Monday, May 28, 2012

A Delightfully Old-Fashioned Theme Park near Aix en Provence

With its elegant boulevards, palaces and hôtels particuliers, Aix en Provence doesn't seem at first like an obvious spot for a family holiday. But gradually I've been building up a repertoire of places to go with children and, just on the edge of town, the Village des Automates, a delightfully old-fashioned theme park, is - especially in summer - a really pleasant destination. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lunch at a Classic Belle Epoque Brasserie with a Modernist Vibe

In Marseille yesterday, with a couple of hours to kill while waiting for a train, we thought we'd have lunch at Le Comptoir Dugommier. I've walked past it a hundred times, and read a lot about it: it's a lovely old fin de siècle brasserie that has been given a hip modern makeover by its new owners (a designer and antique dealer) that respects its elegant traditional interior. It has a great local reputation for its atmosphere and fantastic-value food, and we decided it was high time we tried it out. Click here to read more.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In Search of Romans and Artists in Saint Rémy de Provence

Saint Rémy de Provence is one of the most popular tourist spots in this part of France and last week I went along to find out its secret. Simple, really: this unassuming little place has something to suit pretty much all interests. History buff? The huge Roman city of Glanum is one of the key archeological sites in Provence (you can eat Roman food there too). Art-lover? Today the area is a magnet for painters and Saint Paul de Mausole, where Vincent van Gogh spent the last year of his life and created some of his greatest works, is a moving, unmissable experience. I loved the illustrated self-guided walk you can do in the surrounding countryside comparing his visions with the real thing (pictured above: van Gogh's Olive Trees, in an olive grove near Saint Paul). And, if you just like mooching around cafes, galleries, markets and pretty cobbled streets and squares, well, Saint Rémy has all those too. Click here to read more.

Monday, May 7, 2012

On the Wine Trail in Cassis

I'm very partial indeed to the white wines of Cassis and so I jumped at the chance recently to visit a couple of the vineyards there and find out more about them - and taste a glass or two as well, of course. Monsieur Bontoux, at the Château de Fontblanche (whose vines are shown in the picture, with Cap Canaille in the background) very kindly took a lot of time to chat to me about some of his secrets, about why Cassis doesn't make a sparking wine and why in this town, even more than elsewhere, you should never drink and drive.....  Click here to read more. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

When A Former Wine-Maker Opens a Restaurant

I took advantage of last weekend's trip to Marseille to try out a restaurant I'd heard quite a lot about. Prettily located at the bottom of the Old Town, Vinonéo is run by an ex-vigneron, Renaud Pierlot, who has transferred his passion into creating some very unusual food and wine pairings. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Dream of Colour in Marseille

Last weekend we went to have a look at the big summer show in Marseille: an exhibition, called The Dream of Colour, dedicated to the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser at the Vieille Charité in the Old Town, one of my very favourite venues for shows, whatever their subject. The place was jam-packed with families (the kids were having a ball with Hundertwasser's brightly coloured work) and, though I've never been a huge fan of his painting, his woodcuts, lithographs, screen prints and other graphic experiments were a revelation. And it's all part of a much wider installation that will take over much of the centre of Marseille for the next few months. Click here for details of the show.