“31 Summer Notes”, a festival like no other in Haute Garonne – Meanderings through France n° 150
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Haute Garonne is a southern French area stretching south to north along the Garonne River that flows from the Spanish Pyrenees to the French Atlantic coast. For over 20 years a summer festival, “31notes d’été”, invites local people and tourists to discover picturesque villages through meetings with local craftsmen and all kinds of concerts. Each summer weekends become an opportunity to enjoy your holidays to the fullest. Free of charge!
If you’re on holidays this summer in south-west France you may spend some time in Toulouse also known as the “pink” city thanks to its many houses built with bricks, and visit its famous Capitole or its interesting Airbus museum. You may also go hiking in the Pyrenees, sail on the Canal du Midi that links Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea or discover new wines in beautiful vineyards. So doing you will undoubtedly go to one or several of the 30 villages that are part of the 2018’s “31 summer notes” festival. They will be joyful and lively stops on the way.
What makes this festival unique is that it not only proposes a wide range of music concerts but it also is an opportunity to visit workshops, castles or even industrial sites especially opened to the public on this occasion. In each village you will be invited to free guided visits.
Wicker basket makers, lamp designers, stained-glass makers, leather craftsmen, potters, flour or oil mills, a peat bog, a Gallo-Roman villa, a vegetal labyrinth, a wind farm… are a few examples of all the activities you will be able to discover during the festival. There are also more active visits such as a walk along the “Canal du Midi”, an afternoon in a farm where you will taste organic products made by Frédéric and Mathilde, sailing on the Garonne, fishing at Peyssies Lake… Or you can simply relax bathing in natural salted water at Salinea Spa!
The music program is also very eclectic with bands coming from the whole world. From classical music to salsa, from jazz to world music, from hip-hop to latino music and a great final show with 40 drum players from “Ali Baba and the 40 drums” performing in open air in the garden of Lareole Castle. There will also be circus, modern dance or theatre performances. Altogether 44 different shows are proposed and 250 artists will perform until late August.
There are places not to be missed during the festival. The Laréole Castle will be one of the most important places to be at during the festival. This Renaissance castle was built in the 16th century for Pierre de Cheverry, who had made a fortune in the pastel trade that was very popular in those times. Recently beautifully restored it has been turned into a museum and will host many events during the festival.
Bagnères-de-Luchon is a small spa town at the foot of the Pyrenees where on August 16 you will be able to visit an authentic hydroelectric station supplied by a mountain lake funnily named “Oo Lake” or learn how to make artisan soap with Jade Roux who creates unusual soaps using local herbs, essential oils, olive oil or even thermal water. She has her own brand, “Abellio”, and her soaps are sold worldwide on www.slow-cosmetique.com/boutique-abellio-savonnerie/. Later in the town centre you will end your day listening to “Les Piques du Midi” who will play South American music on cellos.
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges is an exceptional medieval village built on top of a hill where you will discover an amazing cathedral that has a unique wooden choir and a small and quiet cloister. The village will hosts two different shows during the festival. On July 29 Jiang Nan and Mandaakhai will mix the unique sound of the Chinese zither with Mongol songs. On August 19, “Culture en Mouvements” will propose a great acrobats’ show.
Haute Garonne is also renowned for its exceptional wines and you can meet wine makers and have great wine tastings, especially in the Fronton area. Marie-Ange and Jerome Soriano at Chateau Joliet estate are pleased to welcome tourists and have them discover a unique local grape variety, the “Negrette”, that makes a dark fruity red wine. A must taste for all wine lovers. www.chateaujoliet.com
Entrance is free for all visits and concerts but due to a limited number of places available for some visits or shows, booking is highly recommended!
More information about the “31 notes d’été” festival go to: www.hautegaronnetourisme.com/en/recherche#!/?q=31 notes
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes