Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Count of Monte Cristo: A New Version

The next BBC Radio 4 Classic serial is (drumroll, please) The Count of Monte Cristo. The four-part dramatisation of Alexandre Dumas' ever-popular adventure thriller set in Marseille's Chateau d'If starts this Sunday afternoon, 25 Nov, and stars Iain Glen, Toby Jones & Jane Lapotaire -- and you can tune into it on the Listen Again area of R4's website, even if you live outside the UK. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Top Chef Comes Home To Marseille

The chef Michel Portos had reached the pinacle of his profession. He'd bagged two Michelin stars for his cuisine at the ultra-swish Saint James restaurant in Bouliac, near Bordeaux, and had just been named Gault & Millau Chef of the Year for 2012. Then, like other top chefs before him, Portos, now nudging 50, decided he'd had enough of the pressure. Born in the rough northern suburbs of Marseille, he resolved to return to his roots and open an unpretentious classic brasserie - called Malthazar - in his native city. Click here to read more.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Best 2012 Christmas Markets in Southern Provence

We've updated our guide to the best 2012 Christmas markets, fairs and festivals in Southern Provence, from Arles to Avignon to Cassis by way of Aix en Provence and, of course, Marseille. Click here to read more

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sirens at Midday

In Marseille this week, I suddenly came across a crowd of expectant people clustered around the Opera House - on a late November morning. It seemed an odd sort of time for a spectacle, but indeed just before midday a file of figures all dressed in white tricked out of the freshly restored classical frontage and onto some little squares of grass laid out for the purpose.

It seems that France's cities test their emergency warning sirens at noon sharp on the first Wednesday of each month. And in Marseille a theatrical collective, Sirènes et midi net (the name is a rather laboured pun), has staged a different little spectacle each month ever since 2001. Each show has to last exactly 12 minutes (the time between the sounding of the two sirens) and members of the public came take part too. The November playlet - inspired by the fact that the month begins with All Saint's Day - was a dance of death. Intriguing. You can read more about the project here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hiking on the Pagnol Trail in Southern Provence

When the weather is fine (and the forecast is good for the next few days at least), November is an ideal time to go rambling in Provence. You'll dodge the blazing midsummer sun as well as the ever-present risk in July or August of finding your favourite route barred to hikers because of fire risk. And, so far, the real midwinter cold has not yet set in. So I've prepared a guide to self-guided walks in Aubagne that will take you past some of the landmarks that Marcel Pagnol loved as a child and used as locations in many of his later movies. Click here to read more.