The Fair of St Siffrein takes place in Carpentras on the 27th November so in 2017 in its 492nd year the fair fell on a Monday. The mistral shyly showed its face but causing enough of a chilly wind for locals to turn out well wrapped up in their coats, boots, hats and gloves as if it were the depths of winter but essentially the day was bright and sunny and spirits were high. The centre of town was closed to traffic and people strolled along the boulevards lined with stall holders trying to entice us with their wares: wooly hats, scarves and jumpers; boots and gloves; quilts; table cloths; roasted chestnuts, barbe a papa (otherwise known as candy floss) and all things lavender. There were tractors, electric wheelbarrows, horses, ponies and chickens and the whole thing reminded me a little of the annual Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh – apart from the huge display of swimming pools and solar panels of course!
The Chateau de la Roseraie, a grand building in a park with a book exchange sculpture and host of the young person’s library and other information services became a busy ski boot sale venue. Auzon cultural centre became the Espace Gourmandises for the day, a hubub of folk eating dishes such as Truffade, Chou-croute, Aligot, as well as sampling cuisine from Corsica, the Antilles and the island of Reunion.
Many more were crowded around the various degustation stalls of wine, champagne, cognac, foie gras and other meats and cheeses from outwith the Comtat Venaissin area. We tried some Truffade and Aligot, both potato based dishes with cheese but quite different in texture and taste. The Aligot was in a big urn and a cheery Madame served out spoonfuls of long strands of a very smooth potato puree which she cut free from the spoon with scissors. It seemed quite a skillful job (which she made look easy I thought to myself). I would have loved to have a go but the queue was long of hungry punters and at midi you don’t mess around. Just the other day a local told me that lunchtime in France was not important it was sacré! So, I satisfied myself with a quick photo which doesn’t really do justice to the art of serving a good Aligot to a large, impatient and hungry public.
We skipped the circus and line dancing workshops and wound our way back through the old town. Many of the shops were doing special deals for the Fair of St Siffrein, cafés and bars were busy and the town of Carpentras looked majestic but at ease in hosting this 492nd St Siffrein Fair. We dropped in to the tourist info office, the site of the annual Christmas Santons creche which is a huge deal in Provence and caught a quick preview. We were offered a quince (coing) apéritif – very warming and just what we needed as the sun began to set and our day at the fair drew to a close.