* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Friday, August 18, 2017

Une Fête Médiévale

Medieval Fair 1

As I mentioned previously, on our recent camping trip we came across a medieval fair taking place in a medieval town.  We've been to two different ones over the years, in much larger settings, so it was kind of fun to check out this much smaller venue.

The first one we ever went to was probably in the first medieval town I ever visited, and it was fascinating, especially coming from the New World that didn't have such old history in the first place.  I think that one is now considered the granddaddy of them all in France, will celebrate 35 years next year, and we went the first time when it was less than ten years old!

The second one was in one of the Loire Valley castles we stumbled upon while on vacation with the family many years ago.  Somehow, we've never taken advantage of checking out others when we've seen them advertised. 

But come along with me now and see how an old Alpine town brings back its history.

Medieval Fair 2
Medieval times in Colmars-les-Alpes

I don't know when the Ren Fairs in the US started becoming popular, but I'd never heard of them until after I moved over here and had been to one in a real medieval town. 

I went to one with my daughter in the US, and it was kind of fun to see how the Americans recreated European history, especially without any natural settings.  I was impressed, actually. 

Apparently the US fairs are traditionally set during the English Elizabethan era.  I don't know if the French have a particular time period or just a generalized concept.

But here is how one can look in an authentic collection of old stones.  During the latter medieval era, this was a border town, as other nearby towns became a part of Italy, so creating a strong defense was important. 

Thus, there are two forts on either side, and the town is completely walled in.

Medieval Fair 3
The jousting field outside the walls
Medieval Fair 4
In days of old, when knights were bold

Outside the walls, a jousting field was set up, but we missed all the animation. 

We did see this knight scare the living daylights out of a kid when he suddenly moved after being totally still.  It was hilarious.

Medieval Fair 5
A medieval shopping mall

During the real medieval period, fairs were an important aspect of life. 

While villages typically held weekly markets for all the buying and selling that daily life required, they held fairs much less often, but those were much more animated.

Vendors came from all over with all their non-local wares.  And the entertainers of the period took advantage of the crowds to show off their own skills.

So while all the market stalls at today's re-creations might seem a bit commercialized, that's what they've always been about!

Medieval Fair 6
Which mead would I like today?
Medieval Fair 7
Has anything changed in 500 years?

Not only were the vendors in character, many of the patrons dressed the part, too. 

The men seemed to be particularly attracted to the various ancient (or not) brews being presented. 

Medieval Fair 8
I'll take this pastry, thank you
Medieval Fair 9
And Alpine Queen will take this watch
The women, on the other hand, were more interested in the food and jewelry stands.

Medieval Fair 10
This way, please
Medieval Fair 11
How to dress stylishly
One vendor used a knight to entice customers to their shop, while others took advantage of the theme to sell period related wares.

Medieval Fair 12
Ribbons and lace, timeless

Not only were there vendors selling either their own craft or commercial products, there were also artisans showing off their skills at various ancient practices. 

We missed a lot of the demonstrations, such as woodworking and blacksmithing, as we were there only during the last few hours of a weekend event. 

However, it was quite interesting to watch these women making typical ribbon and lace of the epoch.

Medieval Fair 13
A crepe is always pleasing

Of course, food has always been a necessity, and there were a number of stands where one could purchase all kinds of tasty things that tempted the palate. 

Doc Leo indulged in some typical Provençal seasoned olive combinations and some basil garlic (which were quite nice at the campsite before dinner!).  I have no idea if the medieval Provençals  created such delicacies at the time or not. 

I also do not know if the Alpine medieval population knew anything about the Brittany crepes, but the modern generation now enjoys them all over France.

Medieval Fair 14
An access into the walled town
Medieval Fair 15
Another access
As we wandered around the town, it was all rather fun to see modern life attempting to reclaim history for a few moments in an atmosphere that had seen the original era in real time.

Medieval Fair 16
Mixing old and new
Medieval Fair 17
I'm a leper, let me hug you for a photo

While the whole experience was an interesting mix of old buildings, modern visitors, and period characters, one old woman (I think) particularly stood out.  I think she was a local, as she seemed to know a whole lot of people. 

But she evoked a less positive image of the past by portraying a leper.  With all of our modern drugs and medical knowledge, we tend to forget the horrors of bygone health issues and what past civilizations had to live with.

Medieval Fair 18
Break time, but from what?
Being the end of the day, I came across some rather tired participants relaxing. 

Medieval Fair 19
We're tired, but aren't we cute?
I think the one group was probably some official performers, but I have no idea if the young ladies with their modern healthy drinks (did the original inhabitants buy organic juice and bottled water?) were participants or visitors.  Their outfits were rather fun, though.

Medieval Fair 20
Did medieval boys dress like Templar Knights?

Finally, as we were leaving, we came across a rowdy group of boys being boys.  Only, they were practicing how to be medieval boys. 

I think we won't have to worry about whether knights in shining armor are a thing of the past or not. 

I don't think these knights in training had rescuing damsels in distress on their minds at this stage of their lives, but that day will arrive much sooner than their parents might desire!

I hope you've enjoyed this little day at the fair.  Next we'll be touring the countryside, which can be quite exciting on narrow roads on steep mountains.


  1. Wow! Two entries! This is delightful to see. We've been many times to the Renaissance Fairs here, but it's always out in the middle of nowhere, hotter than blazes, and now, amazingly expensive. In the beginning of these some years ago, we would go and bring our own bread, cheese and wine and have a fine time. That's no longer permissible and the ambience is different, too. Good times in the past, good memories, don't need to do it again. This one you went to looks just delightful. Good for you!

  2. Bravo! Medievally fascinating! Great journalism! Have you thought of asking The local Nice-Matin about publishing your article?


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