Monday, September 8, 2014

The Journées du Patrimoine is Sept 20 + 21

It's that time again: The wonderful annual Journées du Patrimoine event takes place September 20 and 21 in cities and villages all over France; a few have activities on Friday the 19th as well. The program was started by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's also called European Heritage Days). This is the 31st year. The idea is that many historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates and domaines are open for visits...along with many private sites that are normally, um, private. Most sites have a guide on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the visit and most (but not all) offer free entry. Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. The website with all the participating venues is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main Patrimoine website lists just seven participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But the village itself has published its own terrific guide and map featuring 20 participating sites...you can see it here. 

Here are some additional Patrimoine schedules, or at least the best info I could find online: AvignonAixArlesMarseille, NimesUzesCannesBeaucaire,  Cassis, Fos Sur Mer, Vaison la Romaine and the Vaucluse. Beyond that, you're on your own...but here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence and they should be able to help.

Photos: The poster and logo for the nationwide event...and a selection of local posters.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Friend the Rock Star


In 2010, my Canadian friend Carolyne Kauser-Abbott (top photo) convinced her husband Andrew (and Labrador Jade) that a few months in France would be fun...and they stayed for more than a year. They currently split their time between Canmore in the Canadian Rockies, Southern California and Eygalieres in Provence. At home or on the road, Carolyne writes the food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg, creates travel apps under the brand Edible Heritage and does social media consulting. I think of Carolyne and Andrew as extreme travelers: their idea of good fun runs along the lines of biking 100 kilometers to poke around a new village...or flying the ridges of the Alpilles Mountains in a glider...or driving a couple hours to meet a top French cowboy who raises bucking bulls. When Carolyne told me about their latest escapade--climbing the Via Ferrata in Cavaillon—I was completely intrigued...and I asked her to share the info. This is what she sent.

Waiting for the bike technician to check the brakes on my velo, I was thumbing through the random pile of ad flyers promoting local restaurants. One pamphlet caught my eye:  a new Via Ferrata in Cavaillon. This was something I really had to try but it took more than a year to convince my husband to “harness up.”

Via Ferrata (iron road) is an Italian term. The phrase was used to describe alpine military routes created during World War I in the Dolomite Mountains of Northern Italy. Wooden ladder rungs and heavy ropes were installed to fixed points along rocky ledges. These rustic vertical corridors provided somewhat sheltered approaches to the summits for the troops.  

Post-war, the appeal of the Via Ferrata as an adventure activity for non-alpinists became apparent, offering approachable routes to breathtaking European mountaintops. In the 1930s, the Italian Alpine Club began converting makeshift army equipment into more permanent installations (the whole story is here).  

Currently there are more than 1,000 Via Ferratas in Europe including 200-plus in France alone. Two French websites with lots of additional info are here and here. Adventure seekers will be pleased to know that there are several Via Ferratas in Provence.

The “iron road” in Cavaillon opened in June, 2013, about 40 meters up on the cliffs of the 180-meter Saint-Jacques’ Hill overlooking the city. It’s the only Via Ferrata in a European city that’s accessible on foot from downtown. More than 20,000 people have ‘’done’’ it  since the official opening.

There are two loops: the shorter Via Natura that takes about two hours to complete and the four-hour Via Souterrata. On both routes, you’ll be treated to an expansive view of the Durance Valley. Up close, you will enjoy seasonal fauna that sprouts from seemingly impossible perches.

The Cavaillon Via Ferrata is open all year and there is no charge to use it.  However, it’s highly recommended that novices engage one of the certified guides listed on the Cavaillon website here for their first time on the circuit. We chose David Malbos of Vertical Session.

We left our car in the parking lot at the top of the hill on Chemin de l'Hermitage and David welcomed us with a broad smile,  then introduced us to the rest of the group; we were eight in total for this adventure.  David is not only fully certified and clearly passionate about his job--he was one of the early visionaries for the Via Ferrata in Cavaillon. He was involved in all the stages, from the initial proposal in 2011 through environmental studies, design, installation testing and now guiding.  So, I felt that we were in good hands.

