Archive for the ‘Patrimoine’ Category

At last – and it’s official: (more…)

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Two Cycle Races for 2021

The itinerary for the 2021 Tour de France has been published and happily there will be a chance to watch it in person in Provence.


The key date for us is Wednesday 7th July when the intrepid cyclists will face a double ascent of the iconic Mont Ventoux, on the same day. The gruelling climb will feature twice on Stage 11, with riders starting on the easiest of the three sides at Sault – 26km at an average gradient of 4.6 per cent – then tackling its hardest side from Bedoin – 21km at 7.5 per cent.

Going to watch the Tour de France is, in my book, an unforgettable experience.  Sure there’s lots of waiting around as you have to bag your spot early but the atmosphere, the colourful ‘caravan’ procession, and finally the cyclists whizzing past make it worthwhile.  The good thing about these long climbs is that there are lots of vantage points and the riders are slowed down by the gradient.

In the meantime, there’s the Tour de la Provence which takes place 11-14th February 2021.  Not much detail online yet – will post when it’s available.




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The BBC have just screened a documentary on the fire at Notre Dame which had me on the edge of the sofa.

When the raging fire started in the 14th century cathedral on 15 April 2019, there were fears that the priceless structure would be burned to the ground. The pompiers arrived fast and viewers shared their efforts to prevent catastrophic damage to the building’s interior. This documentary analyses how the fire began, featuring footage from film-makers the Naudet brothers and testimony from the firefighters themselves.

The head of the Paris Fire brigade was shown making literally life-or-death decisions; we saw a young pompier only just qualified, on her first call-out climbing the tight spiral staircase in intense heat with 30kg of equipment on her back; the arrival of a shell-shocked President Macron was filmed; and we witnessed the complex saving of relics which included Christ’s crown of thorns.

The pompers wielding high-pressure hoses eventually saved the church from complete destruction and the spontaneous applause of the crowds as they drove back to base was so moving.

‘Storyville: the Night Notre Dame Burned’ is 90 minutes of excellent documentary-making.  Available on BBC i-Player for the next year.  English subtitles for all French interviews.

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Carrieres de Lumieres, the former quarry now centre for immersive art displays, has announced its theme for 2021, and it’s one that should prove popular with the Aixois… (more…)

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Repeat post for new followers

The bells at the cathedral in Aix rang out at 3pm, 11 November 1918, after 1561 days of silence, to mark the end of the fighting.  And by 6pm, the crowds were at the Rotonde to celebrate.

Of the 3000 men mobilised from Aix, 720 were dead, 190 disappeared and 500 left disabled. The story didn’t even end here for those left in the north of France. Despite having been away for four long years, the local regiment was involved in occupation and didn’t arrive back in town until 2nd September 1919.  What a homecoming that must have been.

But when I was writing my book (Aix-en-Provence: The Inside Story) and researching the chapter on the effect of World War 1 on Aix, itIMG_7013 seemed that there was some sort of controversy surrounding the troops from Provence but I couldn’t find details.

Then came ‘La Faute au Midi’, a new book and exhibition, which told it all and it was truly an appalling story.

Here is my post from 2014:


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I was about to add a post about what you could see if you visited the fascinating ‘Musee departementale d’Arles Antique’…. when we were all re-confined to barracks.  So a visit is clearly for another day.

But in the meantime, they have put some interesting info online about the dig that has been progressing on the opposite bank of the Rhone, at Trinquetaille.

Underneath an 18thc glassworks, itself now a ‘monument historique’, they have uncovered a large group of Roman houses, many with mosaic floors.  The fresco in the illustration was found in a first century BC house that they’ve dubbed La Maison de la Harpiste’.  In the style of paintings in Pompei and Herculaneum, it’s unique in France.

