History of Tour de France

Probably one of the best known annual events that takes place in France is the Tour de France. The Tour de France is a multiple stage bicycle race is primarily held at the end of each July and passes through the Pyrenees mountains, through the Alps, and ends in the Champs Elysees in Paris. The race is typically broken up into 21 day-long segments and lasts about 23 days. Each segment is timed all the way through to the finish, with the winner being the rider with the lowest aggregated time throughout the entire race.

The first Tour de France was staged in 1903, and was planned to be a 5 stage race starting on May 31st and lasting through July 5th. It would start in Paris and go through Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Nantes, before ending back up in Paris. Racers would bike through the evening and go through the afternoon on the following day, with rest days throughout. However, costs proved too high and the task very daunting – only 15 racers entered. So, the race was re-designed, with it lasting from July 1st through the 19th, the entry fee being halved, and the prize a 3rd less, which was still 6 times as much as the average worker during that time earned in a year. Then the race saw between 60 and 80 entrants. The Tour was a success, and they decided to run a second one, however this one was scheduled to be the last. The reason being that cheating was rampant during the first race, and participants were getting violently beaten by fans of other participants. However, another Tour de France ended up being planned the following year, this time it was almost twice as long and was run during the day time to eliminate a good portion of cheating.

Since then, the Tour sometimes runs through Italy, Germany, and France and lasts about 21 days and not more than 3,500 km. The teams used to be sponsored by companies, or were individuals, however it is now more common for teams to compete for their country’s instead. The Tour has become a large part of European culture, with some camping out a week prior to the race in order to get the best view. It’s appealing to many because it not only features distance and demands, but it’s also a call for a wish of National Unity. Eugen Weber wrote in his forward of his book ‘Tour de France’:

The Tour contributed more to France than new-model heroes. It put flesh on the bones of values taught in school but seldom internalized: effort, courage, determination, stoic endurance of pain, and even fair play. It familiarized a nation with its geography. It brought life, activity, excitement into small towns where very little happened; it introduced a festive atmosphere wherever it passed; and it acquainted provincial backwaters with spectacular displays previously available only in big cities.


Fete de la Musique

Fete de la Musique

Fete de la Musique, or Paris Street Music Festival, is a vibrant and colorful street music festival that takes place in Paris every 21st of June. If you happen to be in Paris in June, you don’t want to miss this. Musicians gather in the streetsm in bars, and in cafe’s and provide free performances from music ranging from electronica, to rock, to jazz, to hip-hop. The festival is unique in that it is open to any musician, both amateur and professional, that wish to perform in it. This way, it appeases a larger audience than other concerts and gives onlookers the opportunity to discover a wide array of musical talent.

The festival all began in 1981 when director Maurice Fleuret began to study the cultural habits of the French and he discovered that out of five million people, 1 out of every 2 persons played a musical interest. He then began dreaming of a way to bring these people together and out onto the streets. And so Fete de la Musique was born on June 21st, 1982, which is also the day of Summer Solstice ( Pagan tradition of feasting). The event was a success! And, with the support of SACEM, the media, the territorial municipalities, and an ever increasing interest from the population, the festival became one of the biggest and well loved events in Paris. The event is also widely supported by Opera Houses, regional orchestras, chamber music ensembles, conservatories, music schools, and many professional music organizations such as Scènes de Musiques Actuelles (SMAC) and the Cafés Musique or the Antennes du Printemps de Bourges. Major amateur federations are also widely involved by having members throughout France participate. Volunteers are also greatly depended on to ensure the livliness and spontanaiety are continued throughout the festival.

In order to best enjoy the street concerts, your first step would be to visit the website here where you can download the program and view the musical line ups and performance times. It’s important to remember to often check the program, however, as times can change throughout the event, but the website does a good job of keeping the current schedule available. Other attendees prefer to just walk the streets of Paris and see what they stumble upon. This is a good approach if you don’t have any listening preferences and just want to see what you can discover throughout the festival.

Remember that standard travel on buses, by car, or by train are rather difficult during the event as all forms of transportation or incredibly packed. For this time, it’s best to keep a hotel nearby and walk every where.