Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One of the Most Beautiful Races in Europe

Here's a quick heads-up for the Marseille-Cassis half-marathon. Actually it's slightly less at 12.4 miles, but it takes you through challenging - and spectacularly beautiful - terrain, the rocky crags and calanques between Marseille and Cassis. The race isn't until 28 October but online enrolment opens at midnight on 1 March - and last year all the 15,000 places were snapped up within hours. Click here to read more. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where Kids Can Play When the Sun Won't Shine

Even in Provence, families occasionally need a covered, air-conditioned space, whether it's to escape from the cold winter Mistral, the torrential spring and autumn rains or the blazing midsummer heat. Fortunately there are plenty of great indoor attractions to keep kids happy in Marseille on days when the beach is out of the question. One such is the curiously named (and spelled) LudiQ' Land, a large children's play area with a maritime theme. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Toast to the Popes of Avignon

I've been investigating the wine-drinking habits of the Avignon Popes - and they make for surprisingly diverting reading. First off, I was astonished by the phenomenal amount of wine consumed in the Palais des Papes. Also revealing was the extent to each which Pope has his own personal preferences - one of them was, it's said, reluctant to take the papacy back to Rome because of the inferior quality of Italian wine! And of course the Popes collectively worked small miracles to improve viticulture in the area. Click here to read more. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cruising Around The Med Out Of Marseille

I was asked recently to write a piece about cruises departing from Marseille, and I've been (virtually) sailing around the main cruise companies' sites to see just what's on offer. A confession: I've never actually taken a cruise myself. And the surprise for me was the variety of experiences - I was certainly tempted by a couple of them (though others are clearly aimed at a different type of consumer from me!) The Mediterranean cruise business has taken a couple of blows lately - not just from the recent disaster, but from the dockers' strike of the winter of 2010/2011 which blocked the port of Marseille for weeks on end. But that's reflected now in some extremely keen pricing and the summer of 2012 might just be the time to make your/my maiden trip. Click here to read more. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Lovely B&B in the Old Town of Aix

I'd heard a lot about L'Epicerie, a very highly reputed bed and breakfast in the Old Town of Aix, and had tried to visit it on several occasions. Alas it has just four rooms and they were invariably occupied when I went by. But, in town in darkest January for the press launch of the Aix music festival, I thought I'd give it another try - and was given a very warm welcome, complete with coffee and home-made apple cake, by Luc, its genial owner-host. Click here to read more.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Secrets of the Calissons of Aix en Provence

The calisson is the legendary dessert of Aix en Provence and so last week I thought I'd take a look behind the scenes at the Leonard Parli calisson factory - the only one in town to offer English-language tours - to find out out these little taste explosions are made. Click here to read more.