Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Princess Grace: On Film and In Provence

Action! The cameras have just begun rolling here in France for Grace of Monaco, the new movie with Nicole Kidman playing Grace Kelly. The story centers on a six-month period in 1962 when French Prime Minister Charles de Gaulle and Monaco's Prince Rainier III were at odds over the opulent principality's standing as a tax haven. The Philadelphia-born Kelly, who had quit Hollywood to marry the Prince in 1955, was said to have been instrumental in helping to sort out the political hoo-ha. The film is directed by Olivier Dahan, whose Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose earned Marion Cotillard the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2008. Princess Grace died in a car accident in 1982 (her daughter Stephanie survived the crash) and it's said the funeral was watched on TV by 30 million people. Speaking of 30 million, that's the estimated budget for the film. Following her appearance at the Emmys on Sunday night, Kidman joined the cast at the Victorine Studio in Nice, which is where Alfred Hitchcock filmed Kelly opposite Cary Grant in 1955’s To Catch a Thief.

The film is slated for a 2014 release. Tim Roth will play Prince Rainer III and Paz Vega will appear as Grace Kelly's friend and confidante, the opera legend Maria Callas. Frank Langella is set to play Father Tucker, the priest who set Rainer and Kelly up and served as an important adviser to the couple throughout their relationship. Parker Posey plays the scheming social climber Madge Tivey-Faucon, Grace's lady-in-waiting who ''couldn't wait to sell unflattering tell-alls to the French press once she left Kelly's employ.'' Milo Ventimiglia plays Grace's publicist Rupert Allan, who served as consul general for the principality of Monaco and was made a Chevalier of the Order of Grimaldi in 1989.

If the life of Princess Grace interests you, then this is the perfect time to see The Princess Grace Photo Album in Les Baux de Provence, the striking Medieval hill town in the heart of Provence. It's an exhibit of photos taken by reporters from Paris Match, grouped according to era and subject and hung in three indoor/outdoor spaces around the village: in the courtyard and gallery of the Hotel de Manville (along with letters and other historic memorabilia), in the Jardin de l’îlot Post Tenebras Lux and in La Citerne. The show remains on view until November 15, 2012.

So what's the connection between the Princess and Les Baux?  The show marks the 30th anniversary of the Princess's visit with Prince Albert, the young Marquis de Baux.  In June 1982, the people of Les Baux gave an official reception for Prince Albert of Monaco and presented him with the keys of the town. A bit of history: The barony of Les Baux was raised to the status of a marquisate in 1642 by King Louis XIII, to thank the Prince of Monaco, Hercule de Grimaldi, for his assistance in the fight against the kingdom of Spain. A map of Les Baux was drawn at that time, bearing the arms of Les Baux and Monaco. The Eyguieres gate was raised in the 17th century by the Princes of Monaco. Their coat-of-arms, which was hammered down during the French Revolution, can be seen in a scroll with baroque foliage decoration.To this day,  the Grimaldis continue to contribute to the restoration and enhancement of Les Baux, such as the donation, in 1962, of the stained-glass windows in St. Vincent's Church and the restoration of the frescoes in the Hotel de Porcelet. 

At one time (in the 13th century), the village of Les Baux was home to as many as 3000 people. Now the year-round population is just 22.

To celebrate the opening of The Princess Grace Photo Album, a group of regional dignitaries, tourism authorities and local business owners were welcomed for a private tour and gala luncheon this summer. The guest of honor was Diane E. Kelly, the Consul General of the U.S. in Marseille and Monaco. 

Entrance to the Princess Grace show is free. A guide to the show and the sites pertaining to the history of the Grimaldi Family in Les Baux can be found at the Tourist Office or online here. For more info on the show or Les Baux itself, call (04 90 54 34 39), email (tourisme@lesbauxdeprovence.com) or click here.  

*For still more on Les Baux, you can see two great shots here and here. To read about a Les Baux quarry that does custom stone work, click here.

Photos: (1 & 2) Kelly, left, is being played by Kidman in "Grace of Monaco," which just began filming in France. Photos via MGM/Will Davidson/Swisse via Getty Images. (3) Poster photo by Jack Garofalo/Paris Match. (4 & 5) Large photos from many chapters of Grace Kelly's life are hung in three indoor/outdoor venues in Les Baux. (6, 7, 8) Photos from the show. (9)  Odette Girard, owner of the Les Baux restaurant Bauthezar, greets Diane E. Kelly (Consul General of the U.S. in Marseille and Monaco) in Les Baux this summer, and shows her a photo taken in June 1982 during Grace and Albert's visit.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Delano Marrakech Opens Friday

In the same way that we North Americans pop off to Mexico or the Caribbean, folks here in France find Morocco an easy, exotic and relatively inexpensive getaway. So I like to keep up with the hotel goings-on down there. And this week there's an exciting opening: Delano. It launches on Friday, September 21, and it's the first outpost of the wildly popular, Philippe Starck-designed hotel of the same name in Miami Beach. While other American-born boutique brands, such as W Hotels, have expanded worldwide and countless hoteliers have knocked off the distinctive all-white Delano look, the New York-based Morgan’s Hotel Group (MHG), has had just the one original Delano...until now.

