Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chilling out at the Jardins d'Albertas

Last Sunday we went to visit the Jardins d'Albertas, just outside Aix en Provence. I'm not usually keen on formal French landscaped gardens, but this tranquil spot was just the place to chill out for an hour or two on a swelteringly hot June day. This week and next, there are evening concerts too, and the extragavantly theatrical gardens, with their fountains, mermen, Atlas figures, sphinxes and camp Roman heroes should provide an idyllic setting. Click here to read more.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Time-Traveller at Large in Aix en Provence

You are on holiday en famille in Aix en Provence and trying desperately to persuade your kids to take an interest in the city's elegant museums and historic hôtels particuliers. Not an easy task, I think you'll find, for Aix's pleasures are mostly very grown-up ones. But help is at hand in the shape of this time-travel adventure set in Aix, aimed at children from 8 to 12 and written by a teacher who has lived in the city for fifteen years. Click here to read more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Melon-Mania in Cavaillon

One of the very many great pleasures of living in Provence at this time of year is the Charentais melon, with its jaunty, green-striped rind and aromatic, deep-orange, luscious flesh. An historic speciality of Cavaillon (the novelist Alexandre Dumas loved them so much he traded copies of his entire, compendious works in return for a regular supply), the melon is at the centre of the city's annual celebration of all things cucurbit in early July. This year disaster hit the fruit crops of Central Provence in the form of a freak hailstorm on 4 June. But the festivities are proceeding undiminished. Click here to read more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sex and Loving in Marseille

This week I attended the private view of a new exhibition in Marseille devoted to the illustrator-designer-cartoonist Roger Blachon. The show was in the Palais des Arts, formerly the city library and archive and a lovely ornate building designed by Henri-Jacques Espérandieu, the architect of Notre Dame de la Garde. But I digress. I'd never heard of Blachon before but his work - comic, erotic, surreal, life-affirming - was mischievous and delightful (pictured above, Tarzan and the Elephant gives you something of an idea). Think Pieter Bruegel crossed with Robert Crumb. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Horses for Courses in Château Gombert

If you would like a serious blast of provençal folklore, Château Gombert is hard to beat this week. Tonight the Festival of Saint Eloi (Saint Eligius in English -- the patron saint of metal-workers) kicks off at 6pm with a ceremonial parade of musicians and magnificently decorated horses. If you can't make it today to this village-like suburb to the north of Marseille, fear not: the fun continues until next Tuesday. And there's always the excellent Musée du Terroir Marseillais and an even better restaurant serving local delicacies all the year round. Click here to read more.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

By Vélorail through Provence

Is it a bike? Is it a train? The Vélorail is both - sort of. A giant bicycle that runs along a railway track, it's an unusual, fun and healthy way to tour Provence. It might not quite live up to your childhood fantasy of being a train driver, but it's a lovely means of taking in some superb scenery from a novel perspective and clocking up some healthy exercise in the process. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Allauch, Allauch...

Allauch (pronounced "Allo") is just a stone's throw from Marseille and not much further from Aix en Provence but this pretty hilltop town with panoramic views and a wealth of folklore and tradition could be in a different world. Click here to read more.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Secret Beaches of the Beautiful Blue Coast

The beaches of the Blue Coast, just west of Marseille (and east of the Camargue) aren't famous holiday destinations that generally draw overseas tourists. But this secret strip of Mediterranean shoreline features some gorgeous spots away from the crowds. Click here to read more.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Salty Blast of Provence on the Blue Coast

A short but spectacular train ride from Marseille along the Blue Coast of the Mediterranean, the unassuming, pretty port of Carry le Rouet isn't on the tourist trail for most foreign visitors. But its modest, no-nonsense charm makes for a delightful day out. Click here to read more.