No apologies for another blog about Nantes; I've just come back from 3 days in what is a great city with plenty going on. It gets particularly exciting in June when the locals take to the streets to watch the Royal de Luxe Street Theater Company. Run by Jean-Luc Courcoult, the company is well known around the world for the weird and wonderful giants it produces. Each year it stages a street theater event in Nantes that takes over the city. Each year there's a new story and a new giant and nobody knows in advance what that will be. So don't miss the next one which is planned from June 7th to 9th.
So go to Nantes during the festival to see the huge cranes taking the figures through the streets, managed like puppets who remind you of Lilliputians.
The company has become increasingly international. In 2012 it staged Sea Odyssey, commemorating the sinking of Titanic in 1912 in Liverpool, seen by over 800 000 spectators.
An international tour is planned, though thte theme is not set, so look out for the giants in your country.
More about the Royal de Luxe Street Theater Company
More about Nantes
More to Visit in the Region
Image: Royal de Luxe Giant in front of the Cathedral
Every year Nantes holds its annual Voyage à Nantes festival. It's become known as one of the most innovative in France, in keeping with a city which has reinvented itself with the spectacular Machines de l'Ile. The enormous Grand Elephant, the Carousel of Sea Creatures and more are made and live in the former shipbuilding area and have to be seen to be believed. After all, this is the city where Jules Verne was born so it's no surprise that the emphasis is on the river and the sea.
The 2014 Voyage à Nantes takes place between June 27th and August 31st. International artists are invited to exhibit their works and the Musée des Beaux-Arts takes its masterpieces out of storage to show them in odd place all around the city. Add to that La Cantine, a pop-up restaurant along the banks of the Loire with good value meals, a grocery store, deckchairs, and football tables and you have a recipe for a lively two months.
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The fortifications surrounding the wonderful medieval city of Carcassonne ring to a different note for the Carcassonne festival when the likes of Status Quo and the Jacksons, Vanessa Paradis and Massive Attack take to the stage. It's a mighty impressive line-up and that's just the music.
The Festival, a major one in Europe, is comprehensive, also showcasing circus, theater and some spectacular dance. There are 100 shows in the alternative 'OFF' Festival and a great selection of free street theater, other events and concerts, some in the open air, others such as the organ concerts, Les Estivales d'Orgues de la Cite, in great buildings like the Basilique Saint-Nazaire.
It's a spectacular festival in an equally spectacular setting.
More about the City and the Region
Image: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui July 8th in Theatre Jean-Deschamps
From June 21st to July 20th, the Royal Château of Amboise puts on a series of events around Italy's cultural wealth. It makes sense; Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Amboise in 1516, invited by the French King François I. He lived nearby at Clos Luce for three years before his death and is buried in Saint-Hubert's Chapel within the royal castle.
This year the festival opens on June 21st at 3pm with Renaissance dancers performing on the castle's terraces followed by a concert. The daily program is long and includes events like nocturnal celebrations from the court of the French King with candlelit interiors specially decorated, fireworks, and dancing. There are classical concert, Mozart's operas, costumed spectacles and much more.
Amboise has a full program of events and is one of the Loire Valley's jewels.
Location, location, location...plays a major part in the pleasure of festival going, so the famous Nuits de Fourvière in Lyon has a head start. Performed in the Fourvière park high on a hill, the Roman surroundings and amphitheaters make the perfect setting.
And it's a wonderful festival, with around 100 performances covering circus (which the French are particularly good at), dance, theater, puppets, and night time performances. There are shuttle buses from the center of Lyon, so it's easy to reach. It has both famous names and unknowns, mixes classic with contemporary and with so many performances offers something for everyone.
The Festival runs from June 4th to August 2nd, 2014.
6 rue de L'Antiquaille
Tickets from 7 euros to 46 euros
More about Lyon
- Guide to Lyon
- Top Attractions and Things to Do in Lyon
- Top Lyon Restaurants
- How to Get to Lyon from the UK and Paris
Images: Top: The Festival; Bottom: Lyon during the Light Festival
As the weather warms up and the flowers start to bloom, it's time to plan the odd garden visit on a France trip. And there's plenty to choose from.
If you're in the Dordogne, try to get to the Marqueyssac Hanging Gardens. They're at the Château of Marqueyssac, very near the attractive small town of Sarlat. There's much of interest in the gardens, starting with the extraordinary boxwood topiary gardens beside the gracious mellow stone castle. Walk along the belvedere for panoramic views; look through the telescope for an eagle's eye view; watch a wood turner at working, making boxes and jewellery from the boxwood cut on the estate. The gardens are a National Historic Monument and the most visited gardens in the south west of France.
