Today, there are two Fêtes celebrating the season of the chestnut – or marron. The sweet chestnut is known as the châtaigne and is a frequent visitor to autumn dining tables and village fêtes.
If you would like to taste roasted chestnuts, head to Collobrières in the Var today or Saint Paul de Vence until 7pm for the Fête des Châtaignes.
Collobrières is a main town for the chestnut industry, and is also famous for cork production where it is reputed to be the first place in France where the Spanish taught locals how a certain tree plugged into bottles allowed a wine industry to flourish.
If you miss the Fête today, Confiserie Azuréenne in Collobrières sell all kinds of chestnut-related goodies including tea, nougat, marrons glacés and preserves. I have tasted châtaigne spread before, it is lighter than peanut butter but I found it too rich tasting for my toast.
Near to Collobrières, two worthy detours are to the restored 12th-century Carthusian monastery La Chartreuse de La Verne (Monastère Notre-Dame de Clémence) surrounded by oak and chestnut woods, and to the town of Cogolin which is famous for traditional craft manufacturing such as knotted wool carpets, wrought-iron furniture and highly sought after reeds for wind instruments.
The monastery is open year-round; it is closed every Tuesday, the whole month in January and on religious dates such as Christmas, Easter and Ascension Day. Adults entrance is €6 and there are guided tours available and information pamphlets in English if your French leaves much to be desired. The nuns sell ceramics and artisan products such as honey and wood sculptures.
Interestingly, Cogolin’s lesser-known claim to fame is that it is the town that invented tarte tropézienne – the cream-filled and calorie-laden brioche sold everywhere and often credited to nearby Saint Tropez. If you want the real McCoy in the way of tarte tropéziennes, head to La Tarte Tropézienne (420 avenue des Narcisses) in Cogolin where it is still prepared to the original recipe that Polish baker Alexandre Micka patented in the 1950’s.