Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reinventing the Provençal Christmas Crib

Santons - the charming, exquisite terracotta figures of peasant figures that populate Christmas cribs in Provence - are justly celebrated worldwide. Today, though, young santon-makers are finding new ways to reinvent and revitalise this ancient tradition. Surprising, modern, minimalist, sometimes outrageous, their work is on display at Les Baux de Provence and other towns and villages throughout Provence during the Christmas season. Click here to read more.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bistro Heaven in Avignon

There's a bit of a cupid theme going at the Bistro d'Utopia, one of my favourite bars in this city. It's right behind the Palais des Papes but seems like a million miles from the tourist crowds milling round the Palace and the Place de l'Horloge. You get there down a narrow cobbled street behind the Pope's private garden, and discover a cosy den that attracts a hip, arty local crowd. It's right next to Avignon's best cinema, too, where you can see an enormous range of interesting films in their subtitled (as opposed to the more usual dubbed) versions. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

T-Rex Skulls, Priceless Botticellis, Egyptian Treasures...

....Talking of museums, I snapped these two adorable children playing on an installation, with scant respect for fancy avant-garde art, at Avignon's Collection Lambert last week. It was all part of my mega-blitz on as many of the city's museums and galleries as I could cram in in two days. T-Rex skulls, priceless Botticellis, very large, very red Chinese four-poster beds: they're all here, and more. Click here to read more. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vincent van Gogh in Provence

While in Avignon, I had a big blitz on the city's brilliant museums. My favourite of all was the Angladon Museum, which showcases the collection of Jacques Doucet, a successful belle époque fashion designer who lavished his fortune on amassing a fantastic collection of contemporary and - for the era - avant-garde art. If you want to see the only painting by Vincent van Gogh  to remain in Provence- Railway Wagons, painted in Arles in 1888 and pictured above - this is the place to go. And there are many other treasures in the Angladon Museum. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn Glory in Avignon

After the deluge, at last: a few days of glorious weather in Provence. The perfect moment, in fact, to pop back to Avignon for another quick trip. The autumn foliage in the surrounding countryside was in full blaze, and we went to to survey it from the best vantage-point in town: the Rocher des Doms. Click here to read more.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Provence: The Weather in Winter

It has been a funny old winter so far in Provence. I've just spent two days in Avignon (stand by for reports) where the weather has been glorious, warm and autumnal -- but where several of the museums were partly closed due to leaks caused by the recent very heavy rains. In the twelve years I've been here, I've seen all the extremes: gale-force winds, months-long heatwaves, flooding and snow blizzards followed three days later by blazing sun. So expect the unexpected. But, in as much as you can predict or generalise, here is a year-round climate guide to the weather in Provence. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The "Indians" of Provence

I just love these fabrics. They're known as indiennes, because that's where they originally came from, but they sing of Provence, with their bright, Mediterranean-coloured patterns of lavender, olives, sunflowers - and even the dread cicada. You can buy very high-end versions of them at outlets such as Olivades or Souleiado, but I like the cheap and cheerful versions on sale at just about any street market in the south. The story behind les indiennes is fascinating too. Click here to read more.