April Antics in the Southwest

Originally posted on & updated on 4th June, 2024

Here is the latest piece from Beth in heart of south west France, dealing with a typical April so far with a wet and cooler spring this year, and a few ideas of events if you’re travelling or already live in this glorious country.

“Did you survive April Fool’s Day unscathed? It’s called poisson d’avril here. If you don’t know how the day is celebrated in France, check back to last April’s blog, where I tell you about the famed poisson. Here in Occitanie, it feels as though it isn’t just us humans who have been playing pranks. Mother Nature has been teasing us too.

Like most countries enjoying spring, the weather can be temperamental. There’s an old English saying: April showers bring May flowers, which is very fitting for this time of year. It’s a reminder that the mischievous April weather with storms and heavy rain results in an abundance of flowers in May. The French have a similar phrase.

En Avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil” (in April, don’t remove a thread [of clothing]) means April weather is unreliable and variable. And, in part, that’s certainly true where we live in the rural southwest. Whilst the average afternoon temperatures are 14-16°Celcius (57-61°F) in the northern part of the country and 17-19°C (63-66°F) in the south, our experience has been slightly different.

Recently, we have had several frosty mornings, which have caused our local fruit-growing farmers’ concern. To help save their budding fruit trees, some burn piles of straw in the orchards. Others light special candles beneath lines of espalier-grown trees. Both are designed to take the nip from sub-zero temperatures and stop the buds from being damaged.

Our afternoons have typically ranged from 14ºC (57ºF) and occasionally zipped up to 24ºC (75.2ºF), which belies the old springtime idiom. It’s been T-shirt weather and often ridiculously hot. So be warned, if you’re travelling to France during April, bring a T-shirt and a Mac! Yet, despite the crazy weather, it’s a great time to visit. Here are some ideas to note for next year and your diary in the coming days.

If you were in Paris on April 2nd, you would have been aware of the Schneider Electric Marathon. To celebrate its 45th race, 50,000 runners set off from the Arc de Triomphe on Les Champs-Elysées and toured some of the capital’s most stunning sights. It’s an extraordinary annual event for both competitors and spectators alike.

France is a magical country for markets, and at this time of year, Colmar in the Alsace arguably hosts one of the best. Situated amongst charming medieval buildings, exhibitors offer a range of goods focusing on Alsatian products and many, many chocolate bells and eggs. The Easter market usually runs for at least three weeks and concludes at the end of April.

And on the subject of markets, if you love hunting around brocantes or or flea markets (marché aux puces) and vide greniers (garage sales/car boot sales) for treasures, you’re in luck. I’m not sure these incredibly popular markets ever really stop during the winter, but they certainly gather new momentum in spring. There’s one, in particular, you won’t want to miss.

If you’re in France at the end of April, head to Amiens in the northwest region of Hauts-de-France on Sunday, April 23rd, for its spring Grande Réderie d’Amiens. Situated in the city centre, this market has been running for over thirty years and features around 2,000 individual and professional traders spread over fifteen kilometres of rues.

With at least 80,000 visitors attending, the market is guaranteed to be worth a browse. And if you love the idea but can’t get over in April, don’t worry. The event is repeated on the first Sunday in October. But beware. The market begins at five in the morning. If you want to cherry-pick the best items, you’ll have to get there early!

If natural beauty and châteaux are your thing, now is an ideal time to explore the Loire with its magnificent castles. With fewer visitors at this time of year, you can relax in majestic chateaux grounds, join an Easter egg hunt, or admire the early floral displays in their famed gardens.

This is also the month when the International Garden Festival begins. With over thirty glorious themed gardens sited within the gardens of Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire, it’s a horticulturalists dream, attracting visitors from all over the world.

If you love outdoor activities of a different kind, head to Berck-sur-Mer beach in Pas-de-Calais between April 15th – 23rd and visit the International Kite Festival. Thousands of kites fill the sky during this phenomenally popular festival. It’s the biggest in the world, packing a huge wow factor.

In fact, during this season of renewal, there’s all sorts of fun stuff going on around. But whatever you do, treat yourself with a visit to one of the celebrated chocolateries there are lots in France.”

Until the sun comes out for good, why not sit by the fireplace with one Beths excellents books mostly about country living in south west France, they’re amazing and for sale on amazon.  

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