Friday, July 24, 2015

Calling All New and Recent Expats in France


The other day I got an email from Joe Pinzone, who's casting an international travel show about moving abroad that will air in more than 100 countries. Joe writes: "We'd love to film in France and we'd love to find English-speaking expats who've moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for three to four years, but recently moved into a new home. The show will re-enact their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive compensation if they're filmed."

Interested or know someone who might be? Contact: joepinzone@leopardusa.com.

France pillow available here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cannes Fireworks Festival Starts Tonight


The annual Cannes International Fireworks Festival kicks off tonight, to celebrate La Fête Nationale or Le Quatorze Juillet. As in years past, the huge display will be launched from three barges in the bay facing the Croisette and I hear that the synchronization of music and fireworks is extraordinary. Shows begin around 10 pm and last 30 minutes. The fest is run as a competition among top pyrotechnic teams from around the world.

Six shows will be featured throughout the summer. To open the competition tonight, Azerbaijan will be represented by the Baku Firework Group. The festival continues on Tuesday July 21st (Poland), Wednesday July 29th (France, the group called Intermede), Friday August 7th (Great Britain), Saturday August 15 (Argentina) and Monday August 24 (France again, with the company called Prestatech). For all the info including an access map, click here.

As in years past, the American Club of the Riviera will host a reception and dinner during the festival...this year it's August 15. They've reserved at one of Cannes' best beach restaurants for the event, the 3.14 Plage Beach, located very centrally opposite the Carlton Hotel. The evening starts at 8 pm with a welcome drink and nibbles, followed by a three-course dinner including wines, mineral water and coffee. Prices: 90€ for members; 97€ for non-members;  40€ for children. This event will almost certainly sell out so reserve your spot early by clicking here. No payments will be accepted at the door. Questions? Contact Burton: +33 (0) 6 20 40 11 28 or president@americanclubriviera.com.

Finally, if you're just looking for a place to have a drink and watch the fireworks, the 3.14 Plage Beach offers a lounge chair and a welcome drink for 15€ per person. They're fully booked for tonight but may have space for future evenings. You need to call +33 (0) 4 93 94 25  a couple days in advance to reserve and arrive by 9 pm to get your spot.


Photos: Scenes from fireworks past...and the restaurant called 3.14 Plage, where the American Club of the Riviera will host their party on August 15.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A French Mega Market in Lower Manhattan

Beverly Stephen, the former executive editor of Food Arts magazine, is a journalist and consultant specializing in food, travel and lifestyle. A lifelong Francophile, Bev lives in New York but jets off to France every chance she gets. She was thrilled when this new French food hall opened recently, not far from her lower-Manhattan home...so I asked her to tell us all about it. 

Can’t make it to France his year? Pas de probleme! Francophiles on the East Coast have a great new way to get their fix at a sprawling French market in lower Manhattan called Le District.

The just-opened 30,000-square-foot Gallic fantasy, located in Brookfield Place (the former World Financial Center, recently redone at a cost of $250 million), is divided into four "districts": restaurant, café, market and garden.  Within these districts, all culinary needs for eat-in or take-out can be met, from poisson to  patisserie and fleurs to fromage. Tourists seeking a respite from the somber 9/11 Memorial Museum nearby can happily sip a rosé from Provence, take a bite of ratatouille, and feel transported to the South of France...never mind that the sweeping views are New York Harbor and not the Mediterranean. Workers from nearby Goldman Sachs and Condé Nast are likely to eat-in at one of the restaurants, at one of the counter seats scattered throughout, or on the 7,000-square-foot plaza looking out to the Statue of Liberty. Everyone can buy plenty of ingredients to make dinner back at home...along with a chic bouquet for the table from fleuriste Yasmine Karrenberg.

Dessert  comes first at Le District.  Commanding attention at the entrance is the riotously colorful French  candy store La Cure Gourmande which offers an astonishing array of nougats, caramels, biscuits and even olives au chocolat (chocolate-covered almonds in disguise), all available in gift-worthy tins. This is the first U.S. outpost of the store that originated in the Languedoc-Roussillon and now has 45 locations around the world.

Across the aisle is a crêperie, a waffle station and a patisserie displaying jewel-like French pastries. And of course a coffee bar. 

