Summer - Enjoy Popular Festivals and Traditions
Throughout the summer, many festivals are organised to celebrate the little emblematic flower of Provence. They generally bring together craftsmen, happy to demonstrate their know-how, producers, lavender growers and creators of products based on lavender. These are very important and festive events!
In July :
- In Ferrassières, 9 kilometres from Sault, lavender is celebrated on the first Sunday in July. The villagers welcome thousands of visitors! To find out the programme, go to fete-lavande.com.
- In Riez, generally on the weekend of July 14th, the Honey and Lavender Festival takes place. The programme includes a Provencal market, tasting of regional products, entertainment, a parade of floats on the themes of honey and lavender, a boules competition, a concert, films and fireworks. The day ends in beauty with a ball. Information: fetesdelalavande.fr.
- In Valensole, usually on the third weekend, the Festival also attracts thousands of visitors. On the programme: visits to lavender fields and distilleries, meetings with producers, sale of craft products, exhibitions. Helicopter tour to admire the fields from above, street orchestra, farandole, lavender meal in the village restaurants.
In August :
- In Digne-les-Bains, at the end of July-beginning of August, over 4 days, the Corso de la Lavande takes place. The programme includes a parade of floral floats, day and night, a Provencal market, a distillery demonstration, a ball and a funfair and antiques. For the detailed programme: dignelesbains.fr and also: cdf-dignelesbains.fr.
- In Valréas, on the first weekend of August, the Corso de la Lavande takes place: On the programme: funfair, parade of floral floats on Saturday and fair on Sunday. Information: valreas.net.
- In Sault, on August 15th, the Lavender Festival is world famous and attracts many visitors: Provencal parade with folk groups in traditional costumes, Provencal music groups, drummers, floats filled with lavender and decorated by volunteers, old tractors. You can learn how to distil lavender thanks to a mobile distillery. Games and animations are of course available for young and old! A big country lunch is proposed with Provencal specialities. An unforgettable festival! Information: fetesdelalavande.fr.
The Floating Market of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Unique in France! On the first Sunday of August, in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, on the Sorgue arm opposite the public garden, an incredible floating market with an Asian feel takes place! This has been going on since the 1960s, thanks to René Légier, at the time deputy mayor, who had the idea of organising this unusual event after a trip to Bangkok.
Early in the morning, the local merchants wear their traditional clothes and take their places on the négo chin, the typical boats of the Sorgue, a kind of flat-bottomed boat used by fishermen. They glide from one bank to the other at the call of the public. Flowers, cheese, fruit and vegetables, wine, bread, etc., all local products are on sale. This is an opportunity to witness an incredible colourful and fragrant show! A real tableau vivant!
The market ends around 1pm. This is the time for the merchants to get together and sing the famous "Coupo Santo", the hymn to Provence.
To listen to it: youtube.com/watch?v=Zk2nUMVxb58
To find out more about the history of this song: https://www.gavaresse.fr/blog-lemasdelagavaresse/chanson-et-histoire-de-la-coupo-santo-la-provence
A votive festival is an event organised by each Provençal village in honour of a patron saint, the saint to whom the parish church is dedicated. The origin of the festival is therefore initially religious.
During a fête votive, the local area is honoured, there are fairground attractions, a ball and aïoli is eaten in the public square. It is a key moment in the life of the village, an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas, to drink and dance and to play petanque.
The majority of the patronal festivals take place during the summer. They last from 2 to 12 consecutive days. To find out the dates of the main fêtes votives, contact the tourist office of the region where you are staying.
In the Camargue, the bullfighting festivals do not forget the bullfighting traditions and are similar to ferias. The course of a Camargue votive festival follows an order well established by tradition:
- In the morning, the inhabitants meet in the meadows to choose the bulls that the gardians will bring to the village.
- When the bulls arrive in the village, surrounded by the horses, it is the time of the "bullfight".
- In the afternoon, the Camargue race takes place in the arena, recognised as a real sport through the French Federation of Camargue Races. The bullfighters, dressed in white, must remove the rosettes and strings placed around the bulls' horns. The bravest bullfighters are called "cocardiers".
- In the evening, the gardians bring the bulls back to the meadow.
The Martigues Sardinades
Originally, the sardinade was a meal based on sardines grilled over coals.
In July and August, the Sardinades de Martigues take place every year. It is a concept that was born in this town in the 1980s. At that time, sardine fishing was an important and very abundant activity, and trawlers were subsidised to throw the surplus back into the sea. But instead of throwing the sardines back into the sea, the town council decided in 1985 to make them available to the population. It offered a free tasting of 5 sardines per plate with the purchase of a glass of wine or soda at 3 francs (0.46 euro cents). The success was immediate: more than 20,000 plates were served.
The site of Martigues remains a must for enjoying the Sardinades. You have to go to the Place des Aires, in the centre of Ferrières, on the banks of the Baussengue canal and the Etang de Berre. Every evening during the summer, it is the festival of the sardines! With the grilled sardines, in escabeche or in fritters, one also serves mussels and according to the day, dry fish, swordfish, octopus, squids, gambas. All this is eaten in a joyful atmosphere with musical entertainment.
Today, sardines are becoming scarcer and their price has risen sharply. But the sardine festival is not about to disappear! And the Sardinades in summer, one finds them elsewhere than in Martigues. The best known are in Port-de-Bouc and in Marseille, quai du Vieux-Port.
We wish you a wonderful summer stay in our beautiful Provence!