10 Reasons to Visit Provence This Year
March 18, 2009
Provence is a magical place at any moment but there are some
particularly good reasons to visit le Midi this year. Here
is a short list of 2009 special attractions à ne pas manquer
(not to be missed):
1) Art in Aix-en-Provence: Following the blockbuster exhibition
"Cézanne in Provence" in 2006, the Musée
Granet is hosting this year's show "Picasso-Cézanne"
from May 25 to September 27. The exhibition explores the extraordinary
influence of Cézanne on the 20th century master Picasso through
paintings, sculptures, drawings and engravings.
2) Picasso's Château de Vauvenargues: Picasso's
desire to own a piece of 'Cézanne country' resulted in his
purchase of the Château de Vauvenargues on the back
side of the Montagne Sainte Victoire outside Aix-en-Provence. Still
in the family, Picasso's property will be open to the public for
the first time as part of the "Picasso-Cézanne"
exhibition activities and events. Reservations are required and
tour participants must take shuttles from Aix to reach the château
(included in the tour price). Tickets may be purchased at the Musée
Granet or the Aix
3) La Cathédrale d'Images: Since discovering
this exceptional arts venue a few years ago, I haven't missed a
show yet. Housed in a former limestone quarry near Les Baux-de-Provence,
Cathédrale d'images puts on a different 30-minute
photo and music show each year. The quarry provides an ideal medium
for an ever-changing kaleidoscope of images projected on its white
stone walls. This year, the multi-dimensional screen will take a
tour of Picasso's masterworks. The show runs continuously
every day from 10 to 5pm (until 6pm from April until September)
through January 3, 2010. Be sure to take a sweater as the quarries
are chilly even in mid-summer!
4) Treasures from the Rhône river at the Musée
de l'Arles Antique: Arles was once a major stop on the old
'Roman Road.' Recent archeological excavations in the Rhône
river running through the heart of the city have revealed extraordinary
discoveries of the ancient Roman kind. With only three like it in
the world, this bust of an older and realistic Julius Caesar is
just one of the many treasures on view at the Musée
de l'Arles Antique beginning October 24, 2009.
5) Perfumes in Provence: After a four-year, multi-million
euro renovation, the Musée
International de le Perfumerie in Grasse has reopened its
doors. Encompassing several buildings including an 18th century
townhouse and part of a convent, the museum traces four millennia
of perfume history through its collection of 50,000 objects. A highlight
of the collection is a travel case with crystal perfume flasks once
owned by Marie-Antoinette.
6) Provence's Liquid Gold: Many people are not aware that
southern France produces some of the best olive oils in the world.
Olive orchards cover hectare upon hecture (France's
land measuring system) of rolling hills all over Provence. Every
time I go, I buy oils from the best moulins (mills) in the
region such as Castelas and Mas des Barres. Olive
oils are a seasonal product so this year, it's best to purchase
them from the most recent harvest of November-December 2008. (See
the current French Take-Out ~ La France à
emporter recommendation below.)
7) Music in Aix-en-Provence: The world renowned Festival
d'Aix-en-Provence hosts operas, music concerts and other
events during the month of July. This year's program features another
stellar line-up of programs and artists-as well as venues, including
the modern Grand Théâtre de Provence. And when
you have bought a ticket and attended the festival even one time,
you get on the Festival mailing list which includes advance notice
of the next year's programme as well as complimentary CDs
highlighting excerpts from previous performances.
8) Low Airfares and the Lower Euro: While the current economic
downturn is no picnic, it has resulted in great airfares to Europe
making an adventure in France more affordable this year. And the
euro continues to fluctuate but it's hovering around 1.25 euros
to the dollar-hopefully we can say adieu forever to those
$7 or $8 cups of coffee! For Americans in France, traveling, wining
and dining has suddenly become much more reasonable. As an added
travel bonus, the French government has just reduced the VAT tax
on restaurant meals so diners will see lower additions (bills)
at the end of their French repasts.
9) 10) French Affaires fall trip to Provence: Well, of course,
we're biased but we think the French Affaires fall trip to Provence
is worth two reasons to go to Provence this year! We'll be hosted
by southern France residents and locals and enjoy the best Provençal
sights, cuisine, wine, and l'art de vivre. Also included
are guided visits to the best open air markets in the region, a
cooking class using the finest of local ingredients, and an insider
tour of the famous wine region of Châteauneuf du Pape.
For detailed information, please contact Elizabeth New at
~ La France à emporter
My favorite olive oil mills in southern France include Moulin de
Castelas and Moulin du Mas des Barres near Les Baux de Provence.
They are open year round and sell wonderful tapenades, olive oil
soaps and gifts in addition to their stunning olive oils.
In the U.S., you can order a variety of French olive oils at Piche
. Based in Austin, Piche imports olive oils, ceramics and table
linens from the south of France. Piche's owner, MaryBeth Murphy,
is a good friend of mine and a fount of knowledge when it comes
to excellent olive oils from France, Italy and California.
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