Culture and events
You’ll always find something happening in Provence, if it isn’t a local market, then it’s a celebration of a saint, a firework competition or an international festival.
The season starts in Cannes with the International Film Festival. Unless you’re starring in one of the films, or know the producer, you won’t be able to find tickets to previews. But you can wander along the Corniche and soak up the atmosphere and hope you catch a glimpse of an A lister. Just over the way in Monaco, the Grand Prix takes place in late May. The most glamorous location imaginable, the hairpin bends, steep hills and yachts in the bay are quite something to see. A more low key event is the Grasse Rose Festival. The perfume capital of the world celebrates with colourful floral displays and parades of floats over five days.
June sees the arrival of summer, and this is celebrated in style in Provence with the Fête de Saint Jean. Fireworks, bonfires, bull running and concerts are held throughout the area. In several resorts including Cassis, Nice and St Tropez, les Fêtes de la Mer, also known as the Fête de Saint Pierre, remembers sailors lost at sea with a mass, folk music and communal meals. For the energetic, you might want to watch (or take part in) the Ironman France-Nice. This takes place every June and you can watch the competitors swim across the bay before cycling off into the mountains then coming back to run a marathon along the Promenade des Anglais.
Arts festivals take place all the time, and the one of the most popular in this area is the Nice Jazz Festival, which is an eclectic event held in an outdoor historic gallo-roman site. Lasting eight days, it involves over 800 musicians playing anything from blues to gospel and traditional jazz. The Festival d’Avignon, is an annual arts festival, the oldest of its kind in France, held in the courtyard of the Popes’ Palace and other atmospheric locations around the city. Here you’ll see proper productions as well as lots of street theatre. And of course, on 14 July every year, it’s a public holiday in France as Bastille Day is celebrated with music, dancing and fireworks. Later in the month, the Tour de France passes through different parts of the South of France, and often includes an ascent of Mont Ventoux. It is definitely worth while lining the route if your visit coincides, just to be part of this incredible French race.
The French are famous for their fireworks, and nowhere better is this witnessed than at the Pyromelodic Festival held off the shores of Antibes Juan les Pins. Several countries compete with fireworks set to music, and there are weekly shows throughout August. A less noisy event is the colourful Lavender Festival in Digne les Bains, where the lavender harvest is celebrated. Parades and folkloric events take place during the first weekend of the month.
Visitors spending time on the Cote d’Azur in late September and early October can catch a glimpse of some of the world’s most amazing super yachts, as they take part in Les Voiles de St Tropez, a famous regatta in the Bay of Cannes. Modern and classic boats compete and the ultimate prize is the Rolex Trophy.