… is a time for festivals in the area, and there are so many of them that it’s very easy to lose track! I went with friends to Beziers for the last night of Festival Swing – les pieds dans l’Orb. This three-day festival concentrates on what the French call swing, not necessarily the swing of the old-fashioned big bands, but definitely with a French twist. The venue for the festival is the Amphithéâtre du Pont Vieux, right by the river. The Pont Vieux dates from the 12th century, and a few years ago restoration work was carried out which opened up a number of arches which had been filled in over the centuries with alluvial deposits. During the renovation a park was created on either side, and on the upstream side of the bridge an amphitheater was built. It is a glorious site, with the backdrop of the cathedral and former archbishop’s palace across the river.
We arrived early and waited patiently with a few hundred people outside the gates. The security guards allowed people to enter in groups of about 20, so that there would be no pushing – very civilised! We were heavily laden with a picnic, and were pleasantly surprised to find rows of chairs set out. As we were early we managed to get perfect seats, and as people filled the empty chairs around us we started on our feast. If you are tempted to go next year, there were two big stands selling (fast) food and drinks, so bringing a picnic is not absolutely necessary! Wine could be bought by the glass (plastic) or in plastic measuring jugs. What a very good idea not to have any glass on the site, and all those people running about with their measuring jugs full of wine made me smile! I’m sorry there are no pictures of our picnic, we were too absorbed with eating all the food: Smoked salmon and spinach in puff pastry, chicken salad with celery, pecan nuts and raisins, an Indian style potato salad, cheeses accompanied by some salad leaves, followed by a blackcurrant cheesecake mousse. And of course we had brought some wine – this is France after all :-)!
As we were finishing our food the concert began. The first act was a duo called Nadja, and they performed swing/jazz standards.
Next up was Lady Ya’ & The Swing Makers. While they were playing there was the most gorgeous light, bathing everything in a golden glow.
There was a little break while the stage was slightly changed for the main act of the evening: Michel Jonasz accompanied by the Coll Orchestra Symphonic Big Band.
All the musicians were dressed in impeccable white suits and they started out with some fantastic instrumental music.
On came Michael Jonasz with his backing singers, and the crowd got very excited. He’s a very well known artist in France, with a long career, and most people in the audience knew his songs by heart and could sing along.
The evening was balmy, the Pont Vieux beautifully lit with coloured lights, and the atmosphere fantastic – what better way to spend a summer’s evening?
One of the many un-missable events over the course of the summer is La Fete Nationale on the 14th of July. I spent it in St Chinian this year, and took a couple of videos of the fireworks (e-mail subsribers use this link and this link)
Neighbours of mine, James and Maggie, went to Carcassonne this year to watch the fireworks, and allowed me to share some of their pictures with you. I went to see the Carcassonne fireworks a long time ago, and I am very tempted go again next year – they are absolutely spectacular! Thank you James and Maggie!