Summer in Gascony is a time of sunshine, blue skies and joie de vivre as the good life is celebrated in towns and villages throughout the area…
The Sounds of Music: Gascony festival season
August in Gascony is buzzing with a rich choice of music events and festivals; some more famous than others, but all are organised with the same passion and joie de vivre. Here the hills are literally alive with the sound of music! Almost all of the major hilltop villages have some sort of music festival on during the summer!
The wonderful quality and diversity of music festivals in Gascony is quite simply surprising. From the Tempo Latino in Vic Fezensac, the Country Music in Mirande, les Nuits Musicales in Armagnac to the world-recognised Jazz festival in Marciac. These big festivals have been a great success for the region, for the past few decades.
The Jazz festival in Marciac has been a regular for the last 36 years! Welcoming many of the best jazz artists such as Nina Simone (who incidentally also lived nearby), Ray Charles, or Yuri Buenaventura.
We went to Marciac one year and heard Harry Connick Jr, who wooed a doting crowd all evening; and then danced until the small hours to an outstanding performance from Caravan Palace.
You will love the lively atmosphere in the towns with bands playing on improvised stages, lively streets, temporary outdoor bars and restaurants, markets and exhibitions, and big concerts in the main arena. All this entertainment works perfectly well with the Gascony culture: it’s about spending a lovely and memorable moment with friends and family, alongside enjoying exceptional food and wine.
In mid August, five of the most beautiful Gascon villages (such as Lectoure, Condom and La Romieu) host an original festival called ‘Musique en Chemin’ – music on the road. Concerts are located in and around the charming landmarks, animated with markets and walks around the sights. A great way to share the culture and beauty of the old villages throughout music and more modern art, such as the outdoor cinema projections. The scenes are like something out of the movies.
Off the beaten track for bizarre and fun events in Gascony
For those of you who want to do something different and fun, there are many unusual traditions and competitions around each of the village fêtes. I have selected a few that I know well, but almost every village has its own special event and tradition! Finding new ones is all part of the adventure!
Every year on the 15th August in Lectoure, the land of the melons (also known as Cantaloupe), the biggest melon eaters gather for a gargantuan competition! Even national VIPs are invited to join in and it is an occasion for everyone to have fun and be proud of the local produce.
Or perhaps take your children to the little village of Lagardere at the beginning of August: they will find between 50 and 100 racing snails! Yes, snails. The fête ends up with a friendly ‘escargolade’ dinner on the village place. Not surprisingly, food and wine features prominently.
More of the bizarre and fun is found at “Le Championnat de France du Cri de Cochon” (“French Pig-Squealing Championships”) in Trie-sur-Baïse. Here contestants have to imitate the noises pigs make at various stages in their life. This is part of a bigger event called la Pourcailhade (La Fête du Cochon), all celebrating the pig: food market, face painting competition, big meals, etc.
These ancient traditions and local fêtes are fun and light-hearted but they are also very important to the villagers. They remain a very good way to bring back some life and tourism to these small quiet Gersois villages. They can attract a good number of participants, for example in Lagardere which has 60 inhabitants, 300 people booked for the big repas (meal)! It is wonderful to see the generations get involved together and share the pride and joy of these moments and everyone is welcomed.
Most importantly, the people are relaxed and friendly, and welcoming of curious visitors who are intrigued and entertained by the celebrations and traditions. Indeed, you will never be disappointed by the traditional lively dinner parties shared with the whole village, just come and try some of the best food and wine from the locals.
Useful website – Tourist office Gers