The work started in 2013 and is described on this website, which also has links to video clips of the meticulous work undertaken.  http://www.arles-antique.cg13.fr/mdaa_cg13/root/actualitesexpositions_verrerie.html

It does say too that the fresco of the lovely harpist will at some point be transferred to the main museum.  So it will be exhibited alongside the stunning head of Caesar, a fascinating story with a link to Trinquetaille (https://aixcentric.com/2012/10/22/bust-of-caesar-or-is-it/)  and the impressive Roman boat which was painstakingly lifted from the bed of the Rhone and now has its own wing (https://aixcentric.com/2012/02/03/roman-boat-raised-from-the-rhone/).

If you are new to Aix, a visit to this museum (easy to find, lots of parking)

is highly recommended for the WTIAO list….When This Is All Over!

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If you can access the BBC, there’s a light-hearted look at the French Revolution on Friday evening. ‘Royal History’s Biggest Fibs’ is presented by the curator of the UK’s royal palaces, Lucy Worsley, who has a tendency to dress up and join in the fun.  But she is a serious historian and should have interesting insights.

‘In this film, Lucy Worsley explores some of the myths and fibs swirling around the Revolution of 1789 and the uprising that brought down the French royal family. This violent revolution became the blueprint of many future revolutions across the world. But what happened during this turbulent period is open to historical manipulation and interpretation.

Lucy discovers that Marie Antoinette never said ‘Let them eat cake’. This was a fib used by historians to help explain why the revolution happened. Historian Michael Rapport explains how the revolution was not started by starving peasants as many assume but was in fact sparked by a group of lawyers and property owners. Along the way, Lucy finds out that Maximilien Robespierre wasn’t simply a bloodthirsty revolutionary who relished violence and wanted to execute everyone who disagreed with him. In his earlier years, he stood against the death penalty and slavery and fought for the rights of France’s Jewish population. And the guillotine was invented by the revolutionaries not as a brutal punishment but as a more egalitarian and humanitarian form of execution.’

Details: Friday 6th November, 9pm British time; BBC2

Charleston farmhouse, home to the Bloomsbury group, and literary festival, now online

And, online this week, there’s a treat in the form of the annual literary festival at Charleston, the Sussex farmhouse that was the richly-decorated country hang-out for the Bloomsbury Group.

‘Join in conversations with a star-studded line-up including Maggie O’Farrell, Claire Tomalin, Monty Don, Elif Shafak and Carl Zimmer from the comfort of your own home as the Charleston to Charleston Literary Festival goes digital! The 10-day celebration of literature and ideas takes place online from 6 – 15 November with 16 free events.  All sessions premiere at Eastern Standard Time (EST) but most will be available to watch on YouTube after they have been streamed’.  Find out more here: http://www.charlestontocharleston.com/  The programme hasn’t anything specifically French but I’ve included this as probably we all need some diversion during lockdown!


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‘Catastrophe’ is the word used by the traders’ association president to describe the ‘Les Docks’ office, shopping and dining development opposite Les Terrasses du Port.  Housed in beautifully renovated warehouses, the ground-floor thoroughfare was designed to take 80 shops and restaurants.  It opened in October 2015 and my view when I visited was basically that there were several new developments happening across Marseille, especially around the docks, and there’s a limit to what would be commercially viable.  And that was before Covid!  Click here for background: https://aixcentric.com/2016/10/11/marseille-latest-docksshopping-news/ (more…)

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Jas de Bouffan – News

As Aixcentric followers will know, the 18th century country house, Jas de Bouffan, which was home to the Cezanne family for 40 years, was closed over a year

Cezanne painted his home 36 times in oil, and 17 times with watercolour.

ago for renovation.  I went in for a last visit on its last day of opening and my goodness it needed renovation: think cold, damp, pieces of plaster hanging off the walls and ceilings.

It’s a sizable property, 450m2, with a farm, outbuildings, caretaker’s house, a large pond, an orangerie…all in 6 hectares of land, all inside the Aix city boundaries. Work started and was expected to take about 3 years, but of course Covid intervened, and work is just recommencing.  The new target date is 2023.  So what can we expect to see? (more…)

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It’s 9 months since the November morning when fire ripped through Aix’s most famous cafe, Les Deux Garcons.  At last I have some news to report… (more…)

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