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I have to admit, that if translated into English, our local "La Fête du Lait" (Festival of Milk!) would probably not get many visitors – it doesn't sound too appealing, does it!?
But, as seems to be the norm, this extremely successful event that promotes all aspects of the manufacture and sales of milk products, was quite a revelation.
The whole affair was spread over a sunny week-end at the beginning of September. We visited on the Sunday, and were firts drawn into the main arena where the showing of various breeds of cattle was taking place.
These were beautiful animals, cleaned and groomed to perfection – obviously a highly competitive event!
There were also beef cattle, and bulls, as well as females with calves.
All the young farmers involved in the 'showing' were dressed the same with smart white shirts and black trousers.
They were competing for the various silver cups,medallions, and trophies that had been put on display. All very serious, but done with the normal French panache and conviviality.
The amount of effort that goes into putting on an agricultural show never ceases to amaze me.
Housing for the cattle alone was immense.
From the main arena we wandered in the direction of the 'young animal' marquee enclosure where Ellis, our 7 year-old son, and ourselves were delighted to get close and touch the baby calves, goats and sheep, along with a couple of friendly donkeys, and a litter of newly born piglets – gorgeous!
There was also many local businesses showing their products – mainly cheese and meat oriented, but there were also purveyors of local honey, charcuterie, and even wine producers from the Côte Roannaise. A 'gastronomc' tent was the centre of cookery displays which were held throughout the 2 days. Also in this area there were artisans offering hands-on experiences for children – making butter from milk, and the art of milking an artficial cow. Ellis, of course, tried both.
Home-made ice cream was being sold, and another stall giving away glasses of milk, flavoured with you choice of syrups – strawberry (nice!), peppermint (weird!).
After all this exertion it was off to the 'Repas' marquuee for 'dejeuner'. We English think of ourselves as a nation of 'queuers', but the French seem to love it as well – and what a system they have!
As you snake your way between the barriers the 'Plat du Jour' was efficiently handed to you – vegetable salad, pomme de terre Lyonnaise, big chunks of (yes, beef!) that was being professionally sliced from the barbeque spit, and served with the rich beef 'juice'.
There was, of course, fantastic country bread, 'petit tranche' of Montbrison cheese, and a little dish of fruit salad.
Once in the marquee we saw that the tables were set with flowers. All very civilised, and not a burger in sight!
All was washed down with a bottle of chilled rosé in typical French fashion. Very, very enjoyable!
The sun continued to shine, (it was a very hot day), and although we didn't manage to stay for the whole afternoon of events we did take a look at the fantastic diplay of farming vehicles that were parked up, clean and shining like big boys toys, in a long military line – serious stuff, again!
The horse and cart rides, ferrying people around the adjoining fields, began again after lunch, and from their popularity I imagine ran well into the afternoon.
It was time for us to leave, reflecting on a very exciting day out, and all for free (except lunch, of course!).
Another one to put on the calendar for next year!!