Other temptations follow—freshly baked breads, cheese, charcuterie, salads and sandwiches (I chose a delectable roasted lamb sandwich with ras al hanout and hummus white sauce), brasserie-style meals, wine and beer. Packaged foods to take home include Provencal olive oils,  Les Comtes de Provence jams, argan oil, mustards, spices, salts and sausages.  If you prefer to avoid temptation, graze before 4 p.m., when the salad bar transforms itself into a chocolate mousse bar offering eight different varieties of white and dark with toppings such as orange confit and speculoos cookies.

Le District is the brainchild of restaurant impresario Peter Poulakakos of the HPH Group, a restaurant and development company, and his business partner Paul Lamas; together they pretty much have downtown Manhattan cornered with Harry’s Café and Steak, The Dead Rabbit, The Growler and Financier Patisserie among others. They took their inspiration from Parisian markets such as La Grande Epicerie and from other countries touched by French culture such as Morocco and Vietnam. Chef Jordi Valles, an El Bulli alum, was recruited to be culinary director of the whole project. Under him is an army of chefs and cheese mongers, butchers, bakers and sausage makers.

Poulakakos himself was standing in the aisle munching on a crêpe when I stopped him to ask about his vision. “I’ve always been thrilled with French cuisine,” he said. “It’s the backbone of precision.”  As for the customers. “I want to be there for everyone. People who live and work here love it.”  Of course, he’s not oblivious to the fact that 12.4 million visitors were counted in downtown Manhattan in 2014 with more expected this year.

Little more than a decade has passed since the area suffered the devastating 9/ll attacks. And then there were the angry flood waters of Hurricane Sandy. Now FiDi (the Financial District), arguably the hottest real estate in the overheated Manhattan market, has literally risen from the ashes. 

Comparisons to Eataly--the insanely popular Italian food hall on Fifth Avenue, with 26 other outposts worldwide--seem inescapable. Le District has already been dubbed the French Eataly. But who’s complaining?  Eataly has become one of the top tourist attractions in New York City behind the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Last year, seven million shoppers crowded its aisles while the cash registers rang up $85 million in sales. Should Le District be far behind? Mais non!

Le District at Brookfield Place
225 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
+1 212 981 8588
ledistrict.com
info@ledistrict.com

Photos:  (1) The Fromagerie at Le District features nearly 200 varieties of cheese, from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Quebec and American producers.  (2) The Pavilion is the "front door" of  Brookfield Place. The dramatic entry hall was created by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. (3) The layout. (4) Sweets from the patisserie section. (5) The dining room at Beaubourg, Le District’s flagship restaurant. (6) At the Boulangerie, at least 12 types of bread are baked fresh daily on site. (7) Catch of the day at La Poissonnerie. (8) A macaron tower in the Cafe District. (9) French mustards, jams, oils and condiments in the Market District. (9) Brookfield Place, formerly the World Financial Center, is just south of Tribeca, along the Hudson River waterfront. Originally built in 1985, the complex became Brookfield Place in 2012/2013 and is a five minute walk from the 9/11 Memorial.  (10) Click on map to enlarge. 

Photos by Jeff Thibodeau (1, 4) and Daniel Krieger (5, 6, 7, 9).

Beverly Stephen, who wrote this guest post, can be reached at bstephenwest@gmail.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

17th Annual Country Fest This Weekend

This looks like fun. It's all weekend and all the concerts (country, blues, Zydeco, bluegrass, honky tonk, etc.) are free.  La Roque d'Anthéron is 15 minutes south of Lourmarin, 35 minutes northwest of Aix. For the schedule and all other info: countryroque.com

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rencontres Photo Fest Starts Mon July 6


The 45th annual Recontres d'Arles, the large international photo festival, will run July 6 to September 20, spread out over 35 different sites in Arles. As in years past there will be themed and stand-alone exhibits, panel discussions, lectures, book signings, open-air screenings, workshops for kids and adults, 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 20.

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

This 2015 Rencontres is being staged in honor of Lucien Clergue, the Arles-based fine-art photographer who died last year.

Opening week (June 6 to 12) is always the busiest of the festival...and it’s the week that many industry professionals attend. As always, it features a number of special events, which you can see on the schedules here and here.

