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Marseille, France City Info
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January:

Monte Carlo Motor Rally
The world's oldest car race.
For more information, call 92-16-61-66
Usually in mid-January.

February:

Fête de la Chandeleur (Candlemas)
Basilique St-Victor, Marseille
A celebration in honor of the arrival in Marseille of the three Marys. A procession brings the Black Virgin up from the crypt of the abbey.
For more information, call 04-91-13-89-00
Early February.

April:

Féria Pascale (Easter Bullfighting Festival)
Arles
This is a major bullfighting event that includes not only appearances by the greatest matadors but also abrivados and bodegas (wine stalls).
For more information, call 04-90-18-41-20
Easter.

Festival des Musiques d'Aujourd'hui (Festival of Contemporary Music)
Marseille
This festival presents the works of very young French and European composers in music and dance.
For more information, call Experimental Music Groups of Marseille at tel. 04-91-39-29-00
April 29 to May 12.

May:

La Fête des Gardians (Camargue Cowboys' Festival) Arles This event features a procession of Camargue cowboys through the streets of town. Activities feature various games involving bulls, including Courses Camarguaises, in which competitors have to snatch a rosette from between the horns of a bull. For information, call 04-90-18-41-20
Early May.

Cannes Film Festival
Movie madness transforms this city into the kingdom of the media-related deal, with daily melodramas acted out in cafes, on sidewalks, and in hotel lobbies. Great for voyeurs. Reserve early and make a deposit. Getting a table on the Carlton terrace is even more difficult than procuring a room. Admission to some of the prestigious films is by invitation only. There are box-office tickets for the less important films, which play 24 hours.
For information, contact the Direction du Festival International du Film, 99 bd. Malesherbes, 75008 Paris (tel. 01-45-61-66-00; fax 01-42-66-68-85)
Two weeks before the festival, the event's administration moves en masse to the Palais des Festivals, esplanade Georges-Pompidou, 06400 Cannes (tel. 04-93-39-01-01)
Early to mid-May.

Monaco Grand Prix
Hundreds of cars race through the narrow streets and winding corniche roads in a surreal blend of high-tech machinery and medieval architecture. For more information, call 01-42-96-12-23.
May 13 to 16.

Le Pélerinage des Gitans (Gypsies' Pilgrimage)
Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer
This festival is in memory of the two Marys for whom the town is named (Mary, the mother of James the lesser, and Mary Salome, the mother of James the greater and John). A model boat containing statues of the saints and a statue of St. Sarah, patron saint of Gypsies, is taken to the seashore and blessed by the bishop.
For more information, call 04-90-97-82-55
Last week of May.

June:

Festival de la St-Eloi (St. Eloi Festival)
Maussane-les-Alpilles
For this festival, wagons are decorated and raced in the Carreto Ramado, followed by mass, a procession in traditional dress, and a benediction. Special events are held and local produce and handcrafts sold.
For more information, 04-90-54-52-04
Mid-June.

Festival Aix en Musique ("Aix in Music" Festival)
Aix-en-Provence
Concerts of classical music and choral singing are held in historic buildings, such as the Cloisters of the Cathédrale St-Sauveur and the Hôtel Maynier d'Oppède.
For more information, call 04-42-21-69-69
Throughout June.

Festival d'Expression Provençale (Festival of Provençal Language)
Abbaye St-Michel de Frigolet, Tarascon
At this festival, homage is paid to the region's language with works by Provençal writers that are acted in French and Provençal.
For more information, call 04-90-95-50-77
Late June to early July.

Reconstitution Historique (Historical Pageant)
Salon-de-Provence This pageant held in honor of Nostradamus includes a cast of 700 in historical costume and is followed by a son-et-lumière at the Château d'Empéri.
For more information, call 04-90-56-77-92
Late June to early July.

July:

St-Guilhem Music Season
St-Guilhem le Désert, Languedoc
This festival of baroque organ and choral music is held in a medieval monastery.
For information, call 04-67-63-14-99
July to early August.

Festival International d'Art Lyrique et de Musique d'Aix
(Aix International Festival of Opera and Music)
Palais de l'Archévèche and Cathédrale St-Sauveur, Aix-en-Provence
This highly prestigious festival presents operas, particularly of Mozart, as well as concerts and recitals.
For more information, call 04-42-17-34-34
Throughout July.

Bastille Day
Celebrating the birth of modern-day France, the festivities in the south reach their peak in Nice with street fairs, pageants, fireworks, and feasts. The day begins with a parade down promenade des Anglais and ends with fireworks in the Vieille Ville. No matter where you are, by the end of the day you'll hear Piaf warbling "La Foule" (The Crowd), the song that celebrated her passion for the stranger she met and later lost in a crowd on Bastille Day.
Similar celebrations also take place in Cannes, Arles, Aix, Marseille, and Avignon.
July 14.

Nuit Taurine (Nocturnal Bull Festival)
St-Rémy-de-Provence
At this festival, the focus is on the age-old allure of bulls and their primeval appeal to roaring crowds. Abrivados involve bulls in the town square as "chaperoned" by trained herders on horseback; encierros highlight a Pamplona-style stampeding of bulls through the streets. Music from local guitarists and flaming torches add drama.
For more information, call 04-90-92-05-22
Mid-July.

Grand Parade du Jazz (Nice Jazz Festival)
This is the biggest, flashiest, and most prestigious jazz festival in Europe, with world-class entertainers. Concerts begin in early afternoon and go on until late at night (sometimes all night in the clubs) on the Arènes de Cimiez, a hill above the city. Reserve hotel rooms way in advance.
For information, contact the Grand Parade du Jazz, c/o the Cultural Affairs Department of the city of Nice (tel. 04-93-92-82-82; fax 04-93-92-82-85)
Mid-July.

Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
This musical event par excellence features everything from Gregorian chant to melodies composed on computerized synthesizers. The audience sits on the sloping lawns of the 14th-century papal palace for operas and concertos. Local recitals are performed in the medieval cloister of the Cathédrale St-Sauveur. Make advance hotel reservations and take a written confirmation with you when you arrive. Expect heat, crowds, and traffic.
For more information, contact the Festival International d'Art Lyrique et de Musique, Palais de l'Ancien Archévèche, 13100 Aix-en-Provence (tel. 04-42-17-34-34; fax 04-42-63-13-74)
Mid- to late July.

Les Chorégies d'Orange
Orange
One of southern France's most important lyric festivals presents oratorios and choral works by master performers whose voices are amplified by the ancient acoustics of France's best-preserved Roman amphitheater. For more information, call 04-90-34-24-24
Mid-July to early August.

Festival d'Avignon
One of France's most prestigious theater events, this world-class festival has a reputation for exposing new talent to critical acclaim. The focus is usually on avant-garde works in theater, dance, and music by groups from around the world. Mime, too. Make hotel reservations early. For information, 04-90-82-65-11 or fax 04-90-82-95-03. Edwards and Edwards can order tickets to virtually any of the musical or theatrical events at the Avignon festival, as well as other cultural events throughout France. Its address is 1270 Ave. of the Americas, Suite 2414, New York, NY 10020 (tel. 800/223-6108)
Mid- to late July.

Festival de Marseille Méditerranée
This festival features concerts and recitals of music and song from the entire Mediterranean region. Theater and dance are also presented, along with special exhibitions in the city's main museums.
For more information, call 04-91-99-00-20 or fax 04-91-99-00-22
Second 2 weeks in July.

Fête de la St-Eloi (Feast of St. Eloi)
Gémenos
Some hundred draft horses draw a procession of traditional flower-decked wagons. Folk troupes also perform.
For more information, call 04-42-32-18-44
Late July.

August:

Fêtes Daudet (Daudet Festival)
Fontvieille
At this festival, mass said in Provençal is held in the avenue of pine trees. There's folk dancing outside Daudet's mill and a torchlight procession through the streets of town to the mill.
For more information, 04-90-54-67-49
Mid-August

Féria de St-Rémy (Bullfights)
St-Rémy-de-Provence
This event features a 4-day celebration of bulls with abrivado and encierro (see the Nuit Taurine entry above), branding, and Portuguese bull fighting (matadors on horseback).
For more information, call 04-90-92-05-22
Mid-August.

September:

Fête des Olives (Olive Festival)
Mouriès
A mass is held in honor of the green olives. There's a procession of groups in traditional costume, an olive tasting, and sales of regional produce.
For more information, call 04-90-47-56-58
Mid-September.

Féria des Prémices du Riz (Rice Harvest Festival)
Arles
Bullfights are held in the amphitheater with leading matadors, and a procession of floats makes its way along boulevard des Lices; there are also traditional events with cowboys and women in regional costume.
For more information, 04-90-18-41-20
Mid-September.

Journée de l'Olivier en Provence (Day Celebrating the Olive in Provence)
Salon-de-Provence
This event is attended by producers of olive oil, Marseille soap, olive-wood articles, booksellers, and pottery and earthenware makers. Special events are held in the history center.
For more information, call 04-90-56-27-60
Late September.

Perpignan Jazz Festival
Musicians from everywhere jam in what many visitors consider Languedoc's most appealing season.
For more information, call 04-68-66-30-30
Late September.

November:

Marché aux Santons
Tarascon
Craftspersons from throughout Provence congregate in this medieval village to sell their santons (carved representations of saints).
For more information, call 04-90-91-22-96 or fax 04-90-91-03-52
Four days in late November. This event is supplemented, sometimes with the same sellers, who move to the Foire aux Santons in Marseille, held between November 27 and December 31.
For more information, call 04-91-13-89-00 or fax 04-91-13-89-20.

December:

Fête des Bergers (Shepherds Festival)
Istres
This festival features a procession of herds on their way to winter pastures. There are cowboys, a Carreto Ramado, a blessing of the horses, an all-night Provençal party with shepherds and Provençal storytellers, and folk troupes.
For more information, call 04-42-55-51-15
First 2 weeks in December.

Foire de Noël
Mougins
Hundreds of merchants, selling all manner of Christ- mas ornaments and gifts, descend on Mougins in Provence, to herald in the Christmas spirit. December 11 and 12.

Midnight Mass
Fontvieille
A traditional midnight mass, including the pastrage ceremony, the presentation of a new-born lamb. There's a procession of folk troupes, Camargue cowboys, and women in traditional costume from Daudet's mill to the church, followed by the presentation of the lamb.
For more information, call 04-90-54-67-49
December 24.

Noël Provençal (Provençal Christmas)
Eglise St-Vincent, Les Baux
The procession of shepherds is followed by a traditional midnight mass, including the pastrage ceremony, traditional songs, and performance of a nativity play.
For more information, call 04-90-54-40-20
December 24.

Fête de St-Sylvestre (New Year's Eve)
nationwide
Along the Riviera, it's most boisterously celebrated in Nice's Vieille Ville around place Garibaldi. At midnight, the city explodes. Strangers kiss strangers, and place Masséna and promenade des Anglais become virtual pedestrian malls.
December 31.