Monday, January 31, 2011

Felix Ziem, Mediterranean Maestro

The painter Felix Ziem is relatively unknown today though Vincent Van Gogh was among his early admirers and thought his brilliant blue skies were the most beautiful in all of art. Now there's the chance to discover this Mediterranean maestro at the Palais des Arts in Marseille, where a show of nearly 100 of his works is on view from 4 February until 22 May. Click here to read more.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Marseille: the Best Beach Guide

No-one goes to Marseille for a beach holiday. In fact, though, the city offers an enormous array of seaside spaces catering to every possible taste all along its south-eastern coastline. Some are perfect for families with children, others for surfing, a beachside drink or meal or, at the very eastern fringes of the city, a hike into the remote rocky calanques. Click here to read more.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Luxury Rooms on Aix's Cours Mirabeau

You can't complain about the location of the Bastide du Cours. It occupies a prime position mid-way up the Cours Mirabeau in an historic building that was formerly a convent-orphanage, then a café where Renoir, Zola and Cézanne drank (when they weren't propping up the bar at Les Deux Garçons up the road). The rooms are luxurious. But is this really a hotel? Click here to read more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Mansion of a Master: Paul Cézanne's Studio at Les Lauves

The studio where Paul Cézanne worked right until the end of his life, the Atelier des Lauves is steeped in the artist's personality and displays his painting materials and personal belongings, for all the world as though he were still there and had just popped out for a breath of fresh air. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Over 150 motorbikes are on show in Marseille's Musée de la Moto, an educational and enjoyable museum dedicated entirely to the art of speed, from early prototypes dating back to the end of the 19th century to futuristic racing machines. Click here to read more.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How To Get Around Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence is a compact city and many of the major sights around the Cours Mirabeau, the Mazarin Quarter and the Old Town can easily be navigated on foot. But, if you want to rest your feet, or to venture further afield, there's a variety of eco-friendly alternatives. Click here to read more.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Little World of Marcel Pagnol

Here's the sort of miniature world that kids love, with a unique provençal twist. Aubagne is famed for two things: the local clay and Marcel Pagnol, the author of Jean de Florette and the Marius-Fanny-Cesar trilogy, who was born there in 1895. These traditions neatly combine in an engaging display of 200-odd clay figurines acting out scenes from Pagnol's life, books and movies. Click here to read more.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Cours Julien for Kids

The boho-chic Cours Julien quarter of central Marseille is a perfect place to explore with children. The Cours itself (a cours is a wide boulevard) has a large play area with a fountain that's made for paddling surrounded by cafés with outside tables, the street art is colourful and the shop fronts brightly painted and the whole district teems with shops, markets, snack bars and restaurants. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne, the painter who immortalised the landscapes of Provence and changed the face of contemporary art, was born on 19 January 1839. And, if you want to follow in his footsteps, you will find no shortage of places to visit in Aix en Provence, where the artist was born in 1839, and where he died, having spent most of his life there, in 1906. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Converted 12th Century Monastery in the Heart of Aix

The Hotel des Augustins is a haven of calm a short step from the tourist melée. A 12th century monastery stood on this site and Martin Luther is said to have lodged there on his way back from Rome after being excommunicated. Entering the gracious lobby, with its ancient arches and stained glass windows, you can well believe it. Click here to read more.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Museum in Marseille That's Especially for Children

The Préau des Accoules is a museum and exhibition space designed especially for children and housed in a beautiful old vaulted building in Marseille's Old Town, in a former Jesuit college dating back to the 17th century. Click here to read more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Armchair Tour Through Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence is Marseille's better-behaved, slightly younger brother. Founded in 123 BC by the Romans, today Aix (pronounced "X") is a lively university town with elegant, aristocratic old quarters and squares lined with cafes and cooled by fountains. "Its good taste comes so naturally that not even the students can disturb it," observed the travel writer Marcel Renébon. "It was the last city in France to give up its sedan chairs. This gallery previews some of Aix's exquisite pleasures. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christopher Pereda: Marseille's Youngest Superchef

Lionel Lévy, the Michelin-starred chef, was fed-up with the media omitting the comma when mentioning his restaurant, Une Table, au Sud. Expanding his empire in 2006, he resolved to create a permanent reminder of the crucial punctuation mark. Hence La Virgule (The Comma).

Lévy invested in the venture but was not directly involved in running it and pulled out altogether in early 2010. It is now in the talented hands of Christopher Pereda (above) who, still in his early twenties, must be the youngest of Marseille's generation of bright new chefs. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Marseille: The Best Hotels Near the Station

Got a late arrival in Marseille? Or a very early morning star? These are two good, reliable chain hotels if you need to stay near the main railway and bus stations at Saint Charles, each equally close to the main concourse, but with slightly different advantages to commend it. Click here to read more.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Quarries that Paul Cézanne Mined for Inspiration

Hidden in a pine forest high on a sandstone plateau east of Aix en Provence, the brooding Bibémus Quarries are a majestic location in their own right - and doubly so when you realise how Paul Cézanne mined them for inspiration at the zenith of his career. Click here to read more.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Last Chance to See.... Jacques Hérold, a Romanian Surrealist in Marseille

Hurry, hurry: this week is the last chance to catch a show devoted to the remarkable, little-known surrealist, Jacques Hérold. About a hundred of his paintings, drawings and sculptures are on view at the Musée Cantini in Marseille, where Hérold spent a significant period of his life. It's the first time this artist (1910-1987) has had a major retrospective at a French museum. Click here to read more.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A 17th Century B&B in the Heart of Aix en Provence

If you like the idea of a chambre d'hôte in a graceful 17th century hôtel particular in the very heart of the Mazarin Quarter, Le Jardin de Marie, an, as yet, little-publicised guesthouse that opened in summer 2009, is the Aixois' insider tip for a delightful and very affordable stay. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The House of Cezanne's Greatest Masterpieces

The Jas de Bouffan sits in an unremarkable modern suburb of Aix surrounded by petrol stations and modern residential estates. It would be easy to drive right past it. But behind the gates a grand approach lined by towering plane trees leads you to the Jas, the crumbling, slumbering and intensely atmospheric mansion where Cézanne worked, on and off, for 40 years and produced some of his greatest works. Click here to read more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Complete Guide to the Top Ten Wine Routes of Provence

Driving through beautiful provençal scenery and tasting fine wine are both hugely enjoyable ways to spend your stay in Provence. So combine them and take one of our ten suggested wine routes, each mapped out with names, addresses, telephone numbers and, where available, email contacts of leading vignerons (wine-makers) along the way. Click here to read more.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Where to Spend the Night in a Calanque

Most of the beautiful calanques, or mini-fjords, along the Mediterranean are confined to day-trippers. But the Auberge du Merou in Niolon is one of the few places where you can spend the night. This small, historic hotel-restaurant offers breathtaking views across the bay towards Marseille, is easily accessible, has its own excellent restaurant and remains open all year round. Click here to read more.