Not Even The French Can Be Cool All The Time

Not Even The French Can Be Cool All The Time

We were there the day the cows came home.

If you want the sentence above to make sense, I’m going to have to give you a little context.

Just recently, we spent a week in Annecy, a large city in France’s Haute-Savoie region which is located in the east of the country. Annecy is well known, popular with travellers and boasts one of the most spectacularly beautiful ‘old towns’ we have ever come across. It is no accident that Annecy is regularly featured on all of those ‘most beautiful villages in France’ pins you see on Pinterest.

On the Saturday we were there, Annecy’s inhabitants, people from the surrounding area and bus loads of tourists flocked into the old part of town to celebrate Retour des Alpages – a festival that welcomes the cows and other animals home after they have spent their summer in the alps.

It’s lucky Scott had a seen a sign announcing the festival or else we might have thought that it was just an average Saturday in Annecy. A Saturday that turns into a massive party but an average Saturday just the same.

Retour des Alpages

The festival, which is held each year in early October, was full of things you’d expect from a celebration of this sort. Market stalls, balloon sellers delighting children with helium filled unicorns and dolphins, the scents of freshly cooked street food and the sparkling lights of carousels.

There were also activities that could only be considered distinctly local. Yodelling and traditional dance both performed by artists dressed in time-honoured costumes. The somewhat gruesome creation of saucisson on the street. Oh, and the parade where the cows came home. (It’s worth noting that the cows were accompanied by mountain dogs and a beribboned flock of geese, amongst many other things.)

Not Even The French Can Be Cool All The Time

There was a real carnival atmosphere. Extra staff manned the stores and restaurants. And bars everywhere were packed with families genuinely enjoying their day. There were more adults than children leaning out of windows, craning their necks to see the parade.

The joy and excitement in the crowd was infectious. You couldn’t help but smile.

Not Even The French Can Be Cool All The Time

As fun as they were though, the scenes we witnessed weren’t necessarily ones that you’d automatically associate with France. The festival was certainly unlike anything we’d ever experienced in our travels.

We are fed this idea that the French are endlessly cool. Or perhaps it’s an ideal. Either way, it is perpetuated by francophiles like me, the internet and Instagram. There is this perception that all French people are slim and good looking with fabulous hair and wardrobes. That they are excellent in bed and they can all cook. They have perfectly behaved children. And apparently they never do anything the slightest bit uncool.

In reality, it is a hard image for them to constantly live up to – and a tough one for the rest of us to aspire to. Especially when there is the fun of a traditional local festival to be had.

I was grateful for the reminder to be aware of my biases and to avoid stereotypes in my thinking. Not even the French can be cool all the time. And I’m ok with that.

Until next time – au revoir.


Looking for more French inspiration? Then don’t miss the #AllAboutFrance Linkup over at the Lou Message Blog. Click this link and you’ll discover a diverse range of blog posts all about France.

Lou Messugo

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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8 thoughts on “Not Even The French Can Be Cool All The Time

  • Taste of France

    Ah, but there’s the France of haute couture, which is largely in Paris, and then there’s the France of haute cuisine, which is pretty much the whole country and which depends on very close relations with farms. The French farmer is fetishized and subsidized to ensure that the products going on French tables are nothing but the best.
    The Return of the Cows looks like fun!

    • Janelle Post author

      Hi Catherine, yes it was great fun. Everyone was having a ball. And personally I’m a teal of French farmers. We’ve had some truly excellent meals this trip.

  • annette charlton

    Janelle, what a lovely post. I have read of similar festivals where the sheep are taken into the hills and then another festival when they return. I think the French have lovely traditions that they work very hard at keeping alive. I have never seen photos of geese as part of these festivals before – so gorgeous and what a well behaved working dog just behind the geese. #AllAboutFrance

    • Janelle Post author

      Thank you so much Annette. Yes, I agree that the French do an excellent job of maintaining their traditional festivals. As for the geese, what Scotty didn’t manage to capture was the image of a man carrying a goose, walking a couple of minutes behind the rest of the gaggle. Clearly, someone had gone rogue!! We found it incredibly amusing.

  • Phoebe | Lou Messugo

    Ha ha, so funny to think of the ubercool image being shattered this way. In reality France goes in for loads of these festivals and does them very well. There are certain times of year when just about every local village is celebrating something ultra-UNcool! You have to live in the countryside or at least out of Paris to know it! Thanks for inking up to #AllAboutFrance

    • Janelle Post author

      Hi Phoebe. Yes, the French certainly do festivals very, very well. And people had travelled for miles to be at the one in Annecy. It was extremely popular!! Thank you so much for hosting #AllAboutFrance. It is an absolute pleasure to be part of your link up.