The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Annual local events

Easter Carnival on the French Riviera

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As spring arrives on the Côte d’Azur, towns and villages across the region come out to play.  Fêtes and celebrations of all sorts take place, heralding the end of winter and the arrival of the good weather.  Last year on Easter Monday we went to the Fête de l’Oranger in le Bar sur Loup, a village festival all about oranges.  This Easter with family visiting with young kids we thought it would be fun to try out the Carnival in Vence, a family-friendly affair.

Vence carnival Queen

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Nice Carnival is over for another year.  The biggest winter event on the French Riviera, attracting around one million visitors over the two week period, left me divided in opinion this time.  Having always been an outright supporter, keenly participating every year and loving the satirical, irreverant humour of the "big heads" decorated floats, it just didn't quite click this year.  Read on as I muse on why and how this has come about.

flower battle float crowds

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Mid Summer Solstice and Fire!

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I've written before about how June is the month of fêtes, full of festivities, festivals and fun.  Once again it's sped by at breakneck speed and tomorrow it'll be July, with the "official" start of the summer season. But just before that happens let me show you what happened in my town, Roquefort les Pins, last Saturday night.

fireworks in Roquefort les Pins French Riviera

To celebrate the Summer Solstice, Roquefort holds a fire festival la Fête du Feu de la St Jean every year, consisting of fireworks and fire jumping.  The Mairie becomes the backdrop for some pretty impressive (and alarmingly close) fireworks.  Along with a sizeable crowd watching from only 30-40 metres away, we ooed and aahed with each increasingly loud and long burst of colourful sparkles, reflecting that our taxes were literally going up in smoke! (Me, cynical..noooo!)

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The Côte d'Azur and its surrounding countryside, in fact the whole of the département of the Alpes-Maritimes, is covered in historic fortified hill villages; some well known, others hidden and secret. There are literally hundreds and many of them have an annual festival of some sort celebrating their artisanal or historical traditions.  Some of the bigger town fêtes are well known such as the lemon festival in Menton, mimosa in Mandelieu, and the fête de la rose in Grasse.  Others are less known such as the traditional trades fair in la Colle sur Loup, the renaissance fair in Villeneve-Loubet and the fête de la courge in Châteauneuf.  Every Easter Monday it's the turn of le Bar sur Loup to celebrate its orange trees.

orange peeler at fête de loranger in Bar sur Loup

Le Bar sur Loup is magnificently located on a rocky hillside over looking the entrance to the Gorges du Loup about 10 kms north-east of Grasse.  It is a gorgeous, well renovated village perché with a surprising number of excellent restaurants. (That was a little aside as one of my favourite places to eat is in this unlikely place and I couldn't help myself!)...

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For three days every year in early April the lovely village of Biot (pronounced Bi-otte not Bi-oh as you may think if you know anything about French pronunciation) goes back in time to the 13th century.  The setting couldn't be more perfect as the old centre of Biot is a fortified medieval hill village, perched just a couple of kilometres inland from the Mediterranean sea, commanding sweeping views out to sea one way and over to the mountains the other, creating the perfect backdrop for this historical event.

   Biot templiers 6

Biot has a rich and turbulent past, with historical remains dating from as early as the Roman times. Evidence of olive oil production has been found from the 3rd century though the village really started to flourish in the middle ages.  From the 12th to the beginning of the 14th century the Knights Templar bought up the best land in the area and founded one of the most important religious establishments in the region, located in the old castle, still visible today as the building which separates the Place de l'Eglise and the Place aux Arcades.  It is this period that the annual festival Biot et les Templiers celebrates. However, just to continue a little with the history of Biot, the Knights Templar's dominance didn't last and they were imprisoned and their wealth redistributed on Papal orders in 1307.  By the middle of the 14th century the area was ravaged by the Plague, like most of Provence, and succumbed to bandit warfare.

             Biot templiers 1

The 15th to 18th centuries were dominated by wars with the village ransacked and pillaged several times. However thanks to a rich clay soil, despite its ongoing struggles, Biot became a centre for pottery production between the 16th century and 18th centuries.  By the middle of the 20th century, it once again became famous for its decorative pottery and glasswork, creating a particular bubble glass for which it is now well-known worldwide.

Biot templiers 2So getting back to its yearly medieval fête, the shindig kicks off on the Friday night with a Son et Lumière show, using the village as a back drop for spectacular fireworks.  My photos of this were hopeless so do click through here to have a look at the official ones to get an idea of the scale of the event.

The rest of the weekend is taken up with reenactments of medieval combats, jousting tournaments, fencing and archery set in authentic camps.  There are falconry displays, horse shows, artisans and a giant market full of local and "medieval" produce, such as leather goods, cosmetics, wooden toys and food.  You'll find mistrels playing medieval music and dancers entertaining in the streets as well as farcical theatre and concerts. There are conferences and workshops both for adults and children and it's all free. Kids can play with traditional wooden games and learn fencing or calligraphy (amongst other things). In the evenings there is a parade by torch light with mulled wine and bread cooked in the communal wood oven.  Many people dress up, not just the entertainers but the spectators too, and the Tourist Office rents out costumes for a reasonable rate.

                     Biot templiers 3

         middle age soldiers

Whether you're a history buff or not this is a fun weekend for the whole family in a beautiful location, that doesn't cost a penny.  Biot is 20 minutes from us at Lou Messugo and worthy of a visit even when the festival isn't on.  Have you been?  Or have you been to a similar event?  Do you enjoy this sort of occasion?  I'd love to hear from you.

Biot templiers 4


I'm linking this up to Travel Photo Thursday and Oh the places I've been! Click on the links to find more fun travel stories.

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