Five French food experiences and where to stay

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Carolyn Boyd

Guest Expert

5 min read

Carolyn Boyd has travelled and eaten extensively in France, revelling in the regional variety, the bustling markets and the culinary art ranging from purist simplicity to gastronomic innovation. Here, she picks out a few of her food experiences in France. Follow her to the fig harvest, freshly shucked oysters and the pungent splendour of the onion festival!

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Fig festival, Solliès-Pont  

There are food festivals all over France but few can beat the party that is thrown in honour of the fig harvest at the end of August. The Gapeau Valley is famous for its fig orchards which grow 75% of France’s whole harvest. The Fête de la Figue is the place to try figs in all its forms, from fresh, to tarts, jams, liqueurs and various Provençale specialities. There are also walking trails through the valley’s orchards and the opening night dinner in the town’s central plane-tree-shaded square. It includes a four-course meal and a night of dancing to an energetic covers band.  

Stay at: Le Mas Saint Martin at Ollioules, with its beautiful terrace on which to graze on your figs, with cheeses and the local olives. 

Onion festival, Roscoff  

Take the ferry to northern Brittany and tap into the fascinating history of the ‘Onion Johnnies’ in the pretty harbour town of Roscoff. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these beret-clad Frenchmen would sell their pink onions door-to-door from the handlebars of their bicycles throughout Britain. The onions are still popular throughout Britain and France and each August the lively Fete de l’Oignon Rose sees them celebrated with a parade, onion-string-plaiting competitions, visits to farms, Breton music and dancing. You can tuck into the Breton version of a hot dog, a sausage wrapped in a buckwheat pancake topped with confit onions.  

Stay at: Gîte au Manoir du Plessis-Quinquis at nearby Sainte-Sève. 

Citrus scenes, Côte d’Azur 

At the Menton lemon festival (17 Feb – 3 March), floats adorned with oranges and lemons rumble through the streets, and giant sculptures made with citrus fruits appear in the gardens in the town centre. You can even double up and take in The Nice Carnival (9-17 Feb) as well, where huge floats full of dancers parade down the street, with flowers thrown to the crowd.  

Stay at: Villa le Calme, with room for six to sleep off all the frivolities. 

Oyster shacks, Gironde  

The town of Arcachon is home to dozens of beautiful 19th-century villas that served as holiday homes to the well-heeled during the Belle Epoque. This is a place to cycle through, winding along the pine-scented paths to shacks on the coast, to sit in the sunshine and sip white wine alongside a platter of freshly shucked oysters. Or take a boat trip across the bay to explore the oyster-fishing villages of the Cap Ferret peninsula. 

Stay at: Villa La Tosca, which overlooks a beautifully manicured garden and the Bay of Arcachon.  

Anchovies fishing, Collioure 

Take a road trip through French Catalan country, and follow the coast road from the fishing harbour town of Collioure down to the Spanish border at Cebère. The sinuous route skirts the so-called Côte Vermeille (vermillon coast) and takes you past steep vineyards where the green vines line the red soil towards the sea, and you can stop for to buy the vintages at roadside booths or wineries. Like Collioure, the town of Banyuls-sur-Mer is known for its anchovy fishing and is worth a stop, too, as are the many coves and beaches that dot the coast.  

Stay at: 14 Rue du Mirador in Collioure, a bijou gite for two with all the facilities to feast on your gourmet finds picked up along the way. 

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Carolyn Boyd

Guest Expert

Carolyn is one of the UK’s leading food and travel writers and an expert on France. She likes nothing more than telling a good story, packed with expert insight and inspirational recommendations. Her writing for The Guardian, The Times, National Geographic Traveller and many more has seen her cycle across France, seeking out its beauty, culture and delectable produce in search of some of the most delicious and exciting experiences in travel.
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