Sunday, November 28, 2010

La Bonne Mère: the Much-Loved Symbol of Marseille

Part lighthouse, part fortress, part sacred place of pilgrimage, La Bonne Mère, as she is universally and affectionately referred to, is the symbol of Marseille. Built on the city's highest point, it can constantly be glimpsed along streets and through archways from the moment you emerge out of Saint Charles Station. Illuminated by night, it dominates the bay like a beacon. The magnificent setting, the exotic, Byzantine interior and its firm place in the affections of the local community - not just Catholics - make it an unmissable destination for anyone who wants to understand something of the Marseille spirit. Click here to read more.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Seafood Feasts on the Blue Coast

There is almost nothing people in Provence like better than a thumping good street party - unless it's a street party with something delicious to eat. And who cares if it's the middle of winter? Throughout January and February, in villages on the beautiful Blue Coast (see below for dates), thousands gather on Sunday mornings to tuck into fresh seafood. Amazingly, the sun usually comes out to beam on the festivities. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Petanque: Fun Facts

Petanque-playing monks, the Marcel Pagnol film where a game stops a tram in its tracks, boules as offensive weapons.... these, and more fun facts about the newly fashionable sport. Click here to read more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A North African Ryad in the Heart of Marseille

Marseille's North African connection inspires this exotic boutique hotel, a run-down four-storey town house transformed into a gorgeously designed oriental ryad (a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden) with nine variously themed bedrooms, a restaurant.... Click here to read more.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Great Suppers, 13 Desserts and Other Christmas Treats

Forget roast turkey with all the trimmings and mince pies: Provence has its own distinctive, very different but equally delicious eating traditions at Christmas. Click here to read more.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Let the Train Take the Strain

Travelling by train to Marseille? There are plenty of rail connections on offer at Saint Charles, the city's main station which forms the southern terminus of the French high-speed TGV network and is served by five other conventional lines. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Little Fishing Port That Inspired a Stream of Masterpieces

For over half a century, L'Estaque, an unassuming, even scruffy little fishing port outside Marseille, was a magnet for some of the greatest artists of the age, including Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy and Georges Braque. Yet these painters, when they looked at L'Estaque, saw very different things. This gallery of 18 masterworks show just how different. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Secrets of the Cicada: Fifteen Fun Facts about Provence's Symbolic Insect

Love them or loathe them, you just can't escape cicadas, or cigales as they're known locally, if you come to Provence in high summer. But there's much more to the cicada than just a raucous din. Click here to read more.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Fishing Village in the Heart of Marseille

Several small, pretty creeks just off the Corniche Kennedy have miraculously preserved their typical  character. Clusters of fishermen's cottages and brightly coloured traditional fishing boats huddle in a setting apparently unchanged for centuries yet a stone's throw from busy freeways, swish villas and high-rise housing blocks. The whole stretch of coast sums up Marseille's capacity to blend old and new, rich and poor. The most celebrated creek is the Vallon des Auffes - the name comes from Click here to read more.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eating in The Belly of the Architect: a Great Restaurant in Le Corbusier's Radiant City

An aura of modernist cool surrounds Le Ventre de L'Architecte, or The Belly of The Architect, situated in the bowels of The Radiant City, the pioneering "housing unit" created by Le Corbusier between 1945 and 1952. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saucers of Wheat, Lamb Processions, Comical Passion Plays: Celebrating Christmas in Provence

The Christmas season in Provence is uncommonly long - it runs almost two months - and embraces a host of vibrant and curious local traditions. Click here to read more.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Low-Cost Flights anounced to Marseille-Provence Airport

In spite of Ryanair's much-publicised recent decision to withdraw its hub from Marseille-Provence airport, a number of new routes opened up this week from Marignane: to Düsseldorf, Rome... Click here to read more.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gourmet Teas and Coffees on Marseille's Canebière

With its wrought-iron Art Deco style canopy, the ornate crimson and gold frontage of Torréfaction Noailles is the portal to a cool, tiled interior, where a fragrant wave of coffee and exotic teas assaults your nostrils. One counter sells patisserie; another has chocolate and local speciality sweetmeats: calissons d'Aix (a glazed sweet made with powdered almonds and preserved melon) and Marseille navettes (boat-shaped biscuits perfumed with orange flower essence). Sit on a high stool at the counter to sample one of 12 types of coffee or 50 teas.... Click here to read more.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Big Blue: Where to Scuba Dive in Provence

Jacques Cousteau popularised deep sea diving in Provence and today it's one of the region's favourite sports. There are excellent places to scuba dive - and to learn to dive - all along the Mediterranean and many centres offer baptêmes de plongée (trial dives) for absolute beginners. The locations particularly recommended by divers Click here to read more.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Where Chopin Slept with George Sand.....

The Grand Hotel Beauvau is one of the oldest in Marseille and superlatively located. The view over the Old Port could barely be bettered, the tourist office is next door, there are dozens of restaurants and shops close by and the Metro is a stone's throw away. This elegant old establishment has charm, class and history in spades. Chopin stayed here with George Sand; so did many writers including.... Click here to read more.