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TILLEULI had no idea France has a Tree of the Year competition…and am delighted to introduce the winning tree from Provence, a 33 metre-tall, 5 centuries old tilleul or lime-tree which grows on a farm near Banon.

It is on the archaeologically-rich site of an ancient oppidum, an area that later attracted two pilgrimages a year.  The tree itself is fed by two nearby springs.

What a fabulous specimen it is!  But was it fabulous enough to win the national award of Arbre de l’Année? Continue Reading »

segwayHow well do you know Provence?  Would you like to try a new activity locally? Do you need some inspiration for visiting friends and family?  If so, the annual ‘Bienvenue Chez Vous’ could help.  Over 200 organisations are offering one free entry or experience for every paid ticket, at weekends until 2nd November.

The visits around Aix are mainly Cézanne-themed guided tours but venture farther afield and it gets  more interesting and adventure-based.  All 6 départements in PACA have offers – map and list here: http://bienvenuechezvous.regionpaca.fr/2014/les-visites

Parapente is one of the experiences offered by 'Bienvenue Chez Vous'

Parapente is one of the experiences offered by ‘Bienvenue Chez Vous’

 

This Sunday sees a second play in the series which brings London performances to Aix: ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ will be transmitted at the Renaissance Hotel in Aix:  2:30, Sunday Oct 19th.

West End play and tea on Sunday in the luxurious Hotel Rennaissance

West End play and tea on Sunday in the luxurious Hotel Rennaissance

This has to be the deal of the month!

  • Experience live West End theatre with a highly-praised performance by Gillian Anderson
  • Enjoy an afternoon in Aix’s glittering new 5* hotel
  • Tuck into a top-notch English tea

….all for 25€.  To reserve, you must book on line and then print the tickets and bring them along.  The hotel cannot print them nor will it have a separate record of the purchase.  The website is https://www.weezevent.com/a-streetcar-named-desire   

Review from The Guardian follows: 

American classics are currently getting a theatrical makeover. We’ve seenA View From the Bridge played as spartan Greek tragedy and The Crucible as a visceral study of a racked community.

Now Benedict Andrews, responsible for a startling Young Vic Three Sisters, gives Tennessee Williams‘s play a radical new twist; and, while there is loss as well as gain, there’s no doubt that Gillian Anderson gives a stellar performance as Blanche DuBois.

Andrews’s big idea is to keep the acting space in perpetual motion. In Magda Willi’s design, the stage is a skeletal rectangle that revolves constantly. The result is that we get a shifting perspective on the home in New Orleans where Blanche, in flight from her Southern past, has come to stay with her sister, Stella, and her unwelcoming brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.

At one point, for instance, we are invited to gaze on three simultaneous actions: a card game between Stanley and his boozy mates; a private chat between Blanche and an admirer; and Stella brushing her teeth in the bathroom.

The shifting focus sometimes becomes a distraction and makes the dialogue hard to hear: just as you’re getting into a scene, the characters float out of view. It is more important, I believe, that the play rather than the stage should be moving.

But there are other times when the rotating stage works to the play’s advantage. In the scene where Stanley overhears Blanche condemning him as an animal with something sub-human about him, we get a sudden close-up of him and a vivid idea of the rancour the statement breeds. More explosively, we also get an intimate glimpse of the passionate love-making between Stella and Stanley after they have engaged in one of their periodic domestic rows.

However, the real test of any production of Williams’s play is whether it allows you to see each character’s point of view. If Blanche is simply played as a cracked Southern belle and Stanley as a coarse brute, the play descends into melodrama. But here Gillian Anderson captures both Blanche’s airy pretensions to grandeur and her desolate loneliness. Her Blanche is a deeply sensuous, tactile woman whose natural instinct is to stroke Stanley’s hairy forearms or to provocatively disrobe in front of a flimsy curtain. But Anderson also conveys Blanche’s emotional solitude: she is especially fine in the scene with her nervous beau, Mitch, where you sense two helpless people desperately reaching out to each other.

Ben Foster equally plays Stanley as a deeply physical man whose natural instinct when crossed is to lash out. There is something dangerous about this sweaty, tattooed, close-cropped Stanley who has recently been discharged from the military and who has not lost his combative instinct. At the same time, you understand his refusal to be patronised and insulted by his affected sister-in-law. And there is a first-rate performance from Vanessa Kirby as Stella: a loving, straightforward woman whose first loyalty is to Stanley but who finds herself becoming a reluctant battle-zone in which the other characters wage their war.

Marseille is changing so so fast.  The Terrasses du Port which opened this spring provides a 21st century, glossy, global shopping experience with chic restaurants with white linen-clad tables overlooking la grande bleue. 

New shops are transforming the vaults beneath the Cathedral

New shops are transforming the vaults beneath the Cathedral

And just steps away, the vaults beneath the majestic Cathedral are being transformed into equally glamorous shops and cafés, stretching all the way along to MUCEM.

It’s all perfect for the influx of passengers from the cruise-ships and should provide good income for all these well-known brands.

But what’s interesting is that local enterprise seems to be stepping up to the mark and coming up with products and services that perhaps, in this age of homogeneity, are what we all like to find.

For instance, Continue Reading »

capitalofsportMarseille has won its bid to become the European Capital of Sport 2017.  It was announced yesterday that it had beaten Continue Reading »

There will be stoppages across the network from today (Tuesday) to Friday 17th:Reseau-Aix-en-Bus_large Continue Reading »

…or rats de bibliotheque as the French say.  Two events to mark on your calendars, both at Book In Bar.

NorthangerAbbeyJane Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ is the subject of the English Book Club this month and there is still time to read it!  Catherine Morland, the heroine, is invited to Bath where she experiences the delights of fashionable society for the first time.  She is young and naïve, and falls under the spell of brother and sister Henry and Eleanor Tilney who invite her to their gothic home, Northanger Abbey.

A fun accompaniment to this is ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Val McDermid. Recently, modern novelists have been given the opportunity to update Jane Austen – Joanna Trollope has had a go at ‘Sense and Sensibility’  and best-selling Scottish crime writer Val Mc Dermid has given Northanger Abbey a contemporary twist by sending Cat, a naïve vicar’s daughter off to the Edinburgh Festival!

At Book In Bar, rue Joseph Cabassol; October 23rd, 17:30.

Much nearer to home is American novelist Mary Lou Longworth who has just published the fourth in her detective series set in Provence.   ‘Murder on the Ile Sordou’ is set on a peaceful island off the coast of Marseille.  The two main characters Verlaque and Bonnet go on vacation there for the Grand Opening of their friend’s hotel but someone has other plans…sordou

Mary Lou’s other novels, which started with ‘Death at the Chateau Bremont’, are all firmly rooted in Aix and its surrounding countryside – great fun to read about characters living in the Quartier Mazarin, shopping in the Place des Precheurs or drinking in Cours Mirabeau cafés.  I haven’t read this one yet but it promises to have all the fun and local colour of the others.

mllYou can buy the book and have it signed by Mary Lou herself at Book In Bar on Saturday, November 15th, 17:30.