One of the main things we look for in a holiday, day out, or life in general actually is culture. Wherever we are we love to immerse ourselves in the local way of life, eat local food and not only visit popular tourist attractions (which of course we love to do) but do our research and go off the beaten track so to speak. It’s great to be able to really learn about where we have chosen to visit and find hidden gems that I think teach us so much more about life.
In fact pretty much all of my travel bucket list (and I can tell you that is a looong list) is centered around experiencing the culture of different places rather than merely a ‘to see’ list. I want to see it, to do it, but also to feel it. If we are lucky enough to tick off some of those places, I already know we will find things we didn’t even know existed, little random quirks or seemingly strange (to us) traditions that become as much a part of the feel of the place as all the brochure listed must do’s.
Which leads me to this, a French Onion festival. Random right? But for me probably the stand out highlight of our entire trip. Before we went to France we had never even heard of the local famous onion that is the ‘Roscoff rose pink onion’ nevermind the festival they hold annually in its honour. Yet when we found out it was held in August, three weeks into our month long trip and right in the town we were staying, there was no doubt that we would be there.
I touched on it in my week 3 blog post here but the ‘Fête de l’Oignon de Roscoff’ is basically a two day event that takes place in Roscoff Port to celebrate this humble onion. The car park along the port is taken over with tents and tractors, stalls and games and lots and lots of onions adorned with beautiful flowers and ribbons displayed all around. Even before it started, when there were areas merely cordoned off in readiness for the event, you could feel the buzz in the air, we had no idea what to expect but were happy to be there and soak it all in.
We were actually pleasantly surprised. There was so much to do and it was filled with local people celebrating local produce. Stalls sold everything from onion tarts, onion sausages, onion soup and onion chutney, to onion beer, and many more things besides. There were the onion Johnnies, whom historically rode around England to sell onions in the 1900’s, stringing them up into garlands with garlic and decorating them with flowers for sale, which of course we did buy, when in Rome and all that!
The girls were fascinated, in the two days that we visited we watched basket weaving, they had a go on the tombola where they won a mini china tea set and a tractor (not technically won but I think the lady felt sorry for Roma) tasted the freshest apple juice straight from the press and watched clogs being made by machines powered by a tractor. And oh the tractors! Roma is absolutely tractor mad and this whole trip was a dream for her but at the festival she not only got to see tractors, of all colours, celebrated with all manner of beautiful decoration which gave them a life of their own, she actual got to sit on every single one. Gosh I have never seen a happier child, she was just shouting “tractor” and “driving driving” over and over again like a crazy child, we got some funny looks and remarks that she will be a farmer one day!
It was so child friendly though and the traditional wooden games were amazing, I am a huge fan of handmade simple games and toys and these definitely didn’t disappoint, they were so clever and we had a go at every one. We watched as a band marched through the crowd and it totally warmed my heart. It might seem random and yes it is a little bit but this was the epitome of culture, of what I want to teach my little ladies about the world, about celebrating difference, and making the most of the smallest, seemingly ordinary, things in an extraordinary way.
So if you ever find yourself in northern France, in August, the Roscoff OnionFestival is definitely worth a visit, and in actual fact I would visit with this specifically in mind. The 6 hour ferry crossing from Plymouth might be a stretch purely for this but with so many other places in and around Roscoff to visit, it is something worth adding into the travel itinerary.
Now, can we go back please?
I am no onion expert (if there is such a thing) but they were delicious, even Eva liked them for their delicate flavour and this is the girl that can spot a grated onion in a bolognese from a mile off!
Right in the port the girls loved to spot shells and make Eddy go down and fetch them, this was the biggest crab shell he found.
I absolutely adore these little handmade wooden and metal stools, I totally want them in my house.
Onion beer, yum – or not so yum in my case.
Just some of the local produce for sale.
How amazing it this apple press? You could literally see them pressing the apple juice out for you and although it was a little too fresh for the children I loved it, although it meant the floor around it was ridiculously sticky.
The clogs that came from this machine were so sweet everyone was fascinated.
Look how happy she is!
This right here is the face of a 1 year old not at all happy that she has to get off of the tractor!