After a brief run-through on proper equipment usage, we were ready to start our tour. David did warn us that there is no easing into this Via Ferrata…and he was right! After passing through a spring-loaded gate, you clip onto the first metal wire, descend a few rebar rungs and you’re crossing your first canyon on a single strand of cable.  Despite the fact that the risk of tumbling is nearly impossible, it’s difficult to convince your brain otherwise. 

Our group completed the Via Souterrata in roughly four hours with David’s coaching. I was never afraid of falling as you’re anchored at all times. However, the via ferrata was more physical than I had expected: there’s one notable climbing section, a few suspended crossings and even two short tunnels. Had I checked the website beforehand I would have realized that the Via Souterra loop was ranked TD --très difficile--so although you do not require any rock climbing experience a base level of physical fitness and some time spent in hiking boots will make for a more enjoyable tour. 

All in all, it was a terrific afternoon on the rocks overlooking Cavaillon.  Have a look at this video clip to give you a feeling for the adventure.

When you hire a guide, they’ll provide a helmet and Via Ferrata kit, which includes the harness and necessary clips. In addition, you should wear lightweight hiking shoes, and carry a backpack with water, sunscreen, gloves, an extra layer and a snack.

For more info, the Tourist Office in Cavaillon can be reached on +33 (0)4 90 71 32 01 or via their website here

Photos: Social Climbers! Carolyne...the view...the warning...Carolyne's husband Andrew Abbott...guide David Malbos...another climber...and four folks hanging on by a thread on the Cavaillon Via Ferrata. All photos by Ginger and Nutmeg except final shot, which is by Sam Bie.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Art + Sculpture Show Opens Tonight

Sorry for the short notice on this one, folks. But there's a lovely art show and sale opening tonight so I thought I'd slip it in here quickly. The annual show is called ABBYAC and it's on view through September 7 in the gorgeous gardens of the Abbaye Saint-André (at the hilltop Fort Saint-André) in Villeneuve les Avignon, just across the Rhone from Avignon. Twenty-three artists will be showing sculpture,  engravings,  ceramics and installations. The vernissage (opening party) is tonight, from 6 pm to 9 pm, and everyone is welcome; most artists will be present. Entry tonight and for the duration of the show is 6€ for adults and free for kids under 8; reduced and family prices are available. The show remains on view every day from 10 am to 6 pm. There's parking on the hill so just drive on up...and don't miss the great views of Avignon. The site for the Abbaye (with directions) is here...and there's info in English here...and a bit more info on the show is here. This year's show is in partnership with Galerie 22 in Coustellet.  Bon Weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thinking of Buying in the South of France?

Besides ''Are you married to a Frenchman?" "When will the lavender bloom?" "Do you miss New York?" "How did you come to live in Provence?" "Do you ever go home to the US?" "Do you hang out with Peter Mayle?" and "How's your French?"... the question I'm asked most often is probably ''Is it hard to buy property in France?"

The answers, by the way, are:  no, late May or early June, sometimes, long story, yes, no, better every day...and sort of.

If you're curious about that last one--buying real estate in France--Adrian Leeds can definitely help. She makes her living doing all sorts of things (tv shows, blogging, consulting, writing books, workshops) pertaining to the topic. She's not an advertiser on my blog (but should be!) and she's not a friend of mine (we've never met)...but I know and admire her work. And since she has a mini-conference coming up, I thought I'd share the info because so many people I hear from seem to be dreaming of--or actually planning--to buy in France. 

Adrian is the editor of Parler Paris and Parler Nice (which she calls nouvellettres), and the French Property Insider. She appears frequently on House Hunters International as an expert on French real estate...she's been on 19 episodes since 2006. Adrian and her team provide a wide range of services for buyers, sellers, owners and renters in France; you can read about what they do here.

Adrian will present "Living and Investing in France--Nice and the Côte d'Azur" on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. In her words: "You'll learn how to own a 'pied-à-terre' of your own on the Riviera, in Paris or in the countryside that you can enjoy when you want...or profitably rent when you like...or just make a smart investment, plus ask me all of your questions about owning property in France." Lots more info on the conference is here.

