Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

La Fête du Pain

This topic goes back to 2007 when we lived our first B&B experience outside the Loire Valley.

On the way back from our early autumn trip to the Alsace in 2007, we made an overnight stop in the village of Saint-Hubert in the Moselle department. I had booked a room at a B&B called ‘la Ferme de Godechure’. It turned out to be a splendid authentic farmhouse. The owners, an architect and his wife, who live in the main building, have completely renovated one of the side buildings. On the top floor, there are four spacious rooms. On the ground floor, a cosy living and dining room and a fully equipped kitchen are at the guests’ disposal. One of the doors in the living room gives access to a large, bright relaxation room with a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a walk-in shower.

La Ferme de Godechure in St. Hubert (France)

The Farm is set in the middle of the countryside and there are no immediate neighbours. Arriving at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we found the gate into the farmyard closed and locked. Nothing stirred when we rang the bell. After three attempts we gave up and decided to drive to the nearby village to see if we could get some information there. We found it very much deserted too, except for an old man sitting on a bench. We asked him where everybody had gone. “Ils sont tous à la Fête du Pain” (They’re all at the Bread Festival) he replied and pointed at a poster on the village information board. We took a closer look and learned that the annual ‘Fête du Pain’ was celebrated that particular Sunday in the 12th century Abbey of Villers Bettnach on the other side of the village.

We thanked the man and conferred for a while. Having little else to do till 5 p.m., the usual time of arrival when staying at a B&B, we went looking for the Abbey. The ‘Fête du Pain’ turned out to be THE annual event in Saint-Hubert and THE place to be. A large wheat field that had already been harvested had been turned into a parking lot that was packed with cars. From the Abbey’s chapel came the sound of jazz music, which was obviously being played life, as an enthusiastic crowd started applauding when the tune ended. On the road leading to the entrance of the old abbey, a flea market was in full swing.

'La Fête du Pain' - Notice the beer stand in the back!

On the lawn behind the entrance, long tables and benches had been set up where the villagers were merrily drinking beer and wine. The five or six men manning the drinks’ stand were trying to keep up with the demand. In the far end corner the last embers of a barbecue were dying under two large pork bones of which all the meat had been carved. From the old kitchen buildings came the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread and pancakes.

We managed to get a beer and sat down at one of the large tables. We asked our neighbour whether he knew Mr. and Mrs. F. the owners of the B&B. He didn’t, but said that the mayor – one of the men in charge of the drinks’ stand – probably would. To make a long story short, we learned that Mr. and Mrs. F. were on holiday, but that a janitor was running the place until their return. The janitor had left the Fête only 10 minutes ago as “some Belgians were arriving that afternoon” … Well, that would be us, we said.

We still had some time to spare and decided to have a pancake before driving back to the farm. When we got there, the gate was open and a friendly yellow Labrador came running towards us, wagging his tail. The janitor, a man in his forties, came out of the house and showed us to our room. We unpacked our things for the night and enjoyed a relaxing moment in the Jacuzzi. Outside it was still pleasantly warm and we decided to take our bottle of red wine outside where we sat on the lawn, sipping wine and taking in the last rays of sunshine.

Later that evening we had a light picnic supper in the dining room. The next morning we were greeted by a young lady who served us a delicious breakfast of melon slices, different kinds of cheese, jam and freshly baked pancakes. The pancakes tasted familiar. “I bet they do,” the young lady said with a smile. “I made the pancakes that you had yesterday at the Fête du Pain. I saw you there and I heard that you had been enquiring about Mr. and Mrs. F. So I immediately knew I would be seeing you here this morning.” It’s a small world, isn’t it?

La Ferme de Godechure
Rue Principale
57640 Saint-Hubert
Lorraine - Moselle
Tel: + 33 3 87 77 03 96

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By the way, did you know that there are 10 villages by the name of Saint-Hubert, scattered all over France? There’s also a town by the same name in the province of Luxembourg, in Belgium. Enough to confuse your car’s GPS system!



Dedene said...

These happen all over France every year... on St. Hubert's day. That's because Hubert is the patron saint of boulangers!

Carolyn said...

Hmm, sounds very interesting. Do you happen to remember the month and date of the festival?

chm said...

Carolyn, that saint's day is on November 3rd, according to a Catholic calendar. So the festival would probably take place on the closest weekend.

Nadege said...

The opening of hunting season starts on the St Hubert (November 3rd this year). I didn't know Hubert was the patron saint of boulangers.

ladybird said...

Dedene, Like Nadege, I didn't know that St. Hubert was the patron saint of the 'boulangers'. That might explain the Belgian tradition of eating a special saltless bun on November 3rd.

Carolyn, Chm supposition that the Fête du Pain is celebrated on Nov. 3rd seems logical. However, we were in St. Hubert on the first Sunday of September!

Chm, Nov. 3rd would seem logical, but I'm not sure there was link between St. Hubert and the Fête du Pain. Maybe I should take some time to check it out.

Nadege, In Belgium we mainly know St. Hubert as the patron saint of hunters and animals. On Nov. 3rd hunters, their horses and dogs, as well as all domestic animals are invited to a ceremony where they receive a blessing by the local priest, protecting them against hunting accidents and rabies. Quite a paradox, when you come to think of it !