Carcassonne has many shops that sell just one product: chocolate, and we’ve been to most of them. Naturally we’ve had to sample the goods at each location in the interest of being able to recommend to visitors where they should go. Since we’re still in that decision-making process, we returned to some of these boutiques for a second opinion. As you might expect at this time of year, the window displays all featured what we typically think of as treats at Easter: colorful eggs, long-eared bunnies, plus cute chicks and hens. But what about those bells and fish?
This was the second year that we’ve attended what I’m sure will become an annual tradition for us: the Salon du Chocolat where everything made with cocoa is celebrated. For a weekend each spring, a portion of the 18th century covered market where farmers used to sell their just-picked produce (now thrice-weekly at the main square, a block away) becomes a showplace and a workspace for these delightful crafters. Not only can you see those finished bunnies and eggs but you get to see how they are produced plus chefs from area restaurants, including the ones with Michelin stars, demonstrate their art of decoration. Amateurs are invited to try their hand and even the city’s professional rugby team takes part, I think, just to have some able-bodies there to keep everyone from rushing the tables piled high with tempting chocolates.
Just as in those shop windows, at the Salon we saw the rabbits and chickens but also the fish and bells that we don’t typically think of as representative of the season. The reality in France, of course, is that these are indeed traditional symbols. On April 1st, the prank for this Fool’s Day is for children to secretly stick a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting adult who will then hear cries of “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish) by all those who spot the cutout. Since church bells here typically go silent for the two days before Easter, folklore says that they’ve gone off to Rome to see the Pope but will fly home on Sunday morning, dropping chocolates of all kinds to the children (and adults!) below. I’m delighted to say that they’ve made an early return to Carcassonne!