Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What's Happening in Provence?

Coming up this week (or super soon), we've got grape stomps, gladiator games, gourmet golfing, a Basquiat show, Michelin-starred meals, a pottery market, the last of the lavender festivals, a precious pig needing a perfect home and more. Read on!

Gourmet Golf Tournament at Manville
On Sunday Aug 25, enter the Bistrot du Paradou Cup at the Domaine de Manville and enjoy a gourmet buffet at hole #10. The event is organized by Bistrot du Paradou owner Vincent Quenin and held on the 18-hole course at a five-star resort between Les Baux and Maussane. If you know Manville, you know the setting is gorgeous. And if you know the Bistrot (or Paradou, as everyone calls it), you know the food is going to be great. For info and to register, click here or call: +33 (0)4 90 54 40 20.

Last Call for Lavender!
The village of Dignes-les-Bains has not one but two major lavender events each year. The first, the Corso de Lavande, has come and gone but the second happens this week. The 98th annual Lavender Fair (Foire de la Lavande) is Aug 21 to 25, with 200 stands from 150+ exhibitors offering every possible lavender product plus food, decor, gifts and more. This year there are two free horse shows every day, featuring the famous white Camargue horses we all love. The fair runs from 10 am to 8 pm daily and all the info is here.

Good Vibrations in Avignon

The 30-minute, 360-degree sound-and-light show called Vibrations, held every evening in the courtyard of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, opened for the season on Aug 11 and runs through Oct 12. In August, there are two shows each evening at 9.30 pm and 10.30 pm, while September and October feature one performance at 9.30 pm nightly (plus a second show at 10.30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights only in September). The schedule and all details are here.

Music Under the Stars in Avignon
The program Sous Les Etoiles at the Musee Louis Vouland presents two classical concerts and a lecture this week, in the garden of the museum, starting at 8:30 pm. The concerts are tonight and Friday. For all the info, click here.

Basquiat, Darroze & More at Chateau La Coste

There's always something happening at Chateau La Coste. With the help of the Enrico Navarra Gallery in Paris, La Coste just unveiled an exhibit of 140 Jean-Michel Basquiat drawings from the years 1977 to 1987 (Basquiat died in 1988 at age 27). The show opened Aug 11 and runs through Oct 13. Another temporary show opens Thursday Aug 22; this one features the work of Jean-Michel Othoniel and Yoshitomo Nara. The vernissage (opening party) for that show is 5 pm to 6:30 pm and all the details are here. If you want to try the cuisine of Michelin two-star chef Hélène Darroze (of Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London and Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris and Moscow), she's cooking until Sept 1 in the restaurant aVilla La Coste, the property's 28-suite, five-star hotel, where two Michelin three-starred chefs, Francis Mallmann and Gérald Passédat, also have restaurants. (To book: +33 (0)4 42 50 50 00, And the Château La Coste summer program of live music on the terrace of the restaurant La Terrace (6:30 to 8:30 pm) wraps up this week with rock/reggae (Thurs Aug 22), swing/manouche (Sat Aug 24) and pop/soul guitar (Sun Aug 25). For my recent story about Chateau La Coste, click here. For the website, click here. (Photos: A Basquiat, chef Hélène Darroze and the Villa La Coste Restaurant.) 

A Roman Holiday in Arles
For one week in late August, every year since 2007, Arles is transformed into the ancient city of Arelate to celebrate its Gallo Roman past with circus games, gladiator classes, Arena tours, Roman camps, street performances, Roman taverns, film screenings and much more. This year's Arelate Festival runs until Sunday Aug 26 and includes plenty of activities for families. On Saturday Aug 24 for example, there are kids workshops in the square between the Amphitheatre and the Antique Theater. These include: dressing up Roman style at 11 am (5€), mosaic class at 10:30 am or 3:30 pm (5€), weaving (5€), Roman hair-styling (5€), amulet making and more. See the full schedule, in French, here. For info in English, try the Arles Tourist Office.

Epic Films in an Epic Setting
As part of the Arelate Festival, there's the 32nd Annual Peplum (Epic) Film Festival in Arles until Aug 24, with projections on a giant screen in the Théâtre Antique, starting each evening at 9 pm. An intro to the film is provided each evening by a cinema expert. The schedule includes Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), Barabbas (1962), The Mummy (1999) and more. The schedule and details are here.

Courses Camarguaises in Arles
If you want to see the summer evening Courses Camarguaises in the Roman arena in Arles, you've got two more chances: Wednesday Aug 21 and Friday Aug 23. (They're every Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout July and August at 5:30 pm). Courses Camarguaises are also held at village fêtes throughout Provence but there's definitely something about seeing one in this monumental Roman site. Think of this as a kinder, gentler bullfight: people are rarely injured and the bulls are not killed. Known as razeteurs, the young men (I've never seen a woman do it but there must be some?) aim to pluck ribbons and rosettes tied to the bulls’ horns, cutting them free with special barbed gloves. The competitors are on foot and rely solely on speed and agility. And you can rest assured the bull will live to see another day. Tickets (11€ adults, 7€ kids), can be bought at the arena or at the Arles Tourist Office.

Looking for Love?
On Sunday Sept 1, it's "journee portes ouvertes" (open doors day) at the S.P.A des Baux-de-Provence. Also called the Refuge Saint Roch, it's like what we Americans call the Humane Society. From 2 to 5:30 pm, come visit and find the perfect companion; all dogs and cats ready for adoption have been vaccinated, sterilized and given a tatoo ID. Last time I checked, they were also looking for the right home for a five-year-old pig named León le Cochon, who was "raised like a little dog and comes when called." Tempting!

