A century of Italian immigration and culture in France (1860-1960) #continuation

“CIAO” is part of those words that, accompanying the migrations of millions of Italians around the world, have been adopted from the languages ​​of the countries reception, as in France where it is now part of current vocabulary. This greeting is useful to welcome and say goodbye at the same time.


CIAO ITALIA! is an “arrivederci” of the Italians to theirs country, never an “addio” . It is also a welcome formula from France to its neighbor.

Exchanges between France and Italy have been numerous since from Antiquity and go far beyond military conquest of “Gaul” by Rome. In the Middle Ages, men, women, goods and ideas cross the Alps, spreading a sort of “Italian model” in France and throughout Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, about 26 million Italians emigrate for both economic and political reasons. A part of them heads to France, which was missing at the time of manpower. Italians became like this the most numerous foreigners in France from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1960s.

Today commemorated, their integration did not happen however smoothly. Between distrust and desire, violence and passions, rejection and integration, the exhibition CIAO ITALIA ! tell this story by highlighting the contribution of Italians to society and French culture. The exhibition traces the geographical journey, socio-economic and cultural experience of Italians in France from the Risorgimento from 1860 to 1960.

The exhibition will take place in the hall of the library of Laveno Mombello in Villa Frua from the 25 March 2022 until the 12 April 2022. Free entrance

The exhibition is open:
Monday until Thursday 9:00 – 18:00
Friday and Saturday 9:00 – 13:00

Comune
Laveno

Cordouan, the lighthouse of Kings

A unique lighthouse

The Cordouan lighthouse is not a lighthouse like the others.
A few kilometers out to sea, in the middle of the Gironde Estuary, it embodies the creative genius of men and the great phases in the history of lighthouses.

While the Cordouan lighthouse was built for the primary purpose of keeping guard over the mouth of the Gironde estuary, it has far exceeded this utilitarian function. Its architecture proves irresistible to visitors to this unique building.

The Cordouan lighthouse has long been referred to as the “lighthouse of kings” and has just been named “2019 Lighthouse of the Year” by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities to mark World Marine Aids to Navigation Day. In 2020, France has nominated the Cordouan lighthouse for inclusion on the World Heritage. In 2021, it was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

This remarkable building deserves such recognition. The care taken over its construction is impressive considering it’s found in the middle of the sea and can’t be seen from the coast. Built in stone and sculpted on all sides, the lighthouse was commissioned in 1584 by Henri III, who entrusted the project to Louis de Foix. Its construction was finished in 1611, but work resumed from 1786 to 1789 to add a further 20 metres in height. This took it to 67.5 metres tall. Another interesting fact is that it is the last remaining lighthouse to be continuously inhabited by its keepers and visitors.

Using limestone dressed blocks, De Foix first built a round base 41 metres in diameter and 2 metres high to take the onslaught of the waves. Within it was a 2-square-metre cavity for storing water and other supplies. Above it were constructed four storeys of diminishing size. The ground floor consisted of a circular tower 15 metres in diameter, with apartments for four keepers around its inner wall. In the centre was a richly decorated entrance hall of 2.0 square metres and 6.1 metres high. The second storey was the King’s Apartment, consisting of a drawing room, anteroom and a number of closets. The third storey was a chapel with a domed roof notable for the beauty of its mosaic. Above this was secondary lantern, and above that the Lantern itself. This was 60 metres above the sea and visible 8–10 km away, the original light being provided by burning oak chips in a metal container.

Throughout the building, de Foix took as much trouble with the decor as with the durability of the building, and on every floor was a profusion of gilt, carved work, elegantly arched doorways and statuary.

Silent movies and live music

Vive la France! Sound and Art vibes in the French semester in collaboration with the European Club, JAMM. A silent movie accompanied by live music

Friday 29 April 2022, Ispra, Club House ca 19h

“The Epic of the French Silent Film, starting with the Lumière Brothers”.

The films will be screened and the music will be performed reflecting dances, soundtrack and original author music by artist musicians on violin and piano.

Time will be updated more precisely soon .

Vive la France! suggestioni Sonore e d’Arte nel semestre francese d’Europa.  Club Europeo, JAMM, Semestre Francese: 
Programma: 

Venerdì 29 aprile 2022, Ispra, Club House

“L’Epopea del Film Muto francese, a partire dai Fratelli Lumière”. 

Con accompagnamento su balli, colonne sonore e musiche d’autore originali al violino e pianoforte. 

Saranno proiettate le pellicole e contemporanea esecuzione dal vivo delle musiche

Clisson, a corner of Tuscany in the Pays de la Loire

Clisson is a commune in the Loire-Atlantique department in the Pays de la Loire region in western France.

It is situated at the confluence of the Sèvre Nantaise and the Moine 27 km southeast of Nantes (reachable by rail).

The town and the celebrated family of Clisson (the most famous members are Olivier IV de Clisson and Jeanne de Clisson) take their name from their stronghold. Clisson has its imposing ruins, parts of which date from the thirteenth century. The town and castle, the château de Clisson, were destroyed in 1792 and 1793 during the War in the Vendée.

Afterwards, the sculptor François-Frédéric Lemot bought the castle, and the town was rebuilt in the early part of the 19th century with Tuscany architecture. There are picturesque parks on the banks of the rivers. The Moine is crossed by an old gothic bridge and by a fine modern viaduct.

Clisson’s (short) history

At Clisson were born Olivier V of Clisson, and the last Duke of Brittany, François II, father of Anne of Brittany. In the fourteenth century the « Marches de Bretagne » are the border between Brittany and France. The Clisson covered market reflects the economic dynamism of the time. It is one of the largest and oldest in France.

After the Revolution, Clisson became in the 19th century a landscape inspired by Italy. F-F Lemot sculptor of Napoleon settles in near Clisson he realizes a neoclassical landscape inspired by central Italy. The decoration of tiles and bricks offered by Clisson is  a genuine Italian surprise in western France.

The Church of Notre Dame de Clisson

It was built in the old Collegiate Church. It was reformed in the nineteenth century in the Italian style. As you can see, its bell tower is a Tuscan style, and a Basilica of Rome inspires its main buildings.

Les Halles de Clisson (Medieval Market)

This is where the Clisson market is held. It has been registered as a historical monument in 1923. According to recent reports, it’s from the 14th Century. But there is little information about this market before the eighteenth century.

What is known is that it was a prosperous place, and the lords of Clisson helped make it prosperous. They charged taxes on the sale of certain goods.

During the Vendée War, the city was burned and almost completely devastated.It is said that the city’s own extinguished the fire of Les Halles to have a refuge within the city. Several restoration works have been done to preserve the elements that give authenticity to this monument.

Between land and sea, the Marais poitevin

On the board for your next holidays. Curled up between land and sea, the Marais poitevin is a unique and timeless destination. With its “Natural Regional Park” and “Grand Site de France” labels, its stunning beauty is waiting for you.

Parc naturel régional values

Labelized in May 2014, The Parc naturel régional is a sustainable project driven toward the preservation and valorisation of its patrimony

The brand “Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional” is a recognized brand that is committed to the development of the territory and the preservation of local products. Deployed by the Marais poitevin regional natural park, it offers visitors, tourists and consumers a collective and supportive approach, ensuring structuring effects for sustainable development.

The word Marais is often translated as “marsh,” but this is rather misleading – a better term might be wetlands or water meadows. The Marais Poitevin has both types of environment, with lush green pastureland and lower-lying wetlands criss-crossed by shady canals. As you’ll find out, there’s so much to do and see here — from boat trips to hiking or biking, you’ll be spoiled for choice when explore this delightful protected natural area, centred on the mediaeval town of Fontenay-le-Comte.

The Marais Poitevin by boat

This part of the Vendée is called the “Green Venice.” Located south of Fontenay-le-Comte, the wetlands canals are undoubtedly the busiest part of the Marais Poitevin. The waterways are covered by a green canopy of ash trees and poplars, a romantic and exotic getaway.

guide-boatman will take you on a boat trip along the canals and bays of the marais. You’ll learn how to handle the pigouille (punting stick) and even how to set fire to the water! More about that later…

Boats are undeniably the classic and best way to enjoy and discover the landscapes of the Green Venice. The silence and the mysterious atmosphere that emerge from the marais never fails to leave an impression. If you prefer to be independent, you can also rent a boat to visit the Marais Poitevin on your own – perhaps with the whole family.

Around the Marais poitevin

If boat trips are not your cup of tea, discover the marais on foot, by bike, on horseback – why not, by donkey! A few kilometers south of Fontenay-le-Comte, various  circuitwalking and cycling trails are available.

The wetlands

A three kilometre observation trail in the Nalliers-Mouzeuil-Saint-Martin Biological Reserve leads walkers to a meeting with purple heron and turtle doves. Take the opportunity to visit the Maison de la Reserve, a place of mediation in this protected area. It is one of the last examples of wetland forest in the area.

From Le Langon, a cycling circuit embraces the Regional Nature Reserve of the Poiré-sur-Velluire marshland. Other circuits starting from Velluire, Auchay-sur-Vendée or Doix-lès-Fontaines allow visitors to discover another facet of the Marais Poitevin halfway between wetlands and drained pasture.

Cycling enthusiasts will find bike paths throughout the Marais Poitevin. Greenways and bicycle routes help you discover the Regional Natural Park, from Niort to Marans, following the Vélo Francette® route.

Drained pasturelands

The drained wetlands, now low-lying dry pasture, extend west of Fontenay-le-Comte. They are protected from flood waters and tides by levees and dikes. Complementary to the wetlands, it has open landscapes with plains and hedges.

Around Fontenay-le-Comte, discover the communaux, these great flood-prone natural meadows which in the summer are home to herds of grazing cows and horses. Don’t miss the Regional Nature Reserve at Poiré-sur-Velluire.

A vast burial cave of the Bronze Age discovered in the Charente “Le réseau de la Licorne”

The chance discovery of an underground network leading to an impressive cavity occupied in the Bronze Age (2 200/800 BC), reveals the existence of one of the largest burial caves known to date in France.

With more than one linear kilometre of galleries under almost twenty meters of depth, this discovery, dubbed «Network of the Unicorn» by its inventors, is exceptional in both its archaeological wealth and its state of conservation (traces of footsteps; numerous ceramics including several dozen intact: bowls, vases, pots, plates, etc.; human and animal remains…). It has a remarkable scientific potential, yet to be determined but probably underestimated to this day, for the documentation and knowledge of the funeral traditions of the Bronze Age. The very large size of the site of the Unicorn and its use for more than a millennium suggest a complex archaeological context whose study represents, for years to come, a scientific challenge.

Discovered in February 2021 by speleologists, during road works in the delegated municipality of Saint-Projet-Saint-Constant (La Rochefoucauld-en-Angoumois) in Charente, a first assessment is carried out in early April 2021 by the Regional Service of Archaeology (SRA) the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Once authenticated, this discovery is named «Réseau de la Licorne» by the members of the Association de recherches spéléologiques de La Rochefoucauld (ARS-LR), its discoverers. The first findings confirm the importance of the discovery and its very probable dating to the Bronze Age. A second expertise gathering protohistorians took place in June 2021 to document the impressive archaeological content discovered and confirm its dating.

This cavity, in addition to archaeological remains, contains many concretions, such as the classic draperies formed by calcite flows, but also magnificent stalagmites with a triangular section as well as eccentric stalactites still in the process of formation.

The involvement and expertise of the State services in the conservation of this archaeological heritage, in conjunction with the actors concerned, played a key role. The priority for the Ministry of Culture is to preserve this exceptional site, which is extremely fragile. This means understanding the environmental conditions that have enabled the conservation of this site, which is 3 to 4 millennia old, in order to be able to maintain them.

The Ministry of Culture, through its archaeology services, will continue its close collaboration with local stakeholders to ensure that this exceptional site delivers the secrets of the Bronze Age and that the knowledge of this period deepens.

Centre Pompidou-Metz, the first major cultural decentralisation project.

Centre Pompidou-Metz is France’s first major cultural decentralisation project. Centre Pompidou in Paris  has brought its model to the region, and offered its know-how and collections in a unique partnership with local government bodies, which not only provide the necessary funding but also guarantee independence of scientific and cultural choices.

Respecting the values of Centre Pompidou in its generosity, open to all publics and to all forms of current-day creation, Centre Pompidou-Metz illustrates, through its relationship both to society and to culture, the renewal of Centre Pompidou’s strategy refocused on its prime vocation, namely to form a platform of exchanges between French society and creation.

Centre Pompidou-Metz is neither a branch nor an annex of Centre Pompidou Paris but a sister institution, independent in its scientific and cultural choices, able to develop its own programme in the spirit of Centre Pompidou, and relying on the latter’s know-how, network and notoriety. In conveying these values, it has an extraordinary advantage, that of being able to draw from the collections of Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, which, with more than 100,000 works, boasts one of the world’s two finest collections in the field of modern and contemporary art, and the largest collection in Europe.

Centre Pompidou-Metz has been devised as a unique experience, a space where you can discover artistic creation in all its shapes and sizes, a living place where events take place all year round. The architecture of Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines make it an exceptional place. It is also a generous place as its publics are at the heart of the project, and a place of excellence thanks to its multidisciplinary programme based on innovative temporary exhibitions of international level.

A unique architecture

“Walking up through the front square and the gardens that link the downtown area and the Metz train station to the Centre Pompidou-Metz, visitors will discover a building in light and luminous tones, both powerful and graceful, inviting them to take shelter under its protective roof.

We imagined an architecture that speaks of openness and well-being, a meeting of cultures, in an immediate sensory relationship with the environment.” .

Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines

The Centre Pompidou-Metz is a large hexagonal structure with three galleries running through the building. A central spire reaches up 77 metres, alluding to the 1977 opening date of the original Centre Pompidou.

Inside the building, the general atmosphere is light with a pale wood roof, white-painted walls and floors in pearl-grey polished concrete. The roof, the relation between the interrior and exterior and the four exhibition galleries make up highly innovative architectural choices.

