Champagne and Art at Pommery in Reims
One of the great pleasures of visiting the Champagne-Ardennes region is, of course, visiting different champagne houses and cellars. There are some great tours on offer at many of the great names, in and around Reims, Epernay and in the south, Troyes in the Aube.
But while the tours of the cellars are interesting (and the champagne tasting at the end is very welcome), once you've seen one, on the whole you've pretty well got champagne making. Pommery, one of the most impressive and largest houses in Reims, goes a little further.
Each year the vast underground quarries dug out by the Romans that are today's champagne cellars become one large art gallery. This year, 2013, Pommery is celebrating 10 years of art shows with some great, and odd pieces. For a start there's a full-size baby elephant standing upside down on his trunk in the main foyer to get you in the mood before you set off on a visit. Then there's a huge giant ball of paper that takes moisture from the walls of the cellar and changes color; and don't be startled by the sight and sound of wellies marching up and down.
The idea of underground art in such a setting is not new to Pommery; the cellars have several reliefs sculpted out of the chalk walls that were designed and produce in the late 19th century.
It's a great exhibition, lasting all this year. (Please excuse the rather bad photo of contemporary art that I took; it's much more impressive in reality.)
5 pl du General-Gouraud
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 26 61 62 55
More about Champagne and Reims
Images: Top: Contemporary Art at Pommery; Bottom: 19th-century Art in Pommery
If you act fast, you can get 30% off your First Class, High Speed Rail Europe train travel in France. The promotion will last through June 10th, so you need to get going now. The TGV express trains are impressive, wizzing you from London to Avignon in Provence in 5 hrs 30 mins, to Bordeaux on the Atlantic in 6 hrs 49 mins and Strasbourg in 5 hrs 12 mins. The trains are very comfortable, well equipped and travel up to 201 mph.
TGV Premier train tickets also give you access to the Salons Grand Voyageur or lounges in stations such as Bordeaux St. Jean, Djon, Lille Flandres, Lyon Part-Dieu, Marseille St. Charles, Nantes, Paris Est, Paris-Gare de Lyon, Paris Nord, Paris Montparnasse and Strasbourg train stations. You can use these comfortable lounges while waiting for onward connections.
Prices begin at $99 for TGV Premier tickets.
You need to book via Rail Europe's website or by calling Rail Europe's contact center 1-888-382-7245 (U.S.A.).
Enter coupon code FAST30 during checkout on the delivery page. There are certain restrictions: it's one coupon code per booking and the offer is limited to the first 400 bookings (each with a minimum value of 350 USD) or until the end of the promotion on June 10 at 5.59pm. Online bookings include a meal.
More about Train Travel in France
- Guide to Train Travel in France
- Map of TGV Routes and Destination
- Information on TGV Express Trains in France
Image: 1st Class TGV Travel
The 2013 Cannes Film Festival has just opened, with all the glitz, glamor, hope and expectations you could want - and a rain storm. The first film was The Great Gatsby, which has received mixed reviews in the U.S.A. and did not get rapturous applause at the screening in Cannes. Director Baz Luhrmann takes liberties with the book but the over-the-top parties are magnificent using contemporary artists like Jay-Z, Beyonce and Lana Del Ray. Leonardo DiCaprio might be older than the book's hero but he's superb.
It's expected that Martin Scorsese will appear to talk about Silence, his next film starring Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield as a 17th-century missionary. Also expected is Justin Timberlake who appears in Spinning Gold which tells the story of Neil Bogart, the 1970s music entrepreneur who was responsible for music start like Kiss and Donna Summer.
So hearts are racing along the Croisette in Cannes.
The Cannes Film Festival
Image Top: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire attend the Opening Ceremony and The Great Gatsby Premiere at the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival, 2013 © Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment
Image Bottom: Christoph Waltz, Vidya Balan, Daniel Auteui, Cristian Mungiu, Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman, Steven Spielberg, Lynne Ramsay and Naomi Kawase at the Great Gatsby Premiere at the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival, 2013 © Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
May 29 to June 2 2013
Every year at the end of May, the sparkling blue Mediterranean in and around Antibes fills up with the glorious site of vintage yachts. Created in 1996, Les Voiles d'Antibes marks the opening of the Mediterranean circuit for Classic Yachts and Metric Classes and the first stage of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge.
