Monday, May 23, 2016

Vivre Côté Sud is June 3 to 6 in Aix

The 18th edition of the popular design fair called Vivre Côté Sud takes place June 3 to 6 in the Parc Jourdan in Aix. As in years past, the exhibitors (250 or so of them) will be organized by theme, the cumulative effect being a delicious, over-the-top paradise of beauty, creativity, craft and taste. To see all the themes, click hereIt's like Disneyland for Design Lovers!

The event is organized and hosted by the magazine Maisons Côté Sud, widely known and loved for its focus on celebrating the Mediterranean style and lifestyle.  (The magazine's tenets: "a search for beauty, a respect for talent, a desire for authenticity.")  Vivre Côté Sud, the organizers say, brings the pages of the magazine to life offering thousands of products and ideas for the home, garden, kitchen and more.

This year's overall theme is "nature" and everything that nature's beauty and diversity inspires. You'll see it expressed in gardens, materials, eco-design, on fabrics, wallpapers, paint tones, furniture, ceramics and much more. The design of the Parc's lounge was this year been entrusted to Fanny Piriou Desvignes while other talented designers, landscape designers and stylists oversaw the creation and decor of other.

For professionals such as architects and interior designers, there's a special area called Côté Sud Projets. Every day there will be an informal conference (for pros and consumers) on trends in residential and hotel design.

This year the show will be open two evenings, with dinner available on Friday night.

As in years past, attendees can sign up for coaching sessions in decor and garden design. Sign up in advance and be sure to bring your plans, photos or videos. 

Everyone who signs up for deco coaching takes home a shopping list along with recommendations for colors, materials, furniture and accessories. One-hour appointments are 89€. (For info or to book: or +33 1 75 55 43 66.)

Garden coaching will once again be offered by Thomas Gentilini and his team, with their particular expertise in the vegetables and plants of the Mediterranean. They're happy to help with any project, including maintenance, renovation, garden creation, pools, pergolas, terraces, etc.  One-hour garden coaching appointments are 59€. (For info or to book: or +33 4 42 02 56 86.) 

The cooking demos at Vivre Côté Sud are always a big draw. Among the top local chefs participating this year are Marc de Passorio (L'Esprit de la Violette, Aix),  Jany Gleize (La Bonne Etape, Château-Arnoux), Ronan Kernen (Côté Cour, Aix), Edouard Loubet (Bastide de Capelongue, Bonnieux), Alexandre Mazzia (AM Restaurant, Marseille), Mickaël Féval (Restaurant Mickaël Féval, Aix), Lionel Lévy  (Intercontinental Hôtel-Dieu, Marseille), Guillaume Sourrieu (L'Epuisette, Marseille), Nadia Sammut (Auberge La Fenière, Lourmarin), Ludovic Turac (A Table au Sud, Marseille) and Glenn Viel (Oustau de Baumanière, Les Baux). See the website for the schedule, the dishes and more.

Vivre Côté Sud is at the Parc Jourdan in Aix, Friday June 3 through Monday June 6th. The show opens at 10 am daily and closes at 11 pm Fri, 9 pm Sat, 8 pm Sun and 6 pm Mon. Tickets are 10€ (full price) and 7€ (reduced). The website in French with decent English translation is:

Photos: A taste of Vivre Côté Sud over the years...and some of what's to come.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Van Gogh Show Opens in Arles May 14

This summer the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles will hold its third retrospective devoted to the famous Dutch artist who lived in Arles in 1888-89. 

Opening on Saturday, Van Gogh in Provence: Modernizing Tradition is considered an exceptionally important show with regards to both the number of paintings and to their "dialogue" within the exhibition space, which has been redesigned specially for the occasion. Thirty-one original works by Van Gogh will, the museum says, "allow us to comprehend how deeply his painting is anchored in the traditional genres to which he never ceased to lend new expression." 

Selected by curator Sjraar van Heugten, one of the world’s foremost Van Gogh experts, the 31 paintings offer a panorama of seven years of intense activity, culminating in the artist’s time in Provence, during which he produced some 500 works. This is a major show for the city and it's expected to be a huge success.

Van Gogh is a huge presence in Provence but few of his paintings actually stay here in permanent museum collections. (At present I know of just one, in Avignon.) The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, which opened in 2014, was created to underscore and celebrate the inseparable link between Van Gogh's work and the city of Arles, by showing his paintings alongside the work of contemporary artists. (My story about the creation of the museum and the people behind it is here.) 

The Fondation Van Gogh is located at the Hôtel Léautaud de Donines,  a 15th-century building elegantly restored by Guilaume Avenard and Hervé Scheider of the architectural firm Fluor, who said that the light of Arles was their “guiding thread.” It's located in the heart of the city's historic center, a setting classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Fondation has more than 1000 square meters of exhibit space spread over two floors.

The museum is currently closed while the new exhibit is being installed. Van Gogh in Provence: Modernizing Tradition opens Saturday May 14 at 11 am and runs until Sunday September 11, 2016. Hours will be 11 am to 7 pm, seven days a week; last entry is 6 pm. All the info is on the website here and on the press release, which you can read in English here.

Photos: (1) The entrance to the Fondation Van Gogh, which opened in the heart of Arles in 2014. Not visible in the photo is the 15th-century building that houses the exhibit spaces. (2 - 6) From the show:  Self Portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1887), Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (1888)Still Life with Absinthe (1887), Field with Irises near Arles (1888) and An Old Woman of Arles (1888). (7) Front of the Fondation,  gates closed. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Avignon Rose Festival is May 5 to 8

The glorious rose festival called Alterarosa happens in Avignon every two years...and it starts Thursday. It's an extremely popular spring event for families, with a huge rose garden blooming in the majestic cloister of the Palais des Papes plus lots of new events around town including a "pink tour" pedestrian circuit with a contemporary art exhibit at the Église des Célestins (map above). Everyone is invited to a "Pinknique Picnic" at the Rocher des Doms on Sunday at 12:30, with a concert for 100 voices at 1 pm. (Bring your own picnic or buy the pre-packaged ones at the Les Halles market; only drinks will be sold on site...and yes, they'll have rosé!). Shops all over town will be selling rose-themed products.

This is a great opportunity to meet top French rose breeders as they'll be presenting their latest creations at the Palais des Papes (make sure to vote for the People's Choice!). The French Rose Society will be leading seminars and there will be classes and workshops for all ages. There are special garden tours (see below) and a special Rhône river cruise. 

This year, a guided exhibit and garden tour will be offered in English as well as French. The tour includes the gardens atop the Rocher des Doms (where Avignon was first settled), the recently restored Church of Notre Dame des Doms and its private gardens (except on the Thursday tour) and the elegant garden of the five-star Hotel La Mirande, once the home of a 14th-century Cardinal. This tour is available in English on Thursday May 5 at 2:30 pm (cathedral gardens not included on this day), on Friday May 6 at 2:30 pm and on Saturday May 7 at 10 am. More info and ticketing is on the Avignon Tourist Office website here.

For the Alterarosa website, click here or find them on Facebook hereTickets for Alterarosa at the Palais des Papes are 5.50€ for Avignon residents and kids (age 8-17) and 9€ for adults. Kids under 8 are free. Tickets can be bought online, at the Tourist Office (41 Cours Jean Jaurès) or at the Palais des Papes.  

For help in English, you can also call the Avignon Tourist Office at 04 32 74 32 74 or email: