Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Rules of the Road in France

On Sunday a new French breathalyser law comes into force and drivers are required to keep an unopened éthylotest in their car at all times. Full disclosure: I haven't got mine yet, though it does seem there will be a grace period of a few months during which drivers will be let off with a warning rather than fined. Anyway, I thought this was an opportune time to do a comprehensive survey of all the driving laws in France, such as the one relating to the yellow emergency jacket, modelled above with great panache by Karl Lagerfeld for the very cool original government campaign. Click here to read more.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Best Free Street Music Festival in France

Last weekend we went to the Fête du Panier, the annual music festival in the Old Town of Marseille. I go each year without fail: it's a fantastic occasion, a two-day multi-cultural shindig that begins in the afternoon with children's shows, community events and exhibitions and continues way into the night with (free) top-class, live world music - this year, the headline act was the Mercury prize nominee Susheela Raman.

After the lead acts have finished, it continues way into the small hours with pulsating discos in the various squares.

The music is only half the story though: the best thing about the Fête du Panier is its unique atmosphere. Local inhabitants sell home-made food and drinks - there must be some sort of special waiver for drinks licences - or perhaps the authorities just turn a blind eye.

And in every doorway there's someone grilling sardines or merguez (spicy North African sausages), and offering homemade Asian savouries, Algerian patisserie, vegetarian delicacies or home-made p'tit punch (rum punch). Click here to read more about the Panier.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Eating Like a Roman in Saint Rémy

On our recent visit to Saint Rémy de Provence, we thought we'd try the Taberna Romana. It's a little bistro overlooking Glanum, the Roman ruins just on the edge of town, and could easily have been just another spot to grab a quick, over-priced sandwich. Instead, it serves authentic Roman cuisine (and wines) and offers some very unexpected flavours. Click here to read more.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Man Who Mines The Quarries of Lights

Gianfranco Iannuzzi has designed some of the most imaginative and spectacular light shows in Provence. He has illuminated the Palais des Papes in Avignon, the Jas de Bouffan and Paul Cézanne's studio in Aix en Provence and the Quarries of Lights (formerly known as the Cathedral of Images) near Les Baux de Provence, where he has devised spectacles for over two decades. He has worked all over France and internationally too. I caught up with Signor Iannuzzi recently to talk about how he goes about creating his projects. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flying Down To Nîmes

When I first started coming to Provence, there were few low-cost flights to Marseille, and so we generally travelled through Nîmes instead. It's a small, intimate airport, and I always loved the scent of pine and lavender and - if we arrived in the evening - the sound of frogs that greeted us as soon as we stepped out of the terminal building. There's a rather nice mural of the Camargue, too, in the airport car-park just to put you further in that festive provençal mood. This week, we had to go back to Nîmes on an errand, and we stopped by the airport to try out their restaurant overlooking the runaway. Click here to read more.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Marseille: A Soap Opera

Last night I stopped by for the vernissage of a quirky exhibition dedicated to Marseille's long history of soap production (savon de Marseille is reputed to be one of the finest in the world). It's a fun, if somewhat esoteric show, with posters, photos, santons, soap sculptures and all sorts of intriguing facts - did you know that a washing powder called Persil (meaning "parsley") was invented in Marseille? Click here to read more.