The yachts are divided up into different classes. Spirit of Tradition yachts are those built since 1970 using modern techniques and materials but looking like traditional Vintage or Classic yachts. Metric Class yachts were designed to race. Created in 1906 in London, this rating created 10 different classes from 5 to 24 'Meters'. However, don't be fooled by this, the class name in meters refers to a complex mathematical equation. So for instance, a 12 Meter yacht is actually over 20 meters long on deck. The 12 Meters was the official class of the America's Cup and these yachts from 1958 to 1987 will race each other. You'll see some of the best Vintage yachts (built before 1950), Classics (built before 1976) and Spirit of Tradition Yachts and Metric Classes (6MJH, 8MJL and the 12MJI).
It's more than a series of races and has become a great meeting place for yachtsmen and women from the far and recent past. Yachts are renovated and appear for the first time with their proud owners along veterans of the Voiles d'Antibes, diehards like the legendary Moonbeam IV, Moonbeam of Fife, Cambria, Stormy Weather, Adria, Outlaw, and Bona Fide.
You can watch the races easily from the shoreline as these gracious yachts race along the 23 kilometers of coast between the Bay of Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. On shore there's a convivial atmosphere in the 'Village' of Port Vaubun, specially set up for the event and open daily from 9am to 10pm. There are exhibitions and events around the theme of the Sea and the Environment plus concerts and of course much to eat and drink.
More about Antibes
Accommodation in Antibes-Juan-les-Pins
The most famous film festival in the world, Cannes, takes place this year from May 15th to 26th. It starts with what is the most eagerly awaited film at the moment, The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Lurhmann and starring Leonardo diCaprio and Carey Mulligan. It's appropriate; F. Scott Fitzgerald finished the book while he was staying on the French Riviera.
Steven Spielberg is President of the Jury selecting the films in competition for the famous Palme d'Or. Films include the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis with Oscar Isaacs, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake; Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra which is apparently the director's last film; and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. There are 23 films in competition.
The main prize is not all that Cannes is about. If you're a mere mortal you can enjoy classics and Out of Competition films at the Theatre Lumière and the open-air Cinéma de la Plage. Films include J.C. Chandor's All is Lost with Robert Reford as well as Hiroshima Mon Amour from Alain Resnais. Imagine sitting on the beach with the Mediterranean as a background watching some of the great film classics of all time. Not to be missed.
If you plan to go but haven't booked a hotel you might be in trouble. But you could try staying in Antibes, or perhaps at the Belles Rives hotel in Juan-les-Pins where the Fitzgeralds themselves stayed in the Roaring '20s.
Where to Stay in the South of France
- Top 10 Hotels in Antibes-Juan-les-Pins
- Budget Hotels in Antibes-Juan-les-Pins
- Where the Stars Stay in St Tropez
Image: Cinema de la Plage at Cannes Film Festival
May 7-12 2013
The Nuits Sonores (Nights of Sound) are well known in France, particularly to those after an urban experience. The aim is to present contemporary music and culture including graphic design, films and digital events. While all kinds of disciplines are involved, its principal focus has always been electronic music.
The festival takes Lyon as its stage, night (9.30pm to 5am) and all day and it takes over pretty well everywhere from the major cultural spaces to the industrial wastelands of a forgotten age. Producing an 'Odyssey within the city', the organizers, aptly named the Arty Farty Team, concentrate on two areas: Anciennes Usines Brossette (Former Brossette Factories), built in 1840, and Les Subsistances, a venue on Quai Saint-Vincent which hosts various events, including Mini sonore, the children's festival that runs at the same time.
So what to expect?
Fans of the music will know names like Acid Soda (performing from midnight to 2am Thursday May 9), Aquarius Heaven from Berlin (May 11, 6.30-8pm, Place Gerson), Yasiin Bey a.k.a. Mos Def from New York (May 8, 1.15am-2.15am, Anciennes Usines Brossettes), Digital Breakfast and many more.
The website, in English, is very helpful. It gives you the program plus details of the artists, directions to get to Lyon and around the festival, accommodation and ticket bookings.
- Details on the artists
- Directions to get to Lyon and around the Festival
- Accommodation Details
- Book a package with the Lyon Tourist Office (from 110 euros per person including accommodation and tickets).
More Information on Lyon
The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in St-Jean Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera is gorgeous at any time of the year. But from May 10th to 12th, the villa surpasses itself when the gardens fill up with the most fragrant roses and plants for their fourth festival. Deep red, shocking pink, delicate white and vibrant yellow roses cascade over the walls and statuary of the garden looking out onto the deep blue of the Mediterranean sea.
