amadie and Lois scoffing the lot, we went in for a second round and of course the purchase of some bread made from chestnut flour ; which took up a whole stall of its own with hundreds of flours to choose from.
It’s a great place to run into neighbours and friends and we persevered with welcome kisses and conversations in the middle of the hustle and bustle, all who have been coming to the festival for years no doubt and who are seasoned participators in the ways of the festival. This was never more apparent than at lunch time, when we failed miserably to find a table for an apero or to eat some lunch. Instead, in true British style we opted for some plastic chairs, positioning them in circle to pen in Lois and Ams, where we stayed for a good hour, minus the table or any of the French class! We watched on with our chips and beers as the French just waited for free tables to pop up and within seconds had managed to order hot plates of food from the vendors and were opening bottles of wine. Yet, we still gave ourselves a pat on the back for at least getting some seats and finally making a birthday toast just in time to watch the Bandas spectacular; A twenty piece orchestra with solely wind instruments and drums, playing classics ranging from Michael Jackson and Billy Jean to Bruno Mars’ Up Town Funk.
It was little bit hectic with a toddler and a baby who were both slightly overwhelmed by the volume of people and the flames from the roasting cages, but after they had eaten 2 crepes each, chips and a prepared picnic lunch, they seemed pretty good. Lois even enjoyed a dance to the bandas in a head banging style and Amadie was particularly happy after buying a Bamboo whistle from one of the stalls.
We would have loved to stay longer and take a stroll to the river, where it’s possible to safely paddle (if not a bit cold this time of year), or even visit the castle which had opened especially for the event. Or just to try some more of the artisanal products including locally brewed beers and wines from the Gaillac vineyards. However, the babies ruled and we parted just after lunch, but at least for me with an ever so slightly warm glow after my Apero and the rest having eaten some châtaigne inspired delights, since as Charl says ‘ she bloody loves chestnuts’.