The grapes have been harvested, the boats have left Saint-Tropez, and many hotels and restaurants are closing up for the winter season. With daylight now fading away at the end of the afternoon, it looks like the perfect moment to start your hibernation. But wait! There's still one party to go to: the chestnut festival.
In Provence, the department of the Var is the place to look for chestnuts. The Var village of Collobrières regards itself as chestnut capital of the world (though La Garde-Freinet is no chestnut slouch itself). In late October these two villages hold their chestnut festivals, which attract thousands of visitors from near and far.
During the festivals you can taste and buy chestnuts in every form and shape. There are roasted chestnuts, chestnut preserves, chestnut paste, chestnut cakes and pies, and for the connoisseur: marron glacé (a delicately prepared and sweetened chestnut, the bonbon of marron). Fortunately for the chestnut-allergic, the festivals offer other delights: the ever-present anchoïade, merguez (North-African sausages), or patés, all to be washed away with the newly arrived wine of the year.
In October, when you wander through the Provence countryside around Collobrières and La Garde-Freinet, you will trip over the chestnuts on the ground. Who wouldn't whip out a plastic bag and gather those beauties? Bbut be careful; Even though the owners of the chestnut trees cannot gather all of the fruits, they are very protective of them and post warning signs everywhere. Chestnuts are sacred!
A bit of advice from our 86-year-old neighbour: when you get home with your loot, don't leave those chestnuts until you find time to do something with them. They will perish within a few weeks, unless you do something with them.
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