Saturday, August 31, 2013

Come to the Calissons

Some think the calisson d'Aix is mightily over-rated. Others swoon over this tasty lozenge-shaped mouthful flavoured with ground almonds and candied fruit and decorated with royal icing. That latter group of people will want to make straight for Aix en Provence tomorrow for the annual Blessing of the Calissons - or, as it now known, the Festival of the Calissons, in an effort to rebrand it as a gastronomic experience rather than a religious one. Whatever you want to call it, the chances are, there will be a few tastings. Click here to read more

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Great Floating Piano Festival

One of Marseille's most delightfully eccentric music festivals is Un Piano à la Mer. It offers classical, jazz and rock concerts on the city's beaches performed by musicians on floating platforms. The sea lends their music an unusual, eerie resonance, and it's a great way to make the most of the warm early autumn evenings. Click here to read more

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Very Good Year For This Year's Côtes du Rhône?

Early reports from the Côtes du Rhône wine-growing region indicate that this year's vintage should be an exceptional one. Poor weather in the spring will mean a late harvest and a small crop, but the quality may, experts suggest, be comparable to that of the historic 1983 cuvée. Meanwhile - though the actual harvest this year won't be till mid-September - lovers of Rhône wine should head directly to Avignon for the Ban des Vendanges, an exuberant all-day celebration this weekend to mark the new season's grape harvest. Click here to read more.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Artist's Jean Dujardin Starts Work On A New Film In Marseille

Jean Dujardin shot to international prominence after winning an Oscar for his virtuoso performance as a silent film star brought to the brink of ruin by the coming of sound in The Artist (the film itself won the Academy Award for Best Picture, of course). Now tomorrow he starts work on a new movie - being shot on location in Marseille. Click here to read more.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Knights in Wet Armour

The famous Sète water jousting tournaments start today and continue till the weekend. We went along to watch a (smaller!) jousting match in L'Estaque, just outside Marseille and discover some of the mysteries of this curious sport. Click here to read more

Monday, August 19, 2013

Luminessences at the Palais des Papes

The theatre festival might be over but there's still plenty going on in Avignon this month. Right now the Palais des Papes continues by day with Papesses, its exhibition of female artists who challenged the orthodoxy - and by night there's a brand-new open-air 3-D sound and light spectacle in the Court of Honour. Entitled Luminessences, it promises to take the public on "a dreamlike journey through the centuries and through the elements, in a kaleidoscope of images and sound, full of surprise and wonder." Click here to read more

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Largest Ceramics Fair in France, This Weekend

The town of Aubagne is famed for its fine local clay, its terracotta santons (Christmas crib figures) and its pottery. And every second year in August it hosts Argilla, the largest ceramics fair in France. 2013 is an Argilla year and the event takes place this weekend - with an added bonus for lovers of cutting-edge ceramics. Click here to read more

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Assumption Festivities in Marseille

Tomorrow, 15 August, is a public holiday in France, the Feast of the Assumption, and some of the most vibrant celebrations in the country take place in Marseille. It begins this evening, 14 August, with a torchlight procession up to Notre Dame de la Garde, but the big one is tomorrow afternoon, starting at the Cathedral and continuing through the Old Town. Some 7,000 people are expected to attend. Click here to read more

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Le Corbusier meets Sid Vicious in Marseille

One apartment at  Le Corbusier's pioneering apartment block, the Radiant City in Marseille, is preserved almost perfectly in its original 1952 condition. And, for a month in the summer, the owner - the actor Patrick Blauwart - opens the flat to the public after having put his own furniture in storage and invited a designer to redecorate it in his or her own individual style. In 2013 the guest designer is Konstantin Grcic from Germany, who has decked out the apartment in neo-punk style, with posters of Sid Vicious and so on. But you'll have to hurry to see it... Click here to read more

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rural Provence, a Short Bus Ride from Marseille

You are in Marseille and making the most of the big city buzz - but you'd also like breath of fresh air and a glimpse of La Provence profonde with its ancient customs. Look no further: a short bus ride from the central city (you don't even need a car), the hilltop village of Allauch has preserved much of its traditional character. And this week, with a packed programme of events for the Festival of Saint Laurent, is the perfect time to go. Click here to read more

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The French Connection... Revisited

Delve into the mists of time to ponder on the awful reputation that Marseille once suffered from as a hotbed of violence and organised crime. One of the prime factors in popularising that image was William Friedkin's 1971 film The French Connection and its sequel, French Connection II, directed by John Frankenheimer. In them Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle was a classic fish-out-of-water cop, a tough New York policeman way out of his depth in the murky swamp of Marseille's heroin trade. Tonight, if you are in Marseille, you can revisit the first film at a free open-air screening - and marvel at how things have changed. Click here to read more

Friday, August 2, 2013

First of the Autumn Wine

Wine again! Châteauneuf du Pape gets all mediaeval this weekend for the Fête de la Veraison, a celebration of the ripening of the grapes. It's the first of what will be very many autumn wine festivals in Provence. In this case, the programme features jousting, troubadours, banquets, balls and - the chances are - wine. Click here to read more