Remarkable space

The architecture of the Centre Pompidou-Metz has unusual characteristics: the remarkable size of its main nave and the variety of its exhibition areas, with large open spaces and more intimate places that encourage inventiveness and continually surprise the visitor.
Never fixed permanently, the exhibition areas can be modulated to allow original interpretations of modern and contemporary art.
The Centre Pompidou-Metz is a large hexagonal structure covering a collection of interior spaces. It is structured round a central spire reaching a height of 77 metres. The building is a two-curve superstructure with an assembly of wooden beams forming hexagonal modules and supported by a central metal tower and four conical pillars.
With a surface area of 8,000 m2, constructed fully in wood, the roofing is made up of hexagonal units resembling the cane-work pattern of a Chinese hat. This structure is covered with a waterproof membrane made from fibre glass and teflon (PTFE or Poly-Tetra-Fluoro-Ethylene).

Three galleries in the shape of rectangular (parallelepipedic) tubes weave through the building at different levels, jutting out through the roof with huge picture windows angled towards landmarks such as the cathedral, the station and Seille Park, showing visitors genuine “postcard” images of the city of Metz.

Viewed as a whole, the Centre Pompidou-Metz evokes a huge marquee surrounded by a front square and two gardens. Total surface area is 10,700 m2. The exhibition areas take up 5,020 m2, plus other spaces where works can also be exhibited such as the gardens, forum and the gallery terraces. The building housing the Centre’s administration offices and technical spaces is located behind the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

French movie 09 – Florida (2015)

Mandatory mask FFP2 and registration

register Here (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

Although he’s now eighty years old, Claude Lherminier is still as imposing as he ever was. But his bouts of forgetfulness and confusion are becoming increasingly frequent. Even so, he stubbornly refuses to admit that anything is wrong. Carole, his oldest daughter, wages a daily and taxing battle to ensure that he’s not left on his own. Claude suddenly decides on a whim to go to Florida. What lies behind this sudden trip?

Floride was Jean Rochefort last movie and is in a sense a tribute to him. He is of every scene. First half of the movie shows him mischevious, try-hard, filled with humour. Thus the tone of movie changes, we understand the changes his character follows and we see his touching, fragile side.

The movie without Rochefort would not hold, however the thematic of memory is well used and shows how it is essential, to ourselves, to our relationship with others, and even to the image we can have of people that already left this wolrd.

The unique charm of Parisian covered passages

Paris’s galleries and covered passages house shops, restaurants and theatres

Built for the most part in the 19th century, these arcades covered with glass roofs, created by piercing through other buildings, are a typically Parisian architectural feature. Most of them now house shopstearooms and restaurants. There are around 20 of them in Paris in the vicinity of the Grands Boulevards.

One of the oldest, the Passage des Panoramas, dates from 1799. It is home to the Théâtre des Variétés, inaugurated in 1807 and still providing entertainment. Each arcade has its own character. Passage Brady, commonly known as Little India, houses numerous Indian, Pakistan, Mauritian and Reunion shops. The Passage Verdeau houses numerous antique dealers. As for the Passage du Caire – the longest and the narrowest in the capital (more than 360 metres long) – it has a large concentration of wholesalers in ready-to-wear clothing as well as other clothes manufacturers.

Galerie Vivienne next door to the Palais-Royal is one of the most iconic covered passages. The nearby Galerie Véro-Dodat has many upmarket shops, like Christian Louboutin’s workshop-boutique. Passage du Grand-Cerf, a 12-metre-high structure made of metal and wrought iron, is one of the most spectacular arcades in Paris. 

Finally, the Galerie Colbert, built in 1823, has the particularity of having no shops. Its colonnade and rotunda surmounted by a glass dome house the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art and the Institut National du Patrimoine. The public are free to walk through the gallery and can stop off for lunch at the Grand Colbert brasserie, located at the entrance and famous for its art deco style.

How to become a parisian in one hour?

The first one-man show in Paris entirely in English !

How to become a Parisian in One Hour? is a 70-minute show in English performed in a 600-seat theatre. Olivier Giraud presents the Parisian going about his daily business in his natural habitat: Paris.

The comedy show is presented in the form of lessons enabling you to “learn” how to behave like a real Parisian in the metro, at a restaurant, in a night club and even in future relationships…

The show has been a big comedy hit in France for eight years now. It built its reputation by word-of-mouth – a highly effective system as some 800,000 people have already seen it!

Thanks to the show being a success in London, where Olivier performed regularly, the production took on an international turn and became more widely known.

It is a show that takes place on stage but also involve audience participation, and that audience comes from around the world with at least 30 nationalities at each performance. This varied public includes Parisians, French from outside the capital, expats and tourists who all end up laughing together at their cultural differences.

Book a ticket

A century of Italian immigration and culture in France (1860-1960)

“CIAO” is part of those words that, accompanying the migrations of millions of Italians around the world, have been adopted from the languages ​​of the countries reception, as in France where it is now part of current vocabulary. This greeting is useful to welcome and say goodbye at the same time.


CIAO ITALIA! is an “arrivederci” of the Italians to theirs country, never an “addio” . It is also a welcome formula from France to its neighbor.

Exchanges between France and Italy have been numerous since from Antiquity and go far beyond military conquest of “Gaul” by Rome. In the Middle Ages, men, women, goods and ideas cross the Alps, spreading a sort of “Italian model” in France and throughout Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, about 26 million Italians emigrate for both economic and political reasons. A part of them heads to France, which was missing at the time of manpower. Italians became like this the most numerous foreigners in France from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1960s.

Today commemorated, their integration did not happen however smoothly. Between distrust and desire, violence and passions, rejection and integration, the exhibition CIAO ITALIA ! tell this story by highlighting the contribution of Italians to society and French culture. The exhibition traces the geographical journey, socio-economic and cultural experience of Italians in France from the Risorgimento from 1860 to 1960.

The exhibition will take place in the hall of the library of Laveno Mombello in Villa Frua from the 25 March 2022 until the 12 April 2022. Free entrance

The exhibition is open:
Monday until Thursday 9:00 – 18:00
Friday and Saturday 9:00 – 13:00

Comune
Laveno

The Somme bay

Baie de Somme (Bay of the Somme or Somme Bay) is a large estuary in the Picardie région . The bay drains six rivers into the English Channel, principally the River Somme, and covers a total area of 72 km2. The bay is noted for its ornithological richness, as well as being a major tourist attraction.

When the tide is out, the Baie is characterized by wide, flat areas of marsh and sand, from which the delicacy of glasswort (locally:salicornes) are collected. Small ponds, dug into the marshes and filled with fake plastic ducks, are used to attract migratory birds for hunting. As the tide rises the bay fills, during which time numerous working, leisure and tourist boats cross between the surrounding villages.

The Bay of Somme is the habitat of multiple fauna and flora species, the most famous being probably the Grey seal and the Harbor seal, locally referred as “phoque veau-marin”. Its population can be estimated at around 650 to 700 individuals living in the bay, whereas the Grey seal has a smaller population of around 350 individuals.

The Site represents the largest natural estuary in northern France composed of vast sand, mudflats, and grassy areas. The exceptional character of the Site is reflected by its avifauna diversity with 365 bird species identified. Located at the confluence of migratory routes, the Site is one of the most important European resting and feeding areas for migrating waterbirds. It also provides a refuge during cold weather events, especially for waders and ducks. During the wintering period, the Site sustains over 1% of the individuals of the biogeographic population of the Northern pintail, Northern shoveller and common shelduck. The Site also supports 275 species of plants, including various rare species such as the fen orchid Liparis loeselii. Human activities include cattle grazing, hunting, commercial fishing, shellfish farming, and tourism. The “Maison Ramsar de la baie de Somme” is one of two study centres at the Site. The main threats to the ecological character of the Site relate to drainage, hunting, invasive species, pollution, and recreational and tourism activities. Silting up of the estuary is accelerating and will alter the food web in the estuary which will in turn become less suitable for migrating and wintering waders. All protected areas on the Site have a management plan and a site-specific management plan.

The Louvre-Lens is part of an effort to provide access to French cultural institutions for people who live outside of Paris

The Louvre-Lens is an art museum located in Lens,  approximately 200 kilometers north of Paris. It displays objects from the collections of the Musée du Louvre that are lent to the gallery on a medium- or long-term basis. The Louvre-Lens annex is part of an effort to provide access to French cultural institutions for people who live outside of Paris. Though the museum maintains close institutional links with the Louvre, it is primarily funded by the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.

Architecture

The museum is built on a 20-hectare mining site that closed in the 1960s. The area is slightly elevated due to filling in of the mine. To make the building blend into the surrounding area, the architects designed a string of five low-profile structures; the central one is square with glass walls and the others are rectangular with polished, aluminum facades that gave a blurry reflection of the surroundings. Altogether, the museum is 360 m long and contains 28,000 m2 of exhibition space.

The design of a central building flanked by two wings mimics the Paris Louvre. The square, central building is the main reception area. It contains several curved glass rooms that contain a cafeteria, bookstore and museum boutique. To the east of the entry hall is the 3,000 m2 Galerie du Temps which houses approximately 200 items from the Paris Louvre collection. The items in the large, open hall are arranged chronologically, from 3,500 BC to the mid-19th century, regardless of style or country of origin. Beyond the Galerie du Temps is the Pavillon de Verre which exhibits works from neighboring museums. The building to the west of the entry hall is a gallery for temporary exhibits and, beyond that, an auditorium.

The Gallery du temps

The pink sandstone cathedral of Strasbourg

Construction

The pink sandstone cathedral of Strasbourg represents both an outstanding artistic achievement and an extraordinary encyclopaedia of mediaeval
architecture. Strasbourg’s development and prosperity under the Holy Roman Empire reached its zenith in 1015 when the city’s Bishop decided to build a vast Romanesque cathedral. After it was destroyed by a fire in 1176, the Cathedral was rebuilt on its original foundations, an endeavour that covered some 3 centuries. Construction started with the choir, with the Western facade completed in the 14th century and the spire in 1439. While the original architectural influences were clearly Romanesque, the Cathedral was caught up in the wave of Gothic architecture sweeping through Europe in the 13th century and the many sculptures adorning facade bear eloquent witness to this movement. Restoration work is now a permanent aspect of the Cathedral.

Values

The Cathedral is a place of worship, a historical monument and also a symbol of Rhine culture. A symbol of Christian faith, the Cathedral became famous throughout Europe right from the end of the Middle Ages. Although Gothic architecture fell out of favour over several centuries, it became popular again in the late 18th century and the Cathedral was fulsomely praised by both Goethe and Hugo. The Cathedral was listed as a historical
monument in 1862. The city of Strasbourg has long been based on twin cultures and the Cathedral is a reflection of the turbulent history of its region. Nowadays, with Strasbourg as a European capital, the Cathedral has become one of the symbols of Europe. Strasbourg’s centre has been listed as a UNESCO world Heritage site since 1988. As a unique artistic achievement and a symbol of Gothic art, the Cathedral is central to the city’s extraordinary heritage.

THE WESTERN FACADE

The Western facade is an outstanding technical and artistic achievement and is a masterpiece of Gothic art.

The Western facade (1277-1384)
Construction of the Western facade began in 1277, under the supervision of German architect Erwin von Steinbach. The facade comprises 3 vertical
divisions, separated by buttresses and featuring an external decor covering the load-bearing walls. A magnificent rose window dominates the main door.

The tower (1399-1419)
The octagonal tower was built between 1399 and 1419 and is the work of Ulrich von Ensingen. Each of the faces is open and crowned by a curved décor. The tower is flanked by 4 sets of spiral staircases.

The spire (1419-1439)
The work of Jean Hültz of Cologne and completed in 1439, the spire sits atop the tower. It comprises a pyramid of pinnacles over 8 levels, crowned by
a lantern and a cross. Soaring up 142 m, the spire is an outstanding technical achievement which remained the world’s tallest building until the late 19th century.

THE NAVE

The massive nave is 63 m long, 32m wide and 32m high.

The nave (1240-1275)
The nave comprises 3 long aisles and impresses with its verticality and elegance. With vaulted intersecting ribs, the nave is sustained by arched
buttresses. It is a triumph of the Gothic style and drew inspiration from other French cathedrals which had just been completed. Its elevation comprises three levels: large arcades with fasciculated columns, an open triforium and high windows each containing 4 lancets under rose windows. The nave also features magnificent stained glass windows from the 12th to 14th centuries.

The great organs
The polychrome organ case is perched in the north part of the nave. The lower part, the pendentive, was built in 1385, by Michael of Fribourg. The flamboyant upper part was designed by Friedrich Krebs in 1489. A number of significant changes have been made to the organ over the centuries by organ builders, including Andreas Silbermann in 1716. The current organ is the work of Alfred Kern (1981).

“Petite France” a district of Strasbourg sometimes compared to a little Venice

The district is spread across an amazing river delta, formed by the five arms of the river. Seen from the sky, they look uncannily like the fingers of a hand trying to grab the whole city. Both peaceful and impetuous, the River Ill irrigates the whole district with its charm. Take a leisurely stroll along its quays and admire the reflection of the colourful facades of the old houses.

The charming Place Benjamin Zix Square

This is where you can sit back and simply appreciate the beauty of the place. In the shade of the plane trees on this square, which is very lively in summertime, you’ll get wonderful views of the river and of an exceptional set of half-timbered houses. The Maison des Tanneurs (House of Tanners), generously laden with geraniums from spring to autumn, is the crown jewel of the site. Take a moment to enjoy it by having a drink or eating lunch on the terrace of La Corde à Linge!

The white street: Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes

From Place Benjamin Zix Square, you can reach Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, which features a set of remarkably homogeneous half-timbered houses. They are so mesmerizing that you won’t be able to look away. In this former tanners’ street, each house is absolutely white, highlighting differing shapes and sizes of half- timbering and an additional roof, largely open, which was designed for drying animal skins. The street, with its old-fashioned paving stones, takes you on a journey into the past.

Bridges

At the end of Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, you’ll discover the Pont du Faisan, a bridge also known locally as the “Pont Tournant” (the swivelling bridge). Small and discreet, this footbridge imposes its will on all passers-by. Indeed, you might have to wait to cross it, because it has pivoted to let a tour boat go by. An unparalleled attraction.

Saint-Martin Bridge, a stone bridge with two arches and a single column, is very close by. From there, don’t miss the view of the mills, dams and locks, as well as of a picturesque little waterside terrace.

These two bridges offer postcard-perfect views full of charm, so you can bring marvellous souvenir photos home with you.

Eternal Covered Bridges

This is where the Ill River breaks up. The place is exceptional; one of the most renowned sites in Strasbourg. The bridge and its three high, austere, massive guard towers, vestiges of the medieval wall, are truly awe-inspiring! From one end to the other, you’ll discover the five arms of the Ill River, encircling little plots of land, while the Strasbourg Cathedral, a bit further off, stands guard over this sublime place.

