The town of Nontron is just a few hours’ drive from Paris and is a very popular place for visitors and tourists. It really is a typical French medieval town and it is situated in the Dordogne in the south-west of the country. It is in the beautiful, lush, green Aquitaine region and the town sits in a valley with forests and fields all around.
There is a quaint and interesting festival held in the town every April and this is called ‘Le Carnaval des Soufflets’, which, translated, means The Bellows Festival. The people of the town dress up in masks, nightshirts, caps and clogs and carry around a set of bellows. This is a tradition dating back to medieval times when the townsfolk of Nontron would use bellows to clean the air and rid the town of evil spirits.
Legend has it that it was monks from the Saint Sauveur Abbey nearby that first started the tradition. It was done on Ash Wednesday so that the town could go into Lent in a pure state. Now the people of the town, and any visitors who want to join in, go around the town, blowing the bellows up their nightshirts so as to ‘purify’ each other.
About two hours’ drive from Nontron is the city of La Rochelle which again is a very popular and lovely place to visit. The city is over a thousand years old and is a sea port. It is located in the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean. It is a very beautiful city and, although it is so old, it is looking to the future and developing while at the same time maintaining the character and history of the place. La Rochelle is well worth a visit.