Each year in November a rather unusual and very authentic and exciting herring festival takes place in the town of Etaples – the Hareng Roi (King Herring).
This is a fishing town that joyfully celebrates its heritage and the days of old when herring were an important staple of the winter diet. The fishermen would return from their long stays at sea as the days grew shorter and winter weather made long trips dangerous bringing with them valuable food supplies to see the townsfolk through the long cold winters and herring was the king of the fish.
This festival is a celebration of the culinary and the cultural in Etaples. Taking place over a weekend some three tons of herring will be eaten – grilled, smoked, barbecued or barbecued accompanied by a good glass of wine and a hunk of bread cooked the old way.
The herring is caught and prepared locally by people from the town. For a whole week before around forty people clean the fish and prepare them – marinating them in white wine with herbs and spices, desalinating, pickling and storing, thousands of herring are hung on wooden bars and smoked ready to be served to hungry visitors unable to resist the tempting aromas.
There will be proud people of Etaples dressed in the costumes of yesteryear, sailors’ shanties, music and dancing in this wonderful, warm celebration of heritage and tradition.
There’s also a chance to find out more about the maritime culture of Etaples, play traditional games and a fireworks display but of course it’s the herring that is the real star.
In November 2012 the festival will take place on the weekend of 10-11 November and more than 10,000 people are expected to attend and enjoy all that’s on offer with the events starting at 11.00 on both days.
Here’s a summary of the event:
Try the herring – cooked every which way. This herring is as fresh and delicious as you can get it. The smoking and pickling takes place the week before in Etaples.
Enjoy the music – Folk songs, sea shanties, a Celtic rock band and Scottish Pipe Band, Breton folk songs and much more
Heritage – Street performers, story telling, ancient costumes, craft demonstrations, painting and artwork displays, the Maritime museum and an exhibition of ship building
Fireworks – 19.00 Saturday 10 November illuminating the sky of the Cité des Pêcheurs.
For more information and full programme of events see the Etaples Tourist Information site.