Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Violet Festival – Tourrettes-sur-Loup

It was confirmed to me today that spring is on its way at La Fête des Violettes in Tourrettes-sur-Loup. I don’t know much about when certain flowers bloom but February seemed early for violets. But I was wrong as they are apparently the harbinger of spring and were displayed all over the village for its annual celebration. And there weren’t just violets; mimosas and other seasonal flowers were decorating the town and its floats, but the violet was the star of the show.


Usually these festivals come with a hassle factor in that it is impossible to park, but I felt very clever in tackling that. I saw a walking trail on the map that connected the old train station to the medieval town. So while the others waited for the shuttle bus, I set off on my little path, which used to be the old railway line and followed it as it went into the woods on a perfect stone trail and then upwards. 

Twenty minutes later, as soon as I neared the top and the medieval gate, I got a sense of how popular this fair was. Perhaps was because the kids were on school break, but it seemed like there were at least a thousand Italians. I heard Italian everywhere and hardly a word of French. Did they all come together? Is this what the Italians do every year? I decided to take a deep breath and enjoy this beautifully sunny day and ignore the fact that the hassle factor might quadruple with the Italian invasion. Now off to explore the village…

The village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup sits at about 400 meters (1,300 ft) above sea level and is your classic medieval town with what seems like one solid piece of stone carved up into individual attached homes with old wooden doorways and has amazing views all the way down to the sea. Today, due to the festival, there were displays of flower arrangements and loads of people. 

The shop doing the best business in the pedestrian part of the old town was the ice cream shop and the most popular flavor of the day was just as you would expect -  violet! I usually don’t like the flowery ice creams, like lavender or rose but I really enjoyed my creamy violet treat.

Having very slowly (remember, all those Italians?) made it to the other side of this tiny village and through another old portal, I arrived in the main square. This is where most of the action was happening – restaurants serving lunch (al fresco as it was a warm sunny day), stands selling the using Provençal wares (ceramics, linens) plus violet soaps, crystalized violets candies and lots of food choices. I went for a glass of rosé with my plate of sausage, and then had a Tunisian ‘brik’. Okay, this is not typical Provençal but there is a huge community of Northern Africans living in this area and I have fond memories of ‘brik’ when visiting my friends in Tunis. It’s fried philo dough stuffed with tuna, egg, onions and parsley and it was really yummy.

Now it was time to sit down and wait for the parade to come past with the flowery floats. The photos don’t really give you a sense of the moment as each group had some sort of music either played by live bands or blasting from a sound system. People were dancing around, spraying each other with the classic Carnival style string like goop and generally enjoying themselves. The most fun float was the Tourrettes-sur-Loup rugby team, whose decorated ‘car’ was Fred Flintstone like with the whole rugby team inside acting as the wheels. 

The most talented group were the kids who led the float of the local soccer team. They must have been about 10 yrs old and they were doing fancy foot work bouncing the ball on their knees, passing it around, back on the knees, all while leading their float through the village. 



When the last float came through I decided it was time to head down back through the medieval town (which was now gloriously empty), hike down the forested path and back to my car, parked for a perfect getaway. I can only imagine there was absolute mayhem when the crowds decided to leave town.



Another tough day living on the Côte d’Azur!

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