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Leuven's 35th Christmas market

Leuven's 35th Christmas market

The 35th Leuven Christmas Market was another success in many ways. Both for the stallholders and the organisers. There was something to celebrate as from the 35th anniversary of Leuven Christmas market a longer edition was made. This time from Thursday 7 to 21 December, everyone was again welcome in both squares. 

In terms of visitors, Leuven is doing just fine as it easily surpasses the 800,000 mark at each edition. This year again, "Bonjour, la douce France" was present on Herbert Hoover square in the company of "Well-Come ceramics" from Baal. Our stand was again in the same place but albeit in a new look this time. 

New artisanal southern French products

Not only a new look but also the latest, and sometimes unprecedented artisanal Southern French products have a place. To that end, this year we put the tasting table at the centre so that everyone could taste "some sweet" or "some savoury". There was something for everyone. We found at the previous Christmas Market 2022 that many visitors were looking for specific and typical French products. We had taken this into account and tried to bring these where possible. 

Button to start tasting at the Degustation table

High demand for artisanal southern French products

The high demand for artisanal southern French products is clearly on the rise. The classics such as pure Cassoulet of confit duck from the Tardieu family of Castelnaudary and sheep pâté are very popular. But tapenades, truffle products, the many Bio pâtés, all kinds of mustard and many table olives are also in demand. Not to mention how delicious the popcorn with porcini mushrooms as an aperitif actually is. What especially struck us is that many visitors today are looking for sustainable products. With many asking about the origin of the product and the story behind it.

Good to see you again

In the meantime, it was nice to see everyone again. Starting with our close neighbours and the other stallholders on the same square who displayed their goods. And, of course, the organisers of the 35th edition. The many interested people who were looking for that pure French goodness or the craft that was waiting for them. Many who were looking for an end-of-year gift and found what they were looking for at "Bonjour la douce France". Also those who just came to say hello. Or those who bought the day before and came back to quickly buy some more. Old friends who offered a mulled wine and made it all more cosy. And especially those who spontaneously came to lend a hand. Christel, Jan, Yolande, Filip, Karen, Geert and Luna. It was great to see you again. Merci beaucoup!

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The cassoulet of Castelnaudary

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary

A traditional event

The feast of the Cassoulet of Castelnaudary is a traditional event that annual is held in the south of France. This year, I had the pleasure of attending this extraordinary festival and being part of the festivities. As a webshop specialising in artisan products from Occitania, I was naturally excited to be part of this four-day celebration. This was to discover the rich culinary traditions and delicious delicacies that this region still has to offer.  

On arrival in Castelnaudary, I was immediately immersed in a festive atmosphere. Consequently, it was extremely hot but that did not stop the organisers and the many visitors from being there. The streets were decorated with colourful flags and there was a delicious smell of the "Cassoulet" dish in the air. The many squares and side streets were full of stalls where local producers showcased their artisan products. Whether you were looking for fresh cheeses, honey, wine or sausages, you could find it all there. Meanwhile, as market stallholders touted their products, the annual procession passed through the southern French city. 

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
Cassoulet de Castelnaudary

The highlight: the real Cassoulet

The highlight of the party was, of course, the cassoulet, a delicious dish symbolic of the region. This rich white bean dish, prepared with herbs, beans, confit duck, pork and sausage, is a true taste sensation. I can say with certainty that it more than lives up to Castelnaudary's reputation as the "capital of cassoulet". The flavours were so full and intense that it exceeded my expectations. The secret lies in the locally selected ingredients and the cooking process, which ensures a perfect harmony of flavours. 

Besides the delicious food, there were also plenty of activities to enjoy. There were traditional dance performances, live music and even competitions such as running races and attractions for children. You could join a tour of the surrounding vineyards or take a boat trip on the beautiful Canal du Midi that runs through Castelnaudary runs. 

As a webshop specialising in artisan products, I was impressed by the passion and dedication of local producers. Many of them were proud to present their products and were happy to explain the traditional production methods. It was great to see how these people pass on their craft knowledge from generation to generation.

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
Cassoulet de Castelnaudary

After a day of culinary and cultural entertainment, I concluded my adventure by buying some artisanal products. From delicious goat cheese to beautiful "Cassole" ceramics and artisanal scented candles, the choice was overwhelming. I felt privileged to be able to share this exclusive event to the visitors of this webshop.


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The 14th of July somewhere in l'Occitanie

July 14 somewhere in the south of France. That day is the French bank holidays and it is time to party again. Meanwhile, while many enjoy themselves on the most important French tradition, there are popular fireworks shows organised. Usually at the beach, along the banks of a river or on a terrace at a cafe. The 14th of July somewhere in l'Occitanie, were you there this year? 

