What’s your favorite season? Mine has always been Fall, or Autumn as some would say. I love the cool air, crispy colorful leaves, cozy clothes, and everything apple and pumpkin! Here in France, Autumn is not quite the same, but it is still a wonderful time of year.
Autumn in France Weather
The French have a saying “un été indien” (Indian Summer), a weather phenomenon that includes a period of sun and warm temperatures just after the first Autumn chill, but before the cold Fall and Winter weather set in. In all places that I’ve lived in France (Franche-Comté, Paris, and now the Pyrénées-Orientales) I noticed that the Fall weather usually includes a lot of rain. When I lived in Paris, it rained so much in the Fall and Winter and the skies always seemed to be grey. Paris actually has more rain than London! Luckily my doctor prescribed me a mega-dose of Vitamin D, and I spent a lot of time in cafés and museums to deal with the dreary weather.
Here in the South, it still rains a lot, plus there is no shortage of the Tramontane wind. However, I’m glad to be in a place with a lot more sunshine and a little less cold.
Autumn in France Cusine
As an American, I think of pies, ciders, and pumpkin spice everything when it comes to Fall food! Here in France though, pumpkin spice isn’t a thing and I usually only see hot cider around wintertime at the Christmas markets. Nevertheless, there is a plethora of wonderful foods around this time of year in France.
The Grape Harvest
This summer, I spent my free time cycling through the countryside and passing countless vineyards. It was so magical to watch the grapes grow and change color as the months passed by. At the end of August the harvesting began a little early due to this Summer’s heat. I even saw some harvesters at work while I cycled to the beach. On my last big bike ride earlier this month in October, I noticed that all of the grapes were gone and the leaves were changing from green to brown. There’s not as much fall foliage here due to the Mediterranean climate, so the dying grape leaves give the landscape a little touch of gold.
Fall Fruits and Veggies
Speaking of grapes, I had never really liked buying grapes in France because they had huge seeds unlike the seedless American varieties I was used to. Then I tried some recently that came from the organic farmer’s market that were absolutely wonderful! My favortie were the muscat grapes, which are also used to make sweet wines. Although these grapes still had a few seeds, they were probably some of the sweetest grapes I’ve ever tasted.
Another delightful crop that pops up at markets during the fall are every kind of pumpkin and squash you can imagine! There aren’t the same varieties of pumpkin here in France as there are in the US, but there are so many others to try. I’ve been loving making soups, breads, and sides with the Butternut and Potimarron varieties. I need to branch out though and try one of the other gourds at the market next time. Other autumnal foods here include apples, dark leafy greens, leeks, and more!
Autumn in France Holidays
There aren’t as many holidays in France as there are in North America. While we have Halloween and Thanksgiving, they have la Toussaint. Like Halloween, this holiday has origins in Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival around this time of year. France however has been a Catholic country in more recent history, so la Toussaint, or All Saints’ Day is a catholic holiday. This day on November 1st is less of a celebration and more of a somber day to remember and visit the graves of loved ones that have passed away. Chrysanthemum flowers are typically placed on the graves.
As an English teacher in France, I often ask my students if they celebrate Halloween at all. It’s not a big holiday like it is in the US, but it has gained some popularity due to the influence of US culture. if people celebrate it they usually dress up in scary costumes (not cute, funny, or sexy) and have a party. Trick-or-treating is also not very common, so you won’t find Halloween candy in stores. In fact, I actually saw Christmas chocolates and advent calendars being sold in Monoprix and it’s only mid-October!
Even though Halloween and Thanksgiving aren’t French holidays, I still like to celebrate somehow to keep in touch with my American roots. I like to eat candy and carve pumpkins (if we can find ones big enough) with my expat friends. In November I participate in “Friendsgiving” with fellow Americans as well as French friends for a night of cultural exchange.
Thanks for reading all about my experience with Autumn in France and let me know what you love to do this time of year!