Highlights of opening week include:

*Photography Nights at the Théâtre Antique, July 7, 8, 10 and 11 at 10 pm. These evening screenings present the work of photographers or photography specialists to an audience of up to 2,500 people.  Each two-part evening beneath the stars begins with an award ceremony...and then moves on to a screening of photos or film designed specifically designed for the stunning, 2000-year-old amphitheater.  The schedule and details for these special evenings are here. Separate tickets are required and more info is here.

*The Night of the Year ("Nuit de L'Année") takes place on Thursday July 9, from 6 pm onwards at Papeteries Étienne in Trinquetaille. The format of this popular event has changed from previous years. Visitors are invited to walk across the Trinquetaille Bridge, from La Roquette to Trinquetaille, and on to the former paper mill, which will be open to the public for the first time. En route, you’ll see photos on the bridge and on screens. At the mill, images will be casually displayed by a group of photographers who’ve been invited to “BYOP” (Bring Your Own Paper).  There will be food, drink and a DJ on site; admission is free.

This year, the Night of the Year has been organized in collaboration with the Nuit de la Roquette, a large, annual neighborhood party organized by the folks who live and work in La Roquette. There you’ll find outdoor bars, food, music and more. Again, admission is free.

* During opening week of the Rencontres, many of photographers who have exhibits will be offering tours of their shows to festival-goers. From July 13 to September 20, Rencontres staffers will step in to offer daily guided tours through the exhibit sites.

As in years past, the major Recontres exhibits will grouped into loose themes.

One is “Rereading: The History of Photograph Revisited,” focusing on masters Walker Evans and Stephen Shore.

Another theme is “I am Writing to You From a Far Off Country” which spotlights particular parts of the world.

A third is “Platforms of the Visible: New Approaches to Documentary Photography.”

Yet another is “Odd Collectors.”

New this year is Arles Books, a satellite event which will take place at Le Parc des Ateliers SNCF. The 1000-square-meter space will be dedicated to the book, in every shape and form.

A list of all the 2015 Rencontres exhibitions is here. Start in the left hand column where they’re organized by theme and click the name of the show to see the specifics. Over on the right, you’ll see the venue, show dates, single ticket price and photographer’s bio.  A map of all the exhibitions is here.

Tickets to all events may be purchased online or at five ticket offices, which you can see here. Exhibit tickets may be purchased individually or in multi-day passes.  Single exhibit tickets start at 3.50€. A pass that gets you one entry into all exhibits, good for the entire festival starting July 6, is 37€.  A seven-day pass for opening week (July 6 to 12) is 49€. One-day passes are 29€. Info on all passes is here.

Groups of 10 or more get special rates as do students, jobseekers, large families and companions to the disabled.

Free entry is granted to anyone under age 18, all citizens of Arles and the disabled.

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 Arles Tourist Office.

The Rencontres also presents summer and weekend workshops; info on those is here.

To see the Rencontres press kit in English, click here.

The full Rencontres website in English is here.

The festival office/headquarters is located at 34, rue du Docteur Fanton in Arles and remains open throughout the fest.  Help in English may be available by calling: +33 4-90-96-63-39 or +33 4 90 96 76 06.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Whale and Dolphin Cruise Season Has Begun


Did you guys know there were whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean? Me neither...until I learned that every Sunday, Decouverte du Vivant offers Naturalist Discovery Cruises aboard the boat La Croix du Sud V to get up close and personal with them. During the nine-hour voyage you're likely to see striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, sperm whales and the second largest animal on the planet, the fin whale. You can also expect seabirds, sunfish, loggerhead turtles, bluefin tuna, bonito and swordfish. Last Sunday, guests on the cruise saw eight whales. The season ends in October.

Cruises depart from Sanary sur Mer in the Var at 8:45 am and return at 6:30 pm. Prices are 55€ (under 13), 66€ (students and teens), 78€ (adult) and on demand for groups.  The same company also offers cruises from Canet-en-Roussillon (whales and dolphins, April to October, Saturdays only), Port Vendres (dolphins, July and August, Wednesdays only) and La Grande Motte (sea birds, September to May). 

Découverte du Vivant is an eco-responsible whale-watching operator, involved in the long- term preservation of the cetacean populations of the Mediterranean Sea. For more info or to reserve, click here, call +33 6 10 57 17 11 or email: info@decouverteduvivant.fr

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Grill of It All: Camargue Barbecue Fest!


