Sunday, January 19, 2014

Discover Pagnol in the Hills of Aubagne

Each year, just outside Marseille, a group of actors offers a season of all-day hikes combined with theatrical performances. These are a really brilliant experience. As you hike through the craggy hills of Aubagne and Allauch, you watch (and play an extra in) a show dramatising Marcel Pagnol's work in the very landscapes where it's set. Previous plays have told the celebrated story of Manon des Sources or been based on the charming comedy The Baker's Wife. This year there's a new spectacle inspired by Pagnol's 1938 satire, Le Schpountz, about a naive bumpkin who fantasises about becoming a movie star (it originally starred the popular local actor Fernandel, seen on the pster above). Click here to read more

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Memories of the First World War in Provence

The centenary of the beginning of the First World War will be marked in many ways across Europe, and one of the first examples is in Avignon, which is staging an exhibition of the drawings of the Belgian symbolist artist Henry de Groux.  Born in 1866, de Groux would have been too old to fight in the war, but he spent time at the front in the Marne and hauntingly captured the horrors he saw there. Around 40 of his powerful pieces are on display in the foyer of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) from 7 February to 9 March. Pictured  above: L'Assaut, Verdun. And there's plenty more to come in the course of the year. Click here to read more

Friday, January 17, 2014

A New Comic-Strip Tramway For Aubagne

How do you fancy these chaps and chapettes as fellow commuters? When the town of Aubagne, just outside Marseille, decided to install a new tramway system, it also commissioned a leading artist to design it. The choice fell on Hervé Di Rosa, who hails from Sète, just along the coast. Di Rosa is a leading practitioner of bandes dessinées (graphic novels) and one of his most popular characters, the jolly one-eyed René, inspired these designs. Click here to read more

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Enrolment Opens For The World's Most Romantic Swimming Race

One of the world's most romantic swimming races must surely be the Monte Cristo Challenge. Each year in June some 700 swimmers in Marseille set off from the Château d'If, inspired by Edmund Dantès, the hero of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The 2014 dates have just been confirmed, as is the day when online enrolment opens/ Click here to read more

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Explosion of Gold at the Quarries of Lights

The Quarries of Lights, one of the major attractions in the Avignon / Saint Rémy de Provence area, are temporarily closed while a brand-new show for 2014 is being installed. But here's a preview of what to expect when they reopen in March: an explosion of gold and colour courtesy of Gustav Klimt (the author of the famous Kiss, which you can glimpse in the simulation of the spectacle, pictured above), plus other painters of the Viennese school. And, while you're waiting, the Quarries online shop has a sale, with heavy discounts on merchandise linked to the 2013 show, including pretty notebooks, mugs and so on with a Renoir or Monet theme. Click here to read more

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Horsing About in Avignon

A midwinter highlight in Avignon, Cheval Passion (Horse Passion) is a celebration of all things equestrian. One of the leading events of its kind in Europe, it features 1,200 horses, 250 exhibitors and 90 hours of events and performances in 2014 -  and it gallops off this week. Click here to read more

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Mysterious Opéra Noir Comes To Marseille

There's a mysterious new arrival in central Marseille: inaugurated yesterday, the Opéra Noir is an architectural and sound installation on the place Lulli, just behind the real Opéra de Marseille, of which it is an eerie shadow. Click here to read more

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marseille's Low-Cost Air Terminal Gets A Facelift

With its long queues at security checks and cramped conditions in the departure lounge, mp2, the low-cost air terminal at Marseille-Provence airport, is miserable to fly to and from. It currently scores one of the lowest marks on the scale of standards set by Iata, the trade association which represents the international airline industry. But that's about to change - and not before time. In 2014 a 4.9 million €uro investment programme will expand and improve the facilities. Click here to read more

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Feast Fit For Three Kings

Happy New Year -- and the party still isn't over in Provence! Christmas celebrations down here rumble on into early February but this month's highlight is the Epiphany festivities. First off are the delicious brioches des rois glowing temptingly in bakeries all over the region. And, if you're in Aix, you might take a look at the Marche des Rois, the procession through town of the Three Kings, accompanied by their camels. Click here to read more