Autumn in France is one of the loveliest times of the year. From the end of September to the end of November the weather is often mild in most of France – warm in the day with a chill at night and its the perfect chance to take some wonderful photos…
The leaves on the trees change colour turning from lush green to gold, orange, yellow and deep red. The summer flowers start to fade, the roses are still going strong into November, and the grass is verdant. The fields of wheat and maize are ploughed and winter veg comes into its own – bright pumpkins, purple cabbages, turnips and in my part of northern France sugar beet which is pulled and left in huge piles to mature with the frost.
The different regions of France all bask in the gorgeous warm colours of autumn, a burst of colour before the winter starts and brings snow falls – covering everything in its white blanket.
As the nights turn cooler, the stars in the clear sky are brighter than ever and shooting stars flit openly as owls hoot in the trees, happy that the sun is going down earlier and there’s more time to hunt as food becomes scarcer with the cold.
For me it’s also about pumpkins. Almost everyone where I live in rural France grows vegetables and cucurbits (squashes and pumpkins) are everywhere at this time of year in all their different forms. People swap recipes for pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and pumpkin marmalade (which is delicious!). There’s something about a pumpkin – especially when it’s in a chateau garden that I find completely irresistible.
I don’t know if it’s the humble vegetable being paired with the opulent building but – I just love to see them teaming up. The Chateau du Rivau has a wonderful autumn vegetable garden and the chateaux of Vaux-le-Vicomte, with its wonderful André le Nôtre designed gardens, and Chenonceau have beautiful grounds at this time of year – pretty much any chateau in France will be gorgeous in autumn and if you live in the north, the village of Marchiennes celebrates the pumpkin with a quirky Hallowe’en festival.
Autumn is also about apples! One of the elders of the village where I live tells me that making home brewed cider is banned. Apparently people used to get too merry to go to work so the authorities passed a law against creating the potent alcoholic apple juice at home. I don’t know if that’s true but I don’t think anyone takes any notice since you can walk around the village and actually smell cider fumes coming from barns and outbuildings. My neighbour certainly makes it. She has great big buckets and a wooden barrel which are used for storing the fermenting, potent apple juice. She uses a mix of apples that grow locally and doesn’t use any chemicals. She gets members of the family to do the hard work – chopping the apples and lifting the buckets and she directs the operations like she’s Marie-Antoinette. When it’s ready everyone is invited in for a tasting and its powerful stuff. the end result is a cider that is very strong, still and rounded. Which is pretty much how we all feel after having a glass or two.
Autumn in France – just perfect…