The Delano Marrakech represents a joint venture between MHG and the Hivernage Collection. The new 73-suite hotel sits in the heart of the Hivernage district (also home to the Four Seasons and Le Meridien) and was designed by top French architect/designer Jacques Garcia. Garcia, as you stylish people certainly know, did the Hotel Costes and Royal Monceau in Paris, and more recently re-did the Mamounia (Marrakech) and the Danieli (Venice).  In Paris alone there are 20-plus chic hotels and restaurants associated with his name while his private clients include the likes of the Sultan of Brunei.

The Delano Marrakech has a Baroque interior combining precious marbles, draped velvet, and rare fabrics. The lobby boasts hand-carved detailing, a central rotunda and a retractable roof while guestrooms feature Moroccan lighting, painted headboards, city panoramas overlooking the Koutobia Mosque and Juliet balconies. The hotel has a 20,000-square-foot spa, three pools and several bars and lounges. A ''carefully curated'' selection of boutiques on the ground level include Louis Vuitton, La Perla, Missoni women’s collection and Tamengo jewelry.

And just as the Delano Miami had, for many years, retained high-profile French chef Claude Troisgros to oversee its food, the new hotel has not one but two internationally known, Michelin-starred chefs in charge of its restaurants: Michel Rostang (for the two French concepts) and Giancarlo Morelli for the Italian.

Rostang, who holds two Michelin stars at his namesake restaurant in Paris, is operating the all-day Gallerie, with a a classic-and-modern French menu, and the gastronomic French restaurant called Bon R.
(Signing on Michelin-starred French chefs to oversee hotel food in Marrakech is definitely a trend...and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of it.) To handle the day to day cooking at the elegant 96-seat Bon R, Rostang chose Alexander Visciano and moved him down from Rostang Paris. 
Morelli’s restaurant Pomiroeu, meanwhile, was designed to ‘’a slice of old school Italian glamour to Marrakech.’’ When Morelli is back at his one-star Pomiroeu in Milan, Fabio Moriconi, who has worked with him for seven years, will be in charge. 

Delano's executive chef is Foued Amri, who came over from the Four Seasons Marrakech and was cooking at La Mamounia before that. The hotel's general manger/director is Aziz Bendriss, who was last working at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park.

Morgans Hotel Group was founded by Ian Schrager, with the opening of Morgans Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York, in 1984. The Royalton and The Paramount followed. The Delano on Miami Beach opened in 1995, after a total re-do of a 1947 art deco hotel, also called The Delano. MHG went public in 2006 and now owns or operates 13 properties worldwide, with signed deals for ten new hotels under the Delano, Mondrian and Hudson brands. The target is to have open ten Delanos, five Hudsons, and ten to 15 Mondrians by 2020. Meanwhile the next Delano is slated to open in Las Vegas before year’s end, followed by the Delano Moscow in 2015.

Rates at Delano Marrakech begin at $330/€251 and special packages are available. For more info or to book, click here or call 800-606-6090 (U.S.) or 00 800 4969 1770 (International).  

Photos: A rendering of the Delano and a guestroom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Fine French Cookbook Giveaway!

Two of my old food-industry pals, Laurent Gras and Mitchell Davis, have just released an interactive digital cookbook called Laurent Gras: My Provence. It includes more than 40 dishes from Gras’ early years, growing up in Antibes and working for top chefs on the Côte d’Azur. The new digital publisher Alta Editions, released the book last month and they’ve offered me two copies to give away to my readers.

The book contains hundreds of gorgeous high-resolution color photos, instructional videos, loads of chef tips and Laurent’s personal stories. It also gives readers who prepare the dishes the opportunity to share their own stories and photos directly inside the book. 

Known for his innovative cuisine, Laurent has received three Michelin stars for his cooking at three different restaurants over the past 20 years. But rather than focusing on his restaurant cuisine, the new book finds him returning to the flavors and memories of his youth. Readers can enjoy: 

*Classic Provençal recipes such as Ratatouille and Clams Marinière. 

*Creative preparations, such as Burrata Ravioli with Orange and Sage, made with time-saving wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta. 

*A Pork Chop en Papillote made with with juniper berries, which Laurent used to collect on his family’s property in France and which are often used to flavor meat and game. 

*The Garlic-Roasted Côte de Boeuf Laurent learned as a cook at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. 

