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Mary Anne Evans

Mary Anne's France Travel Blog


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Henri Matisse at Tate Modern and in the South of France

Sunday April 20, 2014


With the opening of the blockbuster exhibition at London's Tate Modern: Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs which runs until September 7th, everybody is once again Matisse-mad.  So why not continue the Matisse theme with a trip to places in France associated with the great artist?

Start in northern France in Le Cateau-Cambrésis. This is the Nord-Pas de Calais city where Matisse was born. A textile center, Matisse's early life was spent surrounded by the designs and materials that influenced so much of his work. Matisse chose what he wanted to give to the town's Matisse Museum and how they should be displayed. It's a wonderful museum and easy to reach both from Paris and from the UK.

But it's the south of France that is most associated with Matisse. He first went to the Cote d'Azur in 1904 on the recommendation of his friend Paul Signac, visiting what was then the small fishing port of  St. Tropez. He finally settled in Nice and is buried in the Cemetery de Cimiez. Today his house is a museum where you can see the Blue Nudes and items that he used in his paintings (though some are currently on loan to the Tate Modern exhibition). He was visited there by his friend Picasso who took the train from Antibes where he was living in the Grimaldi Castle (now the Picasso Museum). And don't miss the Fondation Maeght at nearby Vence, one of the most charming hilltop villages to stay in just behind the Cote d'Azur.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs goes from Tate Modern when it closes on September 7th to MoMA, New York where it will be on show from October 25th to February 9th 2015.

In the Footsteps of Matisse--Follow his life from North France to Cimiez.

More about the Region

Images: Top: The Matisse Museum at Cimiez, Nice; Bottom: The Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambresis

Dordogne International Jazz Summer School 2014

Monday April 14, 2014

Dordogne Jazz Summer School

Learn to play jazz in a great atmosphere at the Dordogne International Jazz Summer School, held yearly in the 12th century Chateau de Monteton. Led by pianist and composer Andrea Vicari, it's a week of complete immersion in jazz and improvisation. You learn during the day and play at the organized jam sessions in the evenings. There are free concerts given by the tutors and other professional jazz musicians and it's for all levels whatever your expertise and for all instruments. You finish the week performing to a live audience.

There are two weeks in 2014: July 26th to August 2nd and a more intensive week for experienced advanced players from August 2nd to 9th.

Above all, it's a relaxed week with expert musicians who make friendly, non-judgemental tutors (important if you're a nervous inexperienced player).

It's just one hour from Bordeaux and half an hour from Bergerac, so you have a choice of international flights and cheap airlines as well. The village is pretty and there's plenty to see and do in the area if you go with a partner who wants some sightseeing.

There's a UK Office and you can meet the organizers and try a taster session at Hideaway in Streatham, south London if you're in the UK.

The fee of 850 euros per person in shared accommodation includes airport pickup, accommodation and meals, six days of jazz tuition and full use of facilities. Electric Pianos, keyboards, drum kits, Mics, PAs and some amps are provided.

Practical Information

Contact: Mr. Dorian Lockett
Dordogne Jazz Summer School
212 Sherwood Avenue,
London SW16 5EF
Great Britain
Tel.: 020-8764 6478
00 44 20 87 64 64 78
Mobile UK: 079 4192 7252
Email: info@jazzschool-dordogne.co.uk

More on Jazz in France

If you're a jazz fan, it's likely you've been to some of France's great jazz festivals which take place throughout the year. But they're at their best during the summer when you sit in a stunning open-air venue, perhaps beside the Mediterranean or in a small hilltop Provence town and listen to the sweet clear sounds of the music.


Images: Top: Participants at the Dordogne Summer Jazz School; Bottom: Sonny Rollins at Juan

Normandy Bed and Breakfasts with a D-Day Landing Beach Theme

Thursday April 10, 2014


Real enthusiasts of the Longest Day, June 6th, 1944, can take their enthusiasm to bed with them at any of four bed and breakfasts in Normandy with a D-Day landing theme or connection. Perhaps La Ferme de Riou, just 1.5kms (1 mile) from Sainte-Mère where the rooms are full of World War II memorabilia? Or how about Spirit of 1944, located between two temporary advanced airfields built by USAAF's 9th Air Force where the first thing you hear when you walk through the door is the music of Glenn Miller? These are just two of four excellent places that are very good value as well as being a must for World War II fans.

