A big part of Paléo’s long lasting success lies in the way the festival is made to be as welcoming as possible. As just about anyone who has lived the Paléo experience knows, there’s much more to a day on the grounds than going to see the concert you were really excited about.
The number of good quality food stalls and the special attention the organisers give to making the grounds as enjoyable as possible are one of the reasons that make most people who come to Paléo want to come back the following year. Paléo works like a temporary town of 50’000 people that pops up for a week, with its different “neighbourhoods” with their own distinctive vibe and flavours.
The food stalls are thematically organised throughout the grounds, with all eastern food situated in the top right hand corner of the grounds, next to Le Detour, the stage dedicated to international discoveries (don’t miss out on the bands playing here, as this is one of the places to be to discover the latest musical trends!).
Paléo has upped their plant-based food game these past couple of years, as I remember having to choose from a selection of about two stalls to find something I could eat. But that time has gone, and most stalls on the festival now have a tasty vegetarian/vegan option. This is obviously quite easy when it comes to stalls that serve Indian food, and le Paprika is an old favourite. They offer fresh Naans cooked in their tandoori oven alongside rice and daal, and tasty samosas. Just opposite, the Himalayan outpost of Tashi Momo serve the delicious steamed Tibetan dumplings, that come in vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions. Don’t forget to check out their fiery chilli paste- but be warned, it is as hot as it is tasty!
One of the most special areas of the festival is undoubtedly the Village du Monde, which acts like a “festival in a festival”. On top of the amazing concerts hosted under the big top, where you get to see a mix of the best contemporary takes on musical traditions of Central America, an extra special effort is put into the scenography of the Village du Monde. This year, three pyramid like structures are made to invoke the sacred Mayan pyramids. It’s a perfect spot to sit down and enjoy the music or have a bit to eat, while getting to tower over the rest of the crowd. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful artwork made of powdered paint and wood shavings, painstakingly made by hand, the best view is from the top of one of the pyramids!
This is obviously the place to enjoy a nice burrito or taco, which both exist in versions with marinated tofu (and guacamole! I don’t need much more to be happy!). A nice refreshing treat can be found at a small stall selling fresh sugar cane juice that comes in two versions: normal and ginger. Perfect after a stroll round the grounds!
The Village du Monde also has two bars situated at two ends of the area, selling cocktails and a selection of beers from across the world (sadly nothing to get too excited about, I still long for the day where it’ll be possible to enjoy craft beer on the grounds…) The bar de l’Escale (the one at the far end of the Village du Monde) also boasts its own stage, and quite a few of the bands playing under the Dôme come here for 15 minute intimate sets. A perfect way to enjoy amazing artists in a different setting and energy. You can find the program for the Escale here.
Walking back down from the Village du Monde, don’t miss out on the caravan selling vegan burgers and the vintage Salt and Rocks caravan who do fish and chips- I can vouch for the chips and the mushy peas. Exactly what you feel like after a concert on the main stage, when it starts getting dark and you need something to fill your stomach.
This brings us to another magical area of the festival, the wondrous sculptures of expert craftsmen and metal artists Monic La Mouche. Their love affair with Paléo has been going on for quite some time now, and they never fail to deliver. Their rough yet delicate light installations are a delight to look at by day and by night, transforming when the sun goes down and the lights turn on.
The main big structure at the top of the hill also hosts a photo exhibition, with photos of the festival taken by the same photographers whose work you can enjoy in la Gallerie.
This is a perfect place to enjoy the concerts on the main stage in a low-key way, lounging in the grass, and just listening to the music, or depending on how many people there are in the crowd, even actually seeing the artists on stage.
At the bottom of the slope resides one of the most special areas of the whole grounds. La Ruche has been inviting festivalgoers into its magical and creative universe for ten years now, and is the place to go for street theatre and circus. You can enjoy a series of very different shows here, from the poetic and philosophical musings of the ZUL- Lemanic Utopian Zone- to the romantic and musical experience of Vladimir Spoutnik who you can also catch around the grounds with his soviet-themed mobile disco. The key attraction is obviously Cirque Pardi’s beautiful circus tent. Enter their awe-inducing and poetic universe for an 80 minute show of wonder, incredible feats and clowning.
I have met up with some of the people working behind the scenes of la Ruche, so don’t miss out very soon on a deeper delve into this enchanting place.
La Ruche also sends out artists throughout the grounds to liven up the festival in between shows, so if you come across a couple of seedy looking surfers or some wondrous and weird creatures, don’t worry, it’s not too much sun and beer, but just another theatre troupe here to make you laugh and dream! A special heads up to Collectif M et Vous, a young circus collective who are currently studying in one of the most prestigious professional circus schools in France, and who are here to share with you their insane acrobatic skills. Working on the themes of collaboration and trust, they perform twice a day for twenty minutes behind the Terrasse , above the main stage, usually just before and after the first concert on the main stage. Don’t miss their show, you won’t regret it!