The Mini-Conference Details

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
6:30 pm to 9 pm
The Hotel Ellington, #25 Blvd. Dubouchage, 06000, Nice.
6:30 pm.: Cocktails and registration on the patio
7 pm: Presentation by Adrian Leeds
8 pm: Q & A
9 pm: Cocktails/Snacks on the patio:
   Wine/Beer/Soda 5€ 
   Cocktails/Champagne 8€
   Charcuterie or Cheese 8€
Entry fee: 35€ advance, 45€ at the door. Limited seating available. To book for the conference, click here. For general inquiries, email or call: info@adrianleeds.com or +1 (877) 880 0265.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Big Lavender Festivals Coming Up

Provence produces nearly 80% of the world’s lavender and the famously alluring flower blankets the countryside every  June and July. That’s when lavender perfumes the breeze…lush rows stripe the countryside in soft-violet-to-inky-blue hues...and traffic slows to an escargot’s pace as travelers leap from rented Renaults trying to snap the perfect photo.  Harvesting continues through September and is mostly mechanized although, in some areas, lavender is still cut by hand and collected in cloth sacks slung over the back. Today, about 20,000 acres of lavender flourishes here annually although most of it is reserved for the making of cosmetics and perfumes (the name comes from the Latin lavare: to wash). It’s hard to find a farmhouse in Provence without at least one lavender bush...and if it weren’t for good old Lavandula, many Provencal painters (and postcard makers!) might go broke. Toodling round the South of France you'll find lavender lurking everywhere: in sachets, in digestifs, in dishes savory and sweet.

The best way to experience the purple reign is out in the shimmering fields…but alas you’re too late for that this year. Still, there are plenty of ways to experience lavender this month, such as a visit to the Lavender Museum (Musée de la Lavande) in the Luberon town of Coustellet. They do a great job of explaining the process of lavender production with interesting exhibits and good English info. It’s popular with tour groups, smells great inside, and offers the ultimate “if they made it with lavender, we sell it” gift shop (€6, daily 9 to 7, thelavendermuseum.com, 04 90 76 91 23). It’s just off D-900 toward Gordes.

You can also visit lavender farms and distilleries both during the growing season and afterwards; more on that appears below.

The main commercial lavender-growing area is the triangle between Sault, Banon and Sederon, and another prominent area spreads out on the other side of Mont Ventoux, north of Nyons. The Tourist Offices in those areas will have info on which distilleries and farms you can visit when...and they’ll give you a “Lavender Route” map.

But a really great way to celebrate lavender at harvest time is at a lavender festival. The one in the village of Valreas has already come and gone but two biggies are coming up, in the villages of Sault and Digne les Bains. The village fathers graciously planned them a week apart, so you can hit both. Here’s all the info.

SAULT LAVENDER FESTIVAL

The 29th annual Fete de la Lavande is August 15, 2014. Most activities happen at the Hippodrome du Defends and there’s shuttle service from the village center. 

The day begins with mass at 9:30 at l'Eglise Notre Dame de la Tour and the festival opens officially at 10 am. Ongoing all day are a book fair, art exhibit and sale, arts-and-crafts crafts show, pony rides, a lavender field in Centre Ville, lavender ice cream and much more.  Here’s the rest of the schedule:

10:30 & 3:00 pm: Folkloric parade and exhibition of agricultural equipment.

11:45: Award ceremony for lavender championships.

12:30: Picnic. Open to the public; more info is here. Tickets are 21 euro per person and you can book ahead(04 90 64 01 21) or, if there’s space, join in the day of. 

2 pm:  Workshops and demos on everything you can do with lavender such as essential oils, bouquets, etc.

3 pm: Presentation of the parade groups.

3:30 pm: Lavender games.

5:00 pm: Sault choir concert.

To see the schedule in a PDF, click here.

For more info : 04 90 64 02 30,  contact@fetedelalavande.fr, fetedelalavande.fr.

For general info about the village: saultenprovence.com.

