Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Red Rock village of Roussillon.

Built from ochre rich rock dug from the surrounding area Roussillon seems to glow from the top of a hill in the Luberon area of Provence. The brightly coloured local earth and rock has been put to many uses over the centuries. The Romans used it in pottery glazes and the bright yellows, reds and oranges were used as dyes in the textile industry for hundreds of years until the 1930s.

Centuries of erosion and quarrying have left strange but impressive rock and cliff formations in and around the village. A walking trail - Le Sentier des Ocres - leads through this red landscape. 
You can visit a former ochre mine/factory which has been turned into a museum and shows how the ochre was made into pigment. The Conservatoire des Ocres et Pigments Appliques is on the D104 outside the village in the direction of Apt. L'Usine d'ocre Mathieu.

Also known as the Colorado Provencal, some of the scenery in the area is reminiscent of Australia's red centre.

Playwright Samuel Beckett, who wrote in English and French, lived in Roussillon between 1942 and 1945, where he helped the Resistance by hiding arms in his garden. He mentions the village in Waiting for Godot when Vladimir tells Estragon that everything there was all red. While the two tramps wait for Godot, who of course never turns up, the unlikely subject of the vendange (wine harvest or grape picking) and red Roussillon in Provence crops up. Theatre of the absurd indeed.

Officially one of the most beautiful villages in France, as given the stamp of approval by Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, an association set up in 1982, which aims to:
"avoid certain pitfalls such as villages turning into soulless museums or, on the contrary, "theme parks". Our well-reasoned and passionate ambition is to reconcile villages with the future and to restore life around the fountain or in the square shaded by hundred-year-old lime and plane trees."
The association has approved over 150 villages, which have to meet certain criteria, in 21 regions and 69 departments.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Truffaut's Les 400 Coups - one of the best films of all time


Les Quatres Cents Coups was an important New Wave film, released in 1959 by Francois Truffaut. Literally translated the title means the four hundred blows, but in French the term means raising hell. The film centres around 12 year old Antoine Doinell, who lives in Paris with his mother and father. Totally misunderstood by his indifferent parents, teachers and most other people, Antoine's life lurches from one disaster to the next. Set against a magnificent 1950s Parisian backdrop, the film pulls on the heart strings without being sentimental.
The New Wave movement was a group of film makers, which as well as Truffaut also included Jean-Luc Goddard, who broke away from the classical way of film making and created a new less formal style.
Watch the trailer then watch the film!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Markets in France

Christmas Market in Strasbourg.

It's not too late to go to a Christmas market in France. Food, drink, lots of beautiful and original gifts to chose from, music and of course lights!  Below is a list of a selection of Christmas markets with dates. 

Amiens 25 Nov to 24 Dec.
Avignon 1 Dec to 30 Dec.
Arras 2 Nov to 24 Dec.
Bethune 27 Nov to 31 Dec.
Caen 26 Nov to 24 Dec.
Lille - 19 Nov to 24 Dec.
Mulhouse 24 Nov to 29 Dec.
Strasbourg 26 Nov to 31 Dec.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Eiffel Tower

What one thing do people most associate with France and in particular Paris? No not frogs legs or garlic - the Eiffel Tower. The 1,063 foot iron tower stands majestically in the Champs de Mer in the 4th arrondissement and can be seen from virtually all over the city. At night you are reminded of its presence by a sweeping light beam which rotates from the tower around into the far reaches of the city.

The tower was built in 1889 as the entrance to the World's Fair, (Exposition Universelle) which was held on the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and consisted of many shows and attractions.

For the first 41 years of its life la Tour Eiffel was the tallest building in the world, but then it was beaten by the Chrysler building in New York which was finished in 1930. Of course both have now been superseded.

The building is the most visited paid monument in the world. Visitors can either walk or go in the lift to the first and second floors and can go by lift to the top floor. Needless to say the views are spectacular.

Metro stops: Line 6 to Bir-Hakeim, Lines 6 or 9 to Trocadero,
RER Line C (yellow) to Champs de Mer/Tour Eiffel.
Link to Paris Metro Map