Friday, June 29, 2012

Rencontres d'Arles Opens Monday July 2

The annual Recontres d'Arles, the fantastic international photo festival, will run July 2 to September 23 in Arles. This year more than 100 photographers have been invited to present 60 different exhibits, lectures and performances. As in years past there will be panel discussions, book signings, open-air screenings, classes, portfolio reviews and more. 

The opening week (the week that many industry professionals attend) will feature a number of special events, such as an evening with Elliott Erwitt alone on stage, presenting his work on an enormous screen in Arles' amazing Théâtre Antique. (Construction of the theater began in the 1st century and was completed in the 12th. And you thought your builder was slow!) The evening with Elliott Erwitt is Thursday July 5 and tickets are €13. Translation will be provided for all evening events in the Théâtre Antique and there will be live music on July 5 as well.

Unique at this year's Rencontres: The photographer members of the legendary press agency Magnum, who get together annually in New York, Paris or London, will celebrate Magnum's 65th anniversary by holding this year's meeting in Arles for the first time. The second half of four opening-week evening programs at the Théâtre Antique (July 3, 4, 5 and 7th) will be dedicated to Magnum photographers and their work. 

The first half of those evenings (starting at nightfall, around 10 pm, on July 3, 4, 5 and 7th), Christian Milovanoff, a photographer and teacher at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d'Arles since its inception, will give a performance/critical lesson about different photographic genres and the four ''stories'' that preoccupy photographers: the portrait, classification, memory and words. This program (subject varies each evening) is called ''The Evening Milo.''

After ''The Evening Milo'' on Tuesday July 3, you can hear ''Magnum Premier'' (20 top Magnum photographers including Susan Meiseles and Alex Webb talking about their early careers) and ''Looking for America'' in which five Magnum photographers discuss their spring 2012 trip to the U.S. (Tickets: 13€.)  There will be live music this evening as well.

On Wednesday July 4 (13€), Mr. Milovanoff will be followed by a showing of the film La Siecle de Cartier-Bresson (Cartier-Bresson's Century). 

Friday July 6 is called "La Nuit de L'Année" (The Night of The Year) and 14 photographers will be displaying their work on large screens along the Quais de Trinquetaille (Trinquetaille Docks) from 10 pm to 1 am. Come one, come all: it's free. Trinquetaille is the neighborhood on the ''other side'' of the Rhone. The quai has recently been renovated and is a great place to stroll; get there by crossing the Trinquetaille Bridge. (Van Gogh painted the bridge and there's a small plaque showing the painting, on the southern side of the bridge. )

On Saturday July 7 we're back at the Théâtre Antique (€13) for The Evening Milo, followed by a showing of the film French Diary by Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon. That evening, the winner of the Discovery Award--and its €25,000 prize--will be announced, along with other awards.

There has long been a slight tension between the locals in Arles and those that come from around the world to participate in the Rencontres, an unspoken grudge that the town is taken over by "arty types." To help bridge the gap, the organizers of the Rencontres created "La Nuit de L'Année" (see above), featuring exhibitions and slide shows in public spaces. The majority of these were located in the Roquette, one of Arles' oldest neighbourhoods, far off the tourist track. The evening was an immediate success and the locals came out in droves, mixing with professionals late into the night. When the event was moved to the Ateliers SNCF in 2009 (and to the Arena last year), a group formed to sponsor a separate evening (that is no longer affiliated with the Rencontres). The free-styling spirit remains: amateur and professional work is shown side by side, along with short films, music and even a graffiti artist. This year's Nuit de La Roquette takes place on Thursday July 5th, starting at 7pm and lasting until dawn. For more info and a map, click here.

Other activities during opening week include a July 4, 5 and 6 symposium entitled ''The Intensity of Photography'' at the Théâtre d'Arles. It happens every day from 10 am to 1 pm and admission is free. Live translation will be provided. 

For a complete day-by-day schedule of opening week events, of which there are many, click here and then see the column on the left. These include photographers guiding people through their exhibits, book signings, panel discussions, films, workshops and more. A few topics include fashion photography, the future of book publishing, the relevance of Magnum and workshops on Olympus cameras. All opening week events are simultaneously translated into English and other languages.

Also of note: From July 2 to 7 in the Archbishop's Palace Courtyard, the alternative festival-within-a-festival called Voies Off celebrates up-and-coming photographers with screenings and exhibits. This year they honor the Voies Off Selections Prize, photography from the Nordic countries and the 30th anniversary of the National Photography School. Info on Voies Off is here and available by calling +33 (0)4 90 96 93 82.

