Summer in the south of France guarantees two things—sweltering temps and heaps of tourists. But, you needn’t get stuck in a never-ending traffic jam or squeeze your towel onto a packed beach. Fun can be found close to home. Some easy-to-access highlights are the Bastille Day celebrations, Avignon Music Festival, Festival les Antiques de Glanum, Tour de France, and this year, the World Cup soccer tournament.
On top of the world. That sums up how France feels since their stellar soccer team, Les Bleus, beat Croatia 4 to 2 to win the every-four-years FIFA World Cup last week. What an event it was–even if you’re not a big foot fan. When you’re living in soccer-centric France, you just can’t help but get caught up in the exhilaration of the Big Win, especially in a packed village bar. Bravo les Bleus!
Though the soccer final took place in Russia on 15 July, across France, celebrations had begun the day before–for a different reason. Fourteen July marks the Fête Nationale, or Bastille Day, as it is known in the US. During the day in St. Rémy, a family-friendly county fair atmosphere takes over with special kiddie rides, cotton candy, and ring tosses.
Centre ville becomes a pedestrian zone so folks can safely party down all over town. Pre-dusk a band performs the first of two concerts—with prancing back-up singers—on an elevated stage set up near the main square, Place de la République. Dozens of café tables spill into the street where waiters dodge dancing tots to deliver supper and chilled adult beverages. Around 10 PM, fireworks erupt over the village.
A twenty-minute drive north, the Festival d’Avignon is in full swing. In its 72nd year, this annual event, which transforms the city into one vast theater, lasts three weeks and uses 40 different venues. It includes lectures, expos, films, plays with international stars, like Isabelle Adjani, and lots of colorful street performers. Tickets are required for many spectacles, but others are completely gratuit.
Another neat freebie—available to residents of St. Rémy who hold an Ambassadeur du Patrimoine (Heritage Ambassador) card—is an invitation to the annual music festival held at the Roman ruins of Glanum. This year’s spectacle featured the Christoph Glück opera, Orphée et Eurydice. The small orchestra—a grand piano, two violins, one viola, a clarinet and a pair of viola cellos—and singers were terrific, the setting magical, especially at sunset.
The Tour de France has blasted through St. Rémy right around the corner from our house twice in the last few years. Sadly, no elite cycling excitement this year. So on sweltering afternoons, Ralph and I are content to turn on the fan and the télé and follow the cycling cum French countryside travel broadcast from the comfort of our own couch—taking brief breaks for a pool splash and refilling our ice tea tumblers.
And so goes another non-stop, sunny summer in St. Rémy—hours of watching sports, attending concerts, and marveling at mimes and fancy fireworks—all while keeping ourselves and our jardin hydrated. What’s the answer to the frantic pace? August. When the most mellow month arrives, it’s time to hit the hammock and sway away any energetic impulses.