Fêtes and Festivals in Southwest France


Ready for the off at the Espinas fête
Ready for the off at the Espinas fête

It’s that time of year again. You can’t move for village fêtes, art exhibitions, concerts and so on. There are too many things to go to and you have to be selective, but it’s all good fun and excellent entertainment for visitors. The weather hasn’t exactly favoured outdoor events this year, but the organisers usually find a way around it.

Festival d’Art at Parisot

Exhibit at the Parisot Art Festival
Exhibit at the Parisot Art Festival

First off was the weekend-long Parisot Festival d’Art. This event has been running for seven or eight years and features local artists as well as those who come from further afield. What distinguishes this festival is the fact that the works are not exhibited in a single venue but in places all around the village – including people’s garages, houses and former shops.

A venue - former butcher's shop
A venue – former butcher’s shop

Marché des Potiers at Caylus

Decorative pots
Decorative pots

A few days later, the Marché des Potiers (potters’ market) took place at Caylus. The 15th August is one of the biggest jours fériés in the French calendar, since it marks the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Normally, it’s blisteringly hot. This year, in keeping with the rest of the gloomy summer we’ve had, it was cool and rainy.

I had the impression that there were fewer exhibitors than in previous years and the weather kept the crowds away. It’s always fun looking at the different styles of pottery, but I have to keep my wallet firmly closed. Our cupboards are full of things we don’t need and rarely use.

Fanciful faces
Fanciful faces

Annual fête at Espinas

One of the biggest local fêtes is held at one of the smallest villages, Espinas. Every year, the locals recreate harvesting and haymaking as it was done in the old days (fenaisons à l’ancienne). Oxen pull the carts and machinery and there’s usually a parade of old tractors, too.


The villagers decorate Espinas so that it looks as it did in the 1920s and 30s, complete with old cars. Best of all are the life-sized figures that they station around the place, including: a beekeeper, a knife-grinder, a young married couple outside the church and a farrier shoeing a cow.

How to keep a cow still while shoeing it
How to keep a cow still while shoeing it

Gargantuan meal

A gargantuan meal closes the proceedings on the Sunday night. This is one of the most popular events in the region. We hadn’t been for several years but took our visitors this year. Around 500 people cram onto trestle tables and benches in the car park of the salle des fêtes. Fortunately, the sky was clear, even if it got a little chilly.

One of the great things about this is that you meet people you otherwise wouldn’t encounter. We sat next to a couple who lived near Toulouse. It turned out that the wife had left Spain in 1939 at the age of three as a result of the Civil War. Her husband was also Spanish, but came to France about 20 years later. She had no accent and looked French. He spoke French with a pronounced accent and looked Spanish.

Meat, meat and meat

Veal stew cooking over an open fire
Veal stew cooking over an open fire

It’s a good idea to fast for several days before the meal. And it’s no good being a vegetarian. We kicked off with a traditional country soup, vegetable broth poured over yesterday’s bread – the staple diet at one time. This was followed by pâté de campagne; green salad; veal stew; grilled lamb and haricot beans; sausage; cheese; and poached peaches with ice cream. All washed down with rough red wine.

A large team of helpers, clad in distinguishing green T-shirts, served us very efficiently. They flung hunks of bread onto the table, which we then sliced ourselves and shared out with our neighbours.

We were serenaded at one point by a trio with an accordion, a violin and a cornemuse (the French equivalent of bagpipes). Since I fiddled around for too long with the flash on my camera, I got only a shot of the accordion player and not the cornemuse, which is what I really wanted.

Serenaded by the accordion
Serenaded by the accordion

The fun continued with a good knees-up in the salle des fêtes after the meal. Feeling somewhat too full for this, we left just after midnight. Strangely, I felt hungry when I awoke the next day.

Locals overwhelmed by events
Locals overwhelmed by events

You might also like:

All Fêted Out
How a French Fête is Run
A moo-ving experience: la fête de la Transhumance

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