Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

That was the news at the press conference this week as the final panel of the grotte Cosquer reconstruction was unveiled.

‘Cosquer Mediterranée’ will recreate the prehistoric cave paintings which exist 35m below sea-level near Marseille in an underwater labrynth investigated by speleologist Henri Cosquer.

Of course 20,000 years ago, the cave-dwellers could wander in and out of these dwellings where they drew the wild-life of their habitat: sea animals, bison, penguins, horses and seals. How did they do this? Presumably by the light of torches or oil lamps.  And why?  It could be either for religious reasons, or under artistic impulse.  The mysteries will be explored at the new centre.

Visitors will go down to the underground part of the building and tour the replica cave walls in 6-seater modules which glide across water, to make the experience as life-like as possible.  A commentary will explain the background to the images.  The exhibition has been painstakingly put together over 18 months by the agencies responsible for recreating the grotte Chauvet in the Ardeche.

The new attraction will be housed in the Villa Mediterranée which is next to MuCEM by the port of Marseille.

This building, which cost 73 million euros to build in 2013, and around 1 million p.a. to maintain, was supposed to be for a Mediterranean Parliament, then for exhibitions.  It closed 5 years later and has been the subject of much debate and ‘polemique’ since then.

The opening has been announced for the beginning of June.  Yes, those of us around in 2013 have heard all this before but La Provence declare the project ‘dans les starting blocks’; it would certainly be a timely opening for the summer tourist season.

Details: https://www.grotte-cosquer.com/en/  This includes videos of the original cave and much background detail.  As can be seen below, this group of horses is already threatened by rising sea level.

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Local teachers Fabienne and Chantal, who specialise in teaching French via personalised walking tours of Aix, are introducing hour-and-a-half group sessions for people at B1 level and over (*).

Where? Book In Bar, rue Joseph Cabassol, Aix

Cost? 30 euros per session.

Details: email destination.francais@ymail.com

(*) To test your level of French, click below:

Niveau B1:
Niveau B2

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Marvellous Marseille…

is the theme for a big exhibition opening in the town this month.  ‘Marseille de Port en Ports’ celebrates its astonishing geography, colour and light – and its 57 km coastline with 20 ports which range from fishing villages, holiday boat marinas, cruise-ship terminals and the bustling commercial docks, not forgetting the historical heart which is the Vieux Port.

The Musee Regards de Provence has pulled together 160 paintings and photographs from its own collection as well as museums, private collections and archives across town.

What an artistic feast it promises to be! (more…)

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Paul Taylor, a popular British/Irish comedian who performs mainly in France, has a show in Aix next week.

At the Pasino, 25th November, 20.30.  Tickets from 26 euros.  Lots of video streams via Google if you  want to check him out first.  Thanks to Sophie for the heads-up on this one.

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As January 1st 2019 dawned, St Remy-resident Ralph Padgett, was brimful of enthusiasm for a very special challenge: he planned to spend the year spotting 200 birds in France.  Having given his wife Gayle solid support for her year researching and writing ‘Passion for Provence’, charting the American couple’s establishment of their new French life, now he was asking for solid support for his project.

Gayle writes: ‘ I envisioned staying in charming inns, enjoying gastronomic delights and sipping local wines. I’d roam quaint villages, find inventive artisans and discover unusual festivals’. Markets and spas were on her agenda too.

But were these places that birds hang out?  Or do they gravitate to sewage treatment plants, landfill sites, marshes or wind-swept mountain sides.

Living near the Carmargue, home was a good place to start, and the first month went so well with 76 birds spotted;  but of course these were the easiest to see, and as the months rolled by, the challenge grew as the more secretive species were sought.  The couple visited  the Pyrenees, St Jean de Lux, Aix, Barcelonette, the Cote d’Azur as well as Erquy in the north.

So…did Gayle find charming inns and markets?  And did Ralph track down 200 of his feathered friends?

‘The Birdwatcher’s Wife’ is a fascinating mix of travelogue and the hidden world of birdwatchers.  I think it would make an interesting and welcome Christmas present for Francophiles and nature-lovers alike.

Now available in bookstores and also online at Amazon, print and Kindle.

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It’s hard to believe but it’s ten years since Aixcentric began: (more…)

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The new Frank Gehry designed tower opens to the public on Saturday 26 June.

Long-time Aixcentric followers will have read about the development of the old SNCF railway sheds and shunting yards into LUMA Arles, a stylish arts centre, funded by Swiss industrialist and art-lover Maja Hoffman.

Hopefully the photo below will give you an idea of the scale of the ‘Parc des Ateliers’ site:  the large building with the blue-grey roof was a factory for making engines, and has been open for a couple of years for exhibitions.  Then there are various industrial buildings which were being converted when we visited, and past them (to the left of the photo), the new tower designed by US Architect Frank Gehry.   The whole 20-acre site will be a centre for studios, workshops, research, exhibitions, and link into the annual ‘Les Rencontres d’Arles’ photography show which takes over every square inch of space in the old town each summer, barring pandemics.

Reservations are necessary.

Full details are here: https://mailchi.mp/ae2aa955220b/j-8806802?e=22370d79db

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On Sunday, MSC Seaside set off for Sicily with an experimental group of 339 passengers instead of the usual 5000.

All being well, cruise ship holidays can resume in France on 30 June (Italy restarted in May), and the first boats leave Marseille on 4 July.  MSC say that they are strictly observing all protocols for passenger safety.

The dockside shops and ‘petit train’ operators must be heaving sighs of relief.


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For its fourth season, the Villa Carmignac presents The Imaginary Sea (La Mer imaginaire), an ideal subject for this idiosyncratic gallery:  part of it is housed in an old building with views to the sea below, while the other part is underground, a modern exhibition space beneath a glass-bottomed pool.  The water casts magical ripples across the gallery walls.

See a review from my visit in 2018; https://aixcentric.com/2018/09/20/fondation-carmignac-at-porquerolles-not-to-be-missed/

Visitors this summer will see works from its collection: Bruce Nauman’s fountain with a hundred bronze fish, Miquel Barceló’s subaqueous fresco and Jeff Koons’s sculpture of a lobster perched on a chair, among others.  Plus there are several loans of works by French and international artists such as Henri Matisse, Gilles Aillaud, Mathieu Mercier or Gabriel Orozco, complete the ensemble along with new productions by Bianca Bondi, Miquel Barceló, Lin May Saeed, Kate Newby and Hubert Duprat, which were created for this occasion.

It’s such a special place to visit.  The boat-ride over to the island itself is memorable as is the picturesque port.

The gallery is a short, 15 minute walk up from the landing stage.

Obviously pre-booking is necessary now under the new sanitary regulations, but it always was needed as only 50 people are admitted every half-hour.

Lots of details here: https://aixcentric.com/2018/09/20/visiting-porquerolles/

And after all that ‘Mer Imaginaire’, what nicer than to swim in the real sea at the nearby Plage Notre Dame, so often listed in ‘Europe’s Top Beaches’ articles.

Plage Notre-Dame, one of Europe’s top beaches…at Porquerolles


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Wise communities are shifting their emphasis on to the outdoors this summer – here are two current shows you might enjoy. (more…)

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