If you’re looking for an Easter with a difference this year for all the family to enjoy, then look no further than France. This culturally-diverse nation clings onto unique traditions and customs all year round and none more so than at Easter.
With the sun soaring overhead, the temperatures warming up nicely and colourful festivals taking place in almost every city, town and village, Easter is a wonderful time to be on the Algarve.
At Eastertime, fairs are put on across the region, where you can sample gastronomic delights unique to the region, such as almonds covered in chocolate or sugar and traditional ‘folares’, sweet or savoury Easter bread topped with a hardboiled egg still in its shell.
In the traditional Algarve town of Tavira, an annual Triumphal Procession takes place on Palm Sunday. The colourful procession starts at the church and makes its way through the streets, parading past throngs of onlookers, until it eventually finishes back at the church.
Holy Week is celebrated with deep Catholic significance across the whole of the Algarve. Religious ceremonies are re-enacted, including the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, the ascension to Heaven on Holy Saturday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The Festas das Tochas Floridas – Flower Torches – is celebrated each Easter Sunday in the town of Sao Bras de Alportel. The streets of this characterful town are carpeted in flowers and petals displayed in intricate patterns.
The region’s bustling city of Faro is an enchanting place to be at Easter when the Carnation Revolution is celebrated every year. On April 25, 1974, the peaceful revolution marked Portugal’s liberation from a 40-year dictatorship.
This emotional festival involves locals singing Grandola Vila Morena, the song originally sung by the leftist folk singer Zeco Afonso.
With such vibrant, traditional, unique and meaningful events, carnivals and festivals held across the whole of the region, Easter is the perfect time to experience the Algarve at its most authentic, traditional and enchanting.
Grasse, the world’s perfume capital, is a captivating place to visit all year round. This alluring hilltop town on the Cote d’Azur is short distance from Nice and Cannes, and is a true gem of a village that has managed to retain its unique culture and charm.
The Cote d’Azur is a magical place to visit at Christmas. The cities, towns and villages come alive with festive spirit, showering their ageless culture and traditions on all who visit. If you are lucky enough to be heading to the Cote d’Azur this Christmas, then take a look at three of the best Christmas markets the region is home to.
If you’re in France on 14 July then you’re in for a memorable experience as this is the date the whole of the country comes alive in mutual celebration of Bastille Day. Bastille Day is celebrated by numerous methods, which are very much dependent on a particular province, city or town.
From cherry-picking quirky handmade gifts to warming your tummy with a delicious cup of mulled wine accompanied with a bag of roasted chestnuts, there is nothing quite like a Christmas market to get us in the mood for the festive season.
Europeans are literally spoilt for choice when it comes a deciding which special and magical Christmas market to visit, enjoy and spend some pennies.
If you are deliberating venturing outside of the UK and onto the continent for your festive market fix this year then take a look at three incredible Christmas markets on the continent which promise to provide a truly memorable experience.
Music festivals in Europe just keep on coming. In fact hardly a month goes by without a major musical event taking place somewhere on the Continent. Europeans are simply spoilt for choice with great and often historic venues hosting pulsating and charismatic musical events.
The island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer off the Breton coast is one such exciting historic venue to have opened its doors to musicians and their fans from around the world.
Since 1998 the island has played host to an incredible festival known as Lyrique-en-Mer. This classical Opera in Brittany event attracts opera singers and fans from across the globe.
Up and coming and established opera singers have graced the festival from prestigious international houses, including London Covent Garden, Chicago Lyric Opera, L’Opera de Paris and New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
The festival takes place from July 28 until August 15, 2014. Mozart and other classical masterpieces will be played at the inspiring Citadelle Vauban. The citadelle was a fortification built to keep pirates out and, of course, Brittany’s old enemy, the English. It has also been used as a prison through the ages.
Today Citadelle Vauban is a popular tourist spot, and in late July and early August, a place where great music can be heard and incredibly talented artists watched and admired. The historic Citadelle Vauban is just one of the exciting and atmospheric venues used at this opera festival.
Belle-Ile-de-Mer is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year. It has 60 stunning beaches for starters and regular ferries enable easy access to the island from mainland France.
Laying in isolation far out in the Atlantic Ocean, Belle-Il-de-Mer and its popular Lyrique-en-Mer is the last bastion of European culture, as the sound waves ripple towards infinity, at least until you reach America – the perfect spot to be musically inspired.
Vieilles Charrues in the heart of Finistere countryside is one of the world’s biggest music festivals. Being a just a quick boat ride from Britain this huge music festival offers an interesting alternative for the unlucky 200,000 or so who tried and failed to get a Glastonbury ticket.
