Summertime Scents

Iconically Provençale, lavander is one of the highlights of summer’s scents, along with summertime rain lavender2and salty sea air.  Come and take time to smell the roses lavender!



Printemps Provençal

What I love about the city is how diverse each quartier can be, with its own special character and flavor.  And so it was that I was browsing/killing time before an appointment and happened to come across this interior design store, filled with lovely and unique furniture and decorative items. The charming makeup table in the store’s window lured me inside, as I gazed longingly at the many chandeliers and other Provençal-style furniture & accessories – a haven of “Provençal Springtime”!


Bar cabinet

kitchen meuble

Armoire kitchenette


Printemps Provençal
15 Avenue Notre Dame, 06000 NICE
Open Tuesday through Saturday 10h00 to 19h00

Official website HERE (with many more photos)

Roussillon in Provence

The ochre paillette of colors & pigments, that make this town one of the most beautiful villages in France, is quite evident from Roussillon‘s flaming colors in its landscape.  As I walked around this lovely village, I took in all the Provençal flavors, from the ochre cliffs to the local landscape, artisanal shops, and restaurants.

My stomach signaled it was time for lunch, so we chose Le Castrum restaurant, located on the beaten path to take in the sights (read:  people watch).  The daily menu was reasonable and provided enough variety lemoncello bee& choices: meat or fish with an entrée (appetizer) and dessert.  After the meal, we were offered a lemoncello by the restaurant – a very nice gesture on their part.  We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the after-meal digestif , noticing that a yellow jacket was imbibing as well (maybe that’s where bees in Provence get their yellow-stripe color from)!


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Personal side note:  The Cafe de l’Ocrier in Roussillon is a tourist trap type place, with horribly rude service – we actually walked out before ordering drinks there!

Lourmarin in Provence

A recent trip to the Luberon included a stop in Lourmarin, a charming town to stroll, shop, and café hop, not to mention the final resting place for the French philosopher, Albert Camus.

According to France Today, “Camus’ first visit to the region, in 1937, was brief but in 1946 he came from Paris with three fellow writer friends and actually stayed with them at the Château, in Spartan rooms set far apart which felt spooky at night, his at the bottom of the tower. Armed with the carefree camaraderie and joie de vivre of youth, Camus loved Lourmarin – witness his letter of 1947 to his friend and poet, René Char, who hailed from nearby L’Ile-sur-la- Sorgue:  “The region in France that I prefer is yours, more precisely the foot of the Luberon… Lourmarin, etc.”  Camus was just 46 on January 4, 1960, when he died near Sens in a car crash on his way to Paris– snatched midlife, as if to stage an ironical metaphor of the absurdity of life which was central to his philosophical preoccupations.”

 “L’absurde naît de la confrontation de l’appel humain avec le silence déraisonnable du monde.” 

(“The absurd is the product of a collision or confrontation between our human desire for order, meaning, and purpose in life and the blank, indifferent “silence of the universe.”) 

 Camus gravesite Camus headstone


Strolling through the town, I  witnessed le football fever for “Les Bleus” before a World Cup match, saw many amusing store front novelties, including an American song lyric sung by Jimmy Hendrix, and passed lovely fountains….all in a picturesque backdrop in the heart of Provence.

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Fontvieille in Provence

Our friends had already booked the hotel, so we followed suit and arrived early to take a look around the lovely setting at Hotel Val Majour in Fontvieille.  I hadn’t heard of this small town in Provence, but it certainly seemed centrally located to all the major sites – one of our friends was born in Cadenet, knew the area well, and so, did the booking.  The three-star hotel and pool settings were tranquil and beautiful, the staff was very friendly, the breakfast buffet top notch, and the bar service excellent.

Val Majour Hotel


Hotel map

signFor dinner, the receptionist recommended a couple restaurants (with one in particular) situated in the town’s main square, about a 10 minute walk from the hotel.  So, off we went and found the #1 recommendation, “La Cuisine au Planet,” with its inviting terrace.  We luckily got the last tables for our group, as they started telling arriving customers to come back around 9:30p.m.


And boy, did we get lucky!!  The meal was fantastic, service was impeccable and friendly, and the prices were reasonable – we ate, drank, chatted and laughed throughout the evening – happy to have to walk back to the hotel, since we were so full from the three-course menu – what a lovely, delicious evening!



