Reims and Troyes are Champagne’s musical cities – and there’s a calendar of festivals to delight your ears every year. The Reims Jazz Festival, held in the autumn for over 20 years, is a major meeting place for jazz in the region when the city comes alive with music for a whole week. Visitors can attend a dozen jazz concerts featuring big names and young talents alike. Earlier in the year is Les Sacres du Folklore (third week of June), principally a festival of folk dancing but featuring plenty of traditional songs.
Perhaps the musical highlight of the summer in Reims is Les Flâneries Musicales from mid-June to mid-July, offering daily classical and jazz concerts (many of them free). They’re held in the city’s most beautiful venues including the Notre-Dame cathedral, Saint-Remi basilica and the Tau Palace, in the city's various auditoriums, as well as in the gardens and in other unexpected places. There’s also lots of music involved in the medieval-themed Fêtes Johanniques (Joan of Arc Festival) on 17 July, one of three festivals in France dedicated to the beloved French saint. It commemorates the Saint's return of the Dauphin (thanks to her military victories) for the coronation of King Charles VII in 1429. Expect processions and pageants featuring medieval costumes, a brass marching band, a medieval market, and other street festivities. Many concerts of medieval music take place in the streets and squares of the city.
Finally, October’s Nuits de Champagne festival in Troyes celebrates the art and form of the French chanson (literally meaning ‘song’). Every year a French chanson writer is invited as the guest of honour and a range of concerts are held in a variety of venues across Troyes to showcase their music.
The call of birds
Did you know that Champagne is a great region for bird-watching? Hear the calls and witness the flight of a wealth of migratory species from the shelter of a lakeside hide. The hides along the western part of Lac du Der are the best places for observing birds during autumn and winter; cranes fly over in the morning at sunrise and back again in the afternoon. On the Champaubert peninsula, divers, common mergansers and smews plop their heads under the water while ospreys mew in the skies above. You can hear the calls of Greylag geese from the hide located to the east of the peninsula. The Lac Der-Chantecoq is a good place to observe swans, herons and cormorants, while the Lac d’Orient reserve offers a symphony of quacking ducks and bean geese, plus other wintering birds making their home here from October to April. The hide at Lac d’Amance is the place to hear great crested grebes, coots and a cacophony of shorebirds.