The most visited cities are Paris, Versailles, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Strasbourg and also closer to us Carcassonne. The city with the largest citadel in Europe hosts one of the most popular fireworks shows. Usually we then look for a good spot on one of the fort's two bridges: the Pont-Neuf or the Pont-Vieux. These bridges separate the Bastide Saint-Louis from the medieval town. The fire show usually starts at 10.30pm. 

However, this year we were going to move closer to home to celebrate this important French festival in a different way. This time in miniature and without fireworks, but just as cosy. The mayor invited the whole village to a delicious supper on the Place du rond in Coustouge. This prepared according to annual custom by a local caterer. Of course, the dishes are only prepared the old-fashioned way with local products. This year squid dish coming from the Mediterranean Sea supplemented with local wines.

Place du rond 1

All 'Coustougeois et Coustougeoises' and also tourists renting a holiday home at the time are welcome to this celebration. The 'maire' of the village and its town councillors organise it with full devotion. The buvette is then not unthinkable on such occasion to inaugurate the party.

After the mayor's speech, the dinner could begin which just about everyone present was looking forward to.

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Record turnout at local Paella party

Under the steeple of the Occitan village, Coustouge in the Corbières region, there is annual talk of a Paella feast. Like this year and the years before, long tables are set out each time to accommodate the guests. However, though, organisers and chef Léon counted just 250 seats this year. An absolute record turnout at the local Paëlla party. Surely the "Coustougeois" of course, but also guests from nearby villages and, of course, the many holidaymakers shuffled along to the table. The end of the day was a bit cool, the "tramontane" had also invited itself, but the high houses and good humour protected the tables from the many squalls. Therefore, as a precaution, everyone had brought a jacket anyway for the evening.

Throughout the year, people speak of this traditional dish prepared locally from father to son. A delicious Paëlla richly filled with ingredients coming from this region as well as from the nearby Mediterranean Sea. 

click on the first photo of the Soirée paëlla

As usual, everyone welcomes themselves to the "buvette" before going to the table. A salad as a starter cannot be missed before feasting on the long-awaited traditional Paëlla.

click here to see photo of Soirée paëlla
click here to see photo of Soirée paëlla
Click here to see the photo of Soirée paëlla
Click here to see the photo of Soirée paëlla

A thunderous round of applause for the hardworking "Pailhiez" family who ensured that this 2023 celebration was once again unforgettable!

And for the rest of the evening, the event orchestra Axurit took over until the late hours....

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Leuven Christmas market 2022

Bonjour la douce France was at the Leuven 2022 Christmas Market

It was a great opportunity to introduce the people of Leuven and local residents to our Occitan natural products brought with us. It was more than just selling these products. We gladly gave their origin with some explanations and photo material of the southern French producers. To spice things up, we did some on-site tastings. These included savoury olives, tapenades and Popcorn with cèpes from the Minervois region. But the sweet artisan jams as well as some herbal jams from the Corbières region could also please many visitors.

It was quite cold at times anyway but many could not care less. After not having enjoyed a Christmas market for 2 years, apparently everyone was looking forward to strolling around again. Not only the visitors were looking forward to it. The many stallholders on the Ladeuze and Herbert Hoover square were delighted to be back.

For "Bonjour la douce France" it was the first time to participate to The 34th Leuven Christmas market. It was a successful mission to drive north with all these goods and put them out. It is important for us to show and sell what is commonplace in our daily lives. The many southern French traders in the local markets thus offer their natural products every week.

Bonjour la douce France at Herbert Hoover Square

We are sure that at the next Christmas market we will again be on standby with all that is tasty and good for health. We saw and heard a lot at the Leuven Christmas market what visitors were looking for but also did not know. People were not only looking for what was important for themselves but also to please their loved ones. So we have already started to expand our range. A section with new products from Occitanie or what used to be called the Languedoc-Roussillon has already started. 

"Bonjour la douce France" thank you guys!

First of all, we would like to thank the secretariat for giving us the opportunity to participate. The organisation went well and deserves praise. We would certainly like to thank the many volunteers who offered to help complete these 12 days. Thank you Cristel and Jan, Yolande and Filip and Nancy for being willing to endure the cold and helping spontaneously. Thanks to the many good friends who visited us several times for a chat. As well as the many customers who showed their interest and those who visited our stand more than once. 

To everyone, we wish a happy and healthy 2023 in advance!