LAVENDER FAIR IN DIGNE LES BAINS

The 93rd annual Foire de la Lavande,  runs from August 21 to 25, 2014. There will be 200 exhibitors, food and local products, performances, an art exhibit, demos of the distilling process, a golf tournament, a guided distillery visit, guided lavender walks, evening entertainment and much more.  All events are free and virtually all take place in the village center, on the Place du General de Gaulle.  The hours are 10 am to 8:30 pm daily. Local restaurants will b offering special menus for the duration of the fest. For more info :  04, 92 31 05 20, foire-lavande@wanadoo.fr, foire-lavande.com

CAN'T MAKE IT TO THE FESTIVALS?

Sault is considered the epicenter of commercial lavender farming in Provence and their Tourist Office can provide great lavender info. Some farms and distilleries around Sault that welcome the public, depending on the day and the season, are:

*Les Lavandes du Gaec Champelle. A large farm with a pretty little shop ; they’ll happily offer you a tour if you reserve ahead, a couple days in advance if possible. They don’t speak much English but they’ll do their best. They have roughly 80 hectares of lavender/lavandin and cereals (primarily wheat or épautre), which they wholesale throughout the region. The farm as been organic for six-plus years.  You’ll see huge hangers of lavender and old machinery that’s still in use. (Located on the Route du Ventoux outside Sault, 04 90 64 01 50, 06 82 53 95 34, champelle2@wanadoo.fr).

*Les Vallons de Lavandes. A farm and distillery (with pretty chickens!) Here you’ll meet Sylvie Barjot, who runs the show with her mother, father and daughter. The do distillery demos during harvest time, on a set schedule, and guided 20-minute visits are sometimes available by appointment.   Or just drop in, smile nice and maybe someone will show you around. My friend Angela wrote a very nice story about them here. (04 90 64 14 83,  vallon-des-lavandes@wanadoo.fr).

*La Ferme aux Lavandes offers tours of their lavender farm and nursery in summer and also has a "conservatory lavender garden’’ open from mid April to mid October. They have tables and chairs if you want to bring a picnic...and a boutique selling lavender-related products. (On the Route du Mont Ventoux outside Sault,  04 90 64 00 24,  06 82 93 52 09, contact@la-ferme-aux-lavandes.com).

*Distillery Aroma'plantes is a traditional lavender distillery in Sault (Ferme La Parente, Route du Mont Ventoux, Sault, 04 90 64 04 02, info@aromaplantes.com,  distillerie-aromaplantes.com).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Home from the Market...and Into the Kitchen


Earlier this summer, my friend William Moore, owner of Provence Paradise in St. Remy, began offering a regular Wednesday market tour and cooking class for his guests….and it's been a huge success. Now he’s opened it up to others as well: travelers, locals, anyone who loves the idea of a fun foodie day with new friends. The program is called “Home from the Market... and Into the Kitchen.”

Provence Paradise  is a "hamlet" of seven self-catering rental homes, on an historic property with shared pool and gardens. You can read what I wrote about it, a while back, by clicking here.

Every Wednesday, William’s terrific cook Marie Losada takes a group to the big outdoor market in St. Remy, where they gather ingredients for a splendid luncheon. Then everyone piles into a large kitchen back at Provence Paradise and prepares the meal together, with Marie guiding them. There’s learning, laughter and copious amounts of food made from farm-fresh ingredients.  It's safe to assume that the wine-soaked lunch will go all day…and that you’ll need a serious siesta afterwards!  (There are soft drinks and juices for kids and those who don’t drink.)

A typical meal might be a seafood and avocado starter; followed by fish filet in a ratatouille sauce or chicken Provencal over wild rice from the Camargue; a selection of local cheeses; and a tart made with the fruit of the season. It really depends on what looks best in the market.

The market tour, group cooking session and lunch with local wines costs €50 for adults and €30 for kids age 8 to 18. Please book at least five days ahead and let William know how many are in your party; also let him know how to reach you (home or hotel number, cell number and email, please). The party only happens if there are six participants and the max group size is ten. For more info or to book: william@provenceparadise.com or 06 07 82 66 63.