More about the Region
- Historic Sarlat, a town well worth a visit
- Dramatic, Sacred Rocamadour
- Go underground at the Gouffre de Padirac
- Josephine Baker's Chateau des Meslindes
More about Gardens in France
It's just around the corner and the pace is hotting up in Cannes on the Côte d'Azur where everybody is preparing for the annual celebration of the great and the good in the international film world.
It kicks off with Grace of Monaco, directed by Olivier Dahan and starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly. Expect Sophia Loren, Ryan Gosling, Robert Pattinson, Tommy Lee Jones, Marion Cotillard, Channing Tatum and Juliette Binoche (and that's just for starters; there will be many more names strutting their stuff on the red carpets).
The President of the 2014 Festival Jury is Jane Campion, the New Zealand director, producer and screenwriter. She takes over from Steven Spielberg.
There are 18 films in contention for the coveted Palme d'Or, including Saint Laurent from Bertrand Bonillo and The Homesman from Tommy Lee Jones. (If you're a fan of Yves Saint Laurent or a fashion follower, check out the tour of his studio in Paris.)
But for the public, the most interesting part is the Out of Competition category and Cannes Clasics shown at the Cinéma de la Plage which you can get tickets for by going to the Tourist Office at Cannes. A giant screen faces a sea of deckchairs where people settle down with picnics to watch the likes of A Fistful of Dollars, The Last Metro or Jamaica Inn.
More on the Festival and the Region
- The 2014 Cannes Film Festival Details
- General Cannes Film Festival Information
- Top 10 Attractions in Provence
- Guide to Provence/Alpes/Cote d'Azur
Where to Stay in the Region
Image: The 2014 Cannes Film Festival Poster pays homage to Marcello Mastroianni
The opening of the refurbished Picasso museum in the Hôtel Salé in the Marais district in Paris, due to open in June (already delayed), is now slated to open in September. But don't hold your breath. The museum has been shut since 2009; 19million euros have been spent but...there are not enough security guards according to the official line. Don't believe that one, this is a major spat involving politicians, ministers and...possibly a certain amount of incompetence on the part of the powers that be?
Claude Picasso, the painter's son, is predictably furious and has said: "This opening was supposed to be a great party. They are turning it into a fiasco." But it may be a Macchiavellian-style plot on the part of the Minister of Culture, Aurelie Filippetti, who is apparently at loggerheads with the museum's director, Anne Baldassari. The upshot is chaos and no firm promise of the opening of a museum that the world has been waiting to see for 5 years now.
SO, in the meantime, if you want to see a few Picassos in a delightful setting, go to the Picasso Museum in Antibes. Housed in the Château Grimaldi that dominates the old ramparts, there's a wonderful collection of his ceramics, made at nearby Vallauris, as well as some paintings and sketches. Paris's loss is Antibe's gain.
More about Antibes
Antibes, ideally located on the Cote d'Azur between Cannes with its famous film festival and Nice, is always buzzing with events. Currently filling the Port Vauban down by the sea is the prestigious annual Antiques and Art Fair, founded by the local antiques dealer Jean Gismondi and now in its 42nd year. The Fair started in April but lasts to May 5th. You'll find everything here from paintings to jewellery, from clocks to general bric-a-brac, making it a great place for both professional collectors...and the rest of us. If you're serious about collecting or are after something specific you can have an expert take you around. Just get a special ticket at the entrance.
Once you've done the fair, there's plenty more to see and do in Antibes, one of the most delightful ports along the sparkling Mediterranean coast.
Antique Fair Website
Entrance: 10 euros, 5 euros for those under 18 years
Antibes Tourist Office
42, Avenue Robert Soleau
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 22 10 60 10
More on Antibes
Every year there's one night when you can visit museums until 1am. This year it's on Saturday May 17th. It was started in 2005 by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and has proved wildly popular. And the museums have embraced it wholeheartedly. So not only is entrance free at most of the participating museums; there's also lots of entertainment laid on to keep you happy, quite apart from looking at the art.
So in Caen in Normandy, the Musée de Normandie in the Castle grounds has a musical entertainment on the universal theme of Pepin in the garden while in Nice the Matisse Museum is organizing an evening making art by cutting paper.
Each town seems to vie with the next one to produce something exciting and engaging. So wherever you are, ask the Tourist Office for information.
Image: Museum Night with MAMCS Theater Group in Provence