Monday, September 30, 2013

Last Orders For The Big Summer Art Shows

It's the last and final call for several of the year's big art exhibitions in Provence, including Le Grand Atelier du Midi, Picasso's ceramics, sculptor Bernar Venet, Raoul Dufy and modernist painters in Cassis. If you've been postponing a visit to one of these, jump in fast now before it's too late.

As an added incentive, some museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of each month (check first with the individual museums, as the offer doesn't always apply to special events), so it might be worth earmarking 6 October in your diary. Click here to read more

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Driving round the Gorges du Verdon

To the Gorges du Verdon for a birthday treat - and what a treat. We took three days to drive all round the area, along the three different routes through this amazing scenery and to visit some of the most interesting towns and villages along the way.

We also saw this mountain rescue exercise (rather him than me!)

... and a wayward mountain goat (not our car, fortunately).

I'll be posting more about this trip shortly. Meanwhile here is our detailed guide to the routes all around the Gorges for your driving or cycling pleasure. Click here to read more

Monday, September 23, 2013

Programme Announced For Aix's Easter Festival

Plan early for Easter! The full programme for the 2014 Festival de Pâques in Aix en Provence is announced this morning and the line-up looks starry: Gustavo Dudamel, Christian Tetzlaff, Yo-Yo Ma... Schubert and Strauss (Richard, of course) are the composers in the spotlight and the box-office opens Wednesday morning. Click here to read more

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Giant Banquet on Marseille's Canebière

For the next couple of weeks, starting today, a event called Metamorphoses will transform Marseille into a giant playground, with over 100 wacky events and installations by several dozen European artists. Example: tomorrow a huge, long table for thousands of guests will be set up on the Canebière, Marseille's main downtown thoroughfare, for a giant banquet, at which guests will be regaled by artists as they eat. And there's much more besides... Click here to read more

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Curtain Raised On Plans For The 2014 Avignon Festival

Olivier Py, the flamboyant actor, director and writer who has become the new Director of the Avignon Theatre Festival for the next four years, raised the curtain this week on some of his plans for the 2014 edition.  After being sacked from a successful tenure at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris in 2011, amid some controversy, Py - who is a convert to Catholicism and openly gay - was offered the directorship in Avignon for four years, starting in 2014. It's the first time the post has been held by an artist since Jean Vilar, the founder of the festival who ran it from 1947 to 1971. Click here to read more

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On the Cinema Trail in La Ciotat

To La Ciotat, just along the coast from Cassis. This mellow coastal resort is popular for its beaches (which I'll be writing more on later), but our mission right now is different: to delve into the town's rich cinema heritage. The pioneering film-makers Auguste and Louis Lumière (who made the famous 1895 short film Train Arriving at La Ciotat Station), spent many summers there -  and the family's villa, now privately owned, was open last weekend for very rare public visits. The town also boasts the Eden Théâtre, which claims to be the world's oldest surviving public cinema and, newly restored, it reopens its doors early next month. We devised a little "movie trail" around La Ciotat's movie hotspots. It was a fascinating trip. Click here to read more.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Couscous Dancer

This year a new food festival, Cuisine en Friche, was launched at La Friche La Belle de Mai, a large arts complex in the north of Marseille. The idea is for chefs, artists, scientists and philosophers to gather to celebrate  and investigate all things edible, with that oh-so-Gallic blend of gastronomy, intellectualism and performance art. Click here to see some more images on our Facebook page.

At the end of Je danse et je vous en donne à bouffer at La Friche La Belle de Mai last night. Radhouane El Meddeb danced his heart out for 90 minutes and, in between, cooked an excellent couscous - which we all then got to eat. There are two more performances of this amazing event over the weekend (a different couscous is cooked each night), and plenty of other unusual, thought-provoking and - potentially controversial - events before the festival ends on Sunday. Click here to read more

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thumb Up For A Show Celebrating César The Sculptor

Here's a big thumb up for a retrospective dedicated to the Marseille-born sculptor César at the Musée Cantini, Marseille. Did you know that César Baldaccini - to give him his full name - designed the statuette awarded each year at the Césars, France's equivalent of the Oscars, which are actually named after him? That thumb (Le Pouce), by the way, isn't in the exhibition, but you can see it standing proud on a roundabout to the south of Marseille. Click here to read more

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Historic Shellfish Restaurant Gets a Facelift

If you want to eat shellfish in Marseille, Chez Toinou has been the place to go for over half a century, a cherished local institution just off the Canebière a few steps from the Old Port. The restaurant has been closed throughout the summer for refurbishment, but it reopened this week - with a difference (though it was busier than ever when we went there yesterday, so the locals don't seem to mind too much). Click here to read more.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The City That Launches A Thousand Ships

Septembre en Mer (September by the Sea) offers a hugely popular and eclectic programme of over 300 marine-themed events in Marseille and the surrounding coastal area. It encompasses everything from seafood feasts and scuba diving lessons to shipyard visits and excursions to the Frioul or Rioux islands in traditional boats. And this year there's something extra special: a Marine Parade on 7 September, when a thousand boats of all shapes and sizes take to the sea, including the beautiful 19th century three-masted cargo ship, the Belem.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Stunning New Conservatoire in Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence gets a brand-new Conservatoire of music, dance and theatre this month - and has an "open weekend" starting tomorrow, when you can explore it. Located in the "cultural corner" of the city, near the Pavillon Noir, the Grand Théâtre de Provence and the Cité du Livre, this stunning new building was created by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, whose equally remarkable design for Marseille's FRAC PACA opened earlier this year. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Contemporary Ceramics in Les Baux de Provence

One of the "most beautiful villages in France", Les Baux de Provence is a magnet for day-trippers in quest of a lovely setting and kitsch made-in-China souvenirs. But its forward-thinking mayor is keen to promote Les Baux as something more: a centre of  art. Along with other venues all across the Alpilles, the village participates in the a-part festival of contemporary art during the summer months, but it also hosts may other exhibitions throughout the year when the coach tour parties have long since left town. The latest, opening tomorrow, is three exclusive shows of cutting-edge contemporary glass and ceramics. Click here to read more

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Venice Comes To Provence

The pretty town of Martigues, on the Berre Lake west of Marseille, rather cheekily calls itself the "Venice of the Mediterranean" on the strength of its single "grand canal". Martigues makes the most of this connection, principally this month when several hundred masked enthusiasts converge there for four days to stage their own mini Venetian carnival. Click here to read more

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Windy City Flies High

Most of the year the Marseillais curse the infamous Mistral wind. But for a couple of days each autumn they celebrate it, with the Fête du Vent (Festival of Wind), actually a huge celebration of kites on the Prado beaches. And this year there's more, an exhibition of exotic kites from all around the world, opening today. Click here to read more.