Photos: (1) A guest at a recent "Home from the Market..." cooking session at Provence Paradise. (2) A stall at the Wednesday market in St. Remy. (3, 4) Two of the dishes prepared during a recent ''Home from the Market..." session were a main course of free-range game hen with Provencal "smashed" potatoes and a dessert called "Belle Helène."  The first course was an avocado soufflé with gambas and a cheese course came before dessert. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Biz-Class Airline for Newark/Paris


On July 21, a new "boutique airline" called La Compagnie began offering business-class-only service between New York/Newark and Paris on a redesigned Boeing 757-200. They're currently flying four to five weekly flights, with scheduled departures out of Paris Charles de Gaulle at 5:50 pm, arriving in Newark at 8:30 pm, and out of Newark at 9:45 pm, arriving in Paris at 11:15 am. 

Flights are priced at $1,378 USD round-trip for travel through September 15, 2014. Book before August 30 and fly before September 15 and you can get two round-trip tickets for $2014 USD.

The interior offers 74 “lie-flat” seats in a 2 x 2 configuration throughout a single-aisle cabin. The plane holds 74 passengers, two pilots and three flight attendants. 

La Compagnie was created in October 2013 by L’Avion founder Frantz Yvelin with assistance from former Swissair and Jet Airways COO Peter Luethi. The launch follows a fundraising campaign that drew nearly €30 million from French and European investors – one of the largest amounts raised in France during the calendar year. La Compagnie expects to take delivery of its second Boeing 757-200  in December 2014.

In-flight menus are created by Christophe Langree, the chef of the Hôtel Matignon in Paris, which serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of France. Other features are amenity kits including Caudalie cosmetic products, free WiFi and a personal Samsung tablet--uploaded with an assortment of books, magazines, music and movies--for every seat.

To get to Provence, you can take the high-speed TGV train from Charles de Gaulle. It's roughly three hours to Avignon, 3.5 hours to Aix and little bit longer to Marseille. You can see train schedules here.

For more info on La Compagnie or to reserve:  call (800)-218-8187 (from the US) or 08 92 23 02 40 (from France) or go to: lacompagnie.com

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Et Voila: Le Peninsula!


It took four years and 429 million to complete …and finally the fabulous Peninsula Hotel will open in Paris next week.

It’s the Hong Kong-based company’s tenth hotel, joining properties in New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila.

The first guests are set to arrive on August 1st.

Just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées, at 19 Avenue Kléber in the elegant 16th arrondissement, The Peninsula Paris sits close to some of the world’s most-famous monuments, museums and luxury shopping. It has 200 rooms including 34 suites, five of which have private rooftop gardens with spectacular views over the city. 

The building itself is a late-19th-century classic French-style beauty.  It first opened in 1908 as one of Paris’ most famous “grands hotels” and, for 30 years, it hosted the rich and famous--along with leading lights in the arts, literature and music--during the Belle Epoque and “Années Folles.”

In 1922, five of the greatest artists of the 20th century-- James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky—had dinner together here. Other historical highlights include George Gershwin composing “An American in Paris” here in 1928  and the Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho--which brought the Vietnam War to a close--being signed here in 1973.

Following the wartime occupation of Paris, the hotel was converted into UNESCO’s headquarters (in 1946), and 12 years later it became the conference center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The building has been meticulously restored by teams of French master craftsmen, using techniques in use for hundreds of years. Original elements long gone or badly damaged were recreated following extensive research.  Marble, stucco, mosaics, roof and wall tiles, wood carvings, stone work, gold leafing, paintings and a myriad of other elements have been lovingly preserved and painstakingly restored by some of France’s most-revered family firms, known for their work on heritage projects such as the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

The façade alone employed the talents of 20 skilled stonemasons who restored the elaborate carved stone flowers, bows and ribbons. Repairs were carried out where possible, carving missing portions by hand using stone-dust paste. Where the bas-reliefs were severely damaged, the entire section was replaced by new, hand-carved stone, using photos for reference. Each flower cascade took a stonemason three weeks of work…12 hours of work alone for each small bow.