General tickets and passes for the Rencontres start at €3.50 to €11 for a single exhibit entry. A €27 day pass (valid July 2 to September 23) gives you one entry per exhibit. A full festival pass (one entry per exhibit from July 2 to September 23) is €35. A one- week pass offering unlimited access to all exhibitions July 2 to 8 is €45. A pass for the month of September only is €27. A €60 pass for industry pros provides unlimited access to all exhibits and evening screenings from July 2 to 8, except July 7. 

Tickets for all Recontres events are available at a number of locations in Arles including the Place de la République, the Espace Van Gogh and the Parc des Ateliers. The main festival ticket office is at #34 rue du docteur Fanton. All ticket offices are open 10 am to 7 pm daily. They're also online here.

Meanwhile, weekend photo workshops sponsored by the Rencontres will continue throughout the summer. See that specific schedule here

For all the Rencontres info in English, including exhibition schedules, other activities, maps and ticketing, click here. You can also call +33 (0)4 90 96 76 06 or email: But wait, there's more! You can learn about the Rencontres app for iPhone here and follow the Rencontres on Twitter too: @rencontresarles.

Images: Festival posters have become collectors' items. One of Eliott Erwitt's most-iconic images, ''Felix, Gladys and Rover,'' taken in 1974. Opening week poster. Mexicans stopped trying to cross the U.S. border, photographed in San Ysidro, California in 1979 by Alex Webb. Poster for this years Nuit de la Roquette.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Five Evenings for Wine, Gardens and Pagnol

Every Tuesday evening in July, the splendid winery Chateau Val Joanis in Pertuis is showing Pagnol films outdoors. The evening begins at 7:30 with a glass of rosé and a garden tour. The films, in French with English subtitles, begin at 9:30 pm and the evening wraps with a tombola (raffle). Dates are July 3: Jean de Florette. July 10: Manon des Sources. July 17: La Gloire de Mon Pere. July 24: La Chateau de ma Mere. July 31: La Fille du Puisatier. Tickets are 10€ for adults; 6€ for kids under 16. For info or reservations, see contact info below.

The terraced gardens at Val Joanis were inspired by the 17th-century Provencal manor which stands on the site. They’re classifed by the French Ministry of Culture among the Notable Gardens of France. On separate terraces you’ll find a a kitchen garden and flower garden, lots of varieties of tomatoes, extensive herbs, pyramids of ivy, roses galore, fruit trees (particularly old varieties of apples and pears) and a collection of asters and ornamental boxwoods. Meanwhile, the chateau itself is built on the site of an ancient Roman villa, some of whose stones decorate the garden today. In July and August, Val Joanis offers a guided visit of the winery and gardens, with a wine and olive oil tasting, for 6.50€ per person on Thursdays at 4 pm. Otherwise they're open for visits seven days a week: from 10 to 1 and 2 to 7 in April, May, June and September;  from 10 to 7 straight through in July and August; and from 10 to 1 and 2 to 6 in October. To visit the gardens on your own is 4.50€. For info click here, or call +33(0)4 90 79 20 77 or email:  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Provençale Food Festival Sunday July 1st

The 20th annual Festival of Provençale Gastronomy will be held in Châteauneuf-le-Rouge on Sunday July 1st. The location is a beautiful little village 20 minutes southeast of  Aix en Provence and all events are open to the public. Last year, more than 10,000 people attended.

This year’s guest of honor is the Michelin three-star chef Gilles Goujon, of L'Auberge du Vieux-Puits in Fontjoncouse, near Narbonne.

But plenty of other top chefs will be attending and cooking as well, including the two-star chef Christophe Bacquié (L'Hôtel du Castellet), Jonathan Wahid (L’Oustaù de Baumanière), Fanny Rey (La Place des Maisons de Baumanière), Geoffrey Poësson (La Badiane in Saint Maxime), Alexandre Mazzia (Le Ventre de l’Architecte in Marseille) and Pascal Riss (Côté Jardin in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume).

General admission to the festival is free. Tickets for sampling the chefs specialities will be 1€ and 2€ each; most dishes are 5€ or less.

In the "Chef's Village," the chefs mentioned above will be doing cooking demos. Throughout the day, there will be stands selling all sorts of other regional specialties such as wine, olive oil and sweets. 

The festival begins with a ½ hour inauguration at 11 am. The stands open at 11:30 and shut down at 6 pm.  A cocktail party with all the chefs will be from 6 to 7:30 pm. At 7 pm there’s a dinner prepared by some of the guest chefs. 

The event is officially part of the festivities surrounding "Marseille-Provence European Capital of the Culture 2013." 

