Every May, Gypsies flock to the French seaside town of Saintes-Maries, for a festival in honour of a black Madonna – the Gitan Pilgrimage
Here they come now, two rows of men on white stallions, wearing black hats and carrying lances, providing a guard of honour for a squat statuette wrapped in gold cloth. Surrounding the horsemen are thousands of people, many cheering and chanting “Vive Sainte Sara!” Musicians play bursts of flamenco guitar or squeeze Hungarian melodies out of accordions. The horsemen and the crowd head towards the sea, seeming to move as one, suggesting a mix of religious procession and party. And that is exactly what this Felliniesque scene represents.
Every 24 May the small seaside town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer hosts the Gitan Pilgrimage. This legend of St Sara accompanying St Marie-Jacobé and St Marie-Salomé when they arrived here from Palestine (so giving this former fishing town its name) dates back to the 16th century and the pilgrimage is a unique opportunity for Europe’s Gypsies – largely drawn from French- and Catalan-speaking communities – to come together and affirm their faith and culture. And party hard.
Guardian Travel is currently compiling a thorough overview of London’s best budget eateries. In his second instalment, Tony Naylor heads out east, into Shoreditch, Hackney and beyond
• If we’ve missed your favourite tell us on our Word of Mouth blog
• As featured in our London city guide
On the face of it, let alone in a “budget eats” feature, £5.70 seems an awful lot to pay for a bacon butty. It is one of the themes of this series, however, that – particularly when you’re eating on a tight budget – value is more important than cost. And the St John bacon butty is indisputably worth every one of those 570 pennies. It comprises two large chargrilled slices of proper artisan bread from the on-site bakery, thickly buttered and liberally stuffed with Gloucester Old Spot bacon. The rashers have a good three-quarter-inch rim of gloriously silky translucent fat around their outer edge. In its generosity, its use of supreme ingredients, in its hilarious disregard for anything you might describe as healthy eating, it is Fergus Henderson (owner of this and the more famous parent restaurant, St John) on a plate. There are also kippers, pikelets or, if you really insist, porridge and prunes available for breakfast, but that bacon butty will set you up for the day like nothing else. From 11am, Bread & Wine – a pleasingly spartan former bank – serves elevenses, cakes and whatnot. Then, from lunch onwards the menu consists of small ‘n’ large plates (£4-£15), which people mix ‘n’ match, splashing the cash. That said, if you can squeeze in for a simple bowl of celeriac and bacon soup, do (£5.90).
• Breakfast £2.60-£5.70, elevenses cakes £2.90. 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 (+44 (0)20-3301 8069, stjohnbreadandwine.com)