Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sheep take over the streets of Jonquières during the Fête de la Transhumance

We decided last fall that our next sojourn in Sablet would be in May so we could be there for the Fête de la Transhumance in Saint Remy. It was our understanding that the Fête de la Transhumance in Saint Remy takes place every 3rd Monday in May.

Shortly before we arrived in Sablet, we discovered that either we were mistaken about the date for this Transhumance or the date was changed this year, because it was scheduled to take place on the 4th Monday of May; one day after we were leaving to return to California.

Those of you who have been to our now closed Bistro Des Copains in Occidental, California or followed this blog from my first post here, know I have a thing for sheep. So we (I) were really disappointed we were going to miss the Fête de la Transhumance.

For those of you who don't know, the Transhumance is the seasonal movement of sheep between the low-land pastures and the mountain meadows. In the summer, the movement towards the mountains begins in late Spring. When the first snows begin in October, the flocks begin their descent back to the winter pastures in the low-lands.

In earlier times, the flocks were herded by shepherds and their dogs, and had time to get acclimated to the change in altitude during the journey. Today, most flocks are moved by large, double-tiered, trucks. The spring transfer towards higher altitudes is celebrated every year with traditional Fête de la Transhumance in several towns and villages, of which Saint Remy's is the most famous.

The shepherds, up in the hills following the Spring Transhumance, need to eat, and they need someone to get food to them. In times past, tired men and heavily burdened donkeys arrived at the high pastures loaded down with provisions for the shepherds. Today much of the provisioning to the mountain pastures is done by helicopter.

Four weeks ago, we were dining with guests at our home including our friend Barbara from Cuisine de Provence and her charming husband Robert when Barbara said "a Fête de la Transhumance is taking place in Jonquières tomorrow morning." We decided right then that we would go. Barbara recommended that we wear old shoes, for obvious reasons.

Jonquières Town Hall

Jonquières is a non-descript town with a population of 4,702 about 14 km from Sablet which we know well as the town we pass through on a regular basis on the back roads between the A7 exit in Orange and Sablet.

Jonquières street

When we got to Jonquières we discovered this was the 19th Fête de la Transhumance there. They were expecting more than 2000 sheep to cross the town along with their shepherds, horses, dogs and donkeys. The pictures which follow show sights from the day.

A display of ancient professions in Provence

More ancient professions in Provence

Ladies in costume

A marching band arrives

The band formed a circle in the center of town and played for the gathering crowd

The leader of the band

Some people were moved to dance

This gentleman and his street organ were pushed aside by the band

Streets cleared for the arrival of the sheepherders and their sheep

The sheepherders lead their sheep through town

One of the sheepherders

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

One of only a few rams we spottted

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

One of only a few brown sheep we spotted

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

Sheep on the Transhumance

Another ram on the Transhumance

A sheepherder surveys his flock

Sheepherders bring up the rear of the procession

This couple depict sheep farmers in times past

The donkey is loaded with supplies they will need for the trek up to the mountain pastures

A horse pulls a wagon

Horse in harness

A man showing how calligraphy was done during Medieval times

A gladiator and his tools

Women in ancient Provençale costumes do needle point

We thoroughly enjoyed being part of the festivities. Barbara's advice to wear old shoes was right on point. All those sheep drop a lot of poop and pee as they journey through the town. Talk about slipping and sliding.

I did some research and discovered that the Fête de la Transhumance in Saint Remy is always celebrated on Whit Monday, a national holiday on Monday following Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost Sunday always falls seven weeks after Easter.

Have a great week. Chat soon.


  1. Nice to read your stories and discover new ideas ;-) I wrote about it in Bédoin ... Nice to see! ( Greeting, Dina

    1. Hi Dina. Thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment. This is much appreciated. Thanks also for providing the link to your post about the Fete de la Transhumance in Bedoin. Love the pictures. Are those your cute little girls checking out the sheep?

  2. Wonderful photos, Michel - Transhumance is one of my all time favorite village festivals.

    1. Thank you Barbara. We are so happy you mentioned that the Transhumance was taking place the next day.

  3. I like your pics . It's amazing festival ~ The sheep so cute. I am looking forward Provence Trip in Aug .
    Yeah ~ ^^

    1. Thank you so much for stopping in to check out my blog. I appreciate it very much. I know you will enjoy your trip to Provence in August. There will be lots going on, so lots of people.