Every year, the Abbaye de Fontfroide near Narbonne turns into an orchid paradise. During the ‘Festival International des Orchidées’, more than 20 exhibitors show and sell their magnificent orchids and other greenery. Or you can marvel at the rare varieties that are on display. With its thousands of years of history, the Cistercian abbey is the ideal place to highlight these beautiful flowers!
The Orchid Festival at the Abbaye de Fontfroide came to be in 2006 as the result of a meeting between orchid producer Albert Falcinelli and the abbey. After paying my entrance fee of 7,50 euros, giving me access to the exhibition and part of the abbey, I was curious to find out what the exhibitors had in store. Entering the courtyard and the refectory revealed the colourful splendour of producers from all over the world. Besides orchids, there were also a lot of other beautiful flowers and plants for sale.
Did you know that orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, including about 28,000 individual species? Apart from blue and black, they bloom in every imaginable hue, luring bystanders with their sweet-smelling fragrance. And I could smell them, even through my mask. As the entrance ticket also gives you access to a part of the abbey, I followed the stairs that led to the former monks’ dormitory. And here, I entered a completely different fairytale world filled with rare orchids.
It was such a joy to walk through this lush indoor jungle, and I went from one exquisite flower to another. I couldn’t name the rare species I saw, but they were all a feast for the eye. Continuing on my way, I went through the groin-vaulted cloister into the cathedral and via the garden back to the entrance. A tip for the next orchid festival: come as early as possible if you want to avoid the crowds and have a good choice of the flowers and plants for sale. I came on Friday, and there were already quite a lot of visitors.