What’s on: Ten must-do events in France this August

Bored in August? Don't be. The Local is here to cast an eye over 10 unmissable events.

What's on: Ten must-do events in France this August
Photo: AFP

August is the month when many French people ditch work entirely, so the events and festivals are coming thick and fast. Here's our pick of ten must-do events across the country this August. 

Rock en Seine, Paris: August 23rd-25th

It's the big one! The giant of all Paris music festivals, the infamous Rock en Seine is back with a bang once again in 2019. Over 100,000 music lovers will flock to Paris' Saint-Cloud area to catch the biggest names across a mix of genres. 

This year, timeless rock titans The Cure will headline, whilst Caribbean dancehall-influenced Major Lazer will bring their club-fillers to the stage and the face of new-wave R&B, Jorja Smith, will return to her mammoth French fan-base. The likes of Royal Blood, Foals, Jungle, King Princess and Bring Me The Horizon are all on the bill too for what looks to be an unmissable weekend. 

Festival du Chant de Marin, Brittany: August 2nd-4th

Marco Polo, Vasco de Gama, Magellan and more will be celebrated at this year's 'Sea Shanty Festival'. A weekend of maritime history, the three-day festival offers up cultural exchanges, exhibitions, local product tasting, activities for children and live bands every evening in what is a festival for all the family. Taking place on France's north-west coast in Paimpol, tickets cost €50 per person for the three-day event. 

USA's Sam Kendricks at last year's Paris Diamond League. Photo: AFP

Diamond League Athletics, Paris: August 24th

International athletes don't just come out for the Olympics every four years, you know. The international series of Diamond League events give track and field competitors the chance to flex their muscles and gain valuable race practice. Last year names including Yohan Blake and Caster Semenya were amongst competitors, whilst Justin Gatlin, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson have all competed in other Diamond League events this season. 

Paris' competition will take place at the Stade Charlety in south Paris, with tickets still available from €15.

Saint Louis Festival, Sète: August 22nd-27th 

Towards the end of August, Sète in south-west France goes jousting crazy. You heard right, the six-day festival is dedicated to all things water jousting, the event's website promoting “a delirious atmosphere taking over the city“. Real world championship competitions take place as competitors aim to poke their rivals off their boat's platform and into the water, leading to wild celebrations. 

Jousters lock lances at the Saint Louis Festival. Photo: AFP

International Fireworks Festival, Cannes: August 7th, 15th, 24th

Cannes is well-known for its New Year's Eve fireworks display from the middle of the ocean, however the city has also been hosting the International Fireworks Festival ever since 1967. 200,000 people are said to attend over the range of dates, with a different show on each night. Teams from Sweden and USA will set the sky alight on the first two dates, with a French show closing the event.

Festival Darc, Chateauroux: August 11th-23rd

Some of the most exciting dance acts from across the globe gather at the Festival Darc to showcase their talent. Both Tuesdays and the first Friday are free for spectators to attend and catch acts such as Le Trottoir d'en Face, Moja and Marcel et son Orchestre. Other days range from €15- €36 for tickets.

Nuit des Étoiles, Nationwide: August 2nd, 3rd and 4th

You can gaze at the stars and take part in interactive astronomy exhibitions in towns and cities across France this August. Organised by the French Astronomy Association, the events stretch further than just France, as countries all over the world take the chance to cast their eyes upwards.

In Paris, the Tour Montparnasse, Jardins des Grands Explorateurs, the Musée des Arts et Métiers and the Parc André Citroen, amongst others, will all be involved. 

The Voyage à Nantes Trail, Nantes: Throughout August

If you haven't already taken a trip around Nantes on its urban trail to catch the bigger-than-life pieces of art, fear not, you've still got the whole of August to do so. Most of the sites are free entry as you follow a trail around the city's biggest landmarks, where you'll be kept guessing at what lies around every corner on the 44-stop walk.

Paris Saint Germain look to kick off a title-winning campaign. Photo: AFP

Liberation Day, Paris: August 25th

Marking the 74th anniversary since the end of Nazi occupation, this August head down to the Hotel de Ville on the 25th. With remembrance projections being cast on the building from 5pm, be sure to stick around for the free music and dancing which kicks off at 9pm. Entry is free for all attendees. 

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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?