In the Languedoc, nearly every village has a summer fete or Fete Votive as they are called, where the beautiful white Camargue horses play a starring role and small, angry bulls charge through the streets, lined with testosterone fuelled young lads, desperate to prove their machismo. Mad music pumps up frantic four day parties and all generations are united in their desire to let their wild locks down and have frivolous fun. More on these village fetes soon from our Wild Life correspondent but now I want to tell you about the king of these tauro festivals.
The Feria de Nimes began life in 1952 and now attracts over one million visitors annually. Nimes offers two of these flamboyant ferias every year, the Feria de Pentecote (Whitsun festival 15th -20th May 2013) and the Feria de Vendanges (Wine festival 13th – 15th September 2013), which is more of a local, family affair. Both Ferias are extravagant, entertaining parties celebrating bulls, music, dancing and food.
The Feria begins with a Pegoulade or giant procession bursting with dazzling dancers, marvelous music and illuminated floats, which wind through the boulevards of Nimes before arriving in the great Roman amphitheatre. It culminates with a spectacular fireworks display, fun for all the family.
Although typically associated with Spain, bullfighting has taken place in Nimes since the early 19th century and still plays a major role on the bullfighting circuit. Even if bullfighting is not to your taste, the festival is still an eclectic experience not to be missed. Grab a glass of sangria and soak in the celebration of art. Take the kids and watch the impressive horse show in the glorious Jardins de la Fontaine. Wherever you turn, the streets and squares are bursting with bodegas, (temporary outdoor bars and clubs) and music and merriment resound around this rich Roman city. It is a fascinating and intoxicating glimpse of a passionate culture.
So, if you have time to play in May and September, get thee gone to the south of France, where these glorious months are made even more colourful by the Feria de Nimes.
For more information, click here for the fantastic Nimes Tourist Office website.
Every year a local artist is commissioned to design the official poster for the Feria. You can buy current and past posters in many different sizes from the Tourist Office – a perfect piece of memorabilia and light enough to take home on the plane.