Surviving Provence is a humorous account of the people (and animals) who share author Barbara Farber’s  daily life in the South of France.  It is a far cry, she explains, from an ode to lavender and sunflowers.

She writes: “Although my husband and I were both born in the United States, we have spent the greater part of our lives in Europe, mostly in The Netherlands. Leaving our working years and Amsterdam behind us, we settled into our huge white elephant of a house in Provence. 

The house is the star of the book.  It has been a setting for TV soup commercials, oversized women’s clothes for a Swiss mail order catalogue, and fashion photography of very chic men’s underwear with a sexy Los Angeles male model, who posed in very minimal shorts, outside in November, smiling and shivering the whole time.  The newest model of Peugeot was unveiled on our terrace.  Several TV series, almost always involving a murder or kidnapping, brought film crews for weeks.

The first chapter, The House, tells an intriguing, bizarre and, sometimes, sad tale of this old house we now live in as the first non-family member.  It recounts how we came to buy it, the history of the family, the role it played during the Vichy regime and it’s super-natural vibes.

Of course food and wine play an important role.  The French have very precise eating and drinking habits, quite different from our Anglo-Saxon ways.  There are no restaurant recommendations, only wonderful Provençal recipes and descriptions of disastrous dinner parties, mine, as well as some to which we have been invited.

 “The chapter Social life gives a funny twist to relations with the local garage mechanic, the post office lady, the chicken vendor at the weekly market, the pharmacist, our wine producing neighbour, hunters, beekeepers, and the  sympathetic veterinarian.”  Barbara includes anecdotes on her local plumber with his use of “quaint” Provençal expletives,  super sensitive shutter painters, a tree cutter who talks to their plane trees and a very Zen gardener, all  described with a sympathetic eye to their follies and foibles.

All aspects of living in Provence are described: “Rabbits and wild boars destroy our well-manicured grass.  The post office lady in her yellow car gives cookies to our three dogs when she delivers our mail.  A small dog drinks beer at a local café with his master.”

The author:  Barbara Farber was born in New Jersey, USA but has spent most of her life in Europe.  She has lived in Brussels, Zurich and for 35 years in Amsterdam where she founded a contemporary art gallery.   After moving to Provence, she continued to be involved with art as a collector.  She has written numerous articles for various magazines.  This is her first book.

‘Surviving Provence’ is available from Book-in-Bar in rue Joseph Cabassol, Aix, and will shortly be listed on Amazon.

















A major expansion of the airport has been announced with British architect Norman Foster winning the design contract. Airports are in keen competition with each other and Marseille Provence wants to be able to welcome 11 million passengers a year by 2025.

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Volotea has announced that Marseille is to be its new hub.  And from April 2018, it is adding 8 new destinations, to make 18 in all leaving from our local airport. Continue Reading »

After Sunday’s International carol concert in the Cathedral, there are two national carol services to look forward to.  The German concert takes place at the ancient Eglise St Jean de Malte on Saturday 9th December at 16:00hrs.  It will be followed by Glühwein (vin chaud) and Christstollen.

Then the Swedish celebration of the feast of Sainte-Lucie takes place at the Cathedral on Wednesday 13th December at 18:00hrs. It’s a beautiful ceremony with the young Swedes in procession with lighted candles through the darkened church.  Afterwards, there’s vin chaud in the cloisters of the old College des Precheurs. http://www.aixenprovencetourism.com/fr/fiche/29825/

Picard always come up with new goods for Christmas and this year is no exception with 65 new products in their range.

The headline act is their bûche de Noel, dreamed up and realised by Christophe Michalak a ‘grand nom de la pâtisserie’, previously chef at the Plaza Athénée.  Continue Reading »

On Wednesday 13th December, the Club du 7e Etage will meet for luncheon and a roundtable discussion of “theatrical creativity” led by CNRS researcher, Cédric Parizot.

Organiser Peter Gillespie writes: ‘Cédric Parizot, is interested in “political theatre” and the dynamics of co-creation, most recently co-writing theatrical productions at the Aix-en-Provence school for the circus arts, CIAM (Centre International des Arts en Mouvement) and in Arles, where he co-wrote with theatre director, Vincent Berhault, a play entitled Entre. Cirque Anthropologique.  Cédric is a member of the Board of the Aix-Marseille University Institute for Advanced Research, IMéRA (Institut Méditerranéen pour la Recherche Avancé), a conscious effort to reproduce the creative synergies of the Princeton University Institute for Advanced Study, a concept of residency and co-creation that matches high level scientists with working artists.

As an anthropologist and political scientist, Cédric is interested in exploring the creative spaces that sometimes are called up when logical systems are confronted. His professional interests began with a focus on  “political” and “anthropological”  interaction in Palestine in the context of Israel-Palestine security and lifestyle confrontations. As a researcher working in a Mediterranean context his work also deals with the kinds of confrontations created by jobs- and adventure-starved sub-Saharan Africans who will risk everything for a chance at riches and fame in the European promised land. Or again, the confrontations at the heart of democratic society, that drive social relations between communities of collective consciousness, that bind individuals and create social integration. These social relations form the basis for the social contract that guarantees group cohesion and social peace. Democratic governance is ultimately responsible for the presence or absence of social dialogue but it is society that must answer for the absence of dialogue, a perfect background for political theatre.

Venue:  The December luncheon will be hosted at the Bio-Coop La Coumpagnié, a “whole foods” grocery that offers a cafeteria-style buffet prepared and served by dedicated staff.  Attendees will gather at noon, be seated for lunch at 12h30 and open the session for discussion at 13h00.

Directions: To get to the Bio-coop, exit the D9 (divided highway to Vitrolles) at La Pioline. At the exit roundabout, turn right onto Avenue Guillaume du Vair (the main strip on the Pioline shopping district). Exit the next roundabout, (in front of the Volkswagen dealership) at the third exit. Cross over the Arc River to the next roundabout. Take a right and follow Avenue du Camp de Menthe for about 400 meters. You will find La Coumpagnié on the left hand side. There is plenty of parking on site.

Reserving your place: Please confirm your attendance with a short e-mail to Peter (p.gillespie@wordcraft.pro).

A reminder that Monday is the feast of Ste Barbe, the official day for planting your blé d’ésperance. If you are new to the area, this is the mix of seeds sold in little packets everywhere in town for 1€. The custom is to germinate the seeds on damp fabric on the window-sill so that you soon have lovely green shoots. You tie a red satin ribbon around them and place them on your Christmas Eve table as a pretty Provençal centrepiece and to ensure prosperity for the following year.

The commercialisation of this ancient custom took off 25 years ago when a group of local people began selling the seeds specifically to raise money to decorate areas of hospitals in Marseille where children are treated. Colourful panels, bright decorations and toys can transform the usual sterility of the hospital environment and make it less frightening. ‘Un enfant qui joue, c’est déja un enfant qui va mieux’ is the philosophy.

I don’t think all the packs of seeds sold are for charity, but maybe it’s just as good to help people willing to sit in the cold wind to make a little money at Christmas-time.