Tuesday March 4, 2014
Come to the North France resort of Berck-sur-Mer on the Opal Coast in April and you'll be greeted by the sight of thousands of kites flying through the sky. One of the biggest festivals of kites in the world, this is nine days of those fantastic and wonderful flying objects. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts come for the festival along Berck-sur-Mer's huge long sandy beach where plenty of wind makes this the perfect spot.
Every two years, the international kite meeting hosts the world line kite championships. Supporters of Cream Tea or the all-female Les Mademoiz'ailes from France, Air Rex from Japan, Team Silat from Malaysia, The Dealers from Lithuania, Red Alert from Russia (sounds a bit threatening); Evidence and Air Zone Flight Team from the US; Win Sky Shanghai from China; Bogota 2 600 and Team Atemoc from Colombia and Team Flame and The Scratch Bunnies (currently the world champion holders) from England make this a truly international, truly joyous event.
This is by no means all: there are demonstrations on the beaches, exhibitions, a kid's village, and entertainment on the piers. There's Rokkaku kite fighting, developed by the Japanese 250 years ago, and the Jardins du Vent, the sweet sounds of the wind playing through the flowers buried in the sand, miniature windmills, straw cats and scarecrows made from recycled material. There's kite flying by night and wonderful fireworks.
And the best thing is that the whole thing is free and lasts daily from 10am to 6pm, then at night.
Special tests run from Tuesday 15th to Friday 18th April. In the morning teams try out three compulsory programs; in the afternoon it's the turn of 'team ballet' with music.
Place de l'Entonnoir
Tel: 0033 03 21 09 50 00
Getting to Berck
- By car: A16 Motorway, exit 25 (Berck)
There are enough car parks for the traffice, at 5 euros per day. Car parks are well singposted
- By train
Paris Nord-Calais line to Rang-du-Fliers station then connection by coach to Berck
Sunday March 2, 2014
The June Festival and celebrations of the D-Day Landings will be a moving one this year; it's unlikely that the soldiers who landed and fought on the beaches will be there for many more years and each year the number of veterans gets less. But as the 'living memory' passes, we become more concerned to preserve, remember and celebrate those great few days in June 1944 when the Allies stood at the edge of disaster.
Each year there are celebrations, but as this is the 70th anniversary, this likely to be the last really major festival. There is a lot of information on the various websites but much of it is confusing and it is being added to all the time. So I have compiled a list of the major events (and some wonderful local minor ones) taking place in Normandy from June 1st to August.
These are not the official events; those take place on June 5th at Sword Beach when Queen Elizabeth II and President Francois Hollande pay tribute to the past. The events I have included in my round-up are arranged by local communities, by Nord Pas-de-Calais, museums and attractions. One I don't want to miss is a spectacular firework display on June 5th along the coast as 24 towns and communes set off their rockets into the night sky. If the whole of Normandy is booked up that night, it will probably be visible from the UK as well so perhaps arrange a trip to Dover. Otherwise the inventive might think of taking the ferry over at the time; you should get a spectacular view from the water (though that will require a bit of organizing).
Remember that if you are planning a visit to the Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches this summer, plan ahead and book up accommodation as soon as you can.
Sunday February 23, 2014
It's time to celebrate in France at its spectacular carnivals. Nice Carnival is in full swing; it began on February 14th and lasts until March 4 and there's something almost every day (check the program for details). During the day the streets fill up with processions of 18 floats accompanied by anything up to 1,000 musicians and dancers making their way through the crowded streets to Place Masséna. Stand along the Promenade des Anglais and you're likely to get showered with mimosas, lilies and gerberas from the floats in the famous Battles of Flowers. At night fantastic creatures walk the streets, towering above mere mortals.
This year the theme is King of Gastronomy, so expect some great culinary treats in a city known for its food, its markets and its dishes.
More about Nice and its Carnival
If you've had your fill of flowers, make your way along the coast to Menton for its annual citrus extravaganza involving 145 tonnes of fruit and thousands of visitors, not to mention the participants. Stand along the Promenade du Soleil as citrus-themed floats make their way past accompanied by folk music groups and dancers. And visit the Biovèves Garden which is full of sculptures of yellow and gold fruit.
Menton Lemon Festival runs from February 15th to March 5th. Along with the carnival there's an arts and crafts show where you can buy locally made wooden toys and sculptures, glass, ceramics and local foods, plus a special orchid show. At night the streets light up and fill up with brass bands and more dancers as the street festival takes over.
Wednesday February 19, 2014
So you've seen the great palace of Versailles. Where do you go after that? Well, try this one. Take a tree-lined avenue just a few steps away from the Château and walk through a gateway into the latest attraction, the Cours des Senteurs.
The Courtyard of the Senses has a very real place in Versailles, for this was where Louis XIV, the 'most fragrant King in the world', had an ongoing love affair with all scents. The Sun King wore a new perfume every day and had fountains constructed at the entrance to his magnificent dining rooms so guests could refresh themselves and wash their hands before dinner. In a time when everybody ate with their hands (forks were not yet invented, though you could always have a go at cutting meat with your hunting knife), this was a good move.
There's an excellent small museum of perfumes to walk through called the Perfumers' House. There's a lovely fragrant garden to stroll around, and four new boutiques to shop at: the top perfume house of Guerlain; the company that makes wonderful candles and scents - Diptyque, and Maison Fabre from Millau. Maison Fabre's handcrafted leather goods are beautiful, but the gloves are the real stars. Not surprising then that Maison Fabre made 20 pairs of the same gloves that Grace Kelly used to wear for Nicole Kidman, star of the film Grace of Monaco. You'll see the gloves in the film which opens the Cannes Film Festival this year, and surely Nicole Kidman will be wearing them?
Finally, a trip to Lenôtre, the very chic deli beloved by Parisians, will either get you a snack lunch in the boutique, or you can buy a few elegant sandwiches and take them into the garden for a picnic.
Information about the Cours des Senteurs
More Luxury Paris Shopping
Images: Top: The Scent Garden at Versailes; Bottom: Gloves made by Maison Fabre for Grace Kelly