Granville Carnival, Normandy, February 9-13
Nice is France’s best known winter carnival, but if you live at the other end of the country, the seaside resort of Granville in Manche is the place to head for a weekend of celebration and fun. Its origins lie in the 19th century, when cod fishermen departing for Newfoundland would let their hair down before setting sail on Shrove Tuesday.
Now in its 144th year and on the Unesco cultural heritage list, today’s carnival has concerts, parades, fireworks and the ‘burning of the King’. While in town, visit the museum honouring its most famous son, Christian Dior.
Short film festival, Clermont-Ferrand February 2-10
75 short films from 48 countries will compete for prizes at the 40th edition of the Auvergne festival deemed by cinéphiles to be second only to Cannes. In size and scope, it is the biggest in the world – last year more than 160,000 film fans and 3,500 industry professionals attended screenings.
Competition is split into three sections: national, international and The Lab.
Percée du Vin Jaune, Lons-le-Saunier, February 3-4
Vin Jaune or ‘Yellow wine’ is a speciality tipple from eastern France with four appellations: Château-Chalon (AOC), Arbois (AOC), l’Étoile (AOC) and Côtes-du-Jura. Every year drinkers and makers gather to celebrate it in and around Lons-le-Saunier, Jura. Bands provide the entertainment while street stalls serve up warming local dishes such as Franc Comtoise (sausage, potato, cancoillotte [runny cheese], bread) and andouillette.
MP2018 Quel Amour!, Bouches-du-Rhône, from February 14
Five years after the success of Marseille-Provence’s stint as European Capital of
Culture, the region’s major cultural organisations have created an eight-month programme of more than 200 cultural events in eight locations.
The title exhibition will showcase the use of love as artistic inspiration, while places from Martigues to Arles, Istres to Salon, will join in with events and exhibitions. February 14-18 sees inaugural shows kick the whole thing off.
Wine and food fair, Binic-Étables-sur-Mer, Côtes-d’Armor, February 9-11
Breton-based gourmands seeking a tasty day out are in for a treat – this is the 15th edition of a food fair with more than 40 exhibitors from all over France. Winegrowers and food producers will be offering a wide range of products to satisfy the most demanding palates. There will be plenty of free tastings and a free raffle to win gourmet prizes.
Strasbourg Mon Amour, February 9-18
For the sixth consecutive year, love is in the Strasbourg air. Amid the half-timbered houses and picturesque alleyways loved-up locals and visitors alike can enjoy literary events, late-night dances and dinners, museum exhibitions and romantic shows. The mirrored tent on place Kléber is the hub for many events and even singletons are catered!
Retromobile, Paris, February 7-11
Porte de Versailles in the capital draws thousands of petrolheads with a passion for old-school motors – last year, over 500 vintage vehicles from every era wowed car lovers. Beyond gazing at every kind of well-preserved motor from sports car to family saloon, the event also offers visitors the chance to get sociable – everyone from manufacturers, clubs, federations and associations to spare parts salesmen, restorers and car dealers.
Whether it is fancy chrome or old cracked leather, speed machines or comfy classics that set your pulse racing, there is something for all four-wheel fans.
The show is expanding in 2018 to include a new dedicated area for those selling cars with a maximum value of €25,000 (see the organiser’s website for details of exhibitor offers if you have a car to sell).
Fête du citron, Menton, February 17–March 7
Lemons from Menton are enjoying a renaissance as a speciality citrus in culinary circles. However, if you have 145 tonnes of them at your disposal in February – as do the fête authorities and producers on the Riviera – the obvious thing to do is use them for carnival floats and sculptures. Oranges are added to offer colour contrast, with this year’s theme of Bollywood sure to bring added vibrancy.
Jardins Biovès is the place to see the sculpture exhibits and evening light shows while the Promenade du Soleil on the seafront hosts Sunday carnival processions (‘corsos’ on February 18 and 25 and March 4). For added spectacle, head to the night-time processions on Thursdays (February 22 and March 1).
There will be an orchid festival at the Palais de l’Europe, while lemon-based goodies will be on sale in the Salon de l’Artisanat.
Combat Naval Fleuri, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, February 19
The picturesque bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer near Nice is the location for a flower-filled spectacle with a nautical twist. Local fishing vessels called ‘les pointus’, decorated with mimosa and carnations, carry fishermen in traditional outfits, before passing by the shore to throw flowers to the gathered crowd.
Cannes International Games Festival, February 23-25
There is a whole world of fun to be had at this annual event, with every imaginable genre of game celebrated. From traditional and classic games to modern board games, from video games to simulation games (role-playing, historical and fantasy), there is something for kids of all ages. There is also a section dedicated to collectible cards as well as plenty of toys.
Le Corso Fleuri flower parade, Bornes-les-Mimosas, Var, February 25
The 80th edition of the annual flower procession (which takes its name ‘Corso’ from the Italian for ‘main avenue’) sees the village transformed into a scent-filled, colourful scene. Originally it was local mimosa and white heather that adorned the parading carts but these days expect to see cultivated flowers such as marigolds, anemones and carnations. Marching bands parade through the streets and flower-clad people aboard floats ‘battle’ each other at throwing blossoms to visitors.
Festival of the bear, until February 25
Three villages in Pyrénées-Orientales – Arles-sur-Tech, Prats-de-Mollo and Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans – celebrate local bear-based legend by evoking the animal’s origins in the area, as well as fertility rites. Three men dressed and made up like a bear (covered in soot and oil) will kidnap a young shepherdess and be pursued by local citizens, captured and brought back to the village square to be shaved and returned to human form. An odd, striking spectacle deeply rooted in local lore.
Le Corbusier at Musée Soulages, Rodez, until May 2018
With its new exhibition “The Patient Research Workshop”, the Soulages Museum celebrates one of the great figures in twentieth-century architecture and urban planning, Le Corbusier (lesser known as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret).
A bespoke creation for the Rodez museum using models, paintings and sculptures, the exhibition looks beyond Le Corbusier’s buildings and theories by referencing his own 1960 book, in which he assessed his own artistic pathway.
César at Centre Pompidou, Paris until March 26
Marking 20 years since the death of French sculptor César Baldaccini, this exhibition offers a retrospective of the artist’s welded and compressed scrap metal, which he shaped into animal and human forms. He was part of the New Realists movement along with Yves Klein, and later moved into plastics. He is perhaps best known for creating the award handed out to film industry winners in the annual ceremony... the Césars.
The art of pastel, from Degas to Redon, Paris, until April 8
The Petit Palais presents for the first time a collection of 130 pastels, all from its collections. The exhibition offers a journey through the main artistic trends and the evolution of pastel art during the second half of the 19th century, from Impressionism to Symbolism. Most of the fragile works are rarely displayed and jewels of the collection include works by Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas.
Camille, on tour throughout February and March
French singer Camille (full name Camille Dalmais) enjoys a reputation for beguiling live performance, with choreographed dance moves as nifty and dextrous as her vocals. Such is her standing now in the UK that Jools Holland invited her to perform at the Royal Albert Hall for his Later with... 25th anniversary show, alongside superstar acts such as Van Morrison and Foo Fighters. She is on tour in France in the spring – catch her if you can.