All about the medieval village of Mouans-Sartoux
This week is not about a recipe, but about a local festival the kids and I visited recently in a neighbouring village, which celebrates bees and the honey they busily produce. I have to say that I have never seen so many different types of honey, and different products made of honey all in one place! The honey festival takes place every year in the town of Mouans-Sartoux (about 20 minutes from Cannes). In case you’re interested, it has a double-barreled name because back in the Roman times, the village of Mouans was in one part, and the village of Sartoux was established in another. Sartoux means “cultivate” in Occitan, as the village of Sartoux was down on the fertile plain, whereas Mouans was halfway up a hill. Anyway, both villages were abandoned, possibly thanks to The Plague, and then repopulated and made into one town later on. Whatever the history, we can be sure that it’s VERY old. The old part of Mouans-Sartoux is very pretty to visit, even when there’s no honey festival, and there’s even a small chateau on the edge of the town that you can see.
Break out the bees!
So, as I was saying, every year they break out the bees and have a honey festival for a day. I’d never been before (for various reasons….one big one being laziness), so decided it was time to get myself energized after only 10 years of living right next door. I’m so glad I went, and the kids were delighted by all the bees on display everywhere, and by all the honey candy, honey cakes, honey ice-cream, and just plain honey that they were able to chow down on while they were there (they didn’t really need any lunch when we got home!). I was more interested in the honey wine, if the truth be told.
The world of the super bee-keepers
At many stands, they actually had glass boxes full of bees that you could watch, and the centre-piece of the honey festival was a big glassed-in box where actual beekeepers were pulling out racks of swarming bees and explaining all about the bees and how they live and make honey. It was difficult to understand what they were saying as they were talking into microphones through their beekeeping hoods, but it was fascinating to watch the sleepy bees buzzing around and to stand in awe as the beekeepers let bees land all over them and worked on the hives with bare hands. I know they were smoking the bees to keep them docile, but there’s no way you could have made me get into that glass box with thousands of bees!
A must at every village festival in France
As with every good french festival, there were street performers roaming around. There always has to be one very artistic group at every festival, which you watch as you can’t figure out what or why they’re doing what they’re doing, such as these interestingly pigment-daubed men in the photo below. They modern-danced their way through the crowds, dabbing coloured pigment of the faces of passing children. I didn’t see them juggle while I was there, but they were interesting to watch as you really could not imagine what they might do next.
Finding our favourite honey
Then there were the more traditional roving bands of musicians, such as this group below who were playing lively jazz. The guy in the brown jacket was a Louis Armstrong sound-alike scat singer. We hung around and listened to them for quite a while until the sugar-rush of the kids waned and they needed some honey replenishment. We went off to do some honey-tasting. I discovered that my favourite honey of all time is bright-yellow sunflower honey, whereas my kids preferred the clear, runny acacia honey. We bought two jars of each to make sure we wouldn’t run out.
So, we left the honey festival with our arms ladened with SIX different types of honey, and (of course) some honey wine…..and honey candy….and beeswax candles, and vowed that we will definitely go again next year.
After all, someone needs to find out if the pigment-covered guys are still flailing their arms around mystically next year too. (and we may need some more honey by then).
By Lisa Watson