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Three Must-Attend Festivals in Provence

Apart from unforgettable scenery, villages brimming with charm and a scrumptious cuisine, Provence has an interesting cultural agenda which includes three magnificent summer festivals that any culture devotee should take into consideration. Here are some tips to get the most out of them.

Festival d’Avignon

Apart from its popular Pont Saint-Bénézet (legend and song included), and having once been the Holy See, Avignon is known internationally for hosting one of the most long-standing and important performing arts festivals in Europe. Each July, the Festival d’Avignon, which was founded by Jean Vilar in 1947, fills all spaces in the city with theatre and dance performances, this year featuring a programme of some 40 works by artists from all over the world. As if that were not enough, this outstanding schedule is rivalled by a parallel Festival Off, a programme of fresher, more alternative performing arts shows. The streets, squares, bars and any imaginable free space in the city have been coopted into hosting the more innovative side of theatre and dance.

So, be sure to head for Avignon between 6 and 26 July and, while you’re there, see the stunning Palais des Papes – its sheer size and beauty will leave you open-mouthed. Soak up the different shows that will take you through the streets and mentally convey you far beyond the old “Sur le pont d’Avignon”.

International Photography Festival of Arles

Another major cultural event to bear in mind on your wanderings through beautiful Provence, held in another of its must-visit towns – Arles – adopts the form of an international photography meeting. If you stroll around Arles, which is inspiring in itself – otherwise, why should Van Gogh have been have been so fascinated by its light? – try to make your arrival coincide with Les Rencontres d’Arles (Arles International Photography Gathering). Created in 1970 by the photographer Lucien Clergue, the writer Michel Tournier and the historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette, this festival is a gem for photography enthusiasts who this year, from 3 July to 24 September, will be treated to the work of 250 artists displayed at 25 venues across the city, ranging from emblematic Arlesian landmarks to such unique buildings as the former rail sheds. Sixty scheduled exhibitions, in addition to conferences, workshops, talks and all kinds of activities, will lead visitors into the wonderful world of photography.

Marseille Jazz Festival

Marseille is the site of our third summer festival proposal in Provence. A city which embraces the Mediterranean, with the sightseeing hub of its Old Port (Vieux-Port),contemporary architectural offerings like the MuCEM and the Villa Méditerranée ready to seduce even the more staid visitors, and with such enchanting corners as Le Panier, this is the city chosen to host a jazz festival as its main summer attraction. The Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents runs for ten days, from 19 to 29 July, and features such long-standing favourites as George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Roberto Fonseca and Guillaume Perret, as well as newcomers to this port city like Norah Jones, Kamasi Washington and representatives of the new generation such as Imany. Jazz arriving from all corners of the globe suited to all tastes.

Book your Vueling to Marseille and succumb to the magic of the leading festivals in Provence.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by jean-louis Zimmermann, Fred Bigio, Les Rencontres d'Arles  (Julio Perestrelo)

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Aix en Provence Fountains Cézanne and Much More

Situated just 25 kilometres north of Marseille lies this, the former capital of Provence. Its original settlers were drawn to the site on account of its numerous natural springs, while nowadays it is a magnet for university students and tourists. This must-visit stopover on any Provence itinerary is a city best defined by the word “elegance”. Some have even ventured to compare it with Paris, albeit on a much smaller scale. Here, then, are some of the keys to discovering Aix-en-Provence.

Cours Mirabeau, the Old Quarter and the Quartier Mazarin

Sandwiched between the Old Quarter to the north, and the Quartier Mazarin to the south, Cours Mirabeau is Aix’s major landmark. This pleasant thoroughfare with its moss-lined fountains, canopy of plane-trees and magnificent Renaissance mansions invites visitors to stroll along and stop at any of the many cafés and terraces on the avenue, veritable vantage points for soaking up the amazing atmosphere. One of the most popular such cafés is Deux Garçons, once frequented by Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Albert Camus.

Wandering through Aix’s Old Quarter is another of the pleasures held out by this city. Here, you can stroll around the pedestrian precinct, enjoy the shopping areas and uncover half-concealed enclaves which are ideal for whiling away the time – the Place d’Albertas is a case in point.

Unlike the Old Quarter, the Quartier Mazarin is more neatly laid out. Here, you will come across its striking hôtels particuliers – the name given to large mansions that once belonged to the nobility and the haute bourgeoisie. This area was designed in the 17th century on the initiative of Archbishop Michel Mazarin. Among its leading landmarks is the Granet Museum, housed in a former Knights of Malta priory, featuring an exhibition of the paintings of François Granet, in addition to Italian, French and Flemish works, and an excellent collection of modern art.

On the Cézanne Trail

The other great icon of the city is the Post-Impressionist, Paul Cézanne, who was born and died here and who captured the landscapes of Provence in many of his works. We recommend you head for the Atelier Cézanne, on the north side of the old quarter, where you can see how the artist approached his work. You won’t however, see a single Cézanne original. If you’re feeling sprightly enough, you can walk up to the Terrain des Peintres (Painters’ Park), a small, quiet park which attracts a large number of artists and the spot where Cézanne painted his multiple versions of Mont Sainte-Victoire.

The Vasarely Foundation – Op-Art in its Pristine State

Located on the outskirts of Aix, the Vasarely Foundation is well worth the effort visiting for its highly original architecture, based on conjoined hexagonal cells, and the exhibition it houses of the pop-art oeuvre of Victor Vasarely. All the exhibits here are large-format. They draw the viewer into the unusual world of this genuine artist, featuring optical effects guaranteed to impress.

