It’s autumn on the Normandy coast and the air is thick with the delicious smoky smell of fresh, grilled fish. Every year in November, visitors flock in their thousands to the Alabaster Coast, as this scenic part of Normandy is known to sample the hareng (herring), the poisson roi (king of fish) and Saint-Jacques scallops, two products that the bustling ports along the coast are famous for.
The largest of these herring festivals takes place in Dieppe on 17 and 18 of November. Today more than ever, people travel from all over France and even from surrounding countries to attend the event. If the weather is good, over 100,000 visitors will flock to the Quai Henry IV and the picturesque streets of the Bout du Quai to tuck into delicious fresh fish, often served with a baked potato and a glass of white wine, make the most of the numerous outdoor activities (flea market, funfair, concerts…) and to savour the strong, seductive smells. While the herring is of course king of the festivities, scallops are also on the menu, reminding visitors that Dieppe remains the French capital of the Coquille Saint-Jacques.
On Sunday 18 November, a big herring festival will also take place in Saint-Valery-en-Caux, twenty miles down the coast. Off the beaten track, this quaint town is the place to head if you want to enjoy a day at the seaside with a difference. Stroll through the market stalls run by local fishermen selling their wares, listen to live music and entertainment for all the family, and pick up tasty local products to take home. The event truly showcases the flavours and captures the atmosphere of this authentic and welcoming town.
A week later, on 24 and 25 November, it’s Fécamp that will come alive with the sounds of the crowds and the distinctive smells of smoked fish. Here too, the town will be buzzing with life and the festival will attract people from all over Normandy and beyond. The harengs sold here are delightfully unfussy, cost only a few euros, and are served in paper cones so you just eat them with your fingers. You can make the most of your visit by exploring the new landmark fisheries museum, right on the port. Housed in the town’s historic fish-drying warehouses, which have been completely refurbished, the Musée Les Pêcheries explores the long history of fishing in Fécamp and in Normandy and comes complete with a stunning glass rooftop to enjoy 360° panoramic views of the town and catch all of the action going on below.
With its promise of tasty grub, festive atmosphere and picture-postcard settings, these festivals on the Alabaster Coast truly offer a fun, foodie alternative to what probably would have been grey, uneventful November weekend at home! So if you find yourself at a loose end this November, why not hop on a ferry and head to Dieppe?
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Photos © Jean Decaux / Normandy Tourism