Chris Slade describes the son et lumiere presentation at the abbey of Bon Repos called "Le Pays de Conomor" in Brittany, which takes place during the first two weeks of August.
Summer fêtes are very popular across the whole of France.
If you see a sign like this on the side of the road. Stop, join in and “Faites la fête!”
The French are very good at social events, they love them! Give the French a marquee, trestle tables, long wooden benches, a pig roasting on a spit and a man playing the accordion and you have a party.
You won’t travel far in France during June, July and August without seeing a sign by the roadside advertising some kind of summer fête. Usually, French fêtes have a theme: there is the fête de la soupe in La Gacilly, the accordion festival in Augan, a bread
festival, a traditional festival in St Martin Sur Oust and every village seems to host a music festival.
Traditionally, there is also the popular Fête de la Saint-Jean at the end of June, around Midsummer. It is associated with Saint John the Baptist, even though its origins date even further back to Pagan rites marking the summer solstice. During the longest day of the year, Pagan people used to light a huge bonfire meant to represent the light from the sun.
As with many Pagan traditions, this event was Christianized during the Middle Ages, to commemorate Saint John the Baptist’s birthday. It is always accompanied by a giant bonfire around which people can dance. In some places, once the fire has started dwindling, young men also jump over it.
Another very popular summer fête is the Fête de la Musique, celebrated every June 21st. Obviously, most important of all is Bastille day on July 14th. French national day is a Bank Holiday and comes with fireworks (some absolutely magnificent, such as the famous Biarritz firework display) and balls. However, both Fête de la Saint-Jean, Fête de la Musique and Bastille Day are not specific to Brittany and Pays de Loire. They are celebrated all over the country.
These fêtes are really worth the experience and if you feel brave enough, join the jostling French on the wooden benches and eat with them as well!