For more info, call the Town Hall at 04 42 58 62 01 or check out Gastronomie Provencale on Facebook here

Monday, June 18, 2012

Free Day for Painters at the Villa Ephrussi

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (in St. Jean Cap Ferrat on the Côte d’Azur) is currently the second most-popular attraction in Provence, according to  (The Gorges du Verdon is #1.) After inheriting a vast fortune from her father, Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild built the home as a winter residence, filled it with a resplendent ''Rothschild-style'' collection of carpets, furniture, art, antiques, porcelain and objets, and used it from 1912 onwards--when she wasn't in Paris, Monaco or Deauville. And next Sunday, June 24th, the Villa Ephrussi is celebrating its illustrious artistic history with a lovely invite: the villa and its gardens will open free of charge to all amateur and professional painters, who are invited to come capture the surroundings in any medium they choose. Normally, admission is 12€ (adults) and 9€ (ages 7 to 17, plus students and teachers) but on Sunday it's free for all artists with materials. (Kids under 7, journalists and tourism pros with proper ID are always free.) If you've read the wonderful book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, you'll love the villa visit even more. For all the info, click here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fête de la Musique is June 21st in France

Founded in 1982, this hugely popular nationwide festival of free music will once again bring a wide variety of musical styles to streets, cafes, public monuments, parks, train stations and many other venues across France. Its organizers call it a “musical, cultural, social, joyful and colorful date to remember.'' This year's event, the 31st annual, will specifically pay homage to pop music. It happens on the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere; the music begins in the afternoon and runs until midnight.

The Fête de la Musique is not only completely free, it's open to any musician, amateur or professional, who wants to play. The festival also encourages major music institutions (orchestra, operas, choirs, etc.) to perform outside their usual locations and, at the same time, promotes encounters and exchanges between young musicians and well-known talents. 

The Fête has recently seen international expansion, as local organizers (Ministries for Culture, City Councils, local arts associations, etc.) have begun staging their own events. For example, a professional and institutional network called Fête Européenne de la Musique has recently been created.  

If you're a musician or group who wishes to play, you can see a list of cities still looking for performers here.  

Some of the better-known acts scheduled to appear are listed on the festival website, with many more to come. There's also some background info in English, here. A city-by-city list of performances is now being posted as the info streams in. But be aware that many impromptu performances won't make it onto the calendar--they just happen. ''Every musician is invited to go in the streets and play, and this all over France!'' says Anne-Claire Barthelemy,  who handles press for the event. ''To give your readers an idea, tell them to just imagine that in the streets they can walk and find music everywhere.''

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Friends Have Been Terribly Busy...

So what do you think we do all day here in France? Sit around eating foie gras, drinking fancy wine and sniffing lavender? Well, ok--fair enough. But many of us are also hard at work producing awesome things to help you get more out of your precious time in the country. Here are five new goodies that might interest you: an eBook, an app and three book books. All were produced by friends or by online blogging buddies.

Incurable homesickness was only the beginning of Ellise Pierce’s troubles when she moved to Paris five years ago...she was soon out of cash, out of work and barely able to speak the language. But as those things often go, her longing for home led the way to a whole new career. To ease the blues, Ellise--originally from Denton, Texas--began making tacos, rolling out tortillas, and blending up salsas. Word got out among the American expat community—et voila!—a business was born: Tex-Mex catering and cooking classes under the name Cowgirl Tacos. Next, Ellise launched the blog to chronicle her culinary capers. “When I first moved to Paris, I wanted to reproduce my favorite foods from home,'' she remembers, ''so I figured out how to swap Thai or Moroccan chiles for jalapeños, and to use a blend of mozzarella and mimolette cheeses (both are quite melty) for enchiladas. But the longer I lived here, the more interested I became in what was right in front of me. My life became one big culinary adventure.” Ellise's new cookbook, her first, is called Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent and it came out last month. Cowgirl Chef is a love letter to this period in her life—an assembly of her best Franco-Texan recipes accompanied by personal stories that provide a peek into the joys and frustrations (both culinary and cultural) of living with a Frenchman in Paris.  Plus, the book is full of Ellise's favorite “Cowgirlified Frenchy” recipes, such as Chicken Empanadas with Cilantro Yogurt, Cauliflower Galettes with Chipotle Crème Fraiche, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Soufflés and Cowgirl Quiche. The message? You can make simple, inventive and comforting dishes wherever you hang your hat. Ellise is currently on book tour in the US and you can see the schedule (under ''calendar'') on her website here. Meanwhile, Cowgirl Chef is widely available but you can order it from Amazon here.

