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Mark your diary – Monday 25 May in St Remy-de-Provence : Le Fete de la Transhumance.

The Fête de la Transhumance is held in Saint Rémy every year on Whit Monday (Pentecôte). It marks the moment when, at the end of spring, the local pastures have dried up, and sheep must travel to the lusher grazing in the high mountains. Today the animals are transported by trucks, but in times gone day the journey was done on foot and took nearly two weeks. The Fête de la Transhumance commemorates that tradition. Starting at around 11h00, the town becomes a spectacular sea of sheep as some 3,500 of them from all around the Alpilles, plus goats, donkeys, shepherds and sheep dogs swirl twice around the old town.
The tourist blurb does not exaggerate. This is an event not be missed, and in one of our favourite villages.Last year, we headed off early to miss the crowds and get a good vantage place at a roadside café. What we had not realised was that there was a major ‘brocante’ (antiques and collectables) fair on at the same time, so Madame was in her element. Waiting time sped by as various purchases arrived back at the coffee table from sorties into the fair.

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Arriving early is great advice. Although the start was scheduled for 11h00, it only really got under way at 11h30. It seems that allied with Provençal time, it does take time to marshal 3,000 sheep and goats but when it does happen (and there are two circumferences of the old village), there is a mass of sheep, goats, shepherds, donkey carts and various stragglers not to mention the very happy sheep dogs.

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Mark down Pentecost in your diary if you are planning a trip to Provence during this time. The Fete de la Transhumance is a must.

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