Posts Tagged ‘La Provence’

envauI have just happened across this very useful guide to the Calanques tucked away in the La Provence website (more…)

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allureoftheseasIt’s just been announced that this massive ship, the Allure of the Seas, will include Marseille on its Mediterranean itinerary from 2015.

The owner is Royal Caribbean International which has two of these huge boats: they each carry 8000 people (more…)

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Used to the typical British supermarket-scrum at Christmas, I was amazed arriving in Aix at the care and attention that goes into putting together the Provencal Christmas.  My new French friends would recommend this boulanger for the buche de Noel and that cave for the vin cuit.  I also learned about the treize desserts which have graced the table on Christmas Eve from time immemorial. 

But to my surprise this week, I read that these treize desserts are not all that traditional at all.  The current issue of A IMG_6474Table explains that (more…)

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There have been so many MP2013-related events this year across the region that one does have to wonder what next year will be like? Will the momentum continue?  And how successful has the Year of Culture been?

Some stats are emerging, and some details of programmes for 2014.

Apparently museum entries are standing at 530,000 this year in contrast with 220,000 last year. This information from the Marseille town website does not include details of parameters for these statistics – I’m assuming it is for the first three quarters of each year?  I do find this year’s figure surprisingly low considering that both the Musée des Beaux Arts and the  Musée d’Histoire de Marseille were closed last year and neither the gallery J1 nor MUCEM existed.  I guess that many visitors to MUCEM and J1 don’t pay to go into the special exhibitions and wouldn’t be recorded, plus many events have been free.  It will be interesting to see what the final figures are.

Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseille.

Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseille. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway the recent press conference also introduced part of the programme for next year. After the big expo ‘Le Grand Atelier du Midi’, the Musée des Beaux Arts will re-open on 31st January to show its rehung permanent collection.  Then the following month, the Vieille Charité will host ‘Visage: Picasso, Magritte, Warhol…’ from 21st February.  Details on the statistics and the 2014 programme are here: http://www.marseille.fr/sitevdm/jsp/site/Portal.jsp?document_id=19428&portlet_id=8

The budget for all of these events must have been enormous, especially as many were free.  Some of the money came from central government but it must have added a lot to the local burden of debt.  The town of Aix for instance is in the red to the tune of 123,758,000€ which is 852€ per head of population.  This article from La Provence makes sobering reading. http://www.laprovence.com/article/actualites/2564534/la-region-paca-face-au-poids-de-la-dette.html

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Cézanne's statue usually draws a crowd of tourists...

Cézanne’s statue usually draws a crowd of tourists…

Aix is filling up with tourists at the moment, many bussed in from the cruise-ships in Marseille.  What a pity the travaux at the Rotonde are still ongoing – especially with the Tour de France sweeping through on Thursday. 

There is a new official map, available all over town, which is worth getting hold of, for visitors and residents alike.  couverture-PGGB13-UKIt opens out to give a street map of centre-ville plus a map of Pays d’Aix with museums, parks and ideas for family outings marked on it. It also has a list of Cézanne sites, a calendar of annual events and details of local transport.  If you can’t get hold of a paper copy, you can download it here: http://book.aixenprovencetourism.com/aix-documentation.htm

They also have a listing of 507 restaurants and bars in town with a search engine so you can pinpoint the type of cuisine you are looking for.  I hadn’t realised this was available on their website and seems a very useful tool: http://book.aixenprovencetourism.com/aix-restaurants.htm 

Now, regular Aixcentric readers will know how irate I get at the lack of loos in Aix, especially given the numbers of visitors.  I was happy therefore to learn of new facilities at the Rotonde (thanks to Dympna for this info)…but astonished to find that there is only one toilette!  I should imagine the ‘queue for the loo’ will reach epic proportions on Thursday.  Apparently public loos have been installed at the new gare routier so that should help, although it’s a way to sprint from the shops….

There’s a lovely new exhibition in the ‘Les Amis des Arts’ gallery next to the Renoir cinema in the cours Mirabeau.    I don’t know anything about the artist, Jean-Louis Carricondo, but really like the big splashy oils which are exhibited until 8th July. Nature_morte_bleue_448

And finally, there’s a new hors series from La Provence to help you if you would like to get out of town and walk by the water.  ‘En Balade’ July/August has detailsbalades_numero_10_1372247108_85x110 of 10 hikes ‘les pieds dans l’eau’ and also 35 village festivals.  Lots to enjoy!


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Following on from yesterday’s post about the event this evening, I thought in view of the large numbers of you who read it, I had better clarify the timings. I now read in La Provence that the 3 processions set off at 20.30 and congregate at the Rotonde at 22.00, (more…)

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Best-selling author Harlan Coben was due in Aix tomorrow, April 2nd, signing books at Librarie Goulard in the cours Mirabeau. Luckily I just double-checked the website and it has been cancelled. 

If you want to read about more local skulduggery than Coben’s usual baddies in New York and New Jersey, here is an interesting article about Aix mafia in L’express 28/2/2013 http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/aix-en-provence-la-rancon-de-la-pegre_1225322.html  Thanks to Anne for this link.