Information on World War II Bed and Breakfasts in Normandy

More about Normandy and World War II


Images: Top: Chateau de Vouilly which housed the American press (Walter Cronkite, Hemingway and others) during the invasion; Bottom: The Airborne Museum at Saint-Mère

The New Green Corridor in Nice

Sunday April 6, 2014

The Green Corridor in Nice

Nice has a new attraction--a Green Corridor (Corridor vert) that runs from the  fabulous Museum of Modern Art and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) to the famous Promenade des Anglais. It opened in November but is only now, with the warm weather kicking in, finally coming into its own. It makes a lovely walk from the bustle of the sea scene along the Promenade to the blockbuster MAMAC which takes the role of Nice in the 1960s and '70s to today through the artistic movements of France (though Nice) and America. The new Green Corridor is similar to the green High Line in New York and is all part of the regeneration of the city center and the Port of Nice.

Information from Nice tourism

More abaout Nice

Brittany offers a new no-frills, economy ferry service

Wednesday April 2, 2014

Brittany Ferries Economy Ship Etretat


Brittany Ferries has just launched a new economy, no-frills service on its Portsmouth to Santander (weekends only) and Portsmouth Le Havre (Tuesday-Friday) routes. The company has just hooked up with the shipping company that owns Etretat, a freighter with passenger accommodation.

Don't expect the usual high-class restaurants, bars, etnertainment and facilities of Brittany Ferries' other ships. But do expect great fares (from £79 to France and £169 (including reclining seats) to Spain; 4-berth ensuite cabins with air conditioning but without carpets; good French catering with limited choice in the self-service restaurant, a small bar and lounge area, and a bilingual French crew. There are 12 pet-friendly cabins and lounge seats bookable for overnight crossings for those who can sleep without needing a cabin. There are two cabins for disabled passengers and a movie lounge.

Brittany Ferries économie is a great idea as it really does represent huge savings.

Book on www.brittanyferries.com/economie or telephone 0871 244 1400.

More on Ferries to France from the UK


Shigeru Ban, the architect of the Pompidou Metz Center, wins the top architectural prize

Sunday March 30, 2014


The highest award for architecture, the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, was won last week by Shigeru Ban, a Tokyo-born, 56-year old architect working in Tokyo, Paris and New York. He's an extraordinary designer, a superb architect who has used his skills and innovative approach for humanitarian purposes around the world.

He has always used paper and cardboard both for making models of buildings and for designing recyclable, low-cost paper-tube shelters and paper log cabins following disasters like the Rwandan civil war and the Kobe earthquake when millions of people made homeless were desperate for shelters. He has also worked in Turkey, Indian, China and Haiti. His most dramatic work recently is a cardboard cathedral destroyed by the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Shigeru Ban has also used transportation containers as ready-made elements for the Nomadic Museum 
(New York, 2005; Santa Monica, California, 2006; Tokyo, 2007) and his design for the Aspen Art Museum which  is slated to open in August 2014.

The jury that selected the 2014 Pritzker Laureate is a roll-call of eminent people, from the chairman, The Lord Palumbo, the internationally known architectural patron of London, Chairman Emeritus of the Trustees, Serpentine Galleries, former Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, and former Chairman of the Tate Gallery Foundation to Stephen Breyer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice in Washington, D.C. The prize was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy to honour a living architect who is both the best practioner of the art  but also uses architecture to make significant contributions to humanity and the built environment.

Announcing the award, Tom Pritzker said, "Shigeru Ban's commitment to humanitarian causes through his disaster relief work is an example for all. Innovation is not limited by building type and compassion is not limited by budget. Shigeru has made our world a better place."

Now finally, I am getting to the point of this blog (thanks for your patience!). In France, he is best known for the Pompidou Center in Metz, Lorraine, where his airy, undulating latticework of wooden strips makes up the roof and the white design seems to soar up to the sky. It's a wonderful building, as impressive inside as out and its annual exhibitions are internationally known and well worth taking the express TGV train trip from Paris.

Information on The Pompidou Metz Center in Metz, Lorraine

For another museum housed in a modern, architecturally exciting structure, check out the The Louvre-Lens Museum in north France


Walk with The Wayfarers on the Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches

Thursday March 27, 2014


The Wayfarers, an independent specialist walking company, has a great 6-night, 7-day walk for people interested in Brittany, Normandy and the D-Day Landing  Beaches. The two dates for this particular walk are June 8th to June 14th and September 14th to September 20th. So on the June walk, you'll get all the excitement of the events surrounding the official dates of June 6th.

The walk begins in Dinan and ends in Port-en-Bessin. On the way, apart from the pleasure of walking through lush green countryside and along the huge sandy beaches of this part of France (it's 6 to 8 miles a day and easy walking), you also get a guided tour of Mont St Michel, a cruise along the river Rance, a chance to see some great medieval towns and cities, eat local cuisine like Brittany crepes and explore the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach. It's a packed itinerary but done at a wonderfully leisurely pace, surely the best of all worlds.

