Whether it is the time of man or the time of nature, cycles pass and renew themselves. At times, we become exhausted chasing time, and we are happy to, quite simply, rest in our traditions.
“Authenticity” is often called upon in “green tourism” slogans: yet no one can really describe it. The best thing we can do is offer you a few examples of what seems to be important in the DNA of our corner of the mountains: the Autrefois le Couserans or the Transhumances festivals bring together generations with a shared peasant past ; while spring fairs push us … to bloom ! Green, hope, future. Attachment to the land for some, return to the land for others, it’s all the same.
What if authenticity, in the end, is simply the return to nature and to all that which is human ?
We’re ready for you, hop onboard! The Saint-Girons market makes for a great introductory trip as you start your quest to discover the Couseran identity.
“A Saturday Morning on Earth” ! It is often a particularly difficult challenge, in our mountains and further afield, to accept our differences, to communicate, to exchange and to share. However, the place and the moment that brings the whole of the Couserans together is the Saint-Girons market. Here, we can see all the benefits of the cultural melting pot that has been taking place in Ariège for decades. The local traditions are alive and well – carried by centuries of mountain know-how and production – and, not to offend certain parties, they are also nourished by the successive arrivals of new inhabitants. They all share the attachment to the land, in its most basic sense. And this land gives it all back and more !
So come and stroll through the colourful alleys ; smell the spices or grilled meat, savour a cheese, a meat, a touch of charcuterie or a mountain honey (just after you devour a Vietnamese nem or a Lebanese sandwich); buy your organic – and most importantly, local – vegetables or fruits; treat yourself with a piece of handmade jewellery or soap; bring back an aloe-vera for your home, and so many other purchases to support a genuine economy.
Autrefois le Couserans
Each year, between the end of July and the beginning of August, 900 volunteer participants and onlookers, along with 300 animals, parade through the streets during the rural festivals of Autrefois Le Couserans.
This is one of the biggest events in the Ariège, for which around 25,000 people visit to travel back in time. The festival is a huge success, which earned its reputation in the collective memory of the elders at a key moment in the history of agriculture and its evolution.
Certified local farm products, and often prize-winning local breeds are exhibited in Saint-Girons, among agricultural machines from another time : mowers, threshers, carts, wagons and dumpers guided by men, women and children in old-fashioned costumes.
Oxen, horses, donkeys and mules pull the wagons of wood, hay and wheat, followed by a procession of sheep, goats, geese and ducks.
Here we find the washerwomen, the seamstresses, the gosherds, the milkman, the postman, the grinder, the bread seller, the water carriers, the street vendors, the class of 1900 and the priest …
Though the nostalgia here is flavoured by childhoods past, spent in the countryside with grandparents over the summer holidays, it also offers us up a means of both understanding the present and anticipating
It is the sight of migratory birds announcing spring as they fly over the Pyrenees in a spectacular aerial ballet, in which birds of prey and passerines intermingle, that signals the start of the spring fairs that will bring new life to our valleys … Though they go by different names, they are a time to exchange and/or sell plants and seedlings and to prepare your garden for the year.
It’s the last day of the Ice Saints ! From now on the kingdom of the southern earth, caressed by the sun’s rays, belongs to the flowers and plants. They will come to colonise window boxes, flower beds, front yards, borders and pots: everywhere is the perfect place as long as they are together.
Here, the « French marigolds » and the « garden nasturtium » notice the arrival of the charming « violet », specially imported from Toulouse. Further on, the « dimorphotheca » discreetly greets the beautiful « scaevola ». In turn, the opulent « geraniums » debate with the friendly « rocktrumpet ».
And that’s not all ! Shy but invasive, St John’s scented plants, elderberry, St John’s wort and clematis are on hand. Nationally known for their medicinal virtues, claimed in the past by monks, apothecaries and even our grandmothers, they have now been proven by pharmacologists.
And last but not least, the favourites of the gardener cooks: the large family of vegetable plants. Tomatoes, leeks and organically grown salads will be paraded side by side in a whirlwind of colours.
Finally, we find our expert friend, the Big Brown Bumblebee, which noisily takes flight and loses itself in the golden constellation it draws on the green firmament of the rhododendrons. With the scent of bitter honey, a strange mixture of sugar and chlorophyll, he seems to understand each species of this botanical procession.