Book your Vueling to Marseille and discover Provence – one of France’s most beautiful regions – by visiting some of its most evocative towns, as Aix-en-Provence most certainly is.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by vasse nicolas,antoine, Milena, Sjaak Kempe, Connie Ma, Andrea Schaffer

 

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The Lavender Route

We are poised on the cusp of June when lavender, Provence’s most iconic plant, starts coming into blossom. Scattered all about the region, from June to August the fields become awash with an unmistakeable purple hue which will linger in your mind for some time after a sojourn in this land. Indeed, embarking on the lavender route is one of the best ways of touring this priceless French region, dotted with charming villages which exude that je ne sais quoi you will find absolutely captivating, beckoning you back year after year. Not for nothing were artists of the calibre of Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso fascinated by the light – that light ! – as well as by the charm emanating from the landscapes of Provence, which they set about immortalising in their works.

Picture Postcard Villages

The Vaucluse is the area of Provence with the highest concentration of lavender farms. There you will encounter vast fields filled with this aromatic plant, ideal for taking the snap that will earn your Instagram post a host of “likes”. You will also come across myriad charming villages which you are advised to venture into and stroll around. Gordes,which clings to a hillside, has become something of a magnet for the well-heeled of late, featuring upscale restaurants and hotels that contrast starkly with the rural calling of the surrounding area. Another village just waiting to be framed is Roussillon, where house fronts are painted in all possible shades of ochre, forming a harmonious ensemble. Bonnieux, which is one of our favourites, boasts large stone houses and a church at the top of the village commanding stunning views of the surroundings. Les Baux de Provence is another classic in the area. Its major landmark is its ruined castle, while the village is renowned as a venue for a troubadour song festival.

Must-Do Excursions

Apart from picturesque villages, a tour of Provence will reveal such gems as the 12th-century Sénanque Abbey, whose monks grow lavender – could it be otherwise? The idyllic image of the abbey features in practically all guides of the area. An interesting visit near Gordes is Village des Bories, an open-air area with around twenty restored bories, a unique type of stone hut made of limestone. If you’re a nature lover, be sure to head for the environs of Rustrel where, in a spot known as the French Colorado, erosion has carved out an unusual landscape dominated by ochre tones.

Provençal Markets – Tastes of Proximity

Find out in advance which days of the week markets are scheduled for in the various towns and villages you are likely to pass through, as they are the perfect excuse for getting to taste the flavours of each area, in addition to being the days on which the atmosphere is liveliest. Be sure to stock up on delicious craft cheeses and a fresh baguette, and seek out a pleasant spot to savour them. Wash it all down with a fine wine from the region – Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a great option – and a hearty tuck-in is guaranteed.

De Luxe Cuisine

Gastronomy is one of the fortes of this route. We can assure you that, wherever you go in Provence, you will find good food, although prices are a little on the dear side. We can also guarantee you will always be able to eat your fill, as helpings tend to be generous. Suffice to behold the size of their delicious, expertly dressed salads to realise that you’ll end up feeling anything but peckish. Bear in mind that the region does attract lots of tourists in the high season, so it’s worth booking a table in advance, particularly for dinner. Black truffle devotees should drop in on Chez Serge, located in Carpentras, where you can go to town on their dishes based on that aromatic fungus. And, among the unusual delicacies you can get to savour in Provence is homemade lavender ice-cream, occasionally served up for dinner at Château de la Gabelle.

A Lavender Souvenir

One thing that catches one’s attention when visiting Provence is the sheer number of products incorporating this pretty flower with its unmistakeable scent. No wonder, then, that Provence accounts for 80% of the world’s lavender production. You are sure to end up buying some lavender souvenir, from the classic ornamental bouquet to sachets for keeping in wardrobes, honey, sweets, soaps and all kinds of toiletries.

Book your Vueling to Marseille and strike out on a tour of Provence at its moment of maximum splendour.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

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Le Panier

This Marseille’s quaint neighborhood is the oldest in the city and is located behind the old port, an area comprised between Castle of Sant Jean and Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Majeure . Its Provencal style streets and frontages have an maghreb atmosphere, due to the large Muslim settlement that has occurred in recent decades in this port enclave . Le Panier is characterized by a humble and even somewhat ramshackle appearance, because in ancient times had been a conflict zone, home of pirates and privateers.

Currently, this area has been converted and has nothing to do with what was once. Artisans and artists have reoccupied the streets and set up their workshops. A host of colorful houses, narrow streets with the most peculiar shops, upstairs and downstairs and typical food little bars and restaurants that gives so much charm to the district. The laundry hanging from the windows on the street gives this neighborhood an unusual authenticity. It is ideal for a walk, take pictures, go to lunch one delicious hot chocolate in one of the cafes or visit any of their famous Marseilles soap factories. Bakeries and pastries also charge a special role.

This traditional neighborhood contrasts with the rest of Marseille, more stately. There would still have one of the most emblematic points of the city attractions such as La Vielle Charité , museum and cultural center or Place des Moulins that is also noteworthy for it is on top of the old neighborhood, still retaining two former fifteen windmills, now rehabilitated as dwellings.

Image:  phgaillard2001

Don’t you want to immerse yourself in this enchanting city of Provence? Check out our flights here.

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