The protective Vauban Dam

Alongside the Covered Bridges, the Vauban Dam, built during the reign of Louis XIV by the prolific Maréchal, reinforces the defensive curtain wall of the city, which was completely walled in at the time. The dam has thirteen arches. When the dam was completely sealed, the Ill River couldn’t flow in its bed, thereby flooding all of the land south of Strasbourg. The enemy armies would get bogged down. A panoramic terrace offers a wonderful view of the Covered Bridges, the Petite France and the Cathedral on one side, and of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Hôtel du département (county government office) on the other.

Eight reasons to explore the Bay of Arcachon

Small oyster-farming ports, sandy beaches, pine forests … the Bassin d’Arcachon is located 50km from Bordeaux, but feels like another world. It represents a string of towns and villages, crowned with the famous Pilat dune and the charming peninsula of Lège – Cape Ferret. There are dozens of good reasons to discover this piece of France where the tides and the current have shaped an extraordinary landscape

1-Climb the highest dune in Europe
One hundred and nine meters high, 2,700 meters long, 500 meters wide, 60 million cubic meters of sand: the Pilat dune is a marvel of nature. It is absolutely necessary to climb to the top—at the summit, the 360° panorama over the Bassin d’Arcachon, the ocean, the Pointe de l’Arguin, the point of Cap Ferret, and the sprawling forest of pins is sublime at any moment of the day.

2-Picnic on the bench of Arguin
Nope, you are not in Guadeloupe or St. Martin, though this tongue of golden sand and crystal clear water with 50 shades of blue is reminiscent of the tropics. Arguin, a sandbank in the middle of the basin, is constantly changing form according to the wind and currents. You can reach it by boat, shuttle, or pinasse (a unique type of vessel common in the area). It’s the perfect spot for a dreamy picnic facing the great Dune.

3-Take the height at Cap Ferret
At the tip of Cap Ferret, the calm water of the basin meets the more tumultuous Atlantic. For those with no fear of heights, you should climb up the lighthouse (258 steps!). You will not regret it—whatever’s left of your breath after the climb will be taken away from the view. The panorama of the water, the oyster beds, and the Pilat dune, especially during the sunset, are breathtaking.

4-Enjoy a dozen oysters
Some simple pleasures of the Arcachon Basin include snacking on oysters opened directly by an oyster farmer, strolling along the colorful huts of the small harbors, and spotting the typical boats coming and going with their tasty cargo through the basin. The oyster capital of Gujan-Mestras has a Museum of Oysters dedicated to the little jewels of the sea.

5Birdwatch
There are more than 300,000 birds passing through the Teich Ornithological Reserve on the Arcachon Basin, and 260 species recorded, from the little plover to the great white stork. Soaring and flitting between the swamps, roses, meadows and lagoons, the effect of these beautiful birds flying along the landscaped paths will entrance every age group.

6-Swimming in the waves or at the lake
To each beach belongs a special ambiance: On the Atlantic Ocean coast, be prepared for a bracing and intense dip. On the beaches of the basin, where you swim only at high tide, the tide will be calmer. If you prefer fresh water, head for the large lake of Cazaux, in the heart of the Landes forest. For the most ambitious visitors, you can even sample the three beaches and ambiances in the same day.

7-Pedaling under the pines
About 140 miles of cycle paths surround the bay. The land is mostly flat, meaning perfect pedaling under the pines, in the middle of the forest or along the ocean. Between the green perfume of the pines and the spray of the sea, a total return to nature is guarenteed.

8-Admire the Belle Époque architecture
In Arcachon and Pyla-sur-Mer, the villas are omnipresent—these grand bourgeois houses are from the 19th century up through the 1930s. In Arcachon, in the picturesque district of the Winter City, Swiss chalets, Moorish inspiration, and colonial styles mix genres in an extravagant mélange of architectural tastes.

The Hispano-Moorish style Villa Teresa is considered the most representative construction of the architectural advances of the time.

Jérémie Villet, the “rising star” of wildlife photography

Jérémie Villet , a wildlife photographer is nothing you have seen before; he spends up to one quarter of the year sleeping outdoors and taking pictures. Jérémie Villet is 26 years old; he grew up on a farm in the countryside near Paris, France, and his childhood dream had been to climb mountains and see a wild Alpine ibex. Each year, he went with his family skiing in the French Alps. His first-ever recognized photograph was taken in 2013 when he went to the Alps specifically to look for ibex. He set off on the four-hour climb in good time to catch the sunset, but a thick fog meant it took him several more hours to reach the summit. ‘When I emerged from the clouds,’ says Jérémie, ‘it was like entering a new world.’ But the real surprise was to see below him a male ibex. ‘It was more than I’d hoped for’, says Jérémie. ‘Just me and the ibex and the beauty of the Alpine scene.’

Jérémie believes that somewhere on Earth, what we imagine becomes real. He left his studies to travel alone by ski and sled. Over these long, solitary expeditions in remote places, Jérémie uses the pure snow as a painter uses a white canvas. All his white photos are published in an art book titled Neige, and his work is featured in art galleries around the world.

Why this passion for the white landscapes? 

Well, snow somehow works as a filter, as an anchor in reality. Because I never touch-up my photographs, it’s not out of proud or being posh or something, but I prefer to work on my settings beforehand and simply enjoy the overwhelming satisfaction of a good shot; but let’s be real it makes my job much harder. And when you are into wildlife photography, you feel lots of things, alone in the wilderness, you hear things, you see things and when you finally take that instant shot, obviously you are not able to convey all of these feelings. When I am in nature, I feel this sensation of greatness, of purity, aestheticism, graphism. Surrounded by snow, it’s like I am in a dream. It sorts of echoes my childhood dream of sleeping in the forest … 

Jérémie Villet

On the 15th of October 2019, French wildlife photographer Jérémie Villet (see some photos by clicking on its name) won the Rising Star Portfolio Award (Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition)

On ARTE TV the film “Yukon, un rêve blanc

The French photography project that captures architectural curiosities throughout France

Atlas des Régions Naturelles (ARN)’ captures architectural curiosities throughout France and it will eventually contain 50 photos of each of France’s 50 ‘régions naturelles’

A singular photographic adventure, unique in terms of both its scope and its duration. Launched five years ago, its objective is to document, in equal measure, the 450 natural regions or ‘lands’ constituting the territory of France.

Focusing on these small geographical and cultural entities such as Artois, Morvan or Béarn, Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier patiently and meticulously describe our ways of occupying the landscape, inhabiting it and shaping it. The roads, houses, shops, and activities, the typography of road signs, the names of villages: they seek out both the perpetual, the commonplace, and the anomalies – which, intersecting, define a physiognomy of our ways of life and our identities.

What does France look like today?

At a time of low-cost flights for flash tourist destinations, TGVs that cut through the fields at full speed, GPS that remotely guide motorists, advertising images on TripAdvisor, 3D visualisation on Google Street View, which is therefore concerned really about the topography of France, that of the departmental roads and cross roads, that of the enclosed regions and quality crossroads, that of the villages and the urban outskirts? If you take the time to explore it, France is nevertheless full of astonishing singularities, unusual buildings, aesthetic curiosities, endearing shops, historic farms, bizarre signage, historical vestiges… Both graceful, pitiful and fragile, these buildings are the soul and the heart of the territory, as shown in the first part of the breathtaking album by Nelly Monnier and Eric Tabuchi, the ARN, or Atlas of natural regions.

First Volume of the “Atlas des Régions Naturelles”

Les régions naturelles

The term “région naturelle” or “pays” designates small territories whose limits referring to their natural characteristics are – in contrast to the administrative departments resulting from the Revolution – difficult to draw. If it is impossible to define their forms exactly, their borders, first physical and geological but also historical and cultural, continue to draw, in a kind of oral tradition, the contours of a geography whose liveliness remains very real. Thus, Semur-en-Auxois, Sucy-en-Brie, Bourg-en-Bresse or Verdun-en-Lauragais have retained the name of their former region in their place names. Their number varies depending on whether or not certain sub-entities are grouped together, for our part we have defined 450 of which you can consult the list which appears in the “index of regions” tab.

To sum up, the term “region naturelle” is a rather vague notion that designates territories with equally uncertain boundaries. This imprecision, which tempers the authority of conventional maps, seemed to us to be conducive to describing the territorial continuum which is more a succession of shades sometimes punctuated by clear breaks – if a comparison had to be found, one could say that the “region naturelle” are alternately water color tints whose contours blend together and flat areas of gouache drawing distinct areas. By allowing this descriptive finesse that mixes the blur and the sharp, the diffuse and the accentuated, the frame of the natural regions provided, in addition to a scale, the flexibility that we were looking for.

www.archive-arn.fr contains more than 12000 photographs taken since 2017, start of the ARN project. This first part, which mainly covers the north of France, is located halfway through our project. From this point, additions will be made as they travel – so it will be possible to consult the existing archive but also to follow the progress of the work in real time.

Example of a search for “Artois” (“Région naturelle” of north of France)

Many of the photographs in the Atlas are already online and can be searched in a variety of ways. Obviously it is possible to search by region and by category of construction.

But intriguingly, it is possible to search for colours or shapes. If you search for green, you not only find green buildings, but also a large green water-slide. If you search for ‘2000’, you will find a whole selection of shop fronts containing 2000 in the name of the shop (“Once, 2000 was the future,”)

Welcome to the world of Latour Marliac in Lot-et-Garonne

Visitors to Latour-Marliac gardens can see nearly 300 varieties of water lily growing in one hectare of pools, some of which are the original, restored basins from the 19th century

Monet’s worldwide famous series of water lily paintings would never have happened without nurseryman Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, who was the first man to produce coloured hardy water lilies at the end of the 19th century. Up to then European water lilies were all white.

He owned a nursery, Latour-Marliac at Le Temple-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, and his gardens are still open for the public to visit and still selling water lilies to a growing number of gardeners discovering the world of aquatic plants.

There is one of the biggest collections of tropical water lilies with a glasshouse for the giant Victoria water lily and a collection of night-blooming lilies, as well as lotuses. There is also a botanical garden, a bamboo collection, Japanese bridge, waterfall and gazebo.

‘France does not realise that in the same way the Dutch have the tulip, the French have the water lily’

says American owner Robert Sheldon, who bought the gardens in 2007

History

The nursery was founded in 1875 by Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac for the propagation, cultivation and commercialisation of hardy water lilies. Prior to setting up his nursery, Latour-Marliac had found a way to hybridize hardy water lilies through a process that remains mysterious. There was a need, for at the time the only hardy water lily in Europe was a white one. We know from Latour-Marliac’s letters that many of his hybrids were the result of a so-called intersubgeneric cross, which is to say the crossing a hardy variety with a tropical one. The resulting hybrid, named Laydekeri Floribunda, soon went extinct, but not before he was able to cross it with species and subspecies he obtained from North America and elsewhere, including N. mexicana, N. odorata rubra and N. alba rubra. Latour-Marliac was ultimately able to build a collection of water lilies with a colour palette that ranged from delicate yellow to fuscia and deep red.

CLAUDE MONET

We know from our archives that Monet placed several orders with Latour-Marliac. He placed his first order (transcribed and translated further down) in 1894. This was the year that the painter finished construction on the water garden at Giverny. Since there would have been no plants whatsoever in the pond at that time, we see that he mostly ordered aquatic plants. It is also interesting to see in this order that he purchased as many lotus as he did water lilies. Had he had better luck with the lotus, his paintings Les Nymphéas might have been Les Nelumbium!

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Mafate, an eco-tourisme laboratory

A true gem in the Hauts of Réunion, located in the municipalities of Saint-Paul and La Possession, Mafate has the particularity of being the only cirque on the island to be accessible only by foot or by helicopter. A listed UNESCO World Heritage Site like its neighbours Cilaos and Salazie, this exceptional, unspoilt territory protected from the nuisance of motor traffic is home to incredible biodiversity, full of native species. A haven for hikers and other nature-lovers, with around 180 kilometres and landscaped paths, this haven of peace and tranquillity, surrounded by dizzying ramparts, will leave you with unforgettable memories… A totally unique place where you can not only admire fantastic wild landscapes, but also meet the residents of Mafate, of which there are around 750 inhabiting the nine islets of the cirque. This adventure will be even more unforgettable if you spend the night there, in one of the gîtes with tables d’hôte dining. A great opportunity to socialise and also appreciate the very special, serene atmosphere of the area…

The Cirque de Mafate is a caldera. It was formed from the collapse of the large shield volcano the “Piton des Neiges.(3070m)”

The very remote and inaccessible cirque was settled in the 19th century by maroon slaves (i.e. slaves who had escaped from their masters), then later by poor white laborers. It owes its name to one maroon leader.

Ravel’s Bolero in “bodytap”, the performance of 200 college students shot in Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Six hours of filming, around forty shots, 200 singers, two drones, two cameras, a Maurice Ravel four meters high and the Bolero on a loop… The kiosk on the Place Louis XIV in St Jean de Luz (south west of France) served as the setting for a incredible moment of music : this is the place chosen by the Choeur des Colibris of the Saint Michel Garicoïtz college in Cambo-les-Bains to shoot its second performance of body percussion, a technique that uses the body as an instrument.

After the success of the interpretation of Beethoven’s 5th symphony last year, the video of which has been viewed 850,000 times, Nelly Guilhemsans, the professor behind the project, wanted this time to pay tribute to Maurice Ravel, born in Ciboure, taking up his masterpiece which, soon to be a hundred years old, is one of the most played pieces in the world.

For more than six hours, the more than 200 college students stampeded their feet and hands, snapped their fingers, hit their thighs, their chest and the back of their neighbour, giving a show halfway between music and choreography. The result will be a video of about four minutes, for more than seven months of work for Nelly Guilhemsans. “Imagining the choreography is a bit complicated, I took the two summer months,” says the teacher. “We started rehearsals in September, two hours a week. It’s difficult, you need motor skills, you have to have a sense of rhythm. And then, little by little, second by second, we do the four minutes. They have incredible energy.”

A Mediterranean garden and a winter paradise

When most gardens lie dormant, the “Domaine du Rayol” comes to life in the winter months.
Winter is one of the best times to visit the Domaine du Rayol, Le Jardin des Méditerranées, at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer in the Var. When the rains of autumn have turned the vegetation green after the long dry summer, Southern Hemisphere plants are in flower and there are fewer visitors. 

