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I went to Paris, thinking I’d visit museums and historic sites.

Jazz in St. German des Pres.

Instead I happened upon the  summer solstice on June 21st, the “Fete de la Musique” – one of the best free, street-music festivals in Europe.

The mood was electric and I got a taste of authentic Paris culture and performances of everything from opera, jazz and rock to hip-hop and electronic music.

The music starts early afternoon in some of the city’s parks and museum courtyards.  I stumbled upon a classical music orchestra in the formal courtyard of Luxembourg Palace. Three concerts at the bandstand in Luxembourg Garden started at 2PM.

Well before dusk, musicians start setting up and connoisseurs pour out into the streets.

Then music takes over.

I joined Karen, a friend who lives in Paris and we wandered through the city; starting with red wine at an outdoor cafe on Rue de Bucci near St. Germain des Pres while listening to a three-man jazz band. Then we moved on and found different musical styles and street parties on every street corner, down every alley and boulevard.

On the Ile St. Louis we sat along the water’s edge and listened to drum music and saxophones from both banks.

We ended at Place des Vosges in the Marais where a choir sang and people held sheet music and joined in.

Under one of the arches a costumed man sang opera as the crowd sat on the curbs in silent appreciation.

Operetic Star under the arches of Place des Vosges

Don’t miss the Fete de la musique on any June trip to Paris.

And as the John Steinbeck quote (below) indicates, the trip took me.

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.
We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us”.

-John Steinbeck-