With five stages and more than 80 artists performing there really is something for the 230,000 spectators who congregate in Carhaix in Brittany for the Vieilles Charrues.
And this year’s line-up certainly rivals, if not exceeds, the rosters of many of Europe’s better known music festivals. Take a look at some of the bands headlining at Vieilles Charrues 2014, France’s biggest music festival.
The Arctic Monkeys
Alex Turner and the rest of the Sheffield band will headline the festival on the Saturday night. The Arctic Monkeys have developed into one of England’s finest rock bands. Led by Turner, the band have taken us on a fascinating musical journey through their recorded material and live shows.
Sir Elton John has been around so long he has become a quintessential extravagant rock star who is as English as fish and chips. Elton’s list of hits are massive, as are his album sales. Elton John plays Vieilles Charrues on Friday 18 July. If you have not already seen the legendary British artist perform, it would be really worth the trip to Carhaix.
Miles Kane writes great songs and is rapidly becoming an inspiring force on the music scene. The Last Shadow Puppets’ frontman will undoubtedly put on an exciting show in Brittany this July.
Other well-known musicians who will be taking to Vieilles Charrues stages include Lily Allen and Franz Ferdinand, along with many more.
Vieilles Charrues is taking place 17 – 20 July 2014.
For more information and to get tickets for France’s biggest music festival visit the official Vieilles Charrues website.
On the face of it, the small and sleepy town of Mirande in the Gers department in South West France would be an unlikely place to play host to the largest country and western festival in Europe.
Not only is the festival the biggest Country and Western event in Europe but it is also recognised as being the first musical festival of this genre to have been established in Europe. In a word, Mirande’s love for country and western has made the town legendary.
For six days in July Mirande turns into an all American town. Last year actors from the cast of Dallas showed up, augmenting the authenticity further. The event is attended by some 165,000 country and western lovers from around the world.
Local Alain Ribaut started the first Mirande festival in 1993. After a shaky beginning with sparse attendance, the following year saw 30,000 people popping by to enjoy the party. Since then the Mirande Music Festival has never looked back.
Eighty or so concerts take place over the course of the festival. Acts from the four corners of the globe will be appearing on stage. Though there is much more to this event asides the recognisable twang of the country and western chord. Visitors can soar high above Mirande and its surroundings on a balloon flight. 200 stalls line the town’s streets, selling authentic North American Indian and Western clothes. American car and motor cycle shows are present as drivers and riders from all over France converge on Mirande to show off their pride and joy.
The festival is a real family affair catering for all ages. Little ones may well need to be in bed before the last act is over though as the music goes on until dawn. The Gers area is renowned for its fine cuisine. Fans of French and international gastronomy will not be disappointed with the superb range of seriously good dishes on offer at the festival.
Nestled deep in the green hills of Gascony, and with a pretty ‘bastide’ dominating the vista, Mirande is a beautifully seductive town all year round. And, as we said, the most unexpected of places to experience the traditional country and western atmosphere of the USA.
The old town of Albi in South West France is beautiful, historic and interesting whatever time of the year you go there. To discover Albi at its busiest and most vibrant, early July would be a good time to visit when the Pause Guitare Music Festival takes place.
From 7 – 12 July, 2014 festival goers from around France and beyond will gather at this scenic French town. Female group sensations Yodelice will be joining the artists playing at Albi this year. Louis Cedid, Christophe and Adebert are all scheduled to play. They will join M, The Hives, Zaz, to name just several of the great musicians playing at this year’s Pause Guitare Music Festival.
Whether you are in striking distance to Albi or further afield, this festival is definitely worth travelling to see, as is Albi itself.
This elegant medieval town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. History and culture radiate down the town’s picturesque streets, squares and alleyways. The great French artist known as Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi, which has continued to be a Mecca for artists. The 13th century Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile was built when the heretical Cathars were defeated. Consequently, the cathedral has a distinct military look. Adjacent to the cathedral is the stout Palais de la Berbie. Today this impressive building hosts the town’s museum, which contains works of art by Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Dufy, Gaugin and many more.
Albi’s ancient, traffic-free, medieval streets are a delight to walk around. Superb and reasonably-priced restaurants are a dominant feature of the town’s tourism make-up. Another impressive site that is worth seeing in Albi is the Chateau du Bosc, the place where Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec spent a happy childhood.
With flat-bottomed boats making their way down the Tarn and a whole host of cultural, historic and artistic sites to explore, there are many reasons to visit Albi – the Pause Guitare Music Festival is just one of them.
For more information on this popular summer festival in South West France visit: http://www.pauseguitare.net/.