Foodies on the Loose!
St. Remy is filled with artisinal food producers, working in traditional ways, keeping local food traditions alive. And luckily, many have shops and workshops right in the heart of the village. On this half-day walking tour for food lovers of all ages (Thursday Sept 5 from 3 to 6 pm or Saturday Sept 21 from 9:30 to 12:30) you'll be paired with other travelers (ten people max) for a very filling and fun adventure. Rendezvous with your guide at the Tourist Office and then hit the rue running! Staying in the heart of the village (with minimal walking), you'll roam from shop to shop tasting chocolates, cookies, nougat, honey, olive oils, tapenades, confitures and more. You might take a break for coffee with a few macarons on the side--gotta keep energy up!--then most likely move on to a cheese tasting, enjoyed with a glass of a favorite local wine. Along the way you'll get a taste of the rich history of this cobblestone village and a glimpse into local life from your charming guide. 75€ pp for adults, 50€ ages 12 to 18, 30€ ages 6 to 12. Kids under 6 are welcome at no charge as long as they're fearless and willing to taste! The tour is also available other dates...just ask. For info or to book:

Potters and the People Who Love Them
Thirty or so ceramic artists will be selling their work at the Crillon-le-Brave Potters Market, from 9 am to 7 pm on the Place de la Mairie on Sunday Aug 25. There will be pottery demos, a workshop for kids and adults, a free raffle and food available. For more info about the event sponsor Terres de Provence, the regional association of ceramicists and potters, click here.

Playing Catch-up at the Carrieres
This year's show at the Carrières de Lumières is about Vincent Van Gogh and it's attracting record numbers. (All the details are here.) But for those who missed previous years' shows or want to see them again, the program called Les Intégrales des Carrières repeats three of them, all in one evening...ten times during the season. The next dates for Les Intégrales are Sept 13 & 14, 20 & 21, 27 & 28. On these evenings the entry fee is 24€ (37€ if you want to enjoy a special meal) and tickets must be purchased in advance. The doors open at 7:30 and the shows start at 8:30. This year the program will feature "Picasso and the Spanish Masters" (2018), "Chagall: Midsummer Nights Dreams" (2016) and "Klimt and Vienna: A Century of Gold and Colors" (2014). For more info, click here.

Lourmarin Summer Music Festival 
There's still plenty of time to enjoy this splendid classical and jazz festival held at the Château de Lourmarin. This week on Thursday Aug 22, hear four-handed piano with Irina Chkourindina and Magali Lauron, playing Schubert, Brahms, Ravel and Piazzola. Next up, on Monday Aug 26, hear Andrei Korobeinikov on piano, playing Schumann and Rachmaninov. The festival continues through October 12 and all the info is here.

Special Evenings at the Caumont in Aix
At the fantastic Hotel de Caumont (aka the Caumont Art Center) in Aix, the summer show, "Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Foundation" runs until Sept 29. A special way to see it is on a Friday night, when the museum stays open late and offers a more exclusive experience with Champagne, live music, an optional dinner on the terrace and more. Tickets must be booked in advance, at the museum or here. Or, see the Guggenheim show on a Wednesday or Saturday and stay on to hear live jazz in the garden. The concerts start at 7:30 pm and your 20€ entry includes a glass of Champagne. Info on the jazz concerts is here

Grape Stomps at Les Pastras
And none too soon! Grape stomping starts up again on Sept 2 at Les Pastras in the Southern Luberon and runs until roughly Sept 30. Your Instagram needs this! Sign up (two people minimum) and tour a Provençal farm, learn how grapes are cultivated and how wine is made, then stomp away in enormous waist-high antique oak barrels with a view of Cezanne's beloved Mt. Ste. Victoire. You'll learn the difference between harvesting wine grapes and table grapes, dance to Piaf, learn French drinking songs and laugh a lot...guaranteed! Afterwards you'll enjoy platters of cheese, pâté and charcuterie; all you care to drink of Les Pastras rosé and red wines; and a tasting of the farm's olive oil and truffle oils. Price: 60€ pp adults, 40€ pp kids. Offered weekdays at 10 am or 6 pm but please book at least a week in advance. All details are here.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Free Choral Concert Next Weekend

Every summer, a group of talented singers from Nice and the UK known as Ristretto arrives in tiny, charming Lumières in the Luberon to enjoy good food and wine, the beauty of Provence, lovely warm weather and a week of intensive choral singing. This year's program will be works by: Bach, Schumann, Part, Naylor, Macmillan and Pearsall. And every year, the group offers a free, open-to-the-public concert showcasing the works they've perfected during the week. This year, the concert will be Saturday August 10 at 6 pm, in the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lumière, Lumières/Goult near the Hotellerie Notre Dame de Lumières, a very-special hotel in a former 17th-century convent. Admission to the concert is free...just show up! For a casual dinner afterwards, stroll over to Le Garage, grab an outdoor table and tuck into a terrific selection of tapas, small plates and cocktails. Lumières is just off the D900, just below the village of Goult...about 15 to 20 minutes from Gordes and the 12th-century Abbaye de Sénanque. And if you're planning an event of your own, please keep in mind that the highly regarded Ristretto and its musicians are available for weddings and other events throughout Provence and the Côte d'Azur. For more info:, +33 (0)6 83 53 23 50.