*Laurent’s  grandmother’s Gateau de Galette, a gorgeous coffee-infused cake made with LU Petit Beurre cookies, chocolate and buttercream--like a French tiramisù. 

With step-by-step photos and videos, the book requires no downloads or software; readers who purchase (or win) it access it by logging onto the Alta Editions site. It’s browser-based HTML5 e-book optimized for the  iPad that can also be viewed on any laptop or desktop. You can watch a brief video introduction to the book here. 

Alors! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below, under ‘’comments.’’ The more creative, the better of course. Make sure to provide your email address or we won’t be able to reach you; logging in with your Google name is not enough. If you’d like go ahead and just purchase the e-book, it’s $9.99 and you can do that here. 

Here’s a bit more about Laurent. He was born into what he calls ‘’a family and culture focused on food.’’ Early in his career he worked with a remarkable group of chefs including Jacques Maximin, Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse and Alain Senderens. After attaining three Michelin stars as chef de cuisine at Ducasse’s restaurants in Monaco and Paris, Gras moved to the U.S. where he received widespread acclaim for his cuisine, first at Peacock Alley in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (NYC) and later at the Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco. With well known Chicago restaurateur Richard Melman, Laurent opened L2O in Chicago in 2008. It was named ‘’Best New Restaurant’’ by Esquire that same year. Gras left in late 2010, the same month that Michelin bestowed three stars upon the restaurant, its highest rating. 

Laurent’s co-author, Mitchell Davis, knows a thing or two about the kitchen as well. He’s a cookbook author, food journalist and the executive vp of the James Beard Foundation (NYC), with a Ph.D. in Food Studies from New York University. In addition to three previous cookbooks, Mitchell has written extensively for GQ, Food & Wine, The Art of Eating, Saveur and Gastronomica. Mitchell also co-authored the book Foie Gras ... A Passion, which won the International Cookbook Review’s ''Best International Cookbook of the Year.'' Mitchell is a frequent guest lecturer and panelist on a variety of food-related topics, and has taught food and theory classes at New York University and Cornell University. You can follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here

So leave a comment below to enter the contest, the more creative the better. Winners will be picked next week. Bon Chance et Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Art Update for the Weekend and Beyond

So much art in Provence and so little time! Here are a few new and noteworthy shows...with a few vernissages (openings) that you can attend...and a few ongoing shows that you might have missed. Enjoy!


The 4th edition of Abbaye Art Contemporain (ABBYAC) will be this weekend, September 7th to 9th, 2012, in Villeneuve lez Avignon, across the Rhone River from Avignon. Twenty one artists will show their work (sculpture, photography, installations) in the lovely setting of the gardens of the Abbaye Saint-André. The show is open Friday  (10 am to 12:30 and 2 to 6 pm) and Saturday and Sunday (from 10 am to 6 pm, without interruption). Entry is 6€ for adults and free for kids. Guided visits are available by calling 04 90 25 45 35. Meanwhile the vernissage will be tomorrow (Friday September 7th) from 6 to 9 pm and entry is free. The Abbaye is located at the Fort Saint André and parking is on the Place du Marché or the Montée des Chartreaux. For more info, click here. Just FYI, there’s a very nice Saturday morning brocante market every week in Villeneuve, on the Place du Marché, from 6 am to 2 pm.


Five local painters--all friends--will be showing  their work at the Galerie de la Prévôté in Aix this month. Lynn Rousseau, originally from Minnesota, has been living and painting in Provence for 10 years. Her work is colorful and figurative, but often touches on the abstract. Jacques Letrosne is the director of the Atelier Libre (where adults and children can learn to paint) and creates large-scale paintings which often focus on the unity between man and nature. Pascal Louvet began painting in the early 1990s; his work is vibrant and joyous, much like the fauvists before him, and expresses the light and warmth of his adopted Provence. Aix-born Michel Arnaud, who began his career in watercolor but has since moved on to oils, often paints the seashore in the Var region. Bruno Charmasson, a Gap native, first opened his paint box after retiring from a journalism career. His cavasses offer a window into the intimate moments of people’s daily lives. These five artists often pack up for the day and head out to paint together, whether it be the countryside around Mont St. Victoire or along the coast and into the Var. The Galerie de la Prévôté is on the Place des Martyrs de la Résistance (Parking Pasteur), a few steps from the cathedral. The first vernissage (Rousseau, Charmasson, Arnaud) is Tuesday Sept 11 at 6:30 and that show runs September 10 to 16.  The second vernissage (Letrosne, Louvet) is Tuesday Sept 18 at 6:30 and that show follows, from September 17 to 23. For info, contact Lynn Rousseau at or lynninlambesc@orange.fr 


