La Foire - Le Vigan
All self-respecting kids moan and groan at the end of the summer holidays but secretly I think many of them enjoy going back to school. Parents of course breathe a sign of relief. No more demands for expensive day trips, no more teenagers lounging in bed til teatime, no more cries of "I'm bored!"
And best of all, once they're safely locked up in school, on Tuesday 9th September there is a huge foire in Le Vigan. Bigger than a market and tattier, it really takes over the whole town. There are fairground rides and popcorn, candyfloss and toffee apples, and enough fired food to sink the Titanic.
There are also however more interesting stalls. There are cheeses and loaves the size of cart wheels, ribbons and zips sold in bunches, cages of rats, birds and mice, and enough Barbie outfits to keep even the Plastic Goddess Herself in a buzz of excitement. Rotavators and automatic gates. A million and one gadgets for the kitchen; you too can cut your radishes into Japanese lilies.
I particularly enjoy the old lady clothes. This is where they buy those blue pinnies and overalls; brushed cotton pyjamas, rose-sprigged nighties, bed-socks and filmy bed-jackets. This is where you can see massive women trying massive corsets on over their jumpers.
Along with all that, the cafés and bars are full. The foire is where everyone meets up to rake over the events of the summer, swap feral-tourist tales and invest some of the season's profits in a glass or two of pastis. I wouldn't miss it for anything.
The foire starts early in the morning and goes on all day making it a great destination for adults intent on relaxing after the rigors of kitting school kids out with enough biros and plastic files to keep the teachers happy. It's also not a bad place to buy yourself a little reward for having survived the summer holidays without having transformed your off-spring into body-parts in the freezer.
But if La Foire in Le Vigan is perhaps a little tacky and not your style, don't forget Ganges 1900 the weekend before. This year it will be even bigger and better than last year, lasting three days instead of two. (Opening on Friday 5th, it closes on Sunday 7th.)
This is your chance to carry a frivolous parasol and don a corset (although perhaps not over a thick woolly jumper). Everyone dresses up for this event; even the cafés and shops, all of them, will be dressing their windows in period style. The plastic fountain will be back, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars, the horses, the bone-shakers, the market and all the rest of the glory will be putting Ganges on the map.
This party is worth a visit on its own merits, but is doubly interesting because so many of the townspeople participate and together seem set on creating a famous event. Think of Menton's lemon festival... known worldwide it attracts thousands of visitors every year. Ganges managed to pull in 10,000 people last year and is hoping for more year on year.
"Wouldn't it be great to see the event expand to fill ten days?" says Frédéric Hideux of the Tourist Office. "Imagine the town being completely closed to cars! Everyone having to get around on period bicycles, horses and carts..."
If you want to attend the dinner and dance on the Saturday night, rush to get a ticket as they sold out weeks in advance last year.
Fingers crossed for good weather.
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