CORSES_1362663840_82x110Understanding the local ambiance is fascinating for me.  I have never lived in a place with so many different groups bringing their own distinctive ways of life to the area.  La Provence has published one of their hors-series, Les Corses.  The sub-head is ‘Ils Ont Fait La Provence’ and they really have.  There are interviews with sailors, l’OM players, sports managers, lawyers and artists who all describe their roots back in Corsican villages. Migration has been going on for centuries, from the island to various parts of the south of France, but this accelerated after WW1when there were many unfilled posts in Provence in the civil service and in shipping.  The supplement profiles some of the people whose families were part of this wave and moved into the Panier in Marseille or La Ciotat.  They were mainly large families with extensive connections and so they quickly built up their businesses.  The supplement comes right up to date with info on Corsican delicacies – and les bonnes adresses corses in Marseille, Aix and Nice.  I found it very interesting!  3,50€.

There is also a new issue of ‘En Balade’ at the news kiosks.  Assuming that the sun is one day going to come out, this will be an excellent guide to walking in the Provencal countryside.  They have a list of ten hikes around scenic villages and also details on upcoming village fetes. 

If it does continue to rain this week, the cinema is always a good option. http://www.lescinemasaixois.com/films/prochainement

camusThere’s the adaptation of Camus’ autobiographical book ‘The First Man’ at the Renoir.  In VF and VO (Arabic I guess).

Then lots coming up on Wednesday.  ‘11.6’ is the story of Tony Musulin, security-van man of Lyon who decided, with 11.6m€ in the back to just keep driving……French only but stars Francois Cluzet who is just so watchable!  ‘Secondary Effects’ is the last film from Steven Soderbergh and has had good reviews. VO and VF. ‘Perfect Mothers’ stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as mothers who develop more than a passing interest in each other’s son….and finally there is ‘Quartet’ quarterwhich tells the story of a group of ex-opera singers in a retirement home who put on a special performance. In VO which should mean English but in the case of the wonderful Billy Connolly, maybe not…..

Finally, if you are trying to entertain children in this bad weather, here is a tip sent in.  “My boys went to a birthday party yesterday that was held in part at a Marseille indoor skate park, popularly known as Palais de la glace et de la glisse.   3 euros for the skateboard section, boards and scooters only, must have or can rent helmet  (apparently, BMX is possible but at different times): http://www.palaisomnisports-marseille.com/


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The Sixties as we all know were the years that changed society radically, or, as this new hors-series from La Provence explains, ont mis le monde cul par-dessus tête.

There were the worldwide events: the first man on the moon, the Vietnam war, the Algerian conflict, the assassinations of JFK, Che and Martin Luther King;  there was the explosion of music, the sexual revolution, and political action on the streets; and meanwhile the consumer society was tempting us with telephones, washing machines, short skirts, cars, record-players, 45s and colour TVs.

But what was happening down here in Provence?

All of the above was having an effect of course, as elsewhere in Europe, but the magazine shows some startling areas of change, especially in Marseille which was changing fast.

The tunnel under the Vieux Port was opened in December 1967, after 4 years work.  It replaced the old transporter bridge which carried 200 passengers and 1 vehicle across in a minute and a half.  The new tunnel was capable of handling 100,000 vehicles a day.

A little further along the coast, the corniche JFK was under construction, a road widening from 6m to 23.5m from the plage des Catalans to the Prado; it also incorporated a long concrete seat and pedestrian promenade stretching for 3km.

The Parc Borely area – today a park with cafés and play areas and sandy beaches – was a camping site just across the road from a narrow rocky shore line.  Leading into town the autoroute Nord was extended, in 1967, to reach the Porte d’Aix; interesting that today massive roadworks are taking place, a marche arriere, to liberate the Porte d’Aix from all the polluting traffic.

I was astonished to read that Marseille had a bull-ring (see photo); this closed in 1962.  Also astonishing the condition of the lovely Vieille Charité which, having been a barracks, was squatted and in an appalling state. The restoration started in 1968 and the building today houses a museum and galleries for temporary expos.

The lovely cours d’Estienne d’Orves was filled, in 1965, with a nasty concrete multistorey car-park which thankfully got demolished 20 years later.  Now the square is full of sunny café terraces and the cars are all underground.

Here is a link to some more photos of 60s Marseille:


The magazine covers lots of other interesting things: favourite names of the 60s (Philippe and Nathalie), the building of Marseille Airport, the impact of the 1968 protests in Provence, the growth of Cadarache, the digging of the Canal de Provence, the death of Tommy Simpson on Mont Ventoux – so much.  It’s 2,80€ which has to be the bargain of the week!

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The best way to chill your rosé, I learn from ‘A Table’, La Provence’s latest publication, is to tie a string around its neck and drag it through the sea from the back of your boat.  And here’s me faffing around with a fridge all these years!  But much of the advice in the magazine is pertinent:

There’s a listing of the region’s top rosés, including choices from local sommeliers but also usefully listing the top 3 from each of the usual supermarkets eg Carrefour’s best rosés etc.

Foodwise, there’s advice on how to put together a truly Provençal cheese-platter – Brousse du Rove, Tome d’Arles, Petit chevre frais, Picodon and Banon – plus tips on putting together a good picnic.

There are reviews of the region’s ’10 restos trendy’ and their verdict on which hotel is best for eating – Mama Shelter or the Radisson Blu.  (The former gets a limited thumbs up but the reviewer wasn’t enthusiastic about either……)

A good read – at kiosks from this weekend, 2€80.

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