France celebrates the things that make it special--food, wine, music, art, film and that "je ne sais quoi" (that little special something) throughout the year, in cities large and small. Some of the festivals are well-known, like the Cannes Film Festival; others are found only by accident when you happen into a small town at just the right time. If you're headed to France this year, be sure to add one or two of these French festivals to your itinerary.
Food and Wine Festivals
What better place to celebrate food than in France? Visitors and residents alike have plenty of food festivals from which to choose. Below are just a few of the highlights:
- Dijon Gastronomy Fair -- For more than 80 years, the City of Dijon in Burgundy has celebrated its culinary history. For two weeks in late October and early November, the city hosts the Gastronomy Fair, an occasion to see new food and wine items and kitchen products, meet celebrity chefs and other foodies, and learn new recipes.
- Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival in Paris -- Before it was a tourist attraction, before it was an artists' colony, the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris was a vineyard. Each year for a weekend in October, the area celebrates this heritage with food and wine samples, fireworks, a parade and a street party.
- Foie Gras Fair -- Held in late November or early December each year in Castelnaudary, in southwestern France, the Foie Gras Fair celebrates that particular French delight with a cassoulet competition, special dishes on local restaurant menus, a market and a street fair.
If you don't think of France as a music powerhouse, you should think again. The country has a long history of musical excellence, in genres from jazz to classical to folk music. Several festivals celebrate this history.
- Grenoble Jazz Festival -- This city in the French Alps erupts with music for ten days every March and April. Events include concerts, music workshops, films and more.
- International Festival of Baroque Music in Burgundy -- This festival, held for the month of July in the Burgundian town of Beaune, features a variety of formal and casual concerts, master classes with artists and other music-related festivities.
France's literary heritage is well-known. After all, the country was the home of such writers as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Andre Malraux and Jean Paul Sartre, not to mention ex-patriots like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- Paris Antique Book Fair -- The Paris Antique Book Fair is held in April each year at the Grand Palais in Paris. This weekend event, in its 30th year, features a book marketplace, lectures, books as art exhibits and book-binding workshops, just to mention a few of the many events.
Arts and Film Festivals
Fine art and film are practically synonymous with France. The country celebrates with festivals large and small, including the world renowned Cannes Film Festival.
- Cannes Film Festival -- Arguably the best-known festival in France, the Cannes Film Festival, held for ten days in May each year, draws the brightest stars and the most talented actors, film makers and directors to the French Riviera town, as well as thousands of film fans. Events include film screening, discussions and lectures, red carpet events and an awards presentation.
- Versailles Festival -- The Versailles Festival, held from late May to early July, is a celebration of all the arts--music, visual arts, dance and theater. There are indoor and open air concerts, festive fountain displays, equestrian shows and ballets.
Not every type of festival fits nicely into a category, including the French independence day celebration and the winter carnival in Nice.
- Bastille Day -- The French Independence Day--July 14th--is celebrated with patriotic fervor throughout France. In Paris, flags fly along the Champs Elysees, with its military parade and Air Force fly-overs, and fireworks erupt over the Eiffel Tower.
- Nice Carnival -- The Nice Carnival is France's answer to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnivale in Rio. Just before Lent each year (February or March, depending on the calendar), the Mediterranean resort spends two weeks celebrating with food, parades, parties and music.
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