If you like good food, especially sampling new delicacies or different ways of preparing familiar produce, it can be particularly exciting on a walking holiday in France to come across a colourful village market or – even better – an authentic village festival, celebrating a particular local delicacy. And France has more than its fair share. Take the Dordogne, for example. Every year on the second Sunday in May, the village of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne holds its annual Strawberry Festival, La Fête de la Fraise.
The whole village is given over to the festival with a huge strawberry market, music, fairground rides, art exhibition and boat trips on the Dordogne throughout the day, culminating in the arrival of the ‘King of Strawberry Tarts’ made by the local bakers, which is cut up and dished out to everyone for free. It is 8 metres in diameter and contains over 700kg of fruit!
Later in the year – on the last Sunday in September – the Beaulieu Tourist Office also organises a Walnut Walk, or Randonoix, a group walk of around 28 kilometres through walnut groves on which you will learn about walnut production and can taste various walnut-related products. (It must be pointed out that the talks are conducted in French and so you would need a reasonable grasp of the language to get the most out of this fascinating 'walk and talk'.)
Pretty Carennac, considered by many to be one of les plus beaux villages de France, also holds a special festival. On the first Monday in August the village holds its Fête de la Prûne Dorée, or Greengage Festival, which dates back to the time of King François I who gave a greengage (the Reine Claude variety – named in honour of his wife Queen Claude) to the monks of the monastery at Cluny, who then began to cultivate the fruit.
Enjoy the delicious fruits of their labours today, either sampling the juicy fresh fruits themselves, savouring a slice of ‘Le Prunat’ – a traditional greengage tart – or having a sip of the local tangy greengage liqueur.
Head down the Ouysse tributary of the River Dordogne and you can enjoy a fine walk through timeless scenery to reach Rocamadour. Arrive on Whit Sunday and you can participate in this remarkable town’s annual Cheese Festival, which celebrates the ‘Cabecou de Rocamadour’ AOC goats’ cheese. During the festival, the town is filled with cheese stalls, cheese and wine tastings, barbeques, music, and the grand finale – a cheese competition. The day begins with a service in the town’s famous cliff-top church at which the goats are blessed before they lead a procession through the narrow winding streets.
Enjoy the colour, noise and organised chaos of this vibrant spectacle before taking a long leisurely lunch – finishing with the cheese board, featuring Cabecou de Rocamadour, of course...