Markets bursting with local produce, buzzing cafe terraces, sun-baked olive groves tended by third-generation farmers; ancient truffle estates, vineyards and oyster farms mirroring the beauty of each season...
The smorgasbord of romantic accolades bestowed upon la belle France is dizzying, and most relate to food.
Attending a food festival is a golden ticket to tasting seasonal produce, meeting local producers and artisans and really getting under the skin of France’s grass-roots food culture. Almost every French specialty has its own dedicated fête (festival).
Here's a highlight from Lonely Planet’s new book, Eat France, which celebrates the vibrant culinary scene of one of the world's greatest foodie destinations from Paris to Corsica. From the communal tables in a vineyard to the world's most incredible display of citrus, get ready for the gourmand tour of a lifetime.
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January is for truffles
Fête de la Truffe
Feast on prized black truffles at this two-day truffle fest in Sarlat-la-Canéda in the Dordogne. Provence’s black truffle harvest is celebrated with a truffle fair in Aups.
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February is for lemons and sea urchins
Fête du Citron
Gorge on Menton lemons and admire monumental sculptures and floats crafted from the fruit at the seaside town’s Lemon Festival.
Aficionados of the oursin (sea urchin) scoff bucketloads of its lurid-orange innards in the fishing port of Carry-le-Rouet on the Côte Bleue.
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March is for ham and scallops
Foire au Jambon
The country’s finest cured ham has been celebrated with gusto at Bayonne’s famous ham fair in Pays Basque since 1462.
Fête de la Coquille St-Jacques
Luxurious scallops fished in Brittany’s Baie de St-Brieuc are plentiful at this two-day festival closing the strictly regulated scallop-fishing season. The fishing ports of Paimpol, Saint-Quay-Portrieux and Erquy take turns to host.
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May is for cherries
Fête de la Cerise
Sun-baked Céret in Roussillon celebrates its cherry harvest with two days of markets, tastings and live music. Or head to the cherry-rich Basque village of Itxassou.
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June is for garlic
Foire à l’Ail
Heady scents fill the honey-colored town of Uzès in Languedoc during its garlic fair.
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July is for oysters
Fêtes de l’Huître
Summer-long, seafaring towns around the Bassin de Thau on the Atlantic Coast toast the iconic Bouzigues oyster with tastings, raucous oyster feasts around communal tables and visits to local oyster farms.
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August is for Champagne
Route du Champagne en Fête
Free tastings in the cellars of more than 20 top Champagne houses are a highlight of this weekend festival celebrating the world’s most famous bubbles.
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September is for mussels
Braderie de Lille
Europe’s largest outdoor flea market in Lille is as much about overdosing on mussels as shopping for a bargain.
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A huge array of French food products, regional cuisines and cooking styles are showcased – with tastings, dining, live cooking and cookery classes – at this brilliant food fair filling Grand Palais in Paris.
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October is for chestnuts, cows and chili peppers
Fête de la Châtaigne
Pick, eat and fill up on sweet chestnuts native to forests around Collobrières in the Massif des Maures in Provence.
Le Retour des Alpages
The return of cattle from alpine summer pastures has been reason to party since the Middle Ages. Annecy celebrates with traditional music, flower-festooned cows and street stalls plying local Savoy cheese.
Fête du Piment
A formal blessing of the town’s chili peppers and ennoblement of a chevalier du piment (a knight of the pimiento) are highlights of this chili-pepper fair in Espelette, Pays Basque.
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November is for wine
At the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday in November bottles of cherry-red Beaujolais Nouveau are cracked open – and what a party it is in Beaujolais and nearby Lyon.
Vente aux Enchères des Vins de Hospices de Beaune
The grandest of wine fests in Burgundy’s prestigious Côte d’Or, this is a three-day extravaganza with tastings, cuisine and a private wine auction.
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December is for Christmas markets
Marché de Noël
Mug of vin chaud (mulled wine) in hand, mooch around fairy-light-covered stalls selling crafts and spicy bredele (biscuits) at Strasbourg’s month-long Christmas Market.
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