It’s my birthday today and I’m on holiday in France with my husband. We are staying at the hotel where we honeymooned (is that a verb?) 19 years ago. A rest in the sunshine is just the ticket after yet another trying and stressful year. The children, funnily enough, are staying a just a few miles away with the family of my husband’s colleague. It’s a pity to be away from them on my birthday again but I suppose that that’s something I’ll just have to accustom myself to.

I love this part of France. It’s not breathtakingly pretty, rather it exudes a hard-ravaged kind of beauty, baked by the strong Mediterranean sun. It doesn’t have the bling of its glamorous big sister the Côte d”Azur more of an earthy, workmanlike quality. It is here that they grow the grapes for all the wine of the Côtes du Rhone, Côtes du Ventoux, and smaller Appellations like Vacquéras, Gigondas and the world famous Chateauneuf du Pape. I’m always amazed when I come here how small the growing areas are for these wines sold in supermarkets and restaurants the world over. The area is tiny and the grapes are baked in the strong sun to produce deliciously full bodied, fruity, peppery wines. that knock your socks off when drunk on their own but are a perfect accompaniment to garlicky, rosemary-studded roast lamb.

There’s a picture somewhere among the piles of albums at home of me on honeymoon in June 1993 perched on a wall of the original Chateau. There is a serenity to this picture, long lost. It’s my happy place, and so that’s where I chose to go for my birthday outing. A Medieval Fair was being held in the village streets today and we managed to take some photos, which I shall share below.

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Sausage, anyone?

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One of the Medieval bands, Le Condor, playing in the village. The more Medieval-looking instruments were like recorders with only three holes, played with one hand only.
There’s nothing Medieval about the modern valve trumpet to the top left of the picture and the other brass instrument in the back row looked like a euphonium but sounded like a trombone. Bass trumpet perhaps?

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Here are the other contestants converging on the centre of the village for a Medieval Battle of the Bands. This lot had a distinctly Moorish sound with their oboes.

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These people appear to be using inflated sheep as their bagpipes.

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Montelimar, the home of nougat is just up the Rhône valley from here. There were all kinds on this stall including a fusion-type mango nougat. No, I didn’t buy any, more’s the pity.

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Candied fruit of all kinds are another speciality on this stall.

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Garlic, anyone?

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Huge onions also on the garlic stall. I’ve never seen this variety before. It looks like a huge banana shallot.

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Far too hot for some, but no-one minds of they lie down in the street.

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I’m wondering just how authentic that “Medieval sauce” is!

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A view from the castle across Chateauneuf village and the Rhône valley. Tiny, isn’t it?

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View across to Mont Ventoux, famous for its wine and as a gruelling stage on the Tour de France.

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A village street. The high walls cast welcome shade.

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Not an unripe melon among them, I’ll bet.