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Autumn Jazz

France has so much to offer travelers from exquisite wine and cuisine, to rich art and entertainment.  Since the early 20th century, one of the most impactful features of French culture has been jazz.  Providing inspiration for artists, writers and poets alike, the art form has blossomed into a well-respected and even revered form of musical expression.  While summers in France are known for celebrating jazz, and its culture, with hosts of festivals, the onset of fall doesn’t mean that the music cools down a bit.  In fact, some of the most unique jazz festivals inFrance take place after August comes to a close.

One of the country’s most diverse music festivals, Jazz à la Villette kicks off in Paris on August 31 and will run through September 11.  The festival presents an array of genre-bending acts, infusing the tenets of hip-hop, funk, and jazz into their performances.  This year’s lineup includes a breadth of performers ranging from jazz and funk mainstays Archie Shepp and Maceo Parker to modern jazz pioneers Martin, Medeski, and Wood and hip-hop soul infusion, Questlove’s Afro Picks, featuring Questlove and Macy Gray.

Moving south, the Burgundy region hosts the 11th edition of Jazz à Beaune.  The events will take place in two parts, beginning with performances en plein air on the 17th and 18th of September, and closing with club sets on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of October.  Jazz à Beaune will feature some of the best up and coming jazz acts alongside notable international performers, and, of course wine tastings will coincide with each of the performances.

With the first edition having wrapped up in June, this year’s second installment of Quai Jazz brings us back to Paris as the city hosts some of the best young talents in France.  From September 20 to October 1 the festival brings performances to jazz bars and clubs throughout Paris and even some outdoor sets along the Seine.  Featuring Cataclysm Box, Leila Olives Quintet, and Samy Thiebault, Quai Jazz has an offering to suit any modern jazz lover.

The summer may be coming to a close, but all across France the music continues in full swing.  Complement your travels in France by taking in some of the world’s best live jazz and celebrate one of France’s most notable traditions as it continues to grow.

Drinking the Stars

Champagne, Wine Tours, Dom PerignonIt has been said that on August 4, in 1693 the legendary winemaking monk, Dom Perignon, invented the ethereal potable known as champagne.  The legend states that after accidentally discovering the sparkling wine, he called after his fellow friars, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”

While these details make for a delightful story, most evidence suggests that it was the British who actually developed champagne.  Reportedly, due to global cooling in the 17th century, the British were forced to import wines in order to enjoy them at home, and apparently the English had a preference for the pale, crisp wines that were produced in the Champagne region of France.  After the French white wine made it to England, some experimental connoisseurs added a bit of sugar directly into the bottles to spark a second fermentation.  Let it sit for a few months and, Voila! We have champagne.  This new, bubbly French wine is referenced in British history a few years before Perignon’s supposed discovery, pretty much locking Dom out of the race.

Making matters more interesting, there is an account that dates bubbly’s discovery back to 1531 by monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire.  Still wines were produced in this region as far back as Roman occupation, but the famed Blanquette de Limoux, is supposedly the very first sparkling wine the world had seen.  However, true champagne must have originated in Champagne, backing Britain’s claim to its discovery.

Champagne, Wine Tours, Dom Perignon, The Wine Route

Upon careful consideration, it’s relatively safe to conclude that it was not, in fact, Dom Perignon who discovered the beverage in question.  The fabrication of his contribution to the wine world likely stemmed from a successor’s exaggerated biography, which credited the well-known monk with many embellished achievements.  However, Dom does deserve a bit of recognition as he certainly did have a healthy impact upon wine making.  He was apparently a very insightful cellar master who developed a progressive technique for grape pressing and blending, as well as a way to keep a cork in a pressure-filled bottle of champagne.

Whether champagne originated in Great Britain, or Dom Perignon’s cellar, most of us simply take comfort in the fact that it exists.  Our exciting vacations in France offer a taste of some of the best wines in the world, sparkling and still.  Join us as we cycle through stunning wine regions and sample the stars on our LoireValley, Bicycling Bordeaux and the River Dordogne, or Burgundy: The Wine Route vacations.  Salut!

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