Choose your festival wisely

<Rockwerchter music festival in Belgium, Europe>Music festivals. Choosing the right one can make all the difference, but how do you choose? Different cultures seem to value different aspects of the music festival. Years ago when I lived in Australia, people hid beers in the spare tyre compartment under panel vans and in the trims of their cars so that when they got past the security check (mostly checking for people bringing in beer), they could park next to where they’d be putting their tent up, and start with a tinny to cool down in the shade from their car.

At Rockwerchter in Belgium, festival-goers pay for parking, camping, food & drink tokens, cold showers and plumbed toilets (there are a handful of portaloos for those who want to wait around an hour), and there are a meager two stages for an absolutely enormous crowd. But the festival gets good bands, so the punters put up with the exorbitant ticket price on top of all those extras.

<English Womad music festival>English festivals are all about wellingtons, setting toilets on fire (Leeds Festival), buying cool crocheted rugs from makeshift charity outlets to keep warm as the evenings get colder, and girls getting booed if they don’t flash their boobs on the big screen between acts. And don’t even get me started on the piles of poo in the toilets at Glastonbury (although things improved after the security fence went up at least). Come to think of it, no wonder people set toilets on fire: there’s a lot of methane there to start fires that will warm up those who didn’t get a cool crocheted rug before they all sold out.

<Eurockeennes music festival in Belfort, France>If you want to hear people chanting “Apero” (first drink) at 6am, go to a French festival. Parking the car is easy too: at Eurockéennes, it’s possible to look at your own car while you camp on the other side of the fence — and you can drive in and out of the parking whenever you like at no charge. Musilac is even more laid back, with a whole lot of side streets near the festival accessible and relatively car-free for those going just for the day who want to park as close as possible. You don’t want to follow the signs pointing you to the festival parking? No worries: park in a bus stop.

And then there’s Switzerland. I went to Paleo in Nyon with a friend and two day tickets last week. I bought them the same day: the festival is so civilised that they hold back 1,500 tickets every day to sell at 9am in an effort to control ticket touts. Unfortunately, the parking is also very civilised, so there’s no chance of parking in the middle of the closest roundabout like there is at Musilac. We joined a long queue to get off the motorway, then 45 minutes later, we got in the the wrong lane on the off-ramp. It was a genuine error as first-time Paleo festival goers with no signage to indicate which of the two crowded lanes we needed. Long story short, I yelled at the policeman who refused to let us back into the correct queue, he thankfully ignored me, and we ended up driving back on the motorway — in the wrong direction from the festival. An hour later, we figured out the back roads to avoid the motorway queue, and we had arrived in the parking. Pictured is the view of Mont Blanc from the parking. See? It really is a civilised festival. What a view!

<Paleo music festival in Switzerland, near Mont Blanc in France>Inside, the festival had clean, plumbed toilets with sinks, entire areas dedicated to food from around the world (more than your standard choice of one Thai takeaway, one burger stand etc. – try four Thai takeaways in a row, plus other Asian options including Chinese, Malaysian and Vietnamese! We ate Lebanese food while looking at the Etheopean food stand and some stand with meat stuck on wooden sticks with bread impaled on the end. And then we saw the grand stand. Don’t want to stand all day? Then don’t! Just plant yourself in the massive grand stand and watch the bands while eating your meat off a wooden stick.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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