Yee-ha! The 3rd Annual Camargue Barbecue Fest is coming up June 27 and 28, all around the Town Hall in Saintes Maries de la Mer. Look for country dancing, cooking demos, a grilling academy, a competition, a mechanical bull and of course, tons of great 'cue!

Roughly 300 people have entered the competition in five categories: pork, bull, lamb, chicken and fish. I'm told you can sample free...or order up sandwiches at 4.50€ each. Fries, drinks and other essentials will also be sold. The hours are 10 am to 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday...and since this is "low and slow" cooking, the grills will be fired up early. But if you plan to eat (and who doesn't?), festival director Jean-Francois Dupont says it's best to come between 11 am and 4 or 5 pm. 

The party continues at Tahiti Plage beach club on Saturday night, with a BBQ Moonlight Party from 8 pm to Midnight. 

All the details are on Facebook here and on the festival website: bbqfestival.fr

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gigondas Sur Table is Monday July 20


In the heart of the Southern Rhône wine region, the 4th annual Gigondas Sur Table will be Monday July 20. One of the most-popular summer wine events in Provence, it's expected to sell out so be sure to book early. This year, 42 local winemakers and domaines will be pouring, while five top Provencal chefs tempt the crowd with small plates of signature dishes, made from local ingredients reflecting the terroir. Who's cooking? Cyril Glémot (Coteaux & Fourchettes, Cairanne), Jean-Paul Lecroq (La Table de Sorgues, Sorgues), Michel Philibert (Le Gajulea, Le Barroux), Philippe Zemour (Bistro Du'o, Vaison-la-Romaine) and André Sube (Maison Sube Boulangerie, Camaret). The cheese course will come courtesy of beloved purveyor Josiane Déal--a Meilleure Fromagère de France--and kids will be welcomed with a special menu and artisan juices. It all happens on the village square (Place Gabrielle Andeol) in Gigondas, from 7 pm to around 11 pm. Tickets are 50€ per person, 12€ for kids under 12, and reservations are essential. To book, send an email to: promotion@gigondas-vin.com or call + 33 (0) 4 90 37 79 60. To see the press kit in French--it lists all the participating winemakers--click here. For general info on Gigondas and its wines, click here. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Contest: Send Your South of France Selfies!


Have you been poking around Provence, cavorting on the Côte d'Azur, luxuriating in the Languedoc? Then send us your very best South of France selfie* and you could win a great prize. 

I first ran this contest last year, in the dead of winter, which wasn't terribly smart. So I'm doing it again, now that the summer travel season has fully begun. If you entered the first time around, rest assured that you and your adorable selfie will be entered into this year's contest...there's no need to send it again.

When taking your selfie, we want to see glorious scenery in the background...a gorgeous beach or medieval village...a vast vineyard, bustling bistro, crowded market, remote mountaintop....you get the idea. Be creative and have fun...climb a tree, leap from a plane, fight a bull, go where no man has gone before. Just be sure that the photographer--and something recognizably South of France--is visible in the frame. This contest will go on for a while to allow for your upcoming travels...or you can send one from a previous trip. I'll publish my favorites, readers will vote and the winner will receive two nights at Le Mas de Lilou, a beautiful B&B in Tarascon, 15 minutes west of St. Remy. Plus, dinner one night for two.

So give it your best shot and send high-quality images (jpg, png or gif only) to me at: provenceblog@aol.com. Please put Provence Selfie in the subject line, tell me who's in the photo and tell me where and when it was taken. Can't wait to see you! 

*Note: The Oxford Dictionary celebrated the selfie as the International Word of the Year in 2013. More recently, selfies were blamed for an uptick (sorry!) in the spread of head lice among teenagers. And then we have this: scientists have been investigating the selfie phenomenon using "theoretic, artistic and quantitative" methods. They call it ''the vernacular of the 21st century'' and you can read their findings here.


