This year, with Marseilles being the Cultural Capital of Europe, the choice is particularly rich and includes a blockbuster art exhibit, LE GRAND ATELIER DU MIDI, spread over two museums that show "From Cézanne to Matisse" in Aix-en-Provence and "From Van Gogh to Bonnard" in Marseilles.
Other worthwhile stops in Marseilles would be two striking new buildings in the Vieux Port: La Villa Méditerranée and the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) which finally opened last month, as well as the charming new museum Regards de Provence in the renovated station sanitaire just across the road.
|Museum Regards de Provence|
Aix-en-Provence opens the ball in June with a month of public Master classes that precede the opera festival of July. Opera being my thing, I am happy to stay in Aix for all five operas, several concerts with major symphony orchestras, and a number of conferences with opera stars, directors or stage designers, before I start looking elsewhere. If I am not sated by then, I may go to Les Chorégies d'Orange for more opera and concerts in the incredible setting of the huge Roman theatre (more than 8000 seats) with its impressive backdrop of a 37-meter-high wall built in the first century AD and still standing! King Louis XIV called this "the most beautiful wall of my kingdom".
The town of Vaison La Romaine in the department of the Vaucluse organizes a dance festival in its magnificent Roman amphitheatre, where both modern dance and traditional ballet are performed in a truly exceptional site.
Of course popular culture is not forgotten and folkloric events, with fife and tambourine bands and dancers in Provençal costume, appear regularly in town and village squares, not to mention the colorful markets where potters and painters and basket weavers offer their art amid the local produce and preserves.
|Ex-minister Delphine Batho|
˜˜˜ Bernard Tapie, French businessman and sometime actor, stands accused of having falsely obtained a payment of €403 million in 2008 from the state-owned Crédit Lyonnais bank. After years of litigation by Tapie who accused the CL of having cheated him in the sale of his Adidas sportswear company in the mid 1990s, the case went to arbitration at the suggestion of then Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who approved the award. Lagarde, currently head of the IMF, was grilled by prosecutors for two days about her role in assigning this case to arbitration. She was not charged but named an "assisted witness" which indicates that some suspicion remains in the eyes of the court. Her then Chief of Staff Stéphane Richard, on the other hand, has been placed under formal investigation but was allowed to return to his job as CEO of telecommunications company Orange (formerly named France Telecom) with the backing of his Board of Directors and of the State, which owns a 27 percent share of Orange.
(*) For more events see the chapter Summer Festivities in my book Taking Root in Provence by clicking here.