This morning, as I headed down into the historic centre of Rouen to meet a group of 30 American tourists, I was assailed by the heady smell of bacon! I don’t usually associate a Sunday breakfast in France with bacon, but rather with the smell of warm brioche which I had hastily eaten this morning before setting out, so I quickened my step to find out where the delicious smell was coming from. I should have guessed, only one street further on, the pavements were crammed with colourful stalls, and a huge display of ‘everything edible’ from all over Normandy. Today the city celebrates La Fête de la Ventre’, literally translated as the ‘Festival of the Stomach’ and what a festival it was!
It was somewhat difficult to head my group of tourists in the opposite direction to visit the sombre and macabre gloom of the Black Death Cemetery, the Aitre St Maclou, while all the gaiety, aroma and colour of the market was only a few streets away. The group were disappointed that the Cathedral and Eglise Jeanne d’Arc were both closed for the Dioscesan Assembly, the huge ecclesiatical gathering had regrouped at the Zenith, several kilometers from the city centre. It was certainly ironic that in the face of all this gluttony and merimaking, the church had chosen to escape temptation with a Diocesan ‘Day of Prayer’ far from the city and its habitual place of worship!
Having successfully led my Americans through the burgeoning crowds building up around the Vieux Marché, and delivered them to the site of the burning of Joan of Arc, where we attempted to view the 15th century stained glass from the outside the locked and gated church, I let them loose into the face of temptation, with the instruction to return to their coach by one. How many made it back in time is one question, whether I arrived home in time for lunch is another!
I sent the following text to my daughter..
“I may be some time..!”
The band’s great rythm added to the convivial atmosphere,
A make-shift oyster bar was at the centre of the festivities – but between you and me, the real feast was all around us, and there were plenty of ‘goûters’ (tasters) to try at every stall for free!
Who can reist the freshest fish?
or handgrown cress from the bank of the smallest river in France, at Veules les Roses,
Not just cress, but cress soup and tapenade of cress with garlic!
Seasonal pupkins and squashes, with the stall owner sautéing the produce in butter..
Fresh Neufchatel cheese made in the form of a heart by the Normandy dairymaids to thank the allied soldiers for their liberation!
Savory cakes with feta, olives or leek and salmon..
The dreaded Andoillette, both raw..
It smelled and looked better than it tastes!
Who can resist little “goûters” of Chorizo..
or Cerf (venison) and Sanglier (Wild Boar)?
Everywhere I looked, local specialities were being cooked.
The stall owners were jovial and good-humoured and I couldn’t resist some artisan produced fresh bread!
And at the next stall small boules of bread were infused with scented pressed olive oils
and the huge cheeses and the Feuillettes de Chevre (goats cheese puff pastries) were heavenly!
But then I came across the display of cakes, Amandines avec Framboises, (almond frangipan cakes with crushed raspberries) and my thoughts turned to sweeter things!
a huge vat of molten chocolate,
and an expert confisseur making alcohol laden truffles on the street with little morsels to taste.
Need I say that the purchase of a bag was essential!
But if chocolate doesn’t do it for you, then there were freshly made Macroons of every flavour,
and several expert crèpe and galette makers hard at work!
It was with huge regret that I finally tore myself away from the fête and headed home..
But the sounds and smells followed me half the way,
and the Truffles? All the way of course!
The Fête de Ventre? A perfect way to spend a Sunday on a warm October day!
You’ve made me hungry just looking at the pictures. I love the idea of watercress tapenade.
And why does your husband drive a lemon, pray?
It all comes down to pronuciation Victoria, – citron, citroen, and my life here seems to be peppered with such little gems of mispronuciation – usually just when i’m hoping to make a good impression!
On another note many tourists ask about my blog and ‘My Husband Drives a Lemon’ is more memorable and comes up on the first page of google! It seemed like a good idea to modify the title!
I know it sounds a ridiculous thing to say but everything did actually look very French! Even if you didn’t know where it was – the photos are impossibly French! That’s culture for you! Xx
Very nice photos that take us right along with you. Wish we could smell those cooking aromas too. Well done!
(Not as enamored of your new title, but that’s just me)
Thanks for your great comments Ellen. I changed the title of my blog as many of the tourists on my tours were asking me the name of my blog, and My husband drives a lemon was much more memorable and comes up on the first page of a google search. Total Immersion is very widely used globally and difficult to find. It seemed appropriate because mixing the pronunciation Citroen with Citron is just the typical sort of error I make every day!