Photos: A 
very nice selfie taken in Nice by Robert Schrader of the blog Leave Your Daily Hell, who thinks he very well may be the King of the Travel Selfie (agreed). Me with my friends Olivier and Denis, one hot summer day in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. (I'm much prettier in real life, BTW.) My Irish friends Niamh and Ellen Burns have selfied themselves all over France. Next, some selfies I found online: I love the"Polar Bear Reading a Book Partial-Duck Face Selfie" which I found here, as well as this French Waiter SelfieEiffel Tower SelfieSelfie in Les Baux and sweet Honeymoon Selfie Over Provence. Up in Paris, Rihanna and her fingernails got photobombed while posing ever-so-nonchalantly for a selfie. And finally, we have a new version of the selfie artform: video. This one, Selfies in France, is by Tristan Cooke

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Four Magical Evenings at the Pont du Gard



The 2,000-year-old aqueduct called the Pont du Gard is one of the most magnificent sites in Provence; I never get tired of tromping around on it, photographing it and splashing around in the water beneath it.  And my favorite Roman relic is even more spectacular when she’s all lit up with video, light, flame and fireworks as she is each summer during a popular evening sound-and-light show series called “Les Féeries du Pont’’ (Fairies of the Bridge). This year's show is called Mondes Magiques.

Mondes Magiques will be presented four times in June, on Friday and Saturday evenings: June 5, 6, 12 and 13. Showtime is 10:30 p.m or at dusk. But definitely arrive early as there are "animations" before the main event, starting around 8 p.m. 

Designed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Pont du Gard's listing as a World Heritage Site, Mondes Magiques takes inspiration from the world's legends and folklore...and sites such as Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Prambanan, the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Eiffel Tower. "The show is sort of a birthday party where the aqueduct welcomes into its home it's old friends--all listed monuments--into its home," the organizers tell me.


Once again, the producer is Groupe F, the internationally acclaimed pyrotechnicians known for shows at the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and the Olympics. If you want a smile, have a look at their website; their work is over-the-top wonderful. 

The Pont du Gard site will be open all day, as usual, but separate tickets are required for the show. Seating is on the right bank of the river so if you arrive on the left bank, you must be in by 9:30 pm in order to cross the bridge; the gates to the Pont du Gard park will close at 9:30. Bring cushions, chairs and blankets or you'll be sitting on the ground; the shops on site also sell seats if you forget. My best advice is sit as close to the bridge itself as possible.  ''And don't forget to bring also warm wears,'' my contact at the Pont du Gard sweetly tells me. 

Tickets for Mondes Magiques range from €15 to €25; kids under six are free. You can buy tickets at the Pont du Gard on the night of each show, as long as there are still places available. You can buy them online here (if you have a French credit or bank card) or at the Pont du Gard box office at any time. They're also available at FNAC, Carrefour, Géant, Magasins U, FranceBillet.com and Ticketnet.com. Group rates are available (for group rates call 04 66 37 51 10). If you have an annual pass to the Pont du Gard, you get a discount. Parking is free. 

So what about dinner? Casual food will be sold on site or you can bring a picnic in with you. There's also a restaurant called Les Terrasses that serves excellent Mediterranean cuisine (04 66 63 91 37). A special Féeries du Pont menu will be offered at Les Terrasses but the restaurant fills up very quickly so reserve early

If you can't go to the show but plan to visit the Pont du Gard another time, in summer (until September 13 this year), the site stays open until Midnight, illuminated beautifully. The museum and shops close at 7 or 8 pm. 

The Pont du Gard is located between Remoulins (RN 100) and Vers-Pont du Gard (D 81).  Its 40 km from St. Remy, 27 km from Nimes,  21 km from Avignon and 19 km from Uzes.  

For all the info on the show or on visiting at other times, click here. For historical info, click here. To contact the Pont du Gard directly: contact@pontdugard.fr or 04 66 37 50 99....and yes, they speak English. 

If you want to catch a Groupe F fireworks show at another time, go to their site here and check their 2015 schedule. In addition to their four nights at the Pont du Gard, they’ll be in Provence doing the Bastille Day fireworks in Salin de Giraud (in the Camargue) on July 13 and in Arles on July 14.

Finally, if you plan to be in Paris this summer,  you can get a taste of Groupe F  on Bastille Day, as they once again have been asked to create the fireworks show at the Eiffel Tower on July 14. You can also experience them at the Chateau de Versailles, where they're once again staging their musical fountain display called ''Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes.'' It's on every Saturday from June 20 to September 19, 2015...with the exception of July 4. And they'll be staging a new creation, "The Fire King," on July 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10. All the info is on the Versailles website here. 

Photos: This year's poster, stills from last year, video from last year.

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