What’s on in France this year
Summer’s nearly here. But all too often it can disappear in a flash of sunshine, barbecues and holidays that seem to linger ages in the diary once booked, then fly past before work beckons once again and the daily routine of everyday life is resumed.
So, think ahead to how best to get the most from your holiday in France this summer. Consider a few highlights worth scheduling into the holiday, with or without a detour: cultural events, historic occasions, perhaps something sporting or just a little revelry.
All can add an extra dimension to a Belle France holiday, and all can be tailored into your itinerary. And if there’s nothing that tickles your fancy in our little round up of teasers below, maybe your interest will be piqued by the reminder that a small baby panda called Yuan Meng is now pulling the crowds at Beauval Zoo in the Loire.
Musée de la Romanité, Nîmes From 2 June
Nîmes is regarded as France’s most outstanding Roman town, epitomised by its glorious amphitheatre. The new museum, opening in early June at a cost of over €50 million stands opposite the ancient structure and they seem to bookend civilisation from the 1st century to the present day.
The venture is bold, dramatic, architecturally challenging and it works really well. The opening is centred around a temporary show on gladiators, always a crowd pleaser.
Fête le Vin, Bordeaux 14-18 June
This summer promises to be quite a spectacle down at the waterfront in Bordeaux. Not only is it the 20th year of the celebrated festival of wine (and food) but also the elegant city plays host to the Tall Ships Regatta.
Stroll the riverfront beside the Gironde, sample from over 80 appellations offered by the vast array of pop up stalls, nibble on some local produce and gaze at the majestic ships lined up on the quayside.
International Garden Festival, Chaumont April - November
In the sumptuous grounds of Château Chaumont, this annual garden festival is not like other garden shows or flowers shows; it’s as much about art. This is not Chelsea or the RHS Wisley. It’s more an open air contemporary landscape art museum, complete with LED lights, sculptures, installations and more.
Running for over six months, the aim is for gardens to reach peak in the autumn but of course, as nature evolves over the summer months, there is always something fresh to admire.
Bastille Day 14 July
Since 1880 this date has been etched on the minds of every Frenchman. Expect events in every village, town and city, culminating in a military parade along the Champs-Elysées between the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde. There are usually fireworks in the evening, along with music and dancing. If travelling on this day bear in mind extra traffic and closures, much as with a bank holiday in the UK.
Calvados Experience, Normandy From March
A celebration of the world’s favourite apple brandy, this is an educational, revealing and downright surprising romp along the bumpy road that is the story of Calvados (the alcoholic spirit, not the region).
From locally made farm moonshine to a sophisticated digestif favoured by emperors, it has an illustrious history. A little time spent here learning about it all will provide pub quiz facts and dinner party anecdotes to last a lifetime.
Tour de France 7-29 July
The big daddy of them all, this time it dips into Spain, briefly, before returning to familiar climes, and climbs. The race stats make you break into a sweat just reading them: 3,329 km spread over 21 days of racing culminating in the final 31 km time trail on the last weekend.
This is no Belle France cycling holiday, though keen fans are known to plan ahead so they can dismount from their Belle France saddle and watch the race go by.
St Louis Festival, Sète 23-28 August
This event has a long pedigree, dating back to 1666 when the old port was first opened. It takes place on the royal canal over a week or so, with the centrepiece being water jousting – a popular spectator sport. In addition there are other tournaments, fireworks, festival bars, shows and all kinds of entertainment.
The swim across the river Sète is generally one of the highlights. It’s generally a mad, frenetic few days of laughter, silly fun and a little athleticism.
Marathon du Médoc 8 September
Running can be hard work and exhausting. Drinking wine can be hard work, and also - let’s be honest here - a little tiring. Doing the two together sounds either incredibly arduous or wonderfully relaxing.
This is a novelty marathon, with runners usually in fancy dress. Refreshed along the way with wine, oysters and fine produce from the region, they are entertained by orchestras and bands putting on a show for spectators and runners alike.
The route begins and ends in Pauillac, passing Saint-Julien and Saint-Estephe and passing the gates of around fifty wine estates and châteaux.
Ryder Cup, Paris 25-30 September
This is rather a big deal for both golfers and the French: the first time the illustrious Ryder Cup has been held in France (and only the second time it has taken place in Europe). The stage is set, well nearly: the location will be Le Golf National course outside Versailles, with 50,000 visitors expected to come and gawp at incredible stroke play, barnstorming drives and incredible check trousers. Not only that, an estimated 500 million viewers are anticipated across 20 countries.
Centenary of Armistice Day 11 November
The various and numerous commemorations have been taking place over the last four years. The final big one is the centenary of the final day of the First World War. The guns fell silent on 11 November 1918, following the Battle of Amiens and the last big push by the Allies.
There will be countless events and services throughout Northern France, and the rest of the world too. Not least in France where President Macron will be inviting the heads of state from 80 nations involved in the conflict.