a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Gym fête


My biggest social event of the year is the Gym fête celebrated as a mechoui.  Our gym club meets in the old school in the village and there are three classes a week for an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.  We are about 25 – 30 members but the fête attracts more like 120 people.  The preparations for the fête are all done by the members and friends.

Salles de Fêtes

The village has a Salles des Fêtes.   These public buildings are common throughout France and can be hired for weddings, parties and can be used for public meetings.  Ours suits the gym club fête perfectly.

The provisions arrive

The arrangements for the fête start to be brought together the afternoon beforehand.

Setting up tables

The tables and chairs belong to the hall but they have to be set up and paper table clothes laid to add a festive touch.

Table decorations

There are even fresh flower arrangements for the table made by a member with flowers from her garden.

Boxes of lettuce

On Saturday afternoon the action in the kitchen  intensifies and the salads for the entrée are prepared.

Pots of beans

Quantities are generous, there were three large pots of beans.


There are plenty of helpers as there are a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers to slice and melons to cut.


Like the cherries a lot of the produce comes from the helpers gardens.


It is eight o’clock in the evening and the lamb has been roasting for 2-3 hours.


The dinner starts with the aperitif – a delicious selection of home-made savoury cakes and other tit bits.  The drink of the moment for the apero is rosé wine and pineapple juice.

Entree table

The entrée is a selection of salads and flans.


The party is animated by the redoubtable Jean-Pierre who has the crowd singing and waving their napkins in the air!


French fêtes are family affairs and all ages are present.


In between dancing there is time to pop into the kitchen to keep the surfaces clear and keep on top of the washing up.


It is nearly eleven o’clock and the lamb is about done.


The local butcher lends his expertise to carving the lamb.  The lamb is served with beans as the main course.

The lamb is followed by a cheese course and lettuce salad.



The desserts table must have two pictures to give sufficient credit to the marvellous array of home made desserts.


I haven’t commented on the drinks but these were served with the appropriate courses but being tea-total I am not well up on those.  We are in the cognac country so I know that is served towards the end of the meal.


The dancing continued until well after two o’clock in the morning with a very mixed bag including the paso doble, old walzes, the Maddison and some more up to date tunes.


All good things come to an end and the band of helpers is back the next morning to pack away the table and chairs and clean up the hall and kitchen.

The leftovers are not wasted and we retire for lunch to for a second feast in one of the members house.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

19 thoughts on “Gym fête

  1. Looks like quite a feast and a good night 😀


  2. Looks like a very successful event–delicious food, good company, music and dancing. It’s such a good thing that the children are included.


  3. I grew up in small town America where social gatherings were just like the one you describe. The meal was a town event with total participation and the band was anyone gifted with the ability to play and sing. The crowd would hang on until way late and then participate in the ritual of cleaning up the hall, school, or grange…the public building that was used for all social gatherings. I really miss those events; treasure those moments.


  4. I haven’t been to something like this for a very long time. They were always a lot of fun.


  5. What a wonderful community activity. Thanks for the glimpse of French village life!


  6. What a wonderful evening. But after so much food were extra gym sessions required? 🙂


  7. Sounds great fun. Celebrations here are similar.


  8. Continued till 2 o’clock? In the morning?! Gosh, that’s very late. Disappointed there is no video of Jean-Pierre and the napkin waving. Looks like a fine time all round. D


  9. lovely! Love the way you did the lambs. I will have to give it a try this fall. Any herbs on them?


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