Meanwhile wood-restoration experts individually numbered and removed each original wood panel in the Lobby and Le Bar Kléber: 370 and 130 sections respectively. These were then sanded down, repaired, restored and replaced.

A firm specializing in gilding and restoring handled repairs, gold leafing and hand painting. Their previous commissions in Paris have included the dome of Les Invalides and the Palace of Versailles, while in the US their projects have included the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and the flame of the Statue of Liberty. 

Three basement levels were excavated to create a 1800-square-foot spa, a 20-meter swimming pool, fitness centre and parking for 57 cars.

The Avenue Kléber hotel entrance leads to the traditionally grand Peninsula Lobby, with soaring curved ceilings, magnificent drapery, marble floors and contemporary furnishings. In a second lobby—which greets guests arriving by car--a hand-blown Lasvit chandelier creates a cascade of 800 crystal “leaves,” a subtle homage to the plane trees lining Avenue Kléber. 

With the smallest of them 35 square meters (312 square feet), the guestrooms are among the largest in the city; the company says they’re also the most technologically advanced in the world. Every room has a marble bathroom, a self-contained dressing room, a walk-in closet, a seated dressing table, a valet box for discreet pick-up and delivery of laundry, dry-cleaning and polished shoes, a large electronic safe, internet radio, a weather display panel and –wait for it!—a nail dryer. (Personally, I love the Nespresso machines and the free local and international  phone calls!)

Fully customized interactive digital bedside and desk tablets are preset for guests in one of 11 languages, offering full control of all in-room functions and access to restaurant menus, hotel services and TV channels. In-room LED touch-screen wall panels feature valet call, weather details, thermostat, language and privacy options.

In addition to 24-hour room service, the Peninsula Paris has six dining venues:  The Lobby, LiLi (the Cantonese restaurant), La Terrasse Kléber, L’Oiseau Blanc (a rooftop restaurant, bar and terrace), Le Lounge Kléber (an eight-seat cigar lounge) and Le Bar.

There are also function and banquet rooms,  of course, including a traditional Parisian-style ballroom-salon with a pre-function area for up to 120 people,  and three rooms for smaller meetings and events.

Throughout the hotel, executive chef Jean-Edern Hurstel says he’ll be using only the very best of French ingredients and a “farm to table” approach to seasonal cuisine. Jean-Edern was born and raised in Alsace and comes to the hotel from the Middle East, where he was working at the Shangri-La Abu-Dhabi and, more recently, Boca Restaurant in Dubai.

Vichy-born chief sommelier Xavier Thuizat presides over The Peninsula Paris’ extensive wine cellar while indulging his passion for sourcing unique boutique wines from small producers throughout France.

Pastry chef Julien Alvarez hails originally from Bergerac and has won a multitude of awards, including a gold medal in the World Pâtisserie Championship in 2011.

And what about the famous Peninsula cars? Yep, they’re here and at the ready: Continuing the company’s  long partnership (since 1970) with Rolls-Royce, a Rolls-Royce EWB Phantom and a meticulously restored 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II are liveried, together with two customized Peninsula Edition MINI Cooper Clubman vehicles,  in the signature Peninsula green in front of the hotel. There’s also a fleet of 10 BMW 7 Series limousines for airport transfers, sightseeing and trips around Paris.

The hotel’s general manager is Nicolas Béliard , who has extensive experience throughout Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and the US. He joined the company in 2009, at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and became GM of the Peninsula Bangkok the following year.

Hotel manager Vincent Pimont also has years of luxury hotel experience,  in Paris, the US and the Far East. He comes most recently from the Peninsula Beijing.

Opening month specials begin at €750 per night, for a Superior room with full breakfast for two (usually €1,205).

To reserve, click here, go to Peninsula.com or call: 08 00 91 59 80 (in France) or 866 382 8388 (in the US). 

