Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shabby-Chic Style on Marseille's Old Port

Read the online reviews of Marseille's shabby-chic Hotel Belle-Vueand you'll be thoroughly puzzled. Located over one of the city's hippest bars right on the Old Port, is it a superb place to stay with magnificent views across the water to Notre Dame de la Garde? Or is it an overpriced dump? I went there to have a good look round last week to find out. Click here to read more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Rebel Artist in Rural Provence

Last week I visited Les Baux de Provence, partly because, to my shame, I'd never been to this gorgeous village, despite having lived in Provence for over twelve years, and partly because I'd been invited to tour a fascinating exhibition by the 20th century French artist known simply as Arman. This remarkable project, on show at historic venues all over the village, has allowed Les Baux to turn into a giant avant-garde art installation - at the same time as offering up all its usual tourist attractions, of course. Click here to read more.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Through the Valley of Hell to One of the Most Beautiful Villages of France

A fascinating visit this week to Les Baux de Provence, a spectacular and historic village that, not content with being one of France's top tourist attractions, has turned itself into a giant installation celebrating the work of the avant-garde artist Arman for the summer. More very shortly on this extraordinary project. Meanwhile, here's my full guide to travelling through the Valley of Hell (yes, this landscape was allegedly the inspiration of Dante's Inferno) in order to arrive at one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. Click here to read more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ice-Cream Queen of Marseille

When I'm in Marseille on a hot sunny day (and there are plenty of those at this time of year), I always make a beeline for Le Glacier du Roi. Tucked away on a square in the corner of Marseille's Old Town, this minuscule ice cream parlour makes up for style for what it lacks in space. It's dominated by a shocking pink wickerwork peacock chair and a huge, low-slung chandelier made of transparent Murano glass (pictured above, with the owner, Florence Bianchi). More to the point, it makes the best Italian gelati in town, as well as a range of other irresistible frozen confections. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Smartphone Way to Visit Aix en Provence

The Monument Tracker series of Smartphone applications is a very neat idea: your phone buzzes you whenever you're within striking distance of an interesting tourist site. Many cities now boast this application, and Aix en Provence has just joined their ranks - and is offering free downloads, for one day only, to mark the launch. Far be it from me to discourage anyone from consulting my own wonderful website guide to Marseille, Aix en Provence and the surrounding area but this interactive application is a great aid for when you're out and about in the city. Click here to read more.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lavender Fields Forever

I have two lavender bushes in my garden here on the Mediterranean coast. One is a straggly little clump that grows wild and one is of the type stoechas (the lavender with a little mohican tuft on the top) which I bought as a pot plant in Ikea and which has established itself very nicely in one of the flowerbeds overlooking the sea.

But neither, I discover, is the type of "true lavender" which will turn the countryside of Northern Provence bright purple for the coming month (in fact the straggly clump probably isn't lavender at all). There's quite a lot to this lavender business, as I discovered when researching my little lexicon on the subject. Click here to read more.