Friday, December 31, 2010

Round-the-Clock Eats and Drinks in Aix en Provence

A long-established, much cherished local institution, Le Cintra, a simple, welcoming brasserie a few metres from La Rotonde is extraordinarily cheap by Aix standards, has a vast menu and remains open and serves hot food round the clock: 24/7, 365 days a year. And that includes New Year's Eve, when it lays on an incredibly cheap gastronomic set meal. Click here to read more.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Mazarin Quarter in Aix en Provence: a Goldmine Built on a Swamp

One winter's day in early 1646, Michel Mazarin, the Archbishop of Aix, received what amounted to a licence to print money: a letter from King Louis XIV authorising him to expand the city. The result was the Mazarin Quarter, Aix's answer to the Marais in Paris. Like it, this ultra-elegant residential district was built on marshland just outside what was then the city walls. And it swiftly became the most desirable address in town. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Travelling by Train to Aix en Provence

The new TGV high-speed train station for Aix en Provence has been a roaring success, much more so than originally projected. This has all sorts of implications for people travelling to or from the city by rail. Click here to read more.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cézanne with Bling: Aix en Provence's First Boutique Hotel

The Hotel Cézanne is one of the very many spots in Aix to trade on the name of the city's most famous son, though you do wonder what the sober and serious-minded Paul might have made of it.

The hotel website extols its "discreet luxury" but in fact the decor could better be described as brash and bling - in a knowing, post-modern way, of course. Faux zebra chairs sit in a lobby throbbing - like the breakfast room - in riotous shades of puce and deep crimson. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From Aix en Provence to Brooklyn, New York: An Extraordinary, Visionary 'Nightingale'

Robert Lepage's visionary interpretation of Igor Stravinsky's opera, The Nightingale, featuring a flooded orchestra pit and Asian shadow puppets, receives its US premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in March 2011. The eccentric French-Canadian director talked about the extraordinary concept behind his production when it played at the Aix en Provence arts festival in the summer of 2010. Click here to read more.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Legendary Brasserie of Aix en Provence

No visit to Aix is truly complete without a trip to Les Deux Garçons, the city's legendary brasserie known informally as the 2Gs which has been frequented by everyone from Paul Cézanne, Edith Piaf and Winston Churchill to Hugh Grant and George Clooney. You don't go there for its food or its service (though both are perfectly adequate) but to soak up its rich history, marvel at the ornate First Empire interior and bask on the terrace, a peerlessly pleasant spot simply to sit and watch the passing parade. Click here to read more.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Little Duck's House That's a Cosy Place for People Too

Owned by Steffi and Youssef, a German-Egyptian couple, La Maison du Petit Canard (yes, it does mean "The Little Duck's House") is tucked away at the end of a small pedestrian alley on the edge of Marseille's Panier (Old Town), a short walk from the Old Port. The four rooms, each occupying a floor in one of the Panier's traditional steep, rickety, narrow houses, are studio apartments named after characters in Marcel Pagnol's Marius-Fanny-César trilogy. Click here to read more.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Best Sweets and Treats of Provence

Provence, with its sun-soaked fruits and nuts, aromatic herbs and perfumed honeys and, not least, its exotic North African influences, is perfectly poised to produce intensely flavoured, wholly irresistible treats, and a tempting array of them can be sampled at the Market of 13 Desserts, which runs in Aix en Provence from 16 to 24 December.

The market is geared to the great provençal Christmas Eve supper, of which any or all of the sweetmeats mentioned here can form part - though of course they can be enjoyed all year round. These are some of the best regional specialities from all over Provence. Click here to read more.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where to Sleep in a Modernist Masterpiece

The Hotel Le Corbusier in Marseille, designed by the controversial architect, and retaining many of its original features, is an essential and memorable experience for anyone interested in Le Corbu and his legacy. It's situated on the third floor of the Radiant City, the visionary apartment block (also known as The Madman's House by sceptical and irreverent locals) which the architect designed and built after the Second World War: Click here to read more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cours Mirabeau: Parisian chic in the Provençal Sun

The Cours Mirabeau is one of France's great boulevards. The first thing you're likely to see when you arrive in the city, it cuts a very classy dash of Parisian Left Bank chic and intellectual sophistication under the sun of Provence. Click here to read more.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gallery: In Praise of Fanny

There is one in virtually every sports bar in the South of France: a beautiful bare-bottomed Fanny. Sometimes she is decorously hidden behind a curtain. But, if you emerge from a pétanque match at the wrong end of a 13:0 score, you have "done a Fanny" and the curtain will be pulled back to reveal those rosy cheeks awaiting your kiss. Click here to read more.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gallery: The Fountains of Aix en Provence

Built, as its name hints, on a hot spring, Aix en Provence is often called the City of a Thousand Fountains - and they come in all shapes and sizes. Enjoy a leisurely stroll round this beautiful town as a foretaste of pleasures to come. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marseille: the Must-See Churches

In its millennia of history Marseille has accumulated very many churches, of which three are outstanding and not to be missed. Click here to read more