Monday, October 28, 2013

A Year In Provence - In 1970

Imagine an elite group of top American chefs, gourmets, food writers and intellectuals and all-round opinion-formers, gathered together in Provence to talk, cook and - of course - eat.

That's what happened in late 1970 when James Beard, MFK Fisher (the author of such classic memoirs as Two Towns in Provence), Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones all converged on the South of France. A new book by Fisher's grand-nephew, Luke Barr, evokes that remarkable moment. Click here to read more.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lance Armstrong Rides Again - On Screen

Ben Foster, who recently starred in Ain't Them Bodies Saints, displays clenched-teeth obsession as the disgraced Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong in a new film, as yet untitled. It's currently shooting in the Hautes Alpes, and is overseen by the Oscar-nominated director Stephen (The Queen) Frears. Click here to read more.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Provence's Marathon Men (and Women)

Stand by tomorrow for the Marseille-Cassis (almost) half-marathon, one of the most beautiful competitive races in the world - its route runs over the spectacular Route des Crêtes between the two towns. And, if you're not super-fit, there's always L'Autre Marseille-Cassis, a more leisurely ramble along the same route today. Click here to read more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Women of Provence: As Seen By Men, And By Themselves

A new show at the Musée Regards de Provence in Marseille contrasts portraits of women of Provence, painted by men, with the very different picture that emerges from the writing (diaries, poetry, novels) of the women themselves. Click here to read more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Win a Night in Marseille at Le Corbusier's Radiant City

Those nice folk over at Marseille-Provence Capital of Culture have just launched a super competition to promote the magnificent new show of Le Corbusier's work. By answering one absurdly simple question, you can win a night in Marseille at the Hotel le Corbusier (in the Radiant City housing complex designed by the visionary architect), plus free entry for two to the exhibition - and an evening boat trip to the Frioul Islands. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Full Details, Dates and Route of the 2014 Tour de France

Just announced this morning: full details of the 2014 Tour de France. We already knew the race was starting in Yorkshire but the French stages are all now official. As Provence played a starring role in the 2013 Tour, next year's edition will, as expected, give the south-west and other regions of France a turn, but the cyclists will be skirting the north-west of Provence during one of the stages. Will Britain - whose cyclists won in 2012 and 2013 - make it a hat trick? Click here to read more

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Fiesta of Autumn Music in Marseille

Who says there's nothing going on the Provence outside the summer season? Marseille has a real feast of music for all tastes this month. On this week, the Fiesta des Suds festival of world music has Che Sudaka, Africa Express, Kassav, Monophonics, Temenik Electric and more:. And traditionalists are spoiled too with the city's Festival de musiques classiques et baroques - starting tonight - which offers eleven free concerts of works by Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach and more throughout the autumn. Click here to read more

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jean Cocteau in the Valley of Hell

The Quarries of Lights, just outside Les Baux de Provence, are one of the region's most popular tourist attractions with their spectacular son et lumière shows. But back in 1960 they - and the surrounding Valley of Hell - hosted a very different artistic project, Jean Cocteau's poetic fantasy Le Testament d'Orphée. A current show in Les Baux de Provence features the work of the photographer Lucien Clergue who collaborated with Cocteau to record the shoot. Click here to read more

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Early Autumn Tour of La Ciotat's Calanques and Beaches

OK, so this is just a  little unseasonal (though the weather is still very mild down here in Southern Provence - and even milder in La Ciotat, which a little more sheltered than we are from the Mistral north-west wind). It's still warm enough for a stroll along the beach or a little hike to one of the calanques. And La Ciotat is well-placed for both these activities, as many of its beaches and its three calanques are all easily within walking distance of the town centre. Its calanques will surprise you, too, if you're familiar with the ones around Marseille and Cassis - they're rich deep red and covered with pine trees! Now that the crowds are gone and the coast is - literally - clear, we decided to go along recently to check them out. Click here to read more.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Le Corbusier: Provence's Must-See Show Of The Autumn

So you thought Le Corbusier was purely an architect and interior designer? Think again. A new must-see show in Marseille reveals his ceramics, tapestries, enamels, wooden sculptures, cubist paintings, even erotic sketches... The range of his interests is amazing.

It's called Le Corbusier et la question du brutalisme (Le Corbusier and the Question of Brutalism), but I suspect most people will use the snappier alternative title: LC at the J1. The exhibition is at the end of the J1 Hangar, a ferry pier being used an exhibition space with amazing views across the sea to the MuCEM, the Cathedral and the port from where Le Corbu often sailed on his travels.

I went along to the J1 yesterday on a press visit introduced by the curator, the Marseille architect and Le Corbusier expert Jacques Sbriglio, who was passionate and fascinating about the show. Click here to read more

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monumental Eats in the Gorges du Verdun

Not many people go touring in the Gorges du Verdon in the autumn but to my mind the early fall is a great time to experience these magnificent landscapes away from the crowds. If you're doing so, here's our inside tip for a fantastic place to eat just outside Castellane, one of the starting points to enter the Gorges. And, if you're hiking or biking to work up an appetite, even better: the portions are enormous, the food delicious and the bill entirely affordable. Click here to read more.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

2600 Years of History - in a Shopping Mall

A museum in a shopping mall? You'd better believe it. The Musée d'Histoire de Marseille (Museum of Marseille History) has just reopened after being closed for several years for a complete facelift - and it's a winner. If you have previously visited the museum before the makeover, forget those dark, dusty and cramped premises. The building has been hugely expended and it's now the largest history museum in France and one of the largest in Europe. And it's not just all about size: here is a collection of unique and priceless objects dating back to 600 BC and earlier and, what's more, almost all sourced from within a few kilometres' radius. This is now one of the best museums in Marseille. Click here to read more

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Turning Japanese in Marseille

It's a little-known fact that Marseille has its own Japanese Garden, complete with zen areas and a tea pavillion. You'd think the hot, windy, dry weather on this part of the Mediterranean coast would forbid planting oriental shrubs, but, thanks to the use of humidifiers and soil modifications, dozens of Japanese trees, shrubs and flowers manage to flourish in a corner of the Parc Borély. And each year a traditional Japanese Festival of Autumn is held in this peaceful spot. Click here to read more.