The Camargue

Camargue fishermenThe Camargue is typically known for a fantastic array of things – Flamingos, it’s production of salt, crops of rice, white horses, bulls, the gypsy festival of Sarah in Stes-Maries – and it’s incredible landscape.Camargue beachIt is a fairly unique horizon, where sea (on the left), lagoon (on the right) and land (somewhere in the middle) occupy the same space.
Camargue patternsRailway trackThe beach Dan and I visited is called Plage de Piemanson and is quite literally the end of the road.  The only permanent fixture being a concrete beach house that the modernist/minimalist inside me thought was pretty cool. Camargue beach hutBeach hut

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Arles! part 2

Looking back over my photos from Arles it appears we had a pretty jam packed day.  We started at Les Arenes, the Roman amphitheatre constructed in the first century AD.
Les Arenes ArlesIn its hay day Les Arenes held 20,000 spectators, as it stands now, minus the third tier, they estimate 10,000 people could comfortably be seated in here.
Les ArenessignagearchBizarrely the amphitheatre was turned into a mini town in the Middle Ages when over 200 dwellings and three churches were built in here.  Now it’s restored to its original purpose – as a magnificent backdrop for french bullfighting and affording some lovely views over the city itself.
viewDan and I then headed over to Musee Reattu which is so beautiful and understated I am tempted to call it a hidden gem (if it weren’t in every guidebook).Curt Asker - Sans Titre 1988I can’t rave about this Museum enough.  Its set in a fifteenth century priory and has a super permanent collection including 57 ink and crayon sketches by Picasso and an awesome room full of Christian Lacroix sketches. I love this ones face, suitably fashionably bored despite the amazing outfit – CLX2 Christian LacroixIt was fun to see that something can look like this on the outside – Musee Reattuand have works like this on the inside – BAYA - Grande Frise 1949As well as going to the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles, we also visited the Cryptoportiques.  Basically an enormous, dark, slightly damp underground gallery space. Nobody knows what the Cryptoportiques were originally built for but accessing them via a steep staircase in the Hotel de Ville makes a fun way to spend half an hour.  One final piece of information – should you ever find yourself in Arles, make it your mission to find Patisserie du Forum (4 rue de la Liberte) without doubt the best pain au chocolat I’ve ever had.

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Arles! part 1

roof top Fondation Vincent Van Gogh ArlesArles!  I have been meaning to visit this beautiful city for five years but yesterday Dan and I finally made it.  Famous for its extraordinarily well preserved Roman monuments (the most notable of which is Les Arenes at it’s centre – yep the one in Ronin), the light, the Camargue and Vincent Van Gogh, this surprisingly small city has a lot going on.  The historic centre is compact enough to walk across in a few minutes and the Rhone means that the light really is bouncing around all over the place.  There are 1o ‘points of interest’ (terrible phrase) that the tourist office suggest you visit but realistically the whole place looks like a picture postcard.  With that in mind, first past the post is the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles and it’s incredible kaleidoscopic light filled building.
lightI should say Van Gogh lived in Arles for a few years and produced some of his most well known works here.  There is a fair bit to see here if Van Gogh’s your man, including the hospital he was admitted to after he cut off the lower part of his ear.  Back in the fondation the coloured glass rectangles on the roof are a permanent installation by artist Raphael Hefti. The Violet Blue Green Yellow Orange Red House is quite honestly one of the happiest things I’ve ever seen, and I should I ever get to build my own house this will definitely feature.
Raphael HeftiIn the galleries there was David Hockney’s Arrival of Spring series – 12 drawings created by Hockney on his iPad and ink jet colour printed in large format (236cm x 178cm) accompanied by charcoal works entitled Woldgate, The Arrival of Spring 2013.Woldgate, The Arrival of Spring in 2013The two togetherI’m pretty sure I saw most of these pieces at the RA’s A Bigger Picture show in 2012 but there was something really wonderful about being able to stand back (as opposed to being pushed back) and see them all as a one-r.  Needless to say, this being France, the gallery was blissfully under utilised.  up closeskylights

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Studio Fotokino

A mini post about my new favourite mini gallery – Studio Fotokino on Marseille’s allee Leon Gambetta. They are currently showing a collection of Nathalie du Pasquier’s paintings and drawings entitled Construction. FotokinoMemphisFotokino2

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Quince, Chilli and Chocolate

I’m lucky enough to have a couple of heaving Quince trees and a Nigel Slater obsession. Below is my modified NS recipe for poached Quince … I have added the chocolate, chilli and creme fraiche (basically making a very elaborate school pudding!)quince, chilli and chocolate Put a saucepan of water on to boil.  Add a couple of heaped tablespoons of brown sugar and stir in until dissolved.  Peel your quince, cut them in half length ways and dig out as much of the core as possible.  Rub the quince with lemon (to stop them browning) and add to the now simmering water.  Add half a teaspoon of chilli  flakes to a dry frying pan and flip about in the heat until they smell good and are slightly coloured.  Cook the quince until tender (about 20 minutes, test with a skewer to make sure they’re soft!) remove from the pan, place in a bowl and top with dark chocolate shavings – the more the better.  Add a massive dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle the chilli flakes over the top of the whole thing.

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Perfect Pairing

It’s been a five months since I returned from New York.  Provence is as beautiful as ever and after the ultimate city that never sleeps, the last few months have been an amazing rediscovery of everything slow!  Like the incredible Chateau la Coste, outside Aix-en-Provence, whose presence is so out of the way and understated it’s taken me five years to realise it exists. But oh boy, this place is so pretty it could be in the pages of New York magazine.
Cafe du Tado AndoAbove is the incredible restaurant, where you can sample the vineyards wine and enjoy the menu du jour for 32 euros…  All in the comfort of Japanese architect Tandao Ando’s extraordinary concrete Centre d’Art.  They have a Le Corbusier tapestry hanging by the restaurants entrance which is reason enough to fall in love with the place for me.  The restaurant, bookshop and information center are surrounded on either side by water.  And some fairly heavy weight sculptures.  Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spider greets you on the way in and Alexander Calder’s Small Crinkly leads you into the garden beyond.Alexander Calder, Small Crinkly, 1976As perfect a combination as possible, Chateau la Coste boasts Wine, Art and Architecture. The latter includes the 2008 Frank Gehry Music Pavillon (that to me looks like the Serpentine Gallery pavilion of the same year) as well as an incredibly spacey new Jean Nouvel designed chais de vinification or the naff sounding English translation – winery.
Frank Gehry, Music Pavillon, 2008Liam Gillick, Multipiled Restistance Screened, 2010 (2)There is a 2 hour sculpture trail around the domaine and includes some fun pieces by Liam Gillick (above), Tracy Emin and Tom Shannon (below) among others.   As well as a newly opened gallery in one of the former village buildings currently showing Different Places – Sean Scully.Tom Shannon, Drop, 2009Looking down towards the Gehry pavilion.

The Chateau also holds open air screenings and music concerts in the summer.  The map of the grounds has some incomplete circles marking installations a venir (coming installations) including what looks to be a Richard Rogers designed building, Ai Weiwei pavilion and John Rocha art installation.  Maybe I didn’t have to go to New York to find cultural Nirvana after all!

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Springtime in NYC

A couple of days of sunshine in Manhattan.  1. West side community garden Tulip festival.  2. The view from Wards Island. 3. Central Park. 4. Romance on the streets of the Upper East Side. 

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