Travel: France: Global Agenda

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The Independent Culture

The annual round-up of wild horses in the Coto de Donana National Park forms a dramatic interlude during the El Rocio fiesta in Almonte, Huelva, with thousands of beautiful horses being driven into the town to be sorted and sold. El Rocio has its roots in a pastor's vision of the Virgin Mary in the 15th century, an event that inspired the massive annual pilgrimage to the town today. Almost one million people descend on Almonte, some to take part in the religious rites, others to enjoy the music, fireworks and parties.

Almonte, Huelva, (0891 669920) today, tomorrow and Monday, free


The Maggio Musicale is one of the longest-established and most distinguished of the European festivals, featuring some of the greatest works in the classical music pantheon, performed by some of the world's leading artists. Among the highlights this year are Wagner's Tristan und Isolde directed by Klaus Michael Gruber, with Zubin Mehta as musical director, Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, directed by Dieter Dorn and with Giuseppe Sinopoli as musical director - both at the Teatro Comunale - and Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, directed by Luca Ronconi, with Trevor Pinnock as musical director, at the Teatro della Pergola. In addition, Vladimir Ashkenazy will be playing pieces by Schumann, Ravel and Rachmaninov, and the Tokyo Ballet will be performing at the Teatro Verdi.

Various venues, Florence, Italy (0171-734 4555) until 3 July, pounds 34.50- pounds 91.50


In the five years since its inception, Kilkenny's Cat Laughs Comedy Festival has become a highly regarded event on the world comedy circuit, attracting some of the biggest names in the business. Some of the well-established comedians who have been coming to Cat Laughs since it began will return this year to jolly things along, joined by Colin Mochrie of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Jimeoin, Armando Iannucci and a clutch of American stars making their first appearance here. In addition to the stand-up, this year sees the introduction of a cartoon festival featuring work by Garry Trudeau and Steve Bell, plus the best of the cartoons published by the cult comic Viz.

Various venues, Kilkenny, Ireland (00 353 56 63837) 3-7 June, Irpounds 7- Irpounds 13 (pounds 6-pounds 11)


Three public squares, various bars and pubs and the streets of Belgium's capital host the jamboree that is the Brussels Jazz Marathon next weekend. Jazz buses and free public transport will ferry revellers between locations, with the ticket covering all events. The final night sees a series of free concerts by the musicians' collective, Les Lundis d'Hortense, in the elegant Grand' Place.

Various venues, Brussels, Belgium (00 32 2 456 0475) 28-29 May, BF450 (pounds 7.50)

Sharon Gethings