It's a must for every garden lover and particularly for rose enthusiasts. About 30 exhibitors come from around the world - rose growers, nurseries and gardening professionals - to talk about, educate and share their passion for roses with the 10,000 or so expected visitors. Old roses, Mediterranean varieties, English roses and exotic plants are all on show. Also at the festival, Fragonard, the famous perfumer, has its rose-based fragrances there for you to try.
It takes place in the French garden. But you might want to explore any or all of the other eight themed gardens created by the original owner, Beatrice de Rothschild, which make the Villa such an enchanting place to visit.
Find out more about the Villa Ephrussi
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
St Jean-Cap Ferrat
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 01 33 09
Open daily 10am-6pm; July and August 10am-7pm; November 2 to February 16 weekdays 2-6pm, weekends and holiday from 10am-6pm
Admission adult 12.50 euros, concessions 9.50 euros.
There are also combined tickets with the nearby Greek Villa Kérylos or with the Exotic Gardens in Eze.
More about Gardens in France
- International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire
- Gardens in the west Loire Valley
- Gardens in the East Loire Valley
Image: Villa Ephrussi Rose Festival © Culturespaces
It's when the hotels re-open along the chic resorts of the Cote d'Azur that you know that summer is on its way. And right now, the French Riviera is waking up, just as the ski resorts are winding down. St Tropez is one of the glitziest of the French resorts, and though it's great out of season (in fact much better if you like balmy not particularly hot days and relatively empty restaurants and bars), the resort that Brigitte Bardot put on the map really gets into its glam stride during the summer. So the news that the Hotel Byblos re-opened on April 17th shows that the season is about to take off.
Like many of the smartest places, the Byblos has used the winter months to change itself. The famous Alain Ducasse Spoon restaurant has been made into Rivea. As the name implies it now incorporates Italian flavors and along with the new menu has come a new design: a garden-themes look that goes well with the rooms that make up what is a Mediterranean 'village'.
But St Tropez is not just about glitz and glamor; it still feels like a small fishing village that has just grown; there are good museums, a nudist beach (of course), and a walk around the coastline that really takes you away from everybody.
20 Ave. Paul Signac
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 94 56 68 00
More about the South of France
The summer-long festival at Chaumont in the Loire Valley is one of the top international garden events, running in 2013 from April 24th to October 20th. This year's theme is Gardens of Sensations which 20 designers from all over the world will interpret in their own way. Chosen by a jury led by France's literary journalist, Bernard Pivot, the gardens will certainly surprise you. Some are perfumed, others are tasty, or have tiny puffs of air that circulate suddenly, go from dark to light, or cold to warm. The vegetation can be an odd mix of plants, trees and flowers with water used in highly inventive ways.
It's well worth a visit and quite apart from the festival, the gardens of the chateau and the chateau itself are interesting and fun. There are cafes, restaurants and shops on the site and there are also evenings when the gardens are specially illuminated.
- Garden Festival Admission Adult 10 euros; 12 to 18 year olds 6 euros
- Tickets for gardens, festival and chateau 16 euros, 12 to 18 year olds 11 euros.
- Open Daily 9.30am-dusk (last entry 7pm)
- Chaumont Website
More about the Loire Valley
Shock, horror! An Englishman, Michael Edwards, has been appointed as the first British 'immortal', one of the French Academy's 40 members. The purpose of the institution, founded by Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII in 1635, is to keep the French language 'pure', and to stop 'Anglo-Saxon' attacks, though words like le weekend are universally used in France. There are only 40 immortals; they are appointed for life and new members are only appointed when one dies.
Of course, Michael Edwards is not any old Brit; in fact he is a professor at the College de France which is France's top academic institution, is married to a Frenchwoman and holds dual nationality. Mr Edwards believes in the sanctity of the French language and told The Independent newspaper: "This is a moment of crisis for French and it makes sense, I believe, for the academy to choose someone who comes from, as it were, the opposite camp but has become a champion of the special importance and beauty of the French language."
And he believes that it is necessary to speak French to preserve the cultural integrity and intellectual stimulus of France. As he said: "French philosophers and scientists are increasingly writing in English in order to be published worldwide. But if they write in English, they will cease to think in the characteristic way the French think. A whole treasure of the mind will be lost."