In a superb setting on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, the Domaine du Rayol, labelled Jardin Remarquable, takes visitors on a journey to discover Mediterranean plants as well as those from similar climates across the world. These include South Africa, Chile, California and Australia, as well as others not too different, like New Zealand and parts of Asia. 

map of Domaine du Rayol

The site was originally owned and developed by a wealthy man, Alfred Courmes, in the early twentieth century. He built villas and started to develop the garden. After his death it was bought, in 1934, by a famous aeronautical engineer, Henri Potez. He continued the garden and by 1948 there were 400 exotic species. In 1974, his descendants handed over the site to an insurance company who wanted to turn it into a tourism complex. 
Local inhabitants were against the project and formed an association, Les Amis du Rayol. It took them 15 years to succeed in preventing the development and in 1989, the Conservatoire du Littoral, the public body which protects the French coast, bought the site. 

By that time the abandoned buildings had fallen into disrepair and the gardens were overgrown. The Conservatoire du littoral decided to keep a large part of the twenty hectare site uncultivated, leaving the land to the local Mediterranean vegetation, known as the maquis. 

However, seven hectares were to be developed as gardens, and they asked contemporary and radical-thinking landscape gardener, Gilles Clément, to come up with a design.

‘ The idea is to allow visitors to wander and lose themselves in the spirit of the gardens’ 

His idea was to show the diversity of the planet by introducing plants from similar climates from all over the world. 

The biodiversity of the Mediterranean regions is extraordinary. Its vegetation covers 2% of the earth’s landmass but 20% of plant species, with 26,000 endemic species. There are ten different areas of the garden, each representing a different world region, against an ever present backdrop of the Var maquis. You can visit the Canary Islands, California, South Africa, Australia, subtropical Asia, New Zealand, the arid and subtropical lands of America, Chile, and the Mediterranean garden. 

There are, amongst other plants, mimosa, eucalyptus, bamboo, puya, palms, iris, and Kleinia neriifolia, a plant in the daisy family which comes from the Canary Islands. 

However, as you journey through the garden, you will not learn the names of any of the plants from labels. 

The idea is to allow the visitor to take their time to wander and lose themselves in the spirit of the gardens.

It is not a typical garden as Gilles Clément introduced a new approach.” He is known for developing a form of gardening known as Le Jardin en Mouvement. His inspiration is the wilderness, leaving plants to develop in their own way. The role of the gardener is to direct them gently to get the most out of them whilst not altering their richness. 

Pont du Gard, country’s most visited roman site

It is unique in its construction, as well as being the highest aqueduct to be built in the Roman Empire. Situated 20km from Avignon and 23km from Nîmes, it has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1985 and it is the most-visited Roman site in the country.

The Roman architectural marvel

The bridge was built by the Romans in around 50AD and was the centrepiece of an astonishing aqueduct which took running water to what is now Nîmes for around three centuries. 

It fed the fountains installed in every street, the spas, gardens and private homes.

Nemausus, as Nîmes was called at the time, was one of the major Roman cities in France, with an estimated 20,000 inhabitants. It had all the characteristics of a modern town, with a forum and temple, but although water was available from wells and rainwater, it was not abundant, and the population was growing.

To give the city real status, it needed flowing fountains in its gardens and the ability to change the water frequently in its public baths.

There are no records of who came up with the idea of an aqueduct, nor of who financed it, and no one knows who the architects and engineers of this extraordinary structure were, but it is likely the experts came from Rome, where they already knew how to build aqueducts.

Built with slave labour

It is estimated the bridge took five years to build and the whole aqueduct, from source to city, took 15 years.

Around 500 workers were taken on to build the Pont du Gard, and the same number again for the rest of the aqueduct. Some were paid, but slaves were also used, not just for the manual labour but for skilled work such as shaping the stone.

First, the pillars on the bottom bridge were built, followed by the arch and then the top, and this process continued up each of the levels. Wooden scaffolding was used, built by skilled carpenters. There were also cranes, powered by slaves walking within a treadwheel, which drove the hoisting and lowering device, capable of lifting huge blocks of stone.

It is thought the aqueduct worked until 500AD. However, it is likely it took water to Nemausus for only around 300 years, after which the city’s importance dwindled and, with it, its population.

Keeping the water flowing freely required a lot of maintenance work to clear the limestone deposits which built up. This was a physical job, no doubt carried out by teams employed by the city, and which would have come to an end with the decline of Nemausus.
The water which still ran through the aqueduct for the next 200 years was probably used by farmers for irrigation.

Transformation into a historic monument 

By the Middle Ages, however, the structure was no longer in use and people pilfered stone from it for their own building projects.
Though the aqueduct was never designed as a road, people began using it to cross the river in about the 11th century. They hacked away stone from the pillars on the first level to make it wide enough to take a horse and cart.

A toll was charged for crossing the bridge, making it a valuable source of income. Otherwise, it might have been entirely dismantled over time for its stone.

Much later, in 1743, a parallel bridge was built, which could take more traffic.
It was only in the 19th century that the intrinsic value of ancient monuments began to be appreciated.

In 1840, Prosper Mérimée, the first inspector of historic monuments, listed the Pont du Gard as one of the most important structures in France, meaning its future was assured and the pillars were restored.

From the 20th century, the bridge started attracting thousands of tourists. The parallel bridge was closed to traffic and, in 2000, the site was revamped to better accommodate tourism, while preserving the bridge and the local environment.

There is now a museum showing how it was built, and it is also possible to book a guided tour along the canal at the top of the bridge.

The first small section is open to the sky but most is in a tunnel, as the waterway was covered along its whole length to protect it.

The largest medieval tapestry in the world

Did you know that the Château d’Angers hosts the largest medieval tapestry in the world?

Commissioned in 1375 by Louis 1st of Anjou, this monumental work, based on a 1st century A.D. manuscript (the visions of St John, the final text of the New Testament) illustrates the historical, social and political context of 14th century France, at the time of the Hundred Years War, of epidemics and famine.

Made of wool using the tapestry technique, it measures 103 meters long and 4.5 meters high. Grand !

The original manuscript of “Le petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, exhibited for the first time in France in 2022

From the 17th February until 26 June 2022, the Museum of Decorative Arts (MAD) will host an unprecedented exhibition on The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The original manuscript, kept in New York, will cross the Atlantic for this sole occasion, thus following in the footsteps of its illustrious author.

Notice to those whose childhood – if not their whole life – was rocked by this philosophical tale born from the imagination of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of the most beautiful pen of the French language of the 20th century and beyond. An unprecedented exhibition around the Little Prince is about to settle in Paris, presenting for the first time in France the original manuscript illustrated by Saint-Exupéry. Written in New York in 1943 during his exile in the United States, The Little Prince was published posthumously in 1946, the writer having disappeared at sea in July 1944, while on a reconnaissance mission off Marseille in aboard his Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Saint-Exupéry was a great aviator, and his literary work was largely nourished by his adventures and aerial thoughts, giving birth to masterpieces such as Night Flight (1929), Courrier Sud (1931) or Terre of Men (1939). When it was published, The Little Prince became an international success. It is now translated into more than 400 languages, making it the most translated book of all time… after the Bible.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Première édition du Petit Prince, 1943
Reynal & Hitchcock, New York (en français)
© Fondation JMP pour LPP

The MAD exhibition will thus devote an entire room to the manuscript of The Little Prince, exceptionally on loan from the Morgan Library & Museum in New York. When Saint-Exupéry left to fight in North Africa in the spring of 1943, he entrusted his manuscript and his watercolors to his friend Silvia Hamilton, who sold the whole to the New York institution in 1968. Around the famous manuscript, the exhibition will present a series of sketches, preparatory drawings, photographs, poems and deploys a library of 120 foreign editions of The Little Prince, testifying to its unstoppable universality. But above all, it will be an opportunity to retrace the immense career of Saint-Exupéry through more than 600 pieces illustrating all the facets of his work. From his childhood to his adventures as a pilot for Aéropostale and his great reports, passing through his passion for drawing, the exhibition will finally endeavor to detect in the life and exploits of Saint-Exupéry the premises of the Little Prince. , whose humanist message irrigates all the writings.

Acquire a ticket

Montésegur castle and the Cathar fortified site

About Montségur Castle

The Château de Montségur is a former fortress near Montségur, a commune in the Ariège department in southern France. Its ruins are the site of a razed stronghold of the Cathars. The present fortress on the site, though described as one of the ‘Cathar castles,’ is actually of a later period. It has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862.

History of Montségur

The earliest signs of human settlement in the area date back to the Stone Age. Evidence of Roman occupation such as Roman currency and tools have also been found in and around the site. Its name comes from Latin mons securus, which evolved into mont ségur in Occitan, which means “safe hill”. In the Middle Ages the Montsegur region was ruled by the Counts of Toulouse, the Viscounts of Carcassonne and finally the Counts of Foix. Little is known about the fortification until the time of the Albigensian Crusade.

In about 1204, Raymond de Péreille, one of the two lords of Montségur decided to rebuild the castle that had been in ruins for 40 years or more. Refortified, the castle became a centre of Cathar activities, and home to Guilhabert de Castres, a Cathar theologian and bishop. In 1233 the site became “the seat and head” (domicilium et caput) of the Cathar church. It has been estimated that the fortified site housed about 500 people when in 1241, Raymond VII besieged Montsegur without success.

The murder of representatives of the inquisition by about fifty men from Montsegur and faidits at Avignonet on May 28, 1242 was the trigger for the final military expedition to conquer the castle, the siege of Montségur.

In 1242 Hugues de Arcis led the military command of about 10,000 royal troops against the castle that was held by about 100 fighters and was home to 211 Perfects (who were pacifists and did not fight) and civilian refugees. The siege lasted nine months, until in March 1244, the castle finally surrendered. Those who renounced the Cathar faith were allowed to leave and the castle itself was destroyed.

In the days prior to the fall of the fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the besiegers’ lines. This led to legends that they escaped with a secret treasure or esoteric knowledge. In 1906, esoteric French writer Joséphin Péladan proposed that the treasure was really the Holy Grail, arguing that Montségur was the Munsalväsche (or Montsalvat) of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th-century Grail romance Parzival.

This idea was followed and expanded upon by various later writers, especially in France, and has inspired legends, conspiracy theories, and fictional works associating the Cathars and Montségur with the Holy Grail.

The present fortress ruin at Montségur is not from the Cathar era. The original Cathar fortress of Montségur was entirely pulled down by the victorious royal forces after its capture in 1244. It was gradually rebuilt and upgraded over the next three centuries by royal forces. The current ruin so dramatically occupying the site is referred to by French archeologists as “Montsegur III” and is typical of post-medieval royal French defensive architecture of the 17th century. It is not “Montsegur II,” the structure in which the Cathars lived and were besieged, of which few traces remain today.

Montségur’s solar alignment characteristics, visible on the morning of the summer solstice in particular, are part of what set this castle apart as an architectural wonder. This often mentioned solar phenomenon, occurring in an alignment of two windows in the fortress wall, has been observed by hundreds of students, astronomers, spiritual pilgrims and locals alike who come to the chateau specifically to view it every year.

Montségur today

Montségur is open to the public today – it’s a steep climb and there are somewhat limited facilities around, so be sure to bring plenty of water. There’s a small museum in the town of Montségur which has a good potted history of the castle and the legends surrounding it.

The castle is open year round, with longer hours and slightly higher prices in the summer. The views over the Pyrenees are glorious on a clear day.

Getting to Montségur

Montségur is located deep in Cathar country in south west France: it’s a twisty 90 minute drive from Carcassonne via roads full of sharp drops and hairpin bends

3D reconstruction of the Cathar settlement and the castle (in French)

Villa Arnaga: Edmond Rostand’s house in lush greenery.

The Arnaga Villa is a house-neo – Basque style villa of the early twentieth century , a park- botanical garden around, located in Cambo-les-Bains , department of Pyrenees – Atlantiques. It was built between 1903 and 1906 by the writer and playwright Edmond Rostand (author of Cyrano de Bergerac), who lived there until his death, and currently houses the “Musée Edmond Rostand” which is open to the public all year round.

Villa Arnaga was subject to a classification in the title of historical monuments in 2016.

History

Edmond Rostand arrived in Cambo in 1900 on the advice of Dr. Grancher to recover from a pleurisy contracted during the Aiglon trials. He was quickly conquered by the climate of the Basque Country and his good life, and decided to settle there. After purchasing land near the village, he commissioned the Parisian architect Joseph Albert Tournaire to draw up the plans for a house to be made in externally Basque style, conceived for the development of comfortable and sunny spaces indoors. The work started in 1903 continued until 1906.

Gardens

The gardens were designed and assembled, along with the house. To the east, the French garden (12ha) is organised around three ponds, with the greenhouse and the Poets’ corner. A pergola inspired by the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, which is reflected in a water plane, was built around 1912 , it seems to close the perspective without limiting the gaze towards the mountain, towards the Ursuya and Baïgoura. To the west, the English garden (1ha) leaves nature in apparent freedom.

Enter a unique paradise…

In the Dordogne Périgord, between Bergerac and Sarlat, the caves of Maxange, masterpiece of nature, offer the magic of a spectacle of eccentric concretions unique in the world. Maxange is today recognized as one of the most beautiful concretion caves in France.

IN THE HEART OF THE TERTIARY AREA

The cave that has been opened up forms part of an underground system that was formed at the beginning of the Tertiary era, in other words, about 60 million years ago.

Between that era and our own, the cavity evolved through a series of changes, which is even now quite difficult to piece together. What one can say is that the flow of water that carved out the galleries and deposited alluvia slowed down with the deepening of the river-valleys. Following climatic changes, the cave was subjected to complex phases of in-fill by sand and clay, washed in from the exterior, alternating with phases of further carving-out. The concretion visible today dates from the latter period, spanning thousands of years, and can only have been formed in those voids that were not affected by sand and clay in-fill.

A PERFORMANCE OF A RARE QUALITY

What makes for the importance of this cave is the quality of its concretion.

This is the term used for mineral deposits that form on the walls of a cave by crystallisation of calcite (calcium carbonate) carried in solution by infiltrating water. When this water drips from the roof of a cavern, it deposits a small amount of the calcite that was dissolved in it. Over the centuries, this produces a more or less cylindrical cluster of calcite crystals that forms downwards, which is called a stalactite. Similarly, a deposit is formed on the floor of a cavern when a droplet of water falls, forming little by little what is called a stalagmite. One can understand that, following the intensity of the infiltration of water, the shape of the galleries and other conditions, these concretions can take on extremely varied forms, in the shape of columns, draped fabric, etc.

BETWEEN CURIOSITY AND RARITY

The shapes of concretion formed by calcite which are both the most rare and the most curious are those referred to as eccentric.

This type of concretion forms finger-like patterns, twisting in all directions, seeming to defy the law of gravity. It is made possible by a combination of several factors: the particular porosity of the rock, and a constant but very slight flow of water through the roof of the cave. In this way (and to simplify a little) the water, laden with calcium salts, evaporates against the cavern wall without falling to the ground (furthermore, that leads to the formation of very few stalagmites in the cavern). The water weeps slowly, penetrating all the porous sections of the cavern wall and of the concretions that have already formed. The water is subject to the force of capillarity, on this scale greater than the force of gravity, and can climb just as well as it can descend. In this way it deposits particles of carbonate in every possible direction, seeming to defy, as one often says, the law of gravity.

A MASTERPIECE OF NATURE

This effect is particularly astonishing and can only be observed in a fairly small number of caves

where the criteria of the porosity of the limestone, the flow of water filtering onto the walls and the micro-climatic conditions of the cavern all coincide to allow their formation.
It is precisely this type of eccentric concretion that one may observe in the Maxange Caves. They form bouquets that decorate the roof and walls over a considerable distance. Their profusion, delicate form and purity, sparkling under rays of light make a display of rare quality, which fully justifies the project of development.
The Maxange Caves are one of the finest examples of what is referred to in geological terms as a “geode”.

Les Grottes de Maxange from Drone Vidéo France on Vimeo.

The nicest bank of Paris

Head to Boulevard Haussmann to discover one of the most beautiful architectural masterpieces in Paris. A place of dazzling beauty and no less surprising, since it is a bank, many of whose elements are now listed in the inventory of Historic Monuments.

Bank and palace at the same time

At the beginning of the 20th century, Société Générale decided that it needed a new headquarters. Too cramped in its premises on rue de Provence, the bank is very interested in a space located behind the Opera, in the middle of boulevard Haussmann. Despite competition from Galeries Lafayette, she managed to formalize the acquisition in 1906. All that remained was to find an architect to rework the premises. A teacher at the Beaux-Arts, Jacques Hermant was chosen to turn these buildings into a sumptuous banking establishment. The work lasted six years and in 1912, the new headquarters were finally inaugurated in the presence of Baron Hély d’Oissel, president of Société Générale.

The result exceeds all expectations. Inside and outside the building, the decorations are not lacking. On the third floor, you can stop in front of six Corinthian-style statues, installed in 1919, which illustrate the different activities of commerce and industry. You must then raise your eyes to the sky to admire the imposing vaults decorated with sculpted mascarons.

A remnant of the Belle Époque

The Large circular counter

Open on four levels, the large central hall offers a luxurious setting and a fairly innovative layout for the time. In its center, one of the main attractions is the large circular counter, nicknamed the “cheese”. An imposing element coupled with a system developed for the time since the offices were equipped with a compressed air tube, by which the tellers sent the money freshly deposited by the customers.

The other centerpiece of the hall is the splendid cupola which overlooks it. Raised to 23 meters high, it is suspended by a metal structure. The glass and the metal are united in a harmonious way and one can thus enjoy a closed space provided with a beautiful natural light. The interior decoration undeniably contributes to the charm of the place. We stop in front of the various coats of arms recalling the presence of Société Générale in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux. Bronze medallions crown their base and symbolize the activity of the bank throughout France. Impossible not to also stop in front of the mosaic pavement, which we owe to the ceramists Alphonse Gentil and François-Eugène Bourdet.

The real treasure of the vaults

Le coffre-fort

Next, let’s move on to any bank’s favorite place, the Vault Room…or rather Vault Rooms. These are in fact arranged on four levels, the lowest of which is 11 meters underground. To access it, you have to go through an impressive circular door made of steel, gold and silver. Designed by the Fichet house, the door has had quite a journey to get there… Built in the forges of Le Creusot and transported by rail to the Villette station, the door had to be dragged as far as Boulevard Haussmann on a team of nine horses. No wonder when you know that it weighs 18 tons on its own and that its shielding is 40 centimeters thick… Passing this imposing door, you can access the rooms and their 399 cabinets and 22 vaults. As for the elevator and the staircase of the strong room, they are the work of Roux Combaluzier, a pioneer in the work of steel. We owe him in particular two lifts of the Eiffel Tower.

A whole lot of work to keep the craziest sums safe… It is said, for example, that the wealthiest in the country can pay up to 20,000 euros a year to afford a vault in the basements of the Agency. In the past, Parisiennes went there day and night to collect their jewelry before going to the Opéra Garnier.

Whether you are a customer or not, it is always possible to access the reception of the Central Agency, but to find out more, only the Heritage Days allow you to visit the places and learn a little more.


Video in French

400th anniversary of Molière

France began a year of events to mark the 400th anniversary of Molière, the nation’s most illustrious –  and still popular – master of satire and the stage.

Baptised on January 15, 1622, and probably born a day or two before, Moliere — real name Jean-Baptiste Poquelin — remains as central to French culture as Shakespeare to the English-speaking world.

When the French refer to their native tongue, it is as the “language of Moliere“.

Many of the celebrations will be staged in places that marked his life as an actor, company director and playwright, but above all at the Comedie-Francaise, created by King Louis XIV in 1680, seven years after Moliere’s death.

His plays alone will be performed at the  Paris monument to Moliere until July, starting from Saturday with the orginal censored version of “Tartuffe”, which will be shown live in cinemas too.

The play is considered to have  practically invented the “comedy of manners” satirising the moral hypocrisies of high society. 

“The Imaginary Invalid”, “The Miser” and “The Bourgeois Gentleman” will follow at the Comedie-Francaise, the longest-running theatre company in the world, performing his work every single year since it opened. 

‘He’s everywhere in the air’ 

The theatre near the Louvre museum, “is anchored in the quarter where he lived and where he died and he’s everywhere in the air”

In Versailles, where Moliere enjoyed Louis XIV’s patronage, several of the  best known plays will be performed in their original versions as “comedies-ballets”, collaborations with Baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

The town on the western edge of Paris holds a Moliere month every summer and a statue by Xavier Veilhan will be unveiled in May following a Moliere exhibition opening.

Moliere fled Paris at 23, spending the next 13 years with a travelling troupe and anniversary events will be held up and down the country.

Saturday will see another statue unveiled at Pezenas, in the southwest, where Moliere stayed repeatedly in those early years.

The historic heart of the town will be taken over by scenes from the plays and his life. An official Moliere stamp will be offered as a pre-issue.

The CNCS national centre for theatre costume at Moulin, in central France, will open a “Moliere in costume” exhibition,  at the end of May.

The Paris Opera will celebrate the anniversary with “Moliere in Music” from September.

The playwright left little trace of his personal life and the only one of his four children to survive to adulthood, lost his manuscripts.

Despite the myth, Moliere did not die on stage, but shortly after a performance — as the hypochondriac Argan — at home on the Rue de Richelieu on February 17, 1673. 

DO YOU KNOW GUIGNOL…………

Guignol is a hand puppet created around 1808 by Laurent Mourguet, a silk worker. A colorful character with a loose tongue, he uses the Lyonnais language and earthy expressions to denounce social injustice by taking the side of ordinary people. Accompanied by Gnafron, a cheerful Beaujolais drinker cobbler, and his wife, Madelon, Guignol lives adventures presented in a small theater. The decorations of the castelet are typical places of the city of Lyon such as the café du Soleil on the place de la Trinité in the Saint Georges district. From its birth, this show intended for adults was a great success, Guignol became the emblem of the city of Lyon and the people of Lyon. This success will never be denied. Even today, he holds a privileged place in the hearts of the Lyonnais.

The first puppets of Guignol’s father were born on the markets!.
Laurent Mourguet was the son of a canut at a time when the silk industry was losing its appeal (with the Revolution, orders dropped and the sector went into crisis).

To make a living in a different way, Laurent and his father went to fairs and markets. It was to attract customers that Laurent first had the idea of using puppets from the Italian commedia dell’arte, whose most famous characters are Harlequin and Polichinelle. This was the beginning of his love affair with puppets…

Guignol has no official date of birth: 1808 is the commonly accepted year, but historians prefer to say “around 1810”.

When he was born, Guignol was not there to make people laugh! He even had a very serious look. His little smile only appeared in the 20th century…

In fact, the first Guignol shows were dedicated to adults and were organized in vogues in Lyon and the surrounding area.

At that time, Guignol was a way for the public to keep abreast of current events while having fun: when Lyon was marked by the revolt of the canuts (in 1831 and 1834), Guignol became a protest figure!

The laughter is provoked by situational comedy: funny scenes and misunderstandings follow one another to amuse the spectator. But if these caricatured heroes seduce the crowds, it is also because of the political significance of their words.

The theatre of Guignol is on the side of the little people. Far from the learned tirades of the classical plays, his heroes speak popular, working-class and provincial language. The buffoonish situations inspired by current events are opportunities to denounce social injustice: it is often at the expense of the bourgeoisie or the authorities that we laugh heartily.

Since 1965, the Théâtre la Maison de Guignol has been inviting young and old to discover the adventures of Guignol and his friend Gnafron on stage. The Petit Musée de Guignol has also been set up to explore the history of the famous puppet and to learn many unusual facts about the character. In Paris, the Guignol Theatre in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is also still in operation and delights young spectators.

Dijon, Burgundy capital and gem for art, history and food!

Dijon is considered to be one of the most beautiful historical towns in France, with its remarkable architectural heritage shaped by history. It is definitely a great cultural destination for its status a city of art and history and for being on the UNESCO World Heritage list with the Climates of Burgundy’s vineyard.

It is known for its beautiful well-preserved historical centre with picturesque streets and typical features from the colourful period of the Grand Duchy of Burgundy, and has been nicknamed the “town of a hundred bell towers.“ because of its so many belfries.

Dijon has evolved into a pedestrian friendly city, with friendly tramway lines and bicycle system, and a largely pedestrian centre.

It is also a huge reference for gastronomy, it is the home of mustard, pain d’epice (gingerbread), cassis (blackcurrant liquor),

Here are a few special gems of the city of Dijon.

The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and Tower of Philip the Good

In the heart of the historical town centre, “Le Palais des Ducs” (Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy) remains the most iconic of Dijon’s monuments, now hosting the City council at its central part. It also hosts the Fine Arts Museum, which has been fully restored with its museography also completely redesigned. Its 50 rooms display a collection of 1500 works of art. This museum boasts one of the richest collections to be found in France.

The Palace is strikingly dominated by the Tower of Philip the Good, a 15th-century look-out post. Climb the 316 steps to the top of it and it offers a panoramic view from a height of 46 metres above the city.

DIJON PALAIS DES DUCS ET DES ETATS DE BOURGOGNE from Ville de Dijon on Vimeo (in French)

The lucky Owl

This is the lucky charm of the people of Dijon, but not just!. It is a stone statuette of a small owl perched on the buttress of Notre-Dame church. Legend has it that, if you stroke it with your left hand, the owl will make your wishes come true!

The Gastronomy of Dijon

As a food and wine capital, Dijon is famous for its culinary specialities which include mustard, snails, crème de cassis, epoisse cheese, chocolate, and gingerbread… and with five Michelin-starred restaurants, a lively indoor market in the city centre and an international food fair, Dijon really is a gourmet city.

In 2021, the ” Cité internationale de la gastronomie et du vin” (international Gastronomy and Wine Centre) opened its doors to reveal an authentic new district in the centre of Dijon (see our special feature on this). It offers an exhibition area of 1700 m² devoted to French gastronomy and wines from the world over.

Dijon also features vibrant local gastronomical recurring venues that contribute to its reputation for the love of the culinary arts. You can enjoy Brunch at the Dijon market halls, unusual tasting venues like the “Wine Thursdays” or the “tower aperitifs” at the foot fo the Philipp the Good Tower.

Dijon will also join Tours, Lyon and Paris-Rungis to promote “Le repas gastronomique des Français®” (the French gourmet meal) and, more importantly, the Climates of the Burgundy vineyard.

A bit of shopping too

The historical centre is a classified “international tourism zone” where the core of 1200 boutiques stays open seven days a week, which is uncommon in France where stores are often closed on Sundays!.

In the middle of nowhere, in the heart of the Alsatian countryside…the Royal Palace

Located in Kirrwiller in the Alsatian countryside, but not too far from Strasbourg, the Royal Palace has earned a reputation as one of the greatest Music Halls in France.
Each year, it attracts thousands of people who come to enjoy a show worthy of the very best Parisian revues. But how did a village restaurant, which had perpetuated the tradition of country dances since 1948, manage to become the go-to place for thousands of tourists from all over Europe?

In 1980, Pierre Meyer decided to set up a modest stage in the main room of the family restaurant, which he had just taken over with his wife, Cathy. At first, he put on shows with seven acts recruited in Paris just once a month. This soon became every weekend. In 1989, he invested the equivalent of 1.5 million euro in the construction of a 200 m² stage equipped with a hydraulic lift. At the same time, he began to devise his own revues rather than buying in ready-made shows… and his success was immediate: The Music Hall attracted 600 guests a day!

In 1996, the building was given a full makeover. A new 800 m² complex, renamed the Royal Palace, came into being, including a 987-seat auditorium in which he could mount the most ambitious of productions. The stage was two times bigger than before, with an opening of 25 metres by 20 metres in height!

Next came the inauguration of the two restaurants: «The Majestic», and «The Versailles», offering  “lunch- and dinner-dances with a live band, for a richer cabaret atmosphere experience.

In 2015, after a year of major extension work, the Royal Palace inaugurated the LOUNGE CLUB to celebrate its 35th birthday. This unusual 2,200 m² modern space on two levels can accommodate up to 1,000 guests for all kinds of entertainments in a lounge bar mood.

Today, the Royal Palace employs around 100 people, 34 of them artists, and welcomes nearly 200,000 guests a year! Its cabarets and dinner shows continue to enchant every generation, making the venue a veritable yardstick in French Music Hall.

The Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte will astonish you

Nicolas Fouquet’s history

In 1641, the 26-year old parliamentarian, Nicolas Fouquet, purchased the manor of Vaux-le-Vicomte and its small castle.  Twenty years later, in 1661, Fouquet had transformed the estate into a masterpiece whose château and gardens still feature among the most beautiful in France.

For the first time in history, this visionary man brought together Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun, and André Le Notre, to execute jointly the entire project.  The result of this fraternal union was a work of unparalleled harmony and beauty . Victim of a plot by jealous courtiers, Fouquet was arrested on the King Louis XIV’s orders and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1661.  Vaux-le-Vicomte was closed down, and its treasures seized – tapestries, furniture, paintings, books and rugs… even the orange trees were removed by the King.  It took Madame Fouquet ten years to recover the estate, to which she later retired with her eldest son.  Following his death, she sold the Vaux-le-Vicomte in 1705. 

Following Nicolas Fouquet: three successive families

Marshal de Villars, a famous military commander, acquired the property sight unseen and enjoyed it for a few years before it was sold by his son in 1764 to the Duc de Praslin.  His descendants kept the estate for over a century before putting it up for auction in 1875.  Over the past 50 years, the abandoned château had lain empty and neglected, its once magnificent garden but a distant memory.
But Alfred Sommier, who had built his fortune in sugar refining, enthusiastically took over the enormous task of returning the estate to its original splendour.  His children continued the project and today, his direct descendants, Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, supported by their three sons, Jean-Charles, Alexandre and Ascanio, carry on a stewardship that began 140 years ago.

Molière (1622-1673), the court satirist

The French playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known as Molière, settled in Paris in 1659 after leading a troupe of itinerant actors throughout France.  A protégé of the royal family, he regularly held public performances which have become classics: Les Précieuses Ridicules (1659) and L’Ecole des Femmes (1662).  In 1661, he performed L’Ecole des Maris at Vaux-le-Vicomte and wrote a comedy-ballet, Le Fâcheux, specially for the King’s soirée on August 17, 1661.

The Sidobre rocks, a world of legends

Sidobre is a French mountainous region located in the south of the Massif Central, eleven kilometers east of Castres in the Tarn department. It is a granite territory 15.3 km long with a maximum width of 6.6 km (approximately 102 km2), or nearly 5,000 hectares covered with forests. The massif has an altitude of between 400 and 707 meters (highest point is at a place called Le Patau). The Sidobre massif represents the largest group of granite rocks in France and the leading French granite production center.

Formed from a single giant block, it is cracked on the surface (diaclases), where water erosion (underground or surface) has left some remarkable natural constructions, among which:

  • the Peyro Clabado (from the Occitan Pèira Clavada (nailed stone)), in Lacrouzette, a block of 780 tons
  • the Roc de l’oie, rock evoking a goose
  • the Three Fromages, three huge rocks stacked on top of each other
  • the trembling rock of the Sept-Faux, a mobile block of 900 tons
Granit quarry in Saint-Salvy-de-la-Balme

Sidobre granite in figures

  • 200 years: estimated lifespan of Sidobre granite (50 years for concrete)
  • 120 km2: granite surface covered in Sidobre
  • 300 million years: age of the granite massif
  • 65% of the national production of natural granite comes from Sidobre
  • 130 companies showcase this resource
  • 800 direct jobs are generated by this gray granite
  • 70% of the granite is used in the funeral
Video in French

The cathedral building in Parisian streets

The rue Réaumur is among the Parisian streets the one that offers the most surprising, even grandiloquent facades which do not leave indifferent because of their diversity and their originality. In 1897, on the occasion of the construction of this street, a competition was organized. He is the source of the exceptional result which continues to impress us to this day.

Among the most beautiful buildings on the street, if not the most beautiful, the monumental building at 61-63 rue Réaumur which catches the eye, at the crossroads of rue Saint-Denis, is the work of 2 architects G. Singery, Philippe Jouannin and Jacquier sculptors very popular in Caen. They initiated the construction in 1898, choosing the subject of time.
Art Nouveau, neo-Gothic art intermingle giving birth to sculptures through floral motifs, magnificent mosaics and an entrance worthy of a church portal surmounted by a rose window housing a clock on which appear the signs of the zodiac .


Nothing is missing to create the illusion of a religious building representing time (in fact the 12 months of the year are represented, the 4 seasons in the form of faces and again the signs of the zodiac, this time evoked by animals ). Given the diversity of the decoration, there is no lack of technical terms to characterise the facade, “twin windows, double lancets, gables, columns, consoles, ribs, stained glass …”.

Library of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA)

The Library of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) is a relatively recent creation (2003). Housed in France’s Bibliothèque Nationale premises on rue Vivienne in Paris, together with the study and research department constitutes one of the pillars of an institution that is still young in terms of French academic research; its mission is to “carry out scientific activity and contribute to international scientific cooperation in the area of the history of art and culture”.
The library has more than 1.8 million documents and receives more than 35,000 visits and 139,000 communications annually.
in 2014 It moved to the historic reading room of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, “The salle Labrouste”, thereby realising the dream of a great library of art, completing –or beginning –a decades-long adventure.

As an on-site and progressively off-site resource centre, the INHA has been managing the collections of the Library of Art and Archaeology, created by the great dressmaker, collector and patron Jacques Doucet (1853-1929), since 2003. Today the collections have been considerably enriched and are accessible in the Oval Reading Room (salle Ovale) of the Richelieu quadrangle, close to the specialist departments of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

These collections have been completed by those of the Bibliothèque centrale des musées nationaux and a selection of the print collections from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. This collection was opened at the end of 2015 in the Labrouste reading room and its surrounding reserves, at the heart of the renovated Richelieu quadrangle.
This exceptional grouping, which will constitute one of the largest art libraries in the world, will hold more than 1 800 000 documents, of which 230 000 open-access books, and welcome up to 411 readers.
This resource  is enriched by the proximity of the library of the École Nationale des Chartes (160 000 documents) and the specialist collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which will remain on site.

The colorado provencal, an industrial heritage

The important Rustrel ochre deposit and its quarries have earned the evocative name of “Colorado”.
This exceptional site, named for its variety of shapes and colors, combines the pleasure of hiking and discovering an industrial heritage. The beauty of the site is the result of the work done by 4 generations of ochre miners and farmers. The old ochre hill site stretches over 4 km. The site covers more than 100 hectares.

The people of Rustrel named the place “les Ubacs de Rustrel”. Abbot Martel, president of Alpes de Lumière, while surveying the paths with the aim of creating the GR6 hiking trail, christened the site “Provencal Colorado“, for the incredible colors that reminded him of the American canyon and because Colorado means “red” in Provencal.

50 shades of ocher …

In the heart of the Colorado, the colors unfold and enchant the eyes.
The whole range of yellows, reds, oranges, browns even some greens and mauves are represented. The landscape (cliffs, cirques, fairy chimneys and hills) is the result of the exploitation of ochre started in the 18th century in the region. Gradually abandoned, the quarries form today a grandiose site, appreciated for walks and touristic hikes.

From the ocher industry pipes, machines, settling ponds are left here and there … However, the Colorado is also an exceptional and very fragile living environment, characteristic of siliceous areas: maritime pines, heather and chestnut trees grow in abundance.

COLORADO PROVENÇAL DE RUSTREL from JACQUES ROUQUETTE on Vimeo.

Mining ochre

During the 18th century, increasing demand for pigments in the textile industry led to intensified mining of ochres in Roussillon. Numerous quarries and ochre factories, some of which can still be seen today, were situated near the village. One example of an ochre factory, the “Usine Mathieu”, is named for the family that owned it from 1870 to 1901. It has been formed into a “Conservatoire”: a workshop serving as a museum. The quarries and factories were established in the villages of Roussillon, Villars, Gargas, Rustrel (with its Colorado provençal) and Gignac.

During the 20th century, mining techniques were modernised, which meant that more profitable ochre mines became exploitable. This resulted in a gradual closing-down of ochre mines in and around Roussillon. From the 1980s, tourism has replaced ochre industry as a source of income

The Camargue Regional Nature Park

A day in Camargue from L’oeil d’Eos on Vimeo.

Beaches and reed beds, rice and wheat, the salt ponds and the Mediterranean – the Camargue Regional Nature Park is multifarious. Born out of a struggle between river and sea, the Camargue, in biological terms, is one of Western Europe’s richest regions, and an important stopping-off point for migratory birds as they go back and forth between Europe and Africa.
It is also France’s only nesting site for the flamingo, its world-famous emblem. And then there are the bulls, horses, beavers, owls, gulls, terns, herons and wading birds.
The Camargue is a subtle blend of contrasts, both entrancing and ever-changing. It reveals it-self in a multitude of ways, depending on the time of day and the season.

The Camargue is a large wetland in the Rhône delta. It is exceptionally diverse in its flora and fauna, its scenery and the culture of Provençe in all its historical grandeur.
Whether you are interested in nature or in the traditions of the Camargue, we can give you the information you need to appreciate the park, bearing in mind its vulnerability.
Visiting museums or natural features, between the sea and the pools, on foot or on horseback, following the tourist routes or relaxing on the beach – you can organise your visit according to your preferences, while also respecting the quality of your surroundings.

camargue-hd-vimeo from Occidrone on Vimeo.

Freshwater marshes and reed beds

These are common in the upper Camargue and on the banks of the Rhône. Water plants such as bullrushes, cane and reeds are abundant in the marshes, which are used for hunting and, in summer, pasturage. They provide shelter for nesting and wintering birds. Reeds (« sagno », in Provençal) are cut in winter by the « sagneurs ». They are used as a roofing material.

The salt plains (« sansouires ») and meadowlands

Salt plains are a feature of the lower Camargue. Their salt content is so high that only a few plant species such as glasswort, saltwort, obione and statice can survive there. They are prone to periodic flooding, and in summer are marked by white traces due to the presence of salt. Meadowland occupies only small, fragmented areas in which the effects of salt are less obvious.

The salt ponds

These are to be found along the sea. In reality they are lagoons that have been adapted to maximise their salt concentration.The salt ponds are extensive and rich in invertebrates, which makes them an important source of food for birds, and in particular the flamingos, which spend most of their time there.

The beaches and dunes

The Camargue has some 50 km of beaches. Outside the perimeter of the protective dykes – and thus subject to the caprices of the sea – the coastline is in a permanent state of change. The dunes are inhabited by spectacular flowering plants and a number of rare insects.

The ponds and lagoons

The shallow ponds of the lower Camargue are separated from the sea by a sandbar. They are more or less salty, and communicate with the sea via sluice gates. They provide a refuge for birds and fish, and play a major role in water management.

Cultivated land

20% of the Camargue is used to grow rice. The water taken from the Rhône for this purpose desalinates the soil to a certain depth, and the rice fields are also home to nesting birds such as the heron. They are flooded in April and allowed to dry out in September for the harvest.

La Saint-Vincent Tournante

A celebration rooted in the traditions of Burgundy

Who says that winter does not have interesting festivals and tourism? This is a truly local flavour if you like wine, and want to see burgundy and in a different eye, La “Saint-Vincent Tournante” (the rotating Saint-Vincent) is a wine festival that takes place the last weekend of January. It changes Burgundy wine village every year.

What’s in a name?

Saint-Vincent is one of the patron saints of winegrowers. And it is “Tournante”, because it involves a village on rotation, being decorated for the occasion, with stands offering wine tasting.

The Saint-Vincent Tournante as we know it today was revived in 1938 from an old tradition dating from the middles ages that had declined over the centuries. The “Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin” (Brotherhood of the Knights of Tastevin) re-imagined it as an major rotating event that would take place each year in a different village  in wine-growing Burgundy, hence its name of Saint-Vincent Tournante.

The choice of Saint-Vincent as patron saint of winegrowers is still quite a mystery today. According to legend, Saint-Vincent would have stopped at the edge of a vineyard to exchange a few words with the winegrowers and during this time his donkey would have grazed around. In the next harvest, the vine grazed by the donkey would have produced more than the others, so Saint-Vincent was adopted as protector! Another saying is simply that Vincent sounds like “Vin Sang”, the blood of the vine….

This interesting festival perpetuates the Burgundian values ​​of quality, hospitality and mutual aid and is the opportunity to discover the great wines of Burgundy in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

The weekend of Saint-Vincent Tournante

Each edition of Saint-Vincent is an opportunity to showcase a wine-growing village which hosts the statue of the patron saint of winegrowers for one year. The selected village prepares this festival throughout the year, creating a decor and specific activities.

The Saint-Vincent starts early in the morning and with a formal parade through the vines of the different brotherhoods each carrying their statues and banners bearing the effigy of Saint-Vincent, and continues with the ceremony, a religious service in the parish church, and finally enthronements by the brotherhoods

The second part, more convivial, is the occasion for traditional banquets and festive events. The tasting of the Saint-Vincent tournante cuvée (s) take place in different parts of the village of the year. The highlight of the show is of course the opening of the cellars for tastings of local wines * (* always in moderation).

A long standing evolving tradition

The Saint-Vincent evolved over the years. In the 1990’s -2000 it grew to quite large over 100,000 to 200,000 people over two days, but has returned to its cosy 20-40,000 people in recent years.

Each year has a name, and a poster (since 1971), and if you’d like a peek at them, they are on display at the Château du Clos de Vougeot. It has its engraved glass

The 2021 edition was postponed due to Covid, a first time since 1947, but it’s a fun and very local thing to try and it is still foreseen for 29 to 30 January 2022 in Puligny-Montrachet, Corpeau, Blagny

Want to know more?

https://www.tastevin-bourgogne.com/

Official site:

saint-vincent-tournante-2021.com

36000 years ago, the Chauvet-Pont D’arc cave in Ardèche

The Discovery

On Sunday 18 December 1994, on the Cirque d’Estre, Jean-Marie Chauvet, led his two friends Éliette Brunel and Christian Hillaire towards the cliffs: a slight breeze coming out of a small hole, at the end of a little cave drew his attention, and he wanted to investigate. All three of them are passionate speleologists, and have had countless discoveries and firsts. It was late afternoon, and the little cave into which they entered was already known, located very close to a major hiking trail. But there, behind the fallen rocks, they were sure there was something, so they dug and unblocked a passage, then slipped inside. They found themselves looking out over a dark, empty space. They didn’t have the equipment to continue. It was already dark, and they went back to their vehicles, took the essentials, and after hesitating a little, eventually returned to their discovery. They used their speleological ladder to descend, and discovered a vast chamber with a very high roof, filled with splendid, glimmering concretions. They pushed on in single file towards another, equally vast chamber and admired the unexpected geological beauty around them. They also noticed animal bones. They explored almost the whole network, and on their way back, Éliette noticed a small, red, ochre mammoth on a rocky pendant in the beam of her headlamp: “They were here!” she cried out, and from then on, they carefully looked at all the walls, discovering hundreds of paintings and engravings.

CHAUVET CAVE from Peter Tammer on Vimeo.

The grandmasters of the Chauvet cave from andanafilms on vimeo.

This moment changed their lives. Upon their return, in Éliette’s home, they told her daughter about their adventure. She didn’t believe them and made them return to the cave: it was past 9 PM, and despite their fatigue and emotion, they agreed. They made further discoveries, when they came out, despite their amazement, they also felt somewhat anxious faced with such responsibilities. The following Saturday, on Christmas Eve, they decided to protect the ground by covering the trace of their footprints with a plastic strip, thus setting out the path which all entering the cave from then on would take (the stainless steel gateways installed a few years later also follow this course).

After their discovery was announced, Jean-Pierre Daugas, Heritage curator at the Rhône-Alpes regional cultural affairs Department alerted Jean Clottes, then scientific adviser to the Ministry of Culture and specialist in decorated caves, to get it authenticated. On 29 December 1994, led by the discoverers, the expedition was launched.

Original preservation

Since it was discovered on 18 December 1994, Chauvet Cave has been subject to exemplary protection. This was brought about by two circumstances: firstly, the expertise of Jean Clottes, scientific advisor to the Ministry of Culture, who showed admirable perspective and maturity, and secondly, the approach of the Authorities was to adopt the recommendations of this eminent prehistorian and convert them into efficient legal documents. The rapid awareness raising of the cave’s exceptional nature, and the formulation of the right administrative measures to protect it, took place in record time. This coordination, which thereafter incorporated a scientific research programme based on respect for the integrity of Chauvet Cave, is proof of the originality of its preservation.

Preservation

The State put in motion the French legislative arsenal, which is among the most efficient in the world in the area of cultural assets. The law of 1930 on sites and that of 1913 on historical monuments were the first weapon for preservation. The cave was listed on 13 October 1995. Control of the property was also a significant element. It was jointly decided not to open the cave to the public but rather to guarantee safety.

At the same time, scientific and technical means were deployed to keep the site as authentic as possible and in the conditions it was in before discovery. Studying a site of this kind also forms part of maintaining it; it had to be organised with a concern towards preservation.

Putting into place corridors (following the route of the discoverers) to regulate movement and enable ongoing checks of the fragile internal balance, was believed to provide the conditions for this ambitious preservation project. Outside access was also built.

To ensure site surveillance and preservation, the State set up a Chauvet – Pont d’Arc Cave Preservation Office, managed by a heritage curator (which only existed previously at Lascaux).

Research and Preservation

Aware of its universal duty, since 1998 the State has financed a multidisciplinary team to study the cave, with concern for its preservation: compulsory routes on walkways, short visits for few people, no digging, just a few probes and carefully chosen sampling.

MUCEM, a great museum in Marseille dedicated to the Mediterranean

What makes the Mucem so unique is that it recounts, analyses and sheds light on the ancient foundations of this cradle of civilization and the tensions running through it since that time, all in the same place and with the same passion. Also that it is a platform for discussions about Mediterranean issues.

Both its exhibitions and its cultural programmes offer a multidisciplinary vision that combines anthropology, history, archaeology, art history and contemporary art to show the public the multiple facets of the Mediterranean world and its ongoing dialogue with Europe.

ITS ROOTS

As the first museum devoted to Mediterranean cultures, the Mucem is a completely novel structure. The product of the metamorphosis of a major societal museum – the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, created in Paris in 1937 –, it represents the first real conversion of a museum from national to regional. The Mucem Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean opened in Marseille in June 2013. By the following year, it had joined the ranks of the 50 most visited museums in the world.

One museum, three sites

The Mucem encompasses three sites. Along the sea, at the entrance to the Old Port, the J4 building (Rudy Ricciotti’s and Roland Carta’s symbolic architectural creation) and the Fort Saint-Jean, a fully restored historical monument, are the perfect embodiment, with their two footbridges, of the idea of building a connection between both shores of the Mediterranean. They host major exhibitions and artistic and cultural programming events. In town, in the Belle de Mai district, the CCR Centre for Conservation and Resources houses the museum’s collections. This unique grouping allows the MuCEM to offer a multitude of cultural activities.

The J4

16,500 m2 including 3,690 m2 of exhibition space

A symbol of the new face of Marseille

Since it opened in June 2013, the building designed by Rudy Ricciotti (in association with Roland Carta) has become a symbol of the new face of Marseille. This concrete cube – forming a perfect square measuring 72 metres on each side – is clad in a lacy screen made out of concrete, giving it a strong visual identity that helps to elevate the Mucem to the rank of an internationally recognisable ‘world-object’.
Surrounded by harbour basins, positioned facing the sea, the J4 offers 360° views taking in the Fort Saint Jean and the Mediterranean, which are visible from the glazed exhibition spaces, the roof terrace and the outdoor ramps that encircle the building. It is linked to the Fort Saint Jean by a high footbridge 135 metres long.
The J4 is the veritable ‘heart’ of the MuCEM, hosting large permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as regular and one-off events from the artistic and cultural programme.

Fort Saint-Jean

15,000 m2 dont 1,100 m2 of exhibition space and 12,000 m2 of gardens

‘A fully restored historic monument, open to all’

Although the Fort Saint Jean’s origins date back to the 12th century, this former military fort, totally off-limits to the public, resembled an impregnable fortress. Its opening in 2013 was thus a historic first: the fully restored fort has since been open free of charge to the people of Marseille, who were quick to adopt the site as a new public space. Although some of the buildings are used for exhibitions, the Fort Saint Jean is above all a vibrant new centre centre in the heart of Marseille, offering a large range of activities, including a historical trail, a botanical stroll through the Jardin des Migrations and a chance to discover spectacular, previously inaccessible views

The CCR

13,000 m2 dont 7,000 m2 of storerooms

«Conservation et valorisation des collections: cette double responsabilité est le fondement de l’activité du CCR»

This large ochre-coloured monolith designed by architect Corinne Vezzoni (in association with André Jolivet) houses the treasure that is the Mucem’s collections, consisting of more than one million objects. It is here that the collections are conserved, studied and restored, but also, more unusually, where they are made accessible to others. This twofold responsibility forms the basis of the CCR’s activities. Museum professionals, researchers, students, art lovers and those who are simply curious can thus access the entire collections, which can be viewed on-site. A storeroom specially designed to receive visitors and an exhibition room give members of the general public a chance to go ‘backstage’ at the Mucem.

A cultural centre

The Mucem is interested in the contemporary aspects of European and Mediterranean civilizations. Its collections include more than 350,000 objects, as well as a large assortment of documents, comprising a total of a million works of art, documents and objects, an extraordinary treasure trove that is promoted by means of an ambitious programme of permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The 21st century museum aims to be a real cultural centre covering a vast swath of history, making use of all the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences and displaying artistic expressions from both shores of the Mediterranean.

A Mediterranean crossroads

The museum’s goal is to promote Mediterranean heritage, take part in the creation of new exchanges in the region and, during this period of profound upheaval, help to lay the foundations for the Mediterranean world of tomorrow. In Marseille, the Mucem is a place where, on both a national and an international scale, people can come to gain a better understanding of the Mediterranean

Learn the History Behind Nice’s Promenade des Anglais

The celebrated 7-kilometre coastal boulevard between the sea and palm trees offers superb views of the Bay of Nice and gives the city its unique identity. The openness and long span of the uninterrupted path gives a sense of freedom and space that is found nowhere else. Sadly become the scene of dreadful events in recent times, it remains an important historical symbol and a popular destination for the Niçois and visitors alike.

Historical Bay of Angels

The history of the Promenade des Anglais dates back to the 19th century. At that time, many European aristocrats had chosen Nice as their privileged sun spot of choice during the winter period. The arrival of the upper class, especially from England, greatly contributed to the economic development and to the improvement of the infrastructure and reputation of the city.

Following an economic downturn due to poor harvest in 1821, Reverend Lewis Way decided to raise funds with his compatriots to finance the construction of the famous stretch of the seafront and to provide work for many jobless Niçois.

In 1824 the work was completed. Honoring the English initiative, the city of Nice named the new walkway “Camin des Inglés”. This appellation was retained until the annexation to France in 1860 when it changed to the current name”La Promenade des Anglais”.

This date also marks the beginning of what is called the “Belle Epoque”, a spectacular period of cultural, technological and economic development in Europe. This marked a climax in the economic prosperity of Nice, as it became a coveted resort for a large number of wealthy winter visitors. These wealthy foreigners would gather on the Promenade and spend their time between prestigious social events and gaming houses.

In order to satisfy the growing demand of these affluent guests, luxury hotels and sumptuous villas, together with casinos, theatres, concert halls and ballrooms sprouted everywhere, especially along the Promenade.

The promenade today

Today, while strolling on the sea path, visitors can stumble on some of the historical landmarks and architectural gems of Nice, such as Hotel Negresco and the Palais de la Mediterranée. Built in 1912, Hotel Negresco takes its name from the Romanian self-made man Henri Negrescou and is the most memorable Belle Epoque building in Nice. The hotel was recently classed as a historical monument. The same designation went to the striking art deco façade of the Palais de la Mediterranée. Opened in 1929, the hotel has attracted outstanding personalities to its casino and theatre.

Following the 1st World War, summer tourism plummeted under and the Promenade des Anglais became once again one of the most sought after places in the French Riviera. During this time several wooden chairs were scattered along the sea path so that walkers could sit and contemplate the stunning panoramas of the Bay of Angels.To this day, the Promenade des Anglais remains the image of past and present Nice and it is the best place to soak up the local atmosphere. Along this famous path, several events take place every year, including the Nice Marathon and the elegant ‘Battle of Flowers’ during the February Carnival.

How Lyon became the Epicentre of Europe’s Silk Industry

Lyon has a long, lauded history of producing some of the most stunning silks in the world. Today, the tradition reigns, with major fashion houses looking to Lyon as the industry’s silk expert. This is the fascinating history on how the city gained that reputation.

Lyon’s silk history began on the banks of the Saône River. Weaving was done in the Croix-Rousse era for decades, a staple of the local economy with looms manned by dozens of local women. It was a humble trade, fuelling local pockets and keeping the community afloat.

Croix-Rousse was the heart of Lyon’s silk industry

But in the Renaissance, grand expositions held in the city gathered the attention of rich merchants from near and far. They were taken by the high-quality hand-crafted silks, prompting King Louis XI in 1466 to start fuelling money into the city to turn the small circle of silkweavers into a grand silk manufacturing hub.

The shiny, new manufacturing centre particularly charmed elegant Italian merchants. The most famed among them, Italian merchant Turchetti. He stuck around the city and opened up a silk workshop in the Croix-Rousse. He brought in disadvantaged girls and women from Lyon, and taught them the traditional process of Italian silk winding and spinning. As more women picked up the trade, the industry grew in knowledge and size, and soon, became the French capital of a booming fabric industry.

Lyon’s shimmering silks had quickly become the apple of French aristocrats’ eyes, who started purchasing up yards on yards and spinning them into high fashion garments. Silk was expensive to buy and often referred to as a status symbol.

In an effort to centralise the country’s prized industries, King Francois I gave Lyon a monopoly on raw silk imports in 1540, ensuring that all fine silks coming into France from Italy or Asia first stopped in Lyon. Lyon was also a natural conduit for trade – the city’s location at the confluence of two rivers, and proximity to northern and southern France made Lyon the perfect place to start the silk road.

Tumultuous times

But the silk industry stumbled in the 1600s, when the revocation of the Edict of Nantes drove the French Huguenots, many of whom were textile experts, out of the country – and with them, their expertise and experience in the trade. Most settled in Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland.

For ages, the silk industry chugged along, slowed, but from 1789 to 1797 the silk industry went quiet. Thousands of workers were guillotined or shot during the French Revolution, as skilled labour disappeared or hid. Their prized drawings, fabrics and designs were destroyed, and the silk industry slowed to a halt. The industry was reduced by 90% in under a decade.

But it swung back, and by the 18th century, silk production was once again the pillar of Lyon’s economy. Mechanised Jacquard looms had just been introduced, boosting the city’s outputs. Over 28,000 workers had looms, working away to weave luxurious silks that would be sent the world over.

Napoleon Bonaparte and Joséphine came to the city soon after, which shined a new light on the city’s silks. The French bourgeoisie clambered after the city’s silks, in turn, pushing innovation. New inventions in fabric dying were introduced, making the city’s wares more in demand than ever.

By this point, the silk industry accounted for 75% of Lyon’s total industrial activity – with over 100,000 looms in operation.

Workers’ revolt

But this period of renaissance was short-lived. In 1831, the silk industry hit a fever pitch, with the disparity between worker and merchant growing increasingly tumultuous (at this point, almost a quarter of the city worked in silks). The canuts – or silk workers, all under the employment of wealthy silk merchants – revolted, angry at the wages and price of their work and their exhaustive working conditions. (For reference, there were 308 merchants who directed over 25,000 silk workers and weavers.)

They took over the Croix-Rousse district, the heart of the silk industry, pushing merchants and military out and holding off the soldiers for weeks until 2 December, when the army reclaimed the city, and peace was negotiated.

Three years later, a second revolt overtook the city. The canuts held the city for nearly a week, until 12,000 soldiers swarmed, killing hundreds. The industry stumbled, but slowly rebuilt itself.

Lyon silks today

Today, the city is still a hub for silk production. Though canuts have been replaced with automatic looms, their history is still present (even in the form of local dishes: cervelle de canut is a popular local food, comprised of a herby cheese dip).

But silk as a trade still thrives: many silk makers have turned to specialised skills, like the restoration of historic fabrics or work with some of France’s biggest haute-couture creators. Lyon is still the go-to destination for designers looking for top-quality silks. Chanel and Hermès both hold court here, looking to Lyon’s rich history to weave their famed silks.

Visit the Maison des Canuts, the silk museum, to see working Jacquard handlooms and explore the city’s history. To buy real silks (sans the price tag of Chanel or Hermès) head to “L’Atelier de Soierie”, a silk shop in the historic silk capital of Croix-Rousse. Every scarf is made by the owner using traditional methods. She’ll be happy to show you the process in the rear of the store.

Clip Défilé Trans-Silking-Express- Silk me Back – 2020 from Silk me Back on Vimeo.

Gorges du Verdon

Majestic landscapes

Between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the biggest canyon in Europe offers the most incredibly majestic landscapes.
For thousands of years the River Verdon has patiently carved the canyon that you can see today.

Cliffs and vultures

The height of the cliffs varies between 250 and 700 metres and they are the site of a great number of encounters.

A number of birds including griffon and cinereous vultures nest there and in the morning you can watch them from the village of Rougon as they warm their wings and wheel above you in the sky. Thrills and excitement guaranteed.

Want to try flying like them? What about paragliding?

The road around the Gorges which will take you through the Alpes de Haute-Provence and the Var.

For those of you who love views and sensational photos, there are a number of places to stop at: the Point Sublime, the Belvédère de L’Escalés, the Belvédère de Mayreste, the Corniche Sublime, Cavaliers cliffs, the Artuby bridge, the Balcons de la Mescla…

Gorges du Verdon from Daniel Urhøj on Vimeo.

A paradise for sport

If you want to take your time, set off on a family electric bike ride on the Route des Crêtes. Most of this loop is one-way and it will be a fun ride from Palud-sur-Verdon.

A great opportunity to see climbers along the limestone cliffs. There are over 900 ways in the Gorges du Verdon, and it’s pure heaven for climbers from all over the world.

There are a large number of hikes that will take you deeper into the natural surroundings protected by the Verdon Natural Regional Park: the famous Blanc-Martel trail, of course, but also a large number of blazed and signposted trails to suit everyone.

The emerald green waters of the Verdon

After having seen the cliffs from above, you need to see things from another angle? You want to touch the emerald green water and go up the Verdon on a pedalo for a different sort of thrill.

There are a number of leisure bases for safe, supervised white water sports: canyoning, rafting, canoeing and kayaking.

The lake of Sainte-Croix opens out from the end of the Gorges du Verdon and is the ideal place to end your adventure, take the family for a swim, a sail or go windsurfing.

The Musée des Confluences in Lyon

Telling the Story of Humankind

A nebulous structure made of glass, concrete, and steel sits at the tip of a peninsula, on the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Lyon’s futuristic Musée des Confluences is worthy of its ambition to offer the keys to understanding the intricate field of human knowledge.

In fact, the Museum inherited over two million pieces collected from the 16th and today. Referred to as “the 21st Century’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” the institution’s finds relate to paleontology, mineralogy, zoology, entomology, and ethnography.

Visitors keen to understand the origins and evolution of life will be thrilled to discover the Museum’s treasures, which include mammoth and dinosaur skeletons.

Narratives for All

Spread over 3 000 square meters, the permanent exhibition is divided into four major sections.

  • Origins: Stories of the World stages a scientific and symbolic outlook on the origins of the universe.
  • Species: the Web of Life contemplates the relationship between Homo sapiens —as an animal— and the complex biodiversity in which the species evolves.
  • Societies: the Human Theatre observes the evolution of social structures, cultures, and knowledge.
  • Eternities: Visions of the Afterlife focuses on the perception of death in different cultures.

The sheer size, diversity and rarity of the collection reflect the Museum’s desire to open up to a wider audience.

Plith, Crystal, and Cloud

Architecturally, the new landmark in the city of Lyon is a stunning technical achievement. Two distinct building blocks emerge from the deconstructivist design.

The Crystal: Located north of the building, the massive steel and glass space encasing the main entrance hall is bright, transparent, and clear.

The Cloud —the core of the building— spreads over two storeys holding black-box galleries. The flowing shape of the steel-clad section resembles a spaceship.

The exhibition area hovers over a concrete plinth that contains two auditoriums, conference rooms, and technical spaces.

Sensory Experience

The Musée des confluences redefines the museum experience. For instance, taking pictures is allowed, as it touching certain objects. Visitors can also have a virtual conversation with a hologram of Albert Einstein.

Feeling peckish? Climb up The Cloud where a restaurant with a panoramic terrace awaits on the fourth floor. Or simply stop by the brewery restaurant on the ground floor for a quick bite. Visitors can choose to walk straight through to the outdoor space, under the belly of the Museum. Finally, a quick trip to the Museum’s shop is simply the perfect ending to a unique cultural experience.

Le musée des Confluences vu du ciel from Musée des Confluences on Vimeo.

The Eden-Théâtre in La Ciotat, the oldest cinema in the world

The first screening in the legendary hall of Eden, the oldest cinema in the world located in La Ciotat (Bouches-du-Rhône), dates back to March 1899. The establishment is now listed in the Guinness World Records.

It has hardly changed since 1889. At La Ciotat (Bouches-du-Rhône), the Eden was inaugurated the same year as the Eiffel Tower. Ten years later, the first films of the Lumière brothers, the pioneers of cinematography, were screened in this establishment. Eden is today officially recognized as the oldest cinema in the world in activity.

The Eden-Théâtre is an ocher building facing the sea. Contrary to what its name suggests, it is indeed a cinema. If it was so baptized, it is because it was built in 1889. “The cinema did not yet exist, it was invented in 1895”, . The poster for the very first Eden screening, in 1899, is also on display in the entrance to the small cinema. It advertises around twenty light films, including “Launch of a ship at La Ciotat”. The price of the chair is then 75 cents.

With its red seats, of course, Eden looks more like “an Italian theater” than to a contemporary cinema. The seats each bear a plaque in the name of the celebrities who attended a screening in the century-old cinema. .

Upstairs, you can enter the projection booth. Today, it is equipped with the latest technologies since they broadcast all the films digitally. Every year, 1,200 sessions are screened at Eden, heritage works, but also art and essay films or others for young audiences.

As a partner of numerous prestigious organisations, such as the French European cinematheques, the Authors’ society, famous producers and film makers, the Pathé-Gaumont archives, the Eden decidedly fits into the world of contemporary French cinema. 

In 2018, on the occasion of the national congress of the FNCF, the Eden was recognised as an innovative cinema by the CNC, for its ability to link tradition and modernity. 

From the Lumière Brothers’ cinematographe to Hollywood blockbusters… what an extraordinary adventure for the Eden! 

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, the Jewel of the French Riviera

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is one of the most beautiful residences of Renaissance style on the French Riviera. The monument, also called villa Île-de-France, is perched at the top of the Cap Ferrat peninsula. Transformed into a museum, it allows visitors to discover the refinement and pronounced taste for the Italian Renaissance style of Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild.

THE JEWEL OF THE FRENCH RIVIERA

Béatrice de Rothschild, born in 1864, married a French banker named Maurice Ephrussi in 1883. Both were passionate about architecture, nature and art. The young woman collected works of art and sumptuous residences. In 1904 the couple separated and the following year, Beatrice discovered Cap Ferrat. She was immediately seduced by the natural beauty of the place and decided to settle there. At the time, the French Riviera was already a popular vacation resort, especially for high society. She acquired a 7-hectare rocky and barren piece of land on which she built a villa whose architecture was reminiscent of the great houses of the Italian Renaissance. Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild imposed pink, her favorite color, throughout the villa.

La Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild from Culturespaces • Art & Patrimoine on Vimeo.

It took 5 years of work to build the villa Île-de-France, named after an extraordinary journey on board the steamer of the same name. The shape given to the main garden, with its view of the ocean, reminds us of the deck of a ship. To perfect the illusion, the baroness required her gardeners to wear a navy beret so that she could imagine herself surrounded by a crew on a ship travelling the world. The exterior facades, painted pink, are typical of Renaissance architecture in Italy. Only the entrance porch is of flamboyant gothic inspiration. Inside the house, the furniture is refined, and the decoration is meticulous. Numerous collectors’ items and exceptional pieces have been used to furnish the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

On her death in 1934, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi bequeathed the management of the villa to a foundation bearing her name so that the building could be turned into a museum. This was done on April 2 ,1938, however, it was not until 1960 and a change of curator for the site to become known to the public. In 1990, the scenography of the place was rethought, the Villa Ephrussi became one of the most visited monuments between Nice and Menton with 130,000 visitors per year.

PARKS AND GARDENS

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild has no less than 9 dream gardens. Beatrice was a nature lover and she knew how to honor nature with its exteriors. French, Spanish, Florentine, lapidary, Japanese, exotic and Provençal gardens are to be discovered! A simple stroll through the baroness’s gardens is an invitation to travel that transports the visitor to different green worlds.

REFINEMENT AT ALL TIMES

It was in the patio of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild that the baroness welcomed her guests and held receptions. This inner courtyard is lined with columns in pink Verona marble which support Italian Renaissance style arcades. The musicians stood on balconies on the second first floor, visible from the patio.

The grand salon is undoubtedly the most sumptuous room in the villa. Offering a view of the Baie des Fourmis at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, it bears witness to the baroness’s pronounced taste for the Italian Renaissance. The Louis XVI style furniture is spread throughout the room to form different areas for resting, playing, and sharing. On the ceiling is a painting by the Venetian painter Giandomenico Tiepolo, illustrating The Chariot of Love pulled by doves. The two carpets in the grand salon come from the chapel of the Palace of Versailles and the Great Gallery of the Louvre Palace.

The small salon welcomed the guests after the meal so that they could chat. It is adorned with tapestries representing the adventures of Don Quixote. In this room, collector’s items are displayed side by side: paintings by François Boucher, paintings by Jean-Frédéric Schall, Pellegrini’s marouflaged canvas, a fireplace screen that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette, and a pedestal table with a pewter tray signed Compigné.

BÉATRICE’S APARTMENTS

In the first half of the bedroom, the Venetian bed is decorated with Chinese silk embroidered with flowers and birds. The Rothschild family had been trading silk with the land of the rising sun since 1838. The second part of the piece is in the shape of a rotunda. On the ceiling, an illustration from the 18th century Venetian school depicting the Triumph of a patrician family is painted.

Beatrice received her close friends in her boudoir and would write on a writing desk that is said to have belonged to Marie-Antoinette. In the wardrobe section, Asian-inspired clothing and dresses dating from the 18th century are still present. Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild followed the Chinese tradition of women having tiny feet. To meet this requirement, Beatrice folded all her toes, except for the big one, under her plantar arch. The small slippers she wore are displayed in a showcase.

In the bathroom, also in the shape of a rotunda, woodwork painted by Pierre Leriche subtly conceals small toilets with a washbasin, a dressing table, and a bidet. The bathtub, which was supposed to stand in the center of the room, has disappeared. The dome overlooking the bathroom is decorated with a chestnut trellis.

THE LOUNGES ON THE SECOND FLOOR

The lounges on the second floor are equally richly decorated and surprising. The furniture is a tribute to the know-how of 18th century French cabinetmakers. The tapestries come from the Gobelins Manufactory or were made from François Boucher’s cartoons. A small living lounge exhibits German porcelain from the very first hard-paste porcelain workshop in the West. In another, Beatrice paid homage to her pets by decorating the room with monkey motifs.

THE PORCELAIN COLLECTION

An incredible collection of porcelain is showcased in the dining room of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, as well as in the next room. Having inherited her father’s taste for beautiful tableware, Beatrice assembled one of the richest collections of French porcelain in the world. Most of the pieces presented come from the Manufacture royale (Royal Manufactory) of Sèvres near Paris.

St Nicholas and St. Martyr Alexandra Church in Nice, the biggest orthodox church outside Russia

CONSIDERED ONE THE MOST IMPORTANT orthodox buildings outside the Russian Federation, this cathedral is the result of the efforts of the Royal Family to satisfy the spiritual needs of the growing Russian population in Nice.

It all started in the mid 1800s when the Russian upper class, as well as the Tsars, started visiting the French Riviera during winter, as their English counterparts had been doing for some decades before. Unfortunately during a visit in 1865, the son of Alexander II, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich died of meningitis. Some time later, after buying the land, the Tsar and the Empress ordered a chapel built in the exact spot where Nicholas died.

By then the Russian community in Nice was already growing and the need of a new place to congregate arose. The first attempt to build an Orthodox church in Nice started in 1856 by initiative of Empress Alexandra who was Nicholas’ grandmother, ultimately a church was built on Longchamp Street. By the turn of the century the church was deemed too small and deteriorated so the building of a cathedral started just a few steps from the churrch honoring the deceased Tsesarevich. The cathedral was finished in 1912 according to the designs by M.T. Preobrajensky by an assortment of engineers, under the direction of a certain Golitsyn, appointed by Tsar Nicholas II to oversee the development of the project.

The structure was made in the Old Russian style, however certain modern elements give this Cathedral its own identity; for instance, the disposition of the Greek cross plan with five domes representing Jesus and the four evangelists. The church also contains a rich iconostasis made in Russia by the Khlebnikoff workshops.

From 1923 to 2010 the cathedral, the gardens and the chapel were under management of the Russian Orthodox Cultural Association of Nice but in 2006 the Russian Federation claimed the right to property based on the fact that the Cathedral was on private grounds owned by the Imperial Government at the time of the communist revolution.

The French courts sided with the Russian government and the church management was transferred to them (not before several appeals and refusals from the association) in 2011. Three years later, the church was closed to tourists to undergo renovations funded by the Kremlin. It finally opened its doors once again on December 19, 2015, on the feast of St. Nicholas according to the Julian Calendar.

Architectural style

The cathedral is impressive in size, proportions and sophistication. It is designed in a completely “old Russian” style: rich and exuberant landscapes, contrasting with the formal severity of the plan. But it also proves its modernity. It is built in the shape of a Greek cross with a large central part and five domes, symbolizing Christ and the four evangelists, from where two twin towers with a bell tower in the center rise, creating a balance of architectural forms. The altar does not stand out.

It is surprising that the cathedral is built from various materials with several types of textures and colors: stone, brick, ceramics, etc. The colors should be in harmony with the Nice climate and, therefore, mainly with the azure blue of the Mediterranean sky (pale brick cladding, blue-green majolica, white stones). Originality also lies in the architectural ensemble of the twin towers and the bell tower. Their decorative richness emphasizes the basic forms and enhances them. There is a feeling of strength and stability (columns, arches), but at the same time, the building is directed into the sky (double-headed eagles crowning cone-shaped twin towers, etc.). The bell tower is the central pivot that connects the different volumes.

The main building of the temple is built on a square