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French Riviera Fireworks

070811_1913~01Summer 2014


Wed 9:  Cannes *

Fri 11:  Le Lavandou

Sat 12:  Cagnes-sur-Mer (Hippodrome) & Roquebrune Cap Martin

Sun 13:  Agay, Antibes, Bormes-les-Mimosas, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Golfe Juan, La Figueirette

Mon 14:  Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Cannes, Cavalaire, Juan-les-Pins, Le Lavandou, Menton, Nice, Port Grimaud, St. Laurent du Var, Ste. Maxime, St. Raphael, St. Tropez, Théoule

Tues 15:  La Napoule (Château)

Sat. 19:  Cagnes-sur-Mer (Hippodrome), Monaco

Mon 21:  Cannes *

Fri 25:  Cagnes-sur-Mer (Hippodrome), Le Lavandou

Sun 27:  Monaco

Tues 29:  Cannes *

Wed 30:  La Napoule


Fri 1:  Juan-les-Pins, Le Lavandou

Sun 3:  St. Raphael

Thurs 7:  Cannes *

Fri 8:  Juan-les-Pins, Le Lavandou

Sat 9:  Monaco, St. Jean Cap Ferrat

Tues 12:  La Napoule

Thurs 14:  Agay, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Roquebrune Cap Martin, San Remo

Fri 15:  Cagnes-sur-Mer (Hippodrome), Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Le Lavandou, Menton, Nice, Port Grimaud, Ste. Maxime, St. Raphael, St. Tropez, Théoule

Sat 16:  Monaco

Sun 17:  Bormes les Mimosas

Fri 22:  Cagnes-sur-Mer (Hippodrome), Le Lavandou

Sat 23:  Cagnes-sur-Mer (Hippodrome), la Napoule

Sun 24:  Antibes, Cannes *

Fri 29:  Le lavandou

* Check out the annual International Firework Festival in Cannes
(Festival d’art pyrotéchnique de Cannes)

(Schedule not all inclusive – check local Tourist Office sites for more information)

Source:  Riviera Reporter

Ready, Set, Van Gogh!

Reblogged from The Provence Post:

Three years in the works, the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles will open to the public on Monday April 7th with an inaugural exhibit called Van Gogh Live!

The Fondation will underscore and celebrate the inseparable link between the paintings of the Dutch artist and the city of Arles, by showing his work alongside the work of contemporary artists. The museum says its goal is to “showcase and promote van Gogh’s artistic heritage while also asking questions about the resonance of his oeuvre in art today.”
The museum 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 say that the light of Arles was their “guiding thread.” It’s located in the heart of Arles’ historic center, a setting classified as UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Fondation comprises more than 1000 square meters of exhibit space spread over two floors.
For the city of Arles this is huge and everyone is all abuzz. It does seem like the perfect way to honor the beleaguered artist, who, it is said, never sold a painting in his lifetime and yet, “elevated this town and its surrounding countryside to icons.”

The first show, which runs until August 31st, juxtaposes two separate exhibits. Colours of the North, Colours of the South was curated by Sjraar van Heugten, former director of collections at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It retraces the evolution of van Gogh’s palette from darkness towards “southern brightness” and presents a dozen van Gogh pieces alongside those of his contemporaries who influenced on him: Courbet, Pissarro, Monet, Monticelli and others.
The second part of Van Gogh Live! is an exhibit of nine contemporary artists paying homage to van Gogh. The artists and the works were selected  by the museum’s artistic director Bice Curiger.

Also to be unveiled on April 7th are permanent installations specially commissioned for the museum’s entrance.
***     After living for two years in Paris, van Gogh arrived in Arles on February 20, 1888. During the 14-plus months he spent there, he created a multitude of paintings and drawings, many of which are now considered masterpieces of late 19th-century art.

Tired of the busy city life and the cold northern climate, van Gogh had headed south in search of the warmth, bright light and colors of Provence. According to his brother Theo, he went “first to Arles to get his bearings and then probably on to Marseille.” Van Gogh found in the beautiful countryside of Arles what he had been looking for and never moved on to Marseille.
Around Arles he found the light, color and harmony that he knew and loved from Japanese prints…and he started to paint Japanese-inspired blossoming trees and the Pont de Langlois. In summer he drew and painted harvest scenes.

Painting the human figure had always been one of van Gogh’s most important artistic goals and he had a special love for peasant paintings. In Arles, he decided that he wanted to modernize this genre by choosing the subject of the sower. He painted portraits and still-lifes as well, confessing to Theo : “I am painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating a bouillabaisse.”

In May, van Gogh rented the famous Yellow House (Maison Jaune), where he lived and worked.  He had hopes of establishing a collective studio in the South, were other painters would join him and in October, 1888, Paul Gauguin came to Arles. The two artists lived and painted together for two months. It was a time of great mutual inspiration but eventually artistic temperaments clashed. On December 23, 1888, van Gogh suffered a breakdown and he cut off part of his left ear. (Actually a recent theory by two German art historians has it that it was actually Gauguin who cut off the famous ear.) Gauguin left and van Gogh’s dream of a studio with other painters was shattered.  He was hospitalized twice in Arles, in the 16th and 17th-century Hôtel-Dieu; he painted and drew its beautiful courtyard, which you can just wander easily into today.  (It’s now called the Espace Van Gogh.) Finally he had himself voluntarily committed to the Clinique St. Paul in St. Rémy on May 8, 1889.
During his time in St. Remy, Van Gogh painted another roughly 150 canvasses.  But, writes van Gogh expert Sjraar Van Heugten, “his style grew less contrasted. His oeuvre would never again reflect the bedazzlement he had experienced in Arles, faced with light and the colours of the South.”