Photos: (1) You've arrived! One of the two lobbies, with its hand-blown crystal "Dancing Leaves" chandelier. (2) The Peninsula all lit up and ready to party. (3) Rooftop restaurant views at L’Oiseau Blanc. (4, 5) Guestrooms and marble bathrooms are loaded with luxe amenities and tech. (6) Executive chef Jean-Edern Hurstel on the hunt for the best seasonal ingredients and products. (7) The hotel at 19 avenue Kléber opened in 1908 and was known for voluminous spaces, elegant events, beauty and glamour. (8, 9) Countless craftsmen using traditional methods did the meticulously restoration, guided by historic photos. (10) Inviting sweets are among the in-room amenities offered.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Foodie Films and BBQ at Château La Coste

For the third year, the "starchitect" winery Château La Coste, 10 minutes north of Aix, is presenting its summer outdoor film series.  This year all four films celebrate the theme of gastronomy. Each evening before the screening, a barbecue will be available along with salads, cheese and ice cream...accompanied by wines from the domain of course.  

On film days, the winery's restaurant will be open normal hours for lunch but for dinner there will be the special barbecue menu only.
If you're interested in wine, design, sculpture or architecture--or simply enjoy experiencing very unusual and beautiful places--a visit to La Coste is a must. This gorgeous 600-acre wine domaine has a large visitors center designed by world-famous architect Tadao Ando, plus numerous installations and buildings crafted by other luminaries such as Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry.  

While the newest incarnation of Château la Coste is just a year old, there's been agriculture and winemaking here as far back as Roman times. On the property are cobbled Gallo-Roman pathways, dry stone walls, bridges, underground wells...and the vestiges of an intricate watering system currently undergoing restoration. Between the rows of vines, mixed in with the sandy limestone soil, workers have found fragments of amphores which the Romans used to transport their wine and varnished fragments of the cups from which they drank. Today the property is blanketed with forests of green and white oaks, meadows of almond trees and broad swaths of wildflowers, plus 250 acres of meticulously tended vines. A lovely Venetian villa in a rosy pink hue has stood here since 1682.

It was in 2004 that the current owners decided to transform the domaine into a place where art, architecture, wine and the terrain would blend seamlessly. The idea had already been successful in the Basque city of Álava, headquarters of Vinos del Marqués de Riscal, where Frank Gehry was commissioned to build a hotel. Here in France, the Irish owners of Château La Coste expanded on that idea, inviting artists and architects from all over the world to visit, explore and find a place upon the estate that inspired them to create. Other artists with work on view include Alexander Calder, Michael Stipe, Louise Bourgeous, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Serra, Paul Matisse and many others.  


The newest installation at Château La Coste is "Self Portrait: Cat Inside a Barrel" by Tracey Emin. Coming next is artwork by Lee Ufan. But the big news is that Château La Coste will soon begin construction on a hotel. The architect is Tangram Architects (Marseille); it will most likely have 16 villas and 29 rooms. Construction is expected to take two years. 

To see the major features of the property, plan for a two-hour stroll with some gravel and gentle hills. 

The property is open for self-guided visits year round (you'll be provided with a map) while guided visits in French and English are available by reservation.  Visits to the Jean Nouvel-designed winery (the ''chai") are also available in both languages. Info and admission prices can be found on the website here.

Ok so back to the movies. Here's the schedule:
July 26: Sideways (with French subtitles).

August 2: Babette's Feast (French subtitles).

August 9: The Scent of Green Papaya (French subtitles).

August 16: La Femme du Boulanger (Original Version, in French).
Practical Info:  
*The barbecue is from 7 to 9 pm. 
*Films start at 9:30 pm. 
*Movie tickets are 8€ per person. 
*Reservations are recommended : call 04 42 61 92 92 or email: reservations@chateau-la-coste.com. To buy tickets online, click here
*Also recommended: Bring a shawl for warmth as this is a fully open-air projection. If you come for the film only, you might want to bring a cushion or chair...or you'll be sitting on the grass. If you come for dinner first, you can use that chair for the movie. 
*In case of rain: Movies will be cancelled.

Chateau La Coste 
2750 Route de la Cride
Le Puy Sainte Reparade, France
04 42 61 89 98

contact@chateau-la-coste.com
chateau-la-coste.com
GPS coordinates: on the website
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rencontres d'Arles Opens Monday July 7


The 45th annual Recontres d'Arles, the fantastic international photo festival, will run July 7 to September 21, 2014 in Arles, with 50-plus exhibits and workshops. As in years past there will be panel discussions, lectures, book signings, open-air screenings, portfolio reviews, guided tours and more. Last year, almost 100,000 people attended.

Most but not all exhibits stay up until the end of the festival, on September 21st.

The exhibits, sometimes co-produced with French and/or foreign museums and institutions, are staged in various galleries, museums and purpose-built sites. Some sites (for example, a 12th-century chapel or 19th-century industrial buildings) are open to the public only during the festival.

The opening week (the week that many industry professionals attend) will feature a number of special events and the week's program is here.

A complete list of this year's exhibitions is here. The big names this year are David Bailey, Christian Lacroix, Lucien Clergue and Raymond Depardon. Use the left right arrows to see the various photographers and click for more info on that particular show. Over to the right, you'll see the venue, dates and single ticket price. A list of all the shows appears in the margin at left; they're divided into two categories: Originals and Parade.

Special evenings where one or more photographers project their work on a large screen, often accompanied by music, will be held on July 8 (Théâtre d' Arles, corner of Georges Clémenceau Blvd and Gambetta) and on July 9, 10 and 12 (Théâtre Antique). Separate tickets for these evenings are required and more info is here.

Friday July 11 is the annual "Nuit de L'Année" (Night of The Year). Work by various photographers will be projected on 14 screens on the Boulevard des Lices, from 10 pm to 3 am. It's a festive evening, free and open to all.

Tickets to all events may be purchased online or at seven ticket offices, which you can see hereExhibit tickets may be purchased individually or in multi-day passes. Single tickets range from 3.50€ to 12€. A pass that gets you into all exhibits from July 7 to September 21 is 35€. One-day passes are 29€. A pass good for September 1st to 21st is 31€. Info on all passes is here.

Groups of 10 or more get special rates. For more info, call or email Han Xiao: 04.90.96.63.39 reservation@rencontres-arles.com

Please note that some shows/venues are not included in pass prices and must be paid for separately. Make sure to get a map to all exhibits when you stop by a ticket office. They should also have them at the Tourist Office.

During opening week, exhibiting photographers are often on hand to present and discuss their work. Pass holders can also enjoy free daily guided tours, between July 14 and September 21. These 90-minute tours will let you discover a range of exhibitions with a mediator-photographer as your guide. There's no need to reserve ahead...just show up, as long as you have a pass. More info can be found at the ticket offices but the best details I can get are:

* City Center Tour : 5 pm, on even days. Meeting point : Garden of the Espace Van Gogh Tours run until and including August 31 (which where I come from is not an even day but...)

* Bureau Des Lices Tour : 5 pm, on odd days, on August 21st and every day after September 1st. Meeting point : Garden of the Espace Van Gogh.

 * Parc des Ateliers Tour : 11am. Meeting point : Chaudronnerie entrance.

Info on workshops can be seen here. There are two categories: summer and weekend. Click on the links in the left hand margin to see them.

A free Rencontres app can be downloaded here.

To see the press kit in English, click here.

The full Rencontres website in English is here. If you can't find the word ''Exhibitions," it may be hidden behind the word ''photographie" in the logo at the top left. Click the big purple-and-orange Parade square instead.

The festival office/headquarters is located at 34, rue du Docteur Fanton in Arles and remains open throughout the fest.

Photos: *Mick Jagger, 1964, by David Bailey (Show #1). *Alberth Lukassen, an Inuit hunter in northern Greenland, by Ciril Jazbec (Show #12). *Double Impact from the series Wild Style, 2013, by Mazaccio & Drowilal (Show #8). *Sunbathing, from the Album series by Vik Muniz, 2014 (Show #2). *Juliette Binoche by Patrick Swirc. The un-numbered exhibit is called "Don't Move" and it's at the Abbaye de Montmajour, not in Arles. *Jérôme le Banner, 2011 by Vincent Perez (Show #19). *From the show "Deadline"by Will Steacy, 2009 (Show #13).

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