I’m a real foodie and I know autumn is the time for food festivals – are there any particularly foodie cities you could recommend with festivals going on between now and Christmas?
Autumn is a wonderful time for food-themed breaks, and France is an obvious place to start – it’s a country of gastronomes who scoff at foreign food, but despite the pretensions, the food does (mostly) live up to the hype.
Mollusc fans will be well aware that there’s an ‘R’ in the month for the first time in four months once we hit September – so it’s not surprising that this is the best time of year for seafood festivals.
The Scallop Festival in mid-November is in Port-en-Bessin in Normandy – a major fishing port and this is high season for scallops. There is just three months to enjoy scallops, or coquilles St Jacques, at their peak, and here they are a fraction of the price you’ll pay in the UK.
The festival lasts two days, when the whole town will celebrate with tastings, exhibitions, guided tours of the fish market and visits of the shipyard and fishing boats – a total immersion in to the world of the fishermen.
The town is also close to two of the D-Day landing beaches so has some fascinating World War II history as well as being near Bayeux, famous for the eponymous tapestry depicting William the Conqueror in 1066. Bistrot sur le Quai is another good option – and you can guess its location – even at the weekend it is crammed with locals, all drinking Normandy cider rather than wine with their seafood platters.
Brittany has always been popular with seafood fans – if you go in September you’ll miss the crowds and the coach parties – and in Brittany you don’t need a festival as an excuse to enjoy the fruits de mer – you can get a dozen oysters for £3 in Brittany – what you’d pay for one in England! Pay another £1 and they’ll be opened for you and squirted with fresh lemon juice so you can eat them on the quay.
The best place to get them is Cancel Oyster market, along the town’s boardwalk, where you’ll see locals and tourists sat on the sea wall slurping from oyster shells and washing it down with carafes of wine or cider, throwing the empty shells into the mud afterwards. Also a good spot to see Mont St Michel – the medieval abbey on an island off the coast and France’s second most visited site after the Eiffel Tower.
Rivals in food – as well as football – Italy also has its fair share of foodie treats. The International White Truffle Fair, held annually in Piedmont in northern Italy is in October/November this year over the course of a few weeks.
It completely transforms the sleepy harbour town of Alba into a gastronomes heaven. You can smell the strong truffle scent – woody and garlicky – oozing out of every shop and restaurant – and you can also meet the trifulau – the truffle seekers, and the dogs that sniff out the truffles. The legendary "White Diamonds", tartufo bianco, are the white truffles that they’re all after.
Further off the beaten track, in Hungary, it’s all about bangers over autumn – both sausages and fireworks.
At the end of October, carnivores descend on Békéscsaba – home of the Csaba sausage – for its annual Sausage Festival. It’s more like spicy salami than the conventional British sausage, but there’s a lot of enthusiasm and a great party spirit at the event.
The tourist board describes it as “Four weeks of slaughtering pigs, making sausage, competing, eating and drinking, interspersed with entertainment" and there’s plenty of wine to wash it all down with.
During September there’s a big festival hosted in Kalocsa, which celebrates the annual harvest. Known as the Kalocsa Paprika Days, it features an exhibition of food products and agricultural machinery, a professional conference on the topic of paprika, various sports events, a "Paprika Cup" international chess tournament, and a fish soup cooking contest.
But the highlight of all this is the Paprika Harvest Parade, complete with local bands and colourful folk-dancing groups, followed that same night by a Paprika Harvest Ball – there’s also fireworks.
The weather should still be warm in early September and the crowds will have cleared at Lake Balaton, a summer holiday destination already renowned among central Europeans.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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