Category Archives: festivals

Transhumance (Happy Sheep Heading to the Mountains)


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16 years ago I bought a poster of La Transhumance, but I didn’t really know what it was.  I just knew that I liked sheep.  This past weekend we had the opportunity to accompany our daughter’s scout troop to witness La Transhumance of a herd of sheep leaving Vendres and heading up to the Pyrénées mountains.  As we were all having breakfast together, and before heading out for a long hike to find the sheep, we collectively wondered how to say TRANSHUMANCE in  English.  Duh… it’s the same word.

The day was lovely!  We started out having breakfast as a group, then made our way down toward the path up which the sheep would arrive with their shepherd (that’s this guy’s only job, I love that!).  It took about an hour and a half one-way, but check out the video to see what came next.  It was well worth the time spent walking, and plus we got to check out the ruins of an ancient Roman bath along the way.

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Rugby – Vin – Féria


Some people complain about tourists.  I have a lot of Parisian friends and family, and they moan and groan about the tourists.  That’s kind of understandable, because Paris is a huge world capital, and there are always a lot of people out and about.  Down here in Béziers it’s a little different because when there are no tourists, you don’t tend to see many people.  For about a month we’ve been seeing more and more people in the streets, restaurants, and cafés.  That’s partially due to the amazing weather we’ve been having most of the time, and partially due to the mostly Northern European tourists who think that it’s delightful to take a dip in the Mediterranean when the water is only 19 ° (66° F).  If you’re from Northern Europe, tell me if it’s true  that you love the “plages naturistes“.

Tourists bring vitality this region, and it’s what the economy here thrives upon!  16 years ago, when we lived here for one year after getting married, someone told me that there are 3 passions in Béziers:  le rugby, le vin, et la féria!  I see now how true that is, and I think that this passion draws tourists to the region.  It’s what drew me here summer after summer, until we finally decided to move here last year.  Back in St. Louis, summer was definitely not my favorite season.  It was too hot to even get outside.  Here, even in the summer there’s often a slight sea breeze, and there’s no humidity to speak of.  I love to go and sit at the pub across the street and drink a cold beer while the kids ride their bikes and scooters on the big square.  I don’t even feel like we need to leave here to go on vacation this year….. but don’t worry, I won’t let that stop us!  Until then, I have to say that I LOVE MY JOB, and giving French immersion tours and French lessons in the region this summer is going to be so much fun.

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Annual Languedoc Festivals (that I’m putting on my calendar)


January-March:

Limoux:  Carnaval de Limoux

Approximately ten weeks of festival, this is one of the longest running carnivals in the world.  Masks, costumes, music, pranks, King Carnival burned at the stake,  swapping of roles, and it’s all done in the Occitan language.

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March:

Nîmes:  Féria de Primavera

This is the pre-Lenten carnaval , and the first of several annual féria in Nîmes.

April:

Sommiers:  Medieval festival

Street festival featuring costumed merchants and performers, markets and music.

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May: 

Pezenas:  Cavalcade

Annual festival, artisan craft market, medieval period-costume parade.

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Nîmes:  Feria de Pentecôte

The main focus is bullfighting in the Roman amphitheater.

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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer:  Gypsy Festival & Pilgrimage

Traditional gypsy music,  traditional gypsy costumes, white horses of the Camargue, solemn procession of over 3,000, headed by the king of the Gypsies and the archbishop, weaves its way through the village streets, singing a repetitive chant until everyone reaches the sea.  Bullfighting, concerts, lots of food.

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June:

Beaucaire:  La Fête du Drac

Traditional festival in honor of the town’s dragon mascot.

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Pavalas:  The Maguelone Music Festival

The cathedral is home to a festival of ancient music.

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Montpellier:  Le Printemps des Comédiens

Theater and live performances,  proposing between 20 and 25 shows and drawing more than 40,000 paying spectators.

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Narbonne:  Festival National de Théâtre Amateur

Ten evenings of open air amateur theater.

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July:

Sète:  Fête de la Saint-Pierre

The town pays homage to St. Pierre, patron saint of fishermen.

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Montpellier:  Festival de Radio-France

Music festival focusing on opera, classical music, and jazz.  90% of the concerts are free.

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Beaucaire:  Medieval Fair

A week-long recreation of the medieval market and other celebrations.

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Avignon:  Festival d’Avignon

Theater festival that runs for three weeks.

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Carcassonne:  Dance, music, and theater festival

Opera, Dance, Theatre, Classical Music, French and international popular music, Modern music.  Many concerts are free.

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Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert:  Annual fête

Baroque organ and choral music is held in a medieval monastery.

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August:

Sète:  Water jousting

Originating in Sete centuries ago, this sport is now a passionate fixture of Languedoc traditional culture.  The most important tournaments take place on August 25, la Fête de Saint Louis.

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Orb Valley:  Festival de la Vallée de l’Orb

Takes place in various town squares throughout the Orb valley, this festival features lots of wine and folk music activities.

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Béziers:  La Féria

Five day féria focusing on bullfights, concerts, food.  Attracts over a million visitors annually.

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Narbonne:  Semaine Bavaroise

In alternating years, Narbonne honors twin town, Weilheim in Germany, by a week of celebrations of Bavarian food and folklore.

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September:

Pavalas:  Féria d’Automne

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Nîmes:  Féria des Vendanges

Basically a repeat of the Féria de Pentecôte that takes place in May.

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Le Grau/Port Camargue:

Traditional water tournaments and bull fights.

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October:

Aigues Mortes:  Annual fête

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Béziers:  Les Primeurs d’Oc

Premier wine festival in Languedoc.  Features wine, music, dance, and theater.

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November-December:

Pezenas:  Occitan Christmas

Montpellier Christmas Market

Béziers Christmas Market

Perpignan Christmas Market

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Carcassonne:  Marché au Gras

Christmas market with lots of artisanal crafts and regional food products (and FOIE GRAS!!!)

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I highly doubt that I’ll make it to all of these festivals and events, but they do look like fun.  I think I’ll opt most likely for the various markets, medieval festivals, Christmas festivities, and wine festivals.

What have I missed?  If you know of other worthwhile festivals/markets/events going on annually in the Languedoc, please tell me about them in the comments.  Maybe there’s a festival that you think is great somewhere else in France?  If so, I’d sure love to hear about it.