Pack up the thermal undies and cross the Atlantic… just to go skiing in France? With all that tempting Colorado and Canadian powder so close at hand? Plus Vermont? And New Hampshire?
Can we give you a good reason?
No … unless you’re heading for Megève, the French alpine resort that elevated “après ski”
Languedoc Backroads from Béziers to Toulouse:
There’s more to the South of France than Provence and the Côte d’Azur. In the Languedoc, you get just as much sunlight, great food, more history per square inch, and wines that are still affordable. (Perhaps not for long… the rest of the world is catching on to the joys of Fitou and Faugères very, very fast.)
Paintings and sculpture by free-spirit Robert Raushenberg light up the Gagosian Gallery (4 rue de Ponthieu; www.gagosian.com) in the 8th arrondissement from September
In our June issue, we explore Arles…
Arles is 80 kilometers – and 80 light-years — from Aix-en-Provence. These two irresistible towns incarnate the polar opposites of Provence. Aix has an opera festival. Arles has bullfights. Aix is about Cézanne sipping tea in cafés. Arles is about Van Gogh going mad. When you come down to it, Aix is sweet… and Arles is sexy.
Arles, population 52,000, pulls more than its weight of UNESCO sites in Southern France. Its townscape was shaped in the Gallo-Roman era, when Caesar awarded the town on the via domitia road from Italy to Spain to veterans of his Sixth Legion. There’s an arcaded Roman Arena built to seat 20,000 spectators, the antique theatre that seated 12,000, and the Baths of Constantine. One of the most exciting things about Arles is that its fascinating archaeology is an ongoing project. In 2007, divers pulled a rare and exceedingly life-like bust of Julius Caesar out of the Rhône. Thousands of objects have been recovered already but given the difficult conditions – as divers are hindered by the extremely low visibility in the muddy and polluted river – it’s safe to say that many more works of art are waiting to be rescued.
While some historians posit that the entire riverbank may have been lined with statues, the new finds have already corrected some previous assumptions. The Right Bank of the Rhône, once considered undeveloped, was a thriving, monument-filled part of the city in the Roman era. The strikingly modern and well-appointed Musée départementale Arles antique (closed Tuesday; www.arles-antique.cg13.fr) has easy-to-understand scale models of the Trinquetaille settlements, abandoned due to barbarian raids in the Middle Ages, which are yet to reveal all their secrets.
Arles owns treasures from the Christian era too: the magnificent sculptures in the Saint-Trophîme Cloister; the Priory of the Knights of Malta, now the Musée Réattu housing Old Master and modern art; and the folkloric Museon Arlaten (created by poet Frédéric Mistral) in the 16th century
Laval-Castellane mansion. Les Alyscamps, used as a cemetery from Roman to medieval times, is also a popular tourist attraction.
There aren’t any more gladiators and Christian vs Lion matches in the Arles arena, but they still are used for sport. Courses camarguaises – a non-violent Provençal institution in which contestants attempt to hang ribbons and pop-poms on the horns of the bulls — take place every Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 pm during July and August. (Championships are scheduled for July 2, 4, 6, 13 and 20; Final on October 9).
Despite a growing movement to ban corridas in France, classic bull-fighting is still practiced in Arles and the next big event is the Feria du Riz from September 8th to 11th. Ticket information for all events in the arena is available at www.arenes-arles.com
Next month, photographers from all over the world flock to Arles for the inauguration of the city-wide Rencontres d’Arles Photo Festival on July 4th with 60 exhibits scheduled through September 18th. The formally informal HQ for photographers and journalists is the perennially cool Hôtel Nord Pinus (right next door to Van Gogh’s night café) but recent additions to the Arles landscape – Hotel Particulier and Jean-Luc Rabenal — keep the city scene as hot as ever.
Arles is 700 kilometers from Paris. In general, the fastest train route is a TGV from Paris’s Gare de Lyon to Avignon with a change for Arles (3 ½ to 4 hours) although there are additional connections through Nimes and Marseilles.
photo G. Vlassis
5 Hot art shows – in provincial locations – not to be missed this summer!
1. RIVIERA: From June 19 to November 27, L’Art contemporain et La Côte d’Azur honors the artists who worked in the area from 1951 to 2011. Forty-six galleries and museums — from Antibes to Mougins to Menton and back again — are show-casing works by artistic homeboys and tourists like Chagall, Léger, Yves Klein and Matisse. www.artcontemporainetcotedazur.com
2. BRITTANY: From June 11 to September 11, the seaside resort of Dinard renews its commitment to contemporary art with Big Brother – Artists and Tyrants – an exhibit that explores the ticklish relationship of art (and artists) with power and money — at the Palais des Arts et du festival. www.ot-dinard.com
3. SAVOIE: Unless you’re a close personal friend of Prince Hans-Adam de Lichtenstein, you won’t have a chance to drool over his sumptuous personal collection of Raphaels, Van Dycks, Rembrandts, Rubens, Breugels (and too many Italian bronzes to count) at his castle. Happily, they’re on view through October 2 at the Palais Lumière in Evian-les-Bains. www.eviantourism.com
4. DORDOGNE: Enough about “Cave-Men” … what about “Cave-Women”? From June 18 to September 19, the Musée National de Préhistoire in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac presents Mille et une femme(s) … a show that takes on women at the End of the Ice Age. Details and hours: www.musee-prehistoire-eyzies.fr
5. AUVERGNE: From June 11 to December 31, the Centre national du costume de scène et de la scénographie presents a major exhibition devoted to the costumes worn at the Comédie Française since its inauguration in 1680. For details and hours: www.cncs.fr
If you love Provençal cooking, don’t miss this trio of ever-green 19th century emporia in the Opera district. It’s the culinary equivalent of gallery-hopping… with snack options.
1. Alziari. Nicolas Alziari bought a ruined olive mill in 1868 and created an artisanal empire. The shop features the company’s signature grand cru oils, tapenades, soap and cosmetics as well as innovative, olive-oil sprays in thyme, mint, orange, lemon, garlic, truffle and hazelnut flavors. 14 rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice. Tel: 04.93.62.93.03. www.alziari.com
2. Maison Barale. Nice natives are likely to bring fresh pasta as lunch-and-dinner gifts instead of wine or flowers. Since 1892, four generations of the Barale family have produced an impressive ravioli repertory starring anything and everything: gorgonzola or goat cheese, beef daube, basil pistou, minced olives with truffle oil, arugula/pistachio, or candied lemon with ginger. 7 rue Sainte-Réparate, 04.93.85.63.08. www.barale-raviolis.com
3. Maison Auer. What’s for dessert? This picture-book candy shop (with its original Florentine-style furnishings) has been handed down from father-to-son since 1820. Specialties include exotic candied fruits, novelty liqueurs, flavored marzipan, chocolate almonds, truffles, and ice cream made on the premises.7 rue Saint-François de Paule, 06300 Nice. Tel: 04.93.85.77.98. www.maison-auer.com
photos: Corinne LaBalme