In St. Remy, the Clinique St. Paul is a lovely and very-popular tourist site.  The sections where patients are treated remains closed to the public but you can visit van Gogh’s rooms, read his letters, buy art made by the current patients, enjoy the flowers in a beautiful cloister and see the van Gogh paintings reproduced on panels on the grounds, as part of a larger van Gogh trail.

In May 1890, van Gogh left St. Remy to be closer to his physician Dr. Paul Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise and also closer to Theo. He died in July of that same year, 1890, at age 37. He is believed to have shot himself with a revolver although no gun was ever found.
Writing in his 1984 book Van Gogh in Arles,  Ronald Pickvance said: “Vincent Willem van Gogh…lived in Arles…almost 15 months, over 63 weeks, precisely 444 days. During his stay, he produced some 200 paintings, made over 100 drawings and watercolours, and wrote some 200 letters. The vast majority survive – a prodigal and quite astonishing outpouring, sustai­ning a pace that no other artist of the 19th century could match. This period in Arles is frequently called the zenith, the climax, the greatest flowering of Van Gogh’s decade of artistic activity.”
*** The connection between the famous Dutch artist and contemporary art was inscribed in the principles of the Fondation Vincent van Goghright from its conception, when, in 1983, Yolande Clergue  (wife of photographer Lucien Clergue) , founded the “Association pour la Création de la Fondation Vincent van Gogh en Arles” and set out to create a collection of contemporary art in Arles which would “pay homage to Van Gogh’s universality.”

In 1988, the collection was presented publicly for the first time, during celebrations for the centenary of the arrival of van Gogh in Arles. Its development then intensified quickly, both in the quality of its exhibitions (Picasso, Bacon) and in its publications. Today the collection contains major pieces from the worlds of literature, poetry, music, photography, theatrical costuming (Christian Lacroix) and much more.

In 2008,  the mayor of Arles offered to lodge the collection in a museum at the Hôtel Léautaud de Donines;  the organization finally received state approval in 2010. Work started in 2011 and Bice Curiger,  a world-renowned art critic and exhibition curator, was brought aboard as artistic director the following year.

Finally, next week it’s all opening, ”under the high patronage” of President Francois Hollande.

Highly instrumental in bringing the museum to life was board president Luc Hoffmann, the grandson of the founder of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche who bought a large estate in the Camargue near Arles in 1947.  A world-renowned environmentalist and philanthropist,  Luc’s lifetime’s worth of achievements includes co-founding the World Wildlife Fund,  establishing the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue (which he ran for many years) and authoring some 60 books.

Luc’s daughter Maja Hoffmann–Fondation board member and president of the artistic committee– grew up between Switzerland and the Camargue. She has devoted her life to continuing the family’s philanthropic and environmental legacy but is known above all for her passion for contemporary art.  She’s currently president of the International Council of the Tate (London)–and one of the Tate’s trustees–and sits on the boards of scores of other top art museums worldwide. She’s also a developer and co-owner of a number of popular Arles area hotels and restaurants.

The new museum is at #35, rue du Docteur Fanton in Arles. For all the info, click here or go to:

If you’d like to see the Fondation press kit in English, click here.
For info on the self-guided Van Gogh walking tour in Arles, click here.
If you’d like a guided walking tour in Arles, with or without a visit to the Fondation, contact me.

For general Arles info, the Tourist Office site is here.
Finally, if you want to read a fascinating article, Van Gogh’s Ear: The Christmas Eve That Changed Modern Art, by Adam Gopnik from the New Yorker, click here.

Photos: (1) This is an architect’s rendering as the facade is still getting its finishing touches in advance of the opening this week. (2) Museum interiors. (3) The logo and other elements of the museum’s visual identity (signage, website, etc.) were designed by Studio Marie Lusa in Zurich.  (4, 5) Van Gogh’s Autoportrait avec Pipe et Chapeau de Paille, 1887 and Guillaume Bruere’s Untitled are both in the opening exhibit. (6, 7) Van Gogh’s La Maison Jaune (‘La rue’), 1888, and his April, 1889 painting of the courtyard at the 17th century Hôtel-Dieu (Espace Van Gogh), where he was hospitalized twice – See more at: