This post was updated on October 19th, 2018
Since the summer festival season is starting up I asked a few travel bloggers what their favourite festivals were. If you missed Part 1 just go here. This week three more travel bloggers share the festivals that they love. Here they are.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
My favourite festivals have always been food and wine related, and we try to go to as many as possible, but there is one festival that stands out among the rest and that we eagerly await all year long, and that’s Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. Held every September in Sonoma County, California, the festival is a weekend-long extravaganza of food from the top restaurants and wine from the top wine producers in the Sonoma Valley.
The weekend starts off with Winemaker’s lunches that are held at wineries throughout the regions. Last year we went to J Vineyards for lunch and had three courses featuring the area’s prized heirloom tomatoes, paired with the winery’s Pinot Noir. On Friday night is the Sonoma Starlight dinner event held at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, which is a lively wine-paired dinner where everyone has a chance to meet and mingle.
On Saturday is my favourite event of the whole weekend – the Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards. Over 7,000 people attend the event, which features over 200 wineries and 60 restaurants in tents spread throughout the expansive MacMurray Vineyard grounds. Each tent represents a different AVA in the area. The weather is always perfect for strolling around and tasting the bounty of the Sonoma Valley. There are all kinds of special events set up throughout the day, like wine talks on specific varietals, a blind tasting challenge, a food & wine pairing seminar and sommelier-led tours. It’s great fun, and every year when it’s over we immediately start planning for next year!
Vivid Sydney Festival
My favourite time of year in Sydney is just about here! For two and half weeks in May/June, Sydney comes alive with lights, music and ideas for the annual Vivid Sydney Festival. This year the festival begins on the 22nd of May and is set to be bigger and better than ever.
Vivid is made up of three parts. Lights, colourful projections of light dancing across some of Sydney’s most famous buildings including the Sydney Opera House. Music, and performances in venues across the city from some of the worlds’ top artists; and ideas, talks by influential and interesting individuals on their areas of expertise.
For a budding photographer (me!), this is a dream festival. I’ll be out for a few nights again this year armed with my camera, snapping away and forging my way through the crowds to find the best spots to capture this amazing spectacle.
The highlight for me is always the Sydney Opera House and finding the right position to get an uninterrupted view of this spectacle is a must. I recommend getting there early, maybe just before the lights come on at 6 pm, and taking up a position along the wharf of the Overseas Passenger Terminal. For something a little more chilled, find a seat outside at Opera Bar, right under the Sydney Opera House. Enjoy a drink and the amazing views!
The Fire Festival at Beltane
“Whit’s this – ah hear a Yank!!!” Eyeballing the crowd scaling Calton Hill for this deep Scottish brogue I locate no likely candidates nearby. I continue climbing towards the faux Acropolis crowning the top, the stage for tonight’s activities.
Earlier I arrive in Edinburgh to partake in Beltane, a Celtic pre-Christian ritual marking May Day and the beginning of summer. However, by the 19th-century celebrations in the UK had ceased and only in 1988 was it revived as an art event put on by a local musical collective. Today it’s morphed and acquired many elements of a rave, no doubt aided by the Scottish passion for bagpipes, drums, fire and huge amounts of single malt.
The brogue and I meet further up the hillside in the growing twilight. A dapper gent in a Tartan tam, he looks quite different from the neo-hippies attending. As we climb together I learn that he’s a curator at the Scottish National Museum, so he explains the two key players – the May Queen and Green Man (Mother Earth and the energy of summer).
Soon the spectacle begins with a parade led by the key players through areas marking the four earth elements. Attacked by flame-wielding Red Beasties, characters symbolizing chaos, they’re rescued by the White Warrior Women, beings bringing truth and order. The march circles the hilltop to the Acropolis, where the Green Man is reborn in a bonfire to close out the old season.
Although the revival I came to see probably began as a ritual, today it’s a party. I’d like to say I attended it solely for its spiritual side, but truth be told, I too love a party.
Thanks to Laura, Jen, and Steve for sharing their experience with these festivals. Be sure to stay tuned for the final part of the Favourite Festival series coming next week.
Have you been to any of these festivals? What’s your favourite festival?