The southern French city of Nimes (located along the French Riviera) has been considered the bullfighting capital of France since the mid-1800s. Bullfighting originated in Spain, but the French have slightly altered the Spanish format to make it their own. Since the middle of the 19th century, these férias (bullfighting festivals) have always taken place in the Nimes Amphitheatre, an ancient structure— over 2,000 years old— from the Roman Empire. During Roman times, bloody gladiator fights were hosted here. Today, the amphitheater is used both for férias and less-violent recreations of Roman gladiator fights.
The most famous bullfighting festival in Nimes is the Féria de Pentecôte (Pentecost Féria, also called the Whitsun Féria), which lasts for five days in May. This year, it will take place from May 23rd- May 28th, 2012.
If you haven’t already booked a hotel room in the Nimes area, you’re out of luck. Seeing as this event typically draws close to two million tourists, hotel rooms need to be reserved at least a year in advance. There’s always next year— start planning now!
The Féria de Pentecôte begins with Pegoulade, a festival parade, followed by an impressive fireworks display in the amphitheater. Throughout the five-day festival, the world’s top toreros (bullfighters) prove their mastery in corridas (bullfights), after which revelers fill the streets to enjoy open-air concerts and dance the night away. When bullfighting enthusiasts hit town, hundreds of informal bodegas (Spanish-style bars) open up throughout Nimes, which adds to the festive atmosphere.
In-between corridas and the accompanying festivities, visitors can check out the historic bullfighting museum, Musée des Cultures Taurines, located adjacent to the amphitheater. With over 9400 historic bullfighting artifacts, this Nimes institution provides an education for bullfighting novices and scholars alike. For more information, see: http://www.nimes.fr/index.php?id=282
Vive les férias!
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