Fêtes de Bayonne

Monday, August 3, 2015
Last Wednesday was an important day here in the Basque Country, since it was the beginning of the Fêtes de Bayonne, a five-day folkloric festival in the town of Bayonne, 20 km far from Biarritz.
Last year Andrea and I missed it, but everybody was so excited about it and this time we decided to go participate to the biggest festival of France.

Today I want to share with you bits of our experience, as well as some history on the origins of this festival. So, next time you're around here during summer, you'll know more about this Basque celebration and will be ready to rock white and red!

The first Fêtes de Bayonne in history took place on July 13, 1932, thanks to a group of rugby men of the Aviron Bayonnais (the most popular rugby team in the Basque Country). They wanted to recreate a celebration in Bayonne following the example of the festival of San Fermín in the city of Pamplona, Spain (most know for the running of the bulls).
From that day on, five days every year are dedicated to having fun, staying with friends, celebrating the Basque culture and drinking (a lot!).
Now millions of people travel though France to go to the Fêtes de Bayonne and the festival have become one of the biggest in the world, just behind Rio de Janeiro carnival and San Fermín.

The first day of the Fêtes, the Roi Léon (the Major) gives the keys of the city to its inhabitants - the city is now in their hands for five days!
The most important thing of these celebrations is the dress code: everybody must be dressed in white and red. At the beginning, the men of Bayonne were dressed in blue and white, but in 1969, Luis Mariano gave the keys of the city wearing white and red like they used to do in Pamplona - the tradition never changed. Everybody respects it, even the tourists who spend just few days there, so we couldn't absolutely do differently!

We went in Bayonne during the day, since the Fêtes start at noon and continue on until 4 am. We wanted to start little by little because apparently it gets a bit overcrowded during the night and people start drinking at noon. We had our first sangria at 3 pm!!!!
We had so much fun and joined some friends who were celebrating too! It's crazy to see a city completely changing for a few days. But it was great to get to know more about the culture and the traditions of this amazing country!

If you want to plan a trip over here during summer I suggest you don't miss the Fêtes de Bayonne! You'll find great people, amazing food and wine and a lot of fun!


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