In this post about our weekend in Paris, I alluded to a very special event that happened on our first night in Paris - that event was the Fête de la Musique. That we happened to be in Paris on the night of this spectacular event was one of those serendipitous, happy accidents. When I booked our travel and accommodation I had no idea that the Fête de la Musique even existed! I found out about it when booking a tour - the tour operator happened to mention it - and I began to investigate.
What I discovered was that the fête de la musique, or "festival of music", happens each year on the 21st June, the longest day of the year. The festival began in France in 1982, and has since spread to neighbouring countries.
On the 21st of June, live bands, singers, amateur musicians, drummers and so on take over the streets of the city, in this huge celebration of music. The biggest and best-known artists and shows are generally in the Jardin des Tuileries, the Petit Palais, the Louvre, Jardin du Luxembourg and along the banks of the Seine, but pretty much every street and street corner has artists performing on it. Public transport is discounted on this night, to make it easier to travel around the city to enjoy what is on offer.
We chose to simply wander the streets in the immediate vicinity of our hotel in the Latin Quarter. If any of the musicians were bad, or even mediocre, we didn't encounter them. The level of expertise of the performers was quite extraordinary - even the bands and performers playing the kind of music that didn't appeal to us were still really good at it! There were stalls set up all over the city selling food and drinks and the party atmosphere was utterly amazing.
This is what I had to say about it on my travel blog:
Tonight was the annual Fete de la Musique - I'd read up about it while planning the trip, but I had no idea it would be so much fun! Basically it is a night when anybody who has a band/plays an instrument/ thinks that they can play an instrument/sings etc can set themselves up on the pavement and make music. While we were eating a band began playing nearby - they were really good and played mostly recognisable music (think "I love Rock 'n Roll", REM, that sort of stuff...) After supper Rox and Dad jumped ship, but Paula, Grant and I decided to make the most of the free entertainment on offer. There was a stall selling plastic cups full of a homemade brew of sorts - it called itself Citron Vodka, but quite what was in there I don't know, it was really good though, so I had a cup of that, Grant bought a beer and we began to wander up and down the streets, listening to the good bands and by-passing the ones that didn't appeal to us. It was absolutely wonderful! There was all sorts of music on offer, many bands playing main-stream stuff, but others that were quite different. We found a couple of young guys playing traditional French songs that I particularly enjoyed. At one point we sat on the floor outside the Pantheon and Paula and I gave the French our particular version of "Our Last Summer" by ABBA, they seemed verrrrrry impressed by us! Not.....
Unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to photograph or video any of the performers we saw, but here is a youtube video that will give you a glimpse into what we experienced.
Returning to Paris for the Fête de la Musique is high on my bucket list. Something SO unique and special and highly recommended if you are ever in the area on or near that date!