Despite the huge number of villages across France named after saints, there is only one which is named after St Valentine – at St Valentin (36 Indre, Centre), west of Issoudun and South West of Bourges.
Styling itself the “Villages for Lovers” (le village des Amoureux) the website at www.village-saint-valentin.com/ is very French and just a tad too pink for my liking. I an told that there is an annual festival on 14 February to celebrate their patron saint, but details were a little thin.
It appears that if there ever was a Saint Valentine, he was a very obscure saint, and any connection between him and a celebration of love is probably a very recent phenomenon, probably manufactured by florists, greeting card manufacturers and makers of pink ribbons!
Another option is to head down to Beaujolais and the village of St Amour (amour = love) (71 Saone et Loire, Burgundy).for the Fete de l’Amour (16 February) The village is home to one of the Beaujolais wine crus, and is in fact the most northerly, which is probably better known for its voluptuousness rather than finesse! Again there it is unlikely that there ever was a saint called Amour, but is thought to be a derivation of Saint Amateur , a roman soldier who converted to Christianity and founded a local monastery. No obvious Valentine-inspired events here, which might make it a more attractive and less commercialised venue to take your paramour. Certainly the scenery is charming, even if the vines will look a little stark this time of year –
For more info on Beaujolais wines see www.beaujolais-wines.com
Or there is the Fete du Baiser (Festival of the Kiss) at Roquemaure near Avignon (30 Gard, Occitanie) although the name has now been changed to the “Lovers Festival” (Fete des Amoureux“) which takes place on mid February.
The relics of (a) Saint Valentine lay in Roquemaure since 1868. Every year, the weekend nearest February 14th, the town recreates the arrival of Saint Valentine’s relics and celebrates the love and romanticism this mythical Saint now symbolises.
Roquemaure turns into the town of love legends, returning to its 19th century aspect with more than 800 traditionally costumed people, horses and carriages, store fronts decorated in 19th century fashion, an old post office selling souvenir postcards (valentine cards), a fountain of Lovers, a market with over 60 ancient trades, a bandstand and wooden merry-go-rounds. For the occasion, the streets are given the names of the most famous lovers in French literature. To the sound of oboes, bagpipes, drums, and shepherd’s pipes, folkloric dance groups animate the town, along with jugglers and acrobats. Lovers can hum the prettiest love songs played by the barrel organs in the streets of the ancient town. The relics are symbolically paraded on Sunday morning so that Saint Valentine blesses Roquemaure again. This completely free romantic festival was created 17 years ago.
As an added bonus the winemakers of the local Appellation of Lirac AOC have chosen this weekend to celebrate their Festival of Vine Pruning! “On the Sunday morning of Saint Valentine’s feast, seven carts loaded with vine shoots from the seven main vine varieties of the Lirac appellation accompany the procession of Saint Valentine’s relics in the streets of the ancient part of the village.”
For more info see www.saintvalentin.org/