You'll see the feudal castles and old abbeys that dot the countryside, river ports and seaside beaches , city ramparts and dine in restaurants looking over the sea. You also visit St-Mere Egllise, where the largest airborne night assault took place in the early hours of June 6th, 1944, the Germany cemetery at La Combe, the Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach and the US Cemetery.

Information on the Brittany and Normandy Walking Tour

Contact The Wayfarers

United States/Canada
174 Bellevue Ave
Newport, RI 02840
Tel.: +1(800) 249-4620 +1(401) 849-5087
Email: walk-info@thewayfarers.com address

United Kingdom/Europe
7 The Square
Gloucestershire GL54 5DJ
Tel.: +44 (0)1 242 620871
Email: walk-info@thewayfarers.co.uk

Australia/New Zealand
52 Carranya Road
NSW 2066
Tel.: +61 (0)2 9428 4222
email: anz-sales@thewayfarers.com

South Africa
D15 Fairview
Ludlow Road
Vredehoek 8001
Western Cape
Tel.: +27 (0)83 313 8383
email: sa-sales@thewayfarers.com

Swirling tides at Mont St Michel, Normandy

Images: Top: American Cemetery, Normandy; Bottom: Mont St Michel, Normandy

Visit the Paris Studio of Yves Saint Laurent

Monday March 24, 2014


The film, Yves Saint Laurent, about the life of one of the world's most famous fashion designers and his relationship with his lover and business partner Pierre Bergé, has just appeared in the U.K. It's due to be shown in the USA from June 25th.

The film is a romp through fashion history's key moments with some stunning costumes on display. Most of the pieces in the film are originals, so watch out for the famous Le smoking tuxedo jackets and Mondrian dress. Some come from the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation; others from Saint Laurent's time at Dior. At times casting was different; often the actors had to fit the dresses rather than the other way around. Yet other costumes had to be created especially, such as the Dior wedding dress that Victoire Doutreleau wore for the 1958 cover of Paris Match.

So look out for the film.  But as Saint Laurent is in the news, consider booking a tour of his studio in Paris and seeing designs, sketch books and haute couture dresses. It's organized by Cultival, which takes you on tours to behind-the-scenes places that you might otherwise not get into.

Information on the Yves Saint Laurent Tour

More about Luxury Paris Shopping


Images: Top: Cultival Tour of Yves Saint Laurent Studio; Bottom: Mira Belle hat at the eponymous Parisian store

The World Turned Upside Down in Marseille

Friday March 21, 2014


Immerse yourself in the world of the carnival at the latest exhibition at MuCEM, Marseille's Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean which opened in 2013 when Marseille was one of the European Capitals of Culture. On the port and part of the city's massive regeneration, the Museum has some excellent temporary exhibitions alongside its main permanent collections.

The World Turned Upside Down takes the visitor into the fantastical world of carnival. In 1960 it was thought that the carnival tradition was dying but the revival over the last 50 years in small rural communities and big cities has brought this great celebration of the weird and the bizarre back to life. The exhibition is like a grand parade and it takes you past hanging textile structures, into music, sounds and images of carnival. Masks and costumes that are weird and surreal come from all over the world, from New Orleans to Notting Hill. It's designed to turn your perceptions upside down, just like a Carnival.

Carnivals in France

Practical Information

When: March 26 to August 25, 2014
Open daily except Tuesdays 11am-6pm in winter, 11am-7pm in summer. Open Friday to 10pm
Admission Adult 8 euros, family ticket 12 euros (2 adults and 5 children maximum).

More about Marseille and the Region

The World of Creation at the Château du Clos Lucé of Leonardo da Vinci

Saturday March 15, 2014
The Renaissance Great Hall at the Château du Clos Lucé

France - China: Dialogue of Excellence
Every year the Château du Clos Lucé at Amboise in the Loire Valley puts on an exhibition around artists and craftsmen. It celebrates the work of people from gilders to lithographers, from gold thread embroiderers to fan makers, taking as its inspiration the innovative figure of Leonard da Vinci who lived at the Château du Clos Lucé at the end of his life. This year, fifty years of Franco-Chinese diplomatic relations brings the superb skills of Chinese craftsmen to the Loire Valley. Eight Chinese masters are showing lacquer, ceramics, embroidery and jade pieces.

Practical Information

When: April 30th to May 25th 2014
Where: Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise, Loire Valley.
For more information on the Château, opening times and prices, check out the Guide to Château du Clos Lucé

More about the Loire Valley


Images: Top: the Renaissance Great Hall at the Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise; Bottom: Notre Dame d'Orsan in the Loire Valley

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