Last year at the end of June, we spent a few days in Provence in search of lavender. We were very fortunate; we found fields and fields of purple. (Last year’s post.) During our touring, we noticed the announcement for the annual Lavender Festival in Ferrassières, always on the first Sunday of July. We plotted our return. One must never run out of lavender, you know.
Ferrassières is a little village in the middle of a broad valley in the heart of lavender-growing Provence. While the nearby town of Sault gets a lot of tourist attention, the valley around Ferrassières is major lavender producing territory. Here are the farms and the farmers who make lavender in Provence famous.
While last year the fields were densely and deeply purple at the start of July, this year the colors were paler and the tufts were scruffier — at least to our eyes. The end of winter and most of spring of 2018 was exceptionally wet, chilly and gray. People in our village said that it hadn’t been this wet in the last 50 years. We speculate: perhaps the rains stunted the lavender plants, or delayed their development. Nonetheless, a few poppy hangers-on from early summer offered sparks of red.
The festival proper was simply stands strung out along the village’s main street. We found what you find in most street fairs anywhere, although with deep Provence themes and local products: fresh summer produce, Provençal linens, sausages, pottery, glass painted with lavendar motifs, cheese, olives, paintings, decorated objects, jewelry, and sun hats. And, of course, lavender: dried lavender flowers, lavender honey, lavender-based cosmetics, lavendar oils, sachets, lavender biscuits, soaps, lavender bath salts, and lavender-infused sugar.
We bought two kilos of dried lavender flowers! With the help of our friend Sharon, we are going to make lavender pillow inserts. In past travels, in Seattle and in Hokkaido, we had found flat pads stuffed with lavender that are designed to slip into the pillow case along with the main pillow. One then dreams in lavender.
This lavender-oil vendor cleverly mocked up the stills that distill the flowers.
At the entrance to the village, this proud phalanx of tractors stood at attention. While we laymen play with the pretty scent and colors, these tractors represent the farmers’ real hard work of the entire year.
The day was hot, about 35 degrees C or 95 degrees F. Strolling a street fair in the heat makes one hungry. Just to the left of the truck in this photo, a family of three was grilling sausages and composing picnic lunches. We paid for our lunch ticket, and then waited for the griller to catch up. The refrigerator truck held the sausages ready for the grill, but also brown paper bags with a chilled barley salad, bread with Serrano ham, and fromage blanc (somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese) with fruit sauce. The griller served up hot sausages, a baked potato, and a creamy mustard sauce. While the operation had one foot in comic chaos, the food was delicious.
Of course, lavender was the main reason for the fair. It may just be an aroma, but it has captivated us. We are relieved that we have replenished our supply, and we can now muddle through until next year’s fix.