The annual Recontres d'Arles, the fantastic international photo festival, started in early July and finishes up September 23 in Arles. So if you haven't made it over there, now's the time. This year more than 100 photographers were invited to present 60 different exhibits, lectures and performances....and many of the shows remain on view until September 23rd. For a list of the exhibits, click here and then click through the items on the sidebar on the left. Single entry tickets for the various exhibits range from  €3.50  to €11; a €27 day pass gives you one entry per exhibit. A pass for the month of September is €27. Tickets for all Recontres events are available at a number of locations in Arles and the main festival ticket office is at #34 rue du docteur Fanton. All ticket offices are open 10 am to 7 pm daily. Tickets can also be bought online here. For all the Rencontres info in English, including exhibition schedules, events, maps and ticketing, click here. You can also call +33 (0)4 90 96 76 06 or email: info@rencontres-arles.com. But wait, there's more! You can learn about the Rencontres app for iPhone here and follow the Rencontres on Twitter: @rencontresarles.


Every year, the Musée Réattu in Arles has a "fil rouge''--a concept or theme around which its various exhibits are based. This year the theme is drama, theater and illusion and the umbrella title is "Act V."  Within that theme, there are different ''Scenes.'' And right now, they're on Scenes 2 and 3, which are tributes to Picasso and the designer Christian Lacroix. What's the connection? The Arles-born Lacroix saw his first Picasso exhibit in the mid 1950s. And ''whether they say it discreetly or at the top of their voices, his costumes articulate his own modest tribute to the icons of Picasso's world,'' the museum explains. ''His 'Ménine' costume, for example, made from a patchwork of embroidered jeans and reworked in 17th century style, seems to nod at Picasso's Musketeers.'' 

Picasso, meanwhile has a strong bond with both the Musée Réattu and the city of Arles. ''It was a thread that ran throughout his life,'' the museum says,  ''from his very first visit to the city with Georges Braque. Emerging from that stay were his drawings of Arlésiennes of 1912, a theme that recurs in 1937 with the features of Lee Miller, and again, in 1958, a year after the memorable exhibition at the Réattu--this time with the face of Jacqueline.''

So what you'll see here is a series of Lacroix' famous theater, dance, opera and bullfight costumes, along with
57 drawings that Picasso bequeathed to the museum in 1971. Plus, there are two major Picasso paintings, several engravings, photos of the artist by famous photographers such as Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis...and more. My friends who've seen this show really loved it and it sounds like one not to miss. Scenes 2 and 3 are on view until December 30. The Musee Reattu is at # 10, rue du Grand Prieuré. For info, click here or call 04 90 49 81 05.

Five times a year, St. Remy stages La Route des Artistes, an open-air art fair that takes over the main traffic circle and some of the Centre Ville streets inside it. The last two fairs are Sunday September 9th and Sunday October 7th. You'll see roughly 100 artists showing  paintings, photos, sculpture, ceramics and more, much of it quite reasonably priced.  For more info, click here or call 04 90 92 05 22.


The exhibit ''Kinetic Art and Op Art'' runs until November 4 at the Fondation Villa Datris, a venue dedicated to contemporary sculpture. Featuring 50 French and international artists, this show explores different facets of these two major 20th-century artistic movements. Eighty-five works brimming with light and movement (by Philippe Hiquily, Chul Hyun Ahn, Alexander Calder, Zimoun and many others) bring the three stories of Villa Datris and its gardens to life, illustrating the themes of movement and light. Admission is free. Fall hours are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 11 to 1 and 2 to 6. Open holidays. Villa Datris, #7, ave. des 4 Otages, Isle sur la Sorgue, 04 90 95 23 70, villadatris@orange.fr, villadatris.com

Photos: Click on any of them to enlarge. From the top: (1, 2, 3, 4) A dreamy photo by Johann Fournier, whimsical figures sculpted by Catriona Manoury, and two beautifully intricate pieces by Pierre Barbion made from--wait for it!--cow bones. All are on view this weekend at ABBYAC in Villeneuve lez Avignon. (5, 6, 7) Paintings by Lynn Rousseau, Pascal Louvet and Jacques Letrosne, who are having a group show at the Galerie de la Prévôté in Aix. (8, 9, 10) The poster for this year's Rencontres, plus two images pulled from ongoing exhibits: Olivier Metzger's 2012 ''Untitled'' from the series ''Smile Forever,'' and Marina Gadonneix's  ''Plane #2'' from the series ''Playground Disorder.'' (11, 12) Posters for Lacroix and Picasso in Arles and the Route des Artistes, St. Remy. (13, 14, 15) Indoors and out at the Kinetic Art and Op Art show at Villa Datris: One of the light-and-movement filled salons; garden sculptures by Jaildo Marinho and Mark Di Suvero.