There is nothing quite like the autumn season - the orange and yellow hues of leaves floating from shedding trees, the hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows over a fire, warm cozy sweaters and thick scarves - but the French and Spanish have their own special twist on this beloved season, and there is nothing quite like being able to take part in these amazingly unique yearly traditions. And with Renfe-SNCF en Coopération’s high speed trains taking your from one city to the next in a mere matter or hours, time will fly by during your autumn holiday of a lifetime!
Festival d’Automne à Paris
Contemporary art masterpiece in Paris
Paris is home to incredible and breathtaking artistic masterpieces all year around, but if you are lucky (or tactical) enough to go during Autumn, you will have the awesome opportunity of attending the Festival d’Automne a Paris, or Paris’ Autumn Festival - consisting in 4 entire months celebrating the finest and best of Paris’ contemporary arts collection.
Whether your tastes favor theatre, dance, music, the visual arts or cinema, this festival has something for everyone. Events take place in different places at different times, spreading out through some of Paris’ most famous and spectacular venues, for the most awe-inspiring artistic demonstrations. The festival lasts for an entire 4 months, and will complete its 45th edition this year. This year, the festival will take place from the 7th of September, stretching out until the last day of the year, ending on the 31st of December.
Check out what other festivals you can absolutely not miss during the year!
Open-air art exhibition in a wall
It seems Autumn is a time for art and creativity in Paris, hosting yet another fascinating and thrilling art festival, this time under the subtle light of the moon and stars. The Nuit Blanche (White Night) is an all night, one night only festival, during which the entire city seems to transform before our eyes into a giant art exhibition. Aside from the opening of some museums, as well as both public and private galleries, all free of charge, central Paris opens up it streets and squares to open-air art exhibitions, performances, workshops and other activities.
The festival changes and morphs every year, with different themes, exhibitions and things to see every time. Lights, music, arts and effects designed by 50 international artists are all used to astound spector’s sensations in every way, opening up their mind and their view of Paris to something previously unseen. It is a night where anything can happen, from orchestras flying up above in helicopters, ginormous playgrounds popping up seemingly from nowhere, and incredible light shows that will leave you speechless.
This year, the festival will take place on the night of October the 1st, 2016 - be sure not to miss it!
Dia de todos los santos
Chestnuts eaten in the Castanyada
Truth to be told, the Dia de Todos los Santos (All Saint’s Day), celebrated every year on the 1st of November, may not seem to be the happiest nor most cheerful of all Spanish traditions. For the Spanish, it is a day of remembering and honoring the loved ones who are no longer with us. If you happen to time your visit to be in Spain for this holiday, you will see many families visiting cemeteries with big, beautiful, colorful flower bouquets. And yet, despite the somewhat bitter-sweet time to reminisce, there are plenty of more lively and happy customs the Spanish use to cheer up this beautiful Autumn day. Rather than a day of sadness or mourning, it is seen as a day to be spent with family and friends, among happy memories and funny stories, eating wonderful food and enjoying beloved company.
In Catalonia in particular, there are many traditional foods and snacks to be eaten both on the eve and the day of November the first. Like the Castanyada, for example - should you walk the streets of cities such as Barcelona, you will find many people huddled around small fires and grills, with the mouthwatering smell of roasted chestnuts wafting through the air. Many people will also be roasting sweet potatoes, or Boniatos, which can then be hand peeled and eaten right on the spot. If you prefer slightly sweeter treats, don’t miss out on the delicious Huesos de Santo (literally translating to Saint’s Bones) - small, cylindric marzipan rolls filled with sweetened egg yolk.
Last but not least, although Halloween is not traditionally a Spanish custom, given the globalization of the celebration (and considering the 1st of November is a national holiday) you will be certain to find more than a few people dressed up and plenty of places to party the night away.
Basket of mushrooms harvested in Catalunya
Although this might seem quite a strange, and even dangerous, tradition to those of us less versed in the ways and matters of the fungi world, mushrooming is a very popular activity for Spanish locals to engage in during Autumn. And while wild mushrooming is all but a sport all over the country, the Catalans seem to have perfected the art, and claimed it as one of their sensational and unique autumn traditions. Particularly the area of Girona, just an hour outside of Barcelona, is considered to hold some of the countries finest specimen amidst its thick and abundant forests and woodland areas.
This tradition takes off around September to end October, but can of course vary each year depending on the weather, and in particular, the rain. It is often a family event, and the tricks and tips of the best mushrooms and how to pick them are passed down generations, to keep this important Spanish tradition very much alive. What we have always heard about poisonous mushrooms is no less true for the Spanish kind, so it is vital to only pick the fungi we know very well, or to go accompanied by someone armed with the experience and knowledge very few aside from a true Catalan can have.
Thankfully for us visitors, there are several organized tours which can be joined, taking groups of fungi enthusiasts, equipped with their knives and adorable mushroom baskets, into the Catalan forests to pick only the best and finest the soils have to offer! Choose the right tour, and they might even include some cooking classes for you to transform your bounty into a delicious meal!
Read here to find out about another beloved Catalan tradition - the Castellers, or ‘Human Towers’!
Pack your sweaters and autumn coats, and get ready to be welcomed into the heart and soul of these incredible French and Spanish autumn traditions - book your Renfe-SNCF en Coopération train tickets today!