Planning a trip to Paris? The creators of the Paris Insiders Guide have emptied their Rolodexes and opened their little black book of gourmet food addresses in Paris. And it's all in The Paris Gourmet Food eGuide, 2012 Edition. Diane Shaskin and Mark Craft, who are also authors of the award-wining culinary travel book, How to Cook Bouillabaisse in 37 Easy Steps, have written this 75-page, full-color downloadable guide, packed with the latest tips to help you find the best culinary addresses in Paris. It includes Paris chocolatiers, epiceries, boulangeries, speciality food shops, fromageries, cooking classes and 70 of their favorite Paris restaurants. Diane and Mark have spent the past 15 years visiting and living in Paris, where they spend their time culling Paris addresses, interviewing Paris food store owners, taking cooking classes and dining at endless Paris restaurants. ''We've cooked and eaten their way through a small fortune,'' Mark tells me. The Paris Gourmet Food eGuide also includes a live-link map with all the best addresses at your fingertips (if your fingers happen to be on a computer keyboard, that is). To download the $8.99 eGuide, click here. 

Two Canadians with a shared love of Provence have created a new app for mobile devices. Just launched in time for summer, Edible Heritage is an audio walking guide for Aix-en-Provence. This app is suitable for both Android devices (from Google Play) and Apple (from iTunes). The idea was hatched over a few glasses of wine by business partners Laurence Bry (Provence Confidential) and Carolyne Kauser-Abbott (Ginger and Nutmeg). The app was designed for travelers who want more than just a tour of the must- see sights. ''It's a journey that allows the user to understand local customs, to delve into the tastes and meanings of local food and wine,'' says Carolyne. ''We've created just the right unstuffy balance between bits of history and bites of delicious treats.' Users will learn about things just as historically relevant to Provence as art and architecture, such as food and personal comforts. ''We've uncovered many little-known facts about these specialties to help travelers better appreciate the delightful world of Aix,'' Carolyne says. Best of all, the app requires no network or wireless connections for full functionality; all info, photos, audio and mapping points are integrated within it. Edible Heritage is $2.99 (Canadian) or roughly €2.30. For more info, click here. You can also like Edible Heritage on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and check them out on Pinterest.

An American writer (from Florida) married to a French man and now living in Banon, Carrieanne Le Bras wrote the book that she wishes she had found when she became pregnant in France. ''As my vocabulary and knowledge of the medical system grew, so did my confidence,'' she reports. ''This book is for expats who need help with pregnancy-related terminologies, and want to know what to expect from the French medical system.'' Chapters are in English and French, with key vocabulary words that every pregnant woman should know. It's loaded with facts, observations and personal stories about being pregnant in France. Practice sentences and answers are at the end of each chapter. Also included is an emergency contact page for placing near a telephone and an appendix filled with additional medical terminologies. To read more about Carrieanne, click here. You can buy the book in paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon here while other formats are for sale on Carrieanne's blog here.

Best Paris Stories was released in paperback last week, bringing together the winners of the 2011 Paris Short Story Contest. Under the direction of Paris Writers News, the anthology features stories selected by leading figures from the English-speaking literary community in France. Judges included Diane Johnson (author of Le Divorce), Elizabeth Bard (author of Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes), Charles Trueheart (director of the American Library in Paris), Nicola Keegan (author of Swimming), Janet Skeslien Charles  (author of Moonlight in Odessa) and others. Best Paris Stories is available at bookstores such as The Red Wheelbarrow and on Amazon in both ebook and paperback. You can follow them on twitter at @parisshortstory on on their website here And if you'd like to buy the book, it's on Amazon here.  

And in case you missed it, my recent story about Patricia Wells' new Food Lover's Guide to Paris app is here...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Picnic à la ''Alain Ducasse''

It sounds almost too delicious to be true: a shiny refurbished 1950 Chevy pickup truck collects you at the elegant Bastide de Moustiers, Alain Ducasse’s 12-room inn near the Gorges du Verdon. After a 15-minute ride through the sun-drenched countryside, you arrive at the ‘’secret spot,’’ in a prairie overlooking the Margès mountains, where you find a Italian-designed solid-chestnut table under a towering white oak. A full Mediterranean style picnic will be spread out upon it.
The chefs at La Bastide de Moustiers—Christophe Martin and his team--will have prepared your feast using seasonal produce from the inn's vegetable garden and from local markets. A typical menu? A round of amuses, followed by a fresh tomato salad drizzled with fruity olive oil, courgette and basil focaccia and rabbit porchetta. Then on to the cheese--a creamy Banon perhaps—and finally, crispy sweet Provence fruit tartlets and coffee.  For an extra fee, the hotel’s sommelier will choose the perfect wine to complement each course.

And all you have to do is show up in your chauffeur-driven Chevy (restored over the course of two years by an expert body-worker in Menton) and relax. 

As you might expect, the ‘Picnic in a Pickup’ doesn’t come cheap: it’s €190 per person for two to six wine. But you’re worth it. And don’t forget, this is a picnic designed by Alain Ducassethe first  chef in the world to hold three Michelin stars at three different restaurants, all at the same time. (His current three-stars are Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, at the Plaza Athénée in Paris and at the Dorchester in London. Altogether, Ducasse has 27 restaurants in eight countries with a total of 20 stars.) If you’re looking for the perfect place to propose in Provence, a laid-back yet luxurious celebration or just a pampering day out, I can’t think of a nicer way to do it. You don’t have to stay at Bastide de Moustiers in order to partake...the picnic is available to anyone. But if you are looking for a hotel near the famed ceramics village of Moustiers or the spectacular Gorges du Verdon,  this one is a beaut. Doubles begin at €205. For more info click here or email ( or call 04 92 70 47 47.

**2013 Update: The Bastide de Moustiers is once again offering their gourmet picnics this summer, beginning in July. For the 2013, the picnics are 210€ per person (two people) and 190€ per person for three people or more. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Michelin Star Chef Opens Casual ''Guingette''

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Sharon deRham has been traveling the world since age 19. She has a B.S. and M.A. in Spanish Linguistics and has taught both Spanish and French.  An M.B.A. in Finance propelled her into the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, where she worked at Hewlett-Packard and Cisco. She then studied food and wine in France, Italy, Mexico, China, Vietnam and the Napa Valley.  From 2001 to 2005,  Sharon owned and operated Mostly French, an antique and pottery shop in Calistoga (Napa Valley). She now lives in Vaison-la-Romaine, where she works as private guide, specializing in food, wine, and history tours of Provence for up to 15 people (contact: Passionate about all things culinary, Sharon has become one of my best sources for what's happening, not just in Vaison but across the whole Northern Vaucluse region. She got in touch the other day to tell me about a fun new restaurant opening this weekend and of course I grilled her for all the info. This is what she sent...

When a ‘’guingette’’ opens in Provence, it’s not such big news. But when it’s owned by a Michelin-starred chef, that’s another story indeed. Raoul Reichrath, who--with his sommelier wife Flora--owns the one-star Grand Pre Restaurant and the Bistro Preface in Roaix, officially unveiled his newest spot last night. It's called Les Paillottes and it too is in Roaix, 10 minutes from Vaison-la-Romaine.

So what’s a guingette? It’s a very-casual, outdoor dining, drinking and dancing venue. The concept developed several centuries ago outside Paris, to escape the taxes levied in the city.  It then spread to the countryside throughout much of the rest of France. Today’s guinguettes are open-air establishments serving up food, drink and sometimes music for dancing. The atmosphere is fun and relaxing--perfect for summer vacations. You’ll see them all over Provence, though not with the same pedigree as this one!

I expect the food, though casual, will be excellent given that Raoul is considered by many to be the best chef in the region.  At Les Paillottes he’ll be keeping to tradition by serving a simple selection of grilled foods, salads and desserts. First courses  (€8) will run along the lines of ceviche, fish soup and brandade (a Provencal cod and potato dish). Main courses  (€12-16) will include grilled lamb, beef, pork, chicken, salmon or squid; they’ll be served, most likely, with salad, fries, and sauce. Desserts (5€) will change weekly. Wine will come from seven local Roaix wineries and will be served by the carafe (pichet) or bottle….the selection includes the delicious Pique-Basse, which has earned stellar ratings. On Friday and Saturday nights, a fixed-price, three-course dinner is offered for €25.

Dining at Les Paillottes is on an umbrella- and tree-shaded patio, making this the perfect venue for a casual summer meal. In July and August there will be music and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.

To get there: Roaix is 1/2 hour northeast of Orange, 20 minutes north of Gigondas. Les Paillottes is located on the D975 (the Route de Vaison), just outside the village. If you take the D975 from Vaison towards Roaix you’ll see a sign on the left side of the road. It’s about 10 minutes or less from Vaison. Open daily, except for lunch on Monday. Hours are noon to 2 pm and 7 pm to 10 pm. Reservations accepted. Phone: 04 90 36 16 34. GPS: 44◦14’40”   5◦1’22” Email:

Photos: Top photo by Sharon deRham. Photo of Raoul and Flora by Julie Mautner. Want to reach Sharon? Email her at: