To many, the sound of gypsy jazz, or Jazz manouche in French, is the quintessential sound of France. Upbeat, uplifting, joyful and oh so French. When you hear the lilting music, it instantly conjures up an image in your mind of a 2cv clattering down an empty road, chickens at the window, sunflowers in the fields – it is the music that provides the classic sound of France. And now you can experience an unique event, a gypsy jazz festival, a cultural tour and the best of Provence with a very special, one-off custom trip.
The home of gypsy jazz in France
Every year on the morning on May 25th, the town of Saintes Maries de la Mer, in the Camargue, Provence begins to fill with people. Musicians play traditional traditional Gypsy music in the many squares. The manadiers, cattle ranchers, dressed in their traditional outfits, sit astride beautiful white horses. Arlesian women and children, also dressed in traditional costumes, meander through the crowds.
By 10:30 the clergy from the church make their appearance holding aloft a wooden boat carrying the statue of Saint Sara. A procession of over 3,000 begins forming, headed by the king of the Gypsies and the archbishop, the crowd weaves its way through the village streets, singing a repetitive chant until everyone reaches the sea. Wading into the gentle waves of the Mediterranean with the crowd, the priests return the boat to the sacred waters and for one brief moment history is repeated. The next day the pilgrimage is repeated, this time carrying statues of the Marys.
Pilgrimage and party in France
The Gypsy Festival and pilgrimage to Saintes Maries de la Mer, has been formally taking place since 1448. Some historians claim there is evidence that the event was taking place as early as the 6th century. According to legend Sara-la-Kali (Sara the black woman) was already in the Camargue region as early as the first century, when a boat arrived carrying the three Marys: Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome, and Mary Magdalene. Sara waded into the Mediterranean to help them land. She is the one who rests in the crypt of the ancient church by the sea and has become over the centuries the unofficial patron saint of the Gypsies
After the pilgrimage, there is singing and dancing in the streets and joyful parties that last for days. The normally tranquil seaside town bursts into life with music and dancing in the streets and everyone celebrates. The late, great Django Reinhardt often attended the festival and the famous Gypsy Kings formed their band around a campfire at the festival where they played together and sang as youths.
This pilgrimage and festival is a celebration, a once in a lifetime event for those seeking a truly exceptional French adventure off the well beaten path.
Discover the south of France
The Camargue region is one of the most unique areas in France, a vast salt delta and marshland nestled in between the two arms of the Rhone River. It is exotic with flamboyant pink flamingos roaming freely. At this time of the year the sea is warm enough to swim in and the skies are azure blue. You’ll visit beautiful Uzès, lovely Aigues-Mortes, iconic Provencal town St-Remy, Arles and many more of the most special southern France towns, markets and sites.
Within each of us resides a wanderer, a pilgrim, a gypsy, someone who longs to hit the road without a map. Reserve your place now for French Country Adventures’ Provençal Gypsy Festival in the Camargue, a truly small group tour of no more than 6, from May 22 – May 30, 2018. Enjoy the festival and the best of Provence in the late spring.
Find out more details on French Country Adventures website: www.frenchcountryadventures.com