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,
It smelled and looked better than it tastes!
And at the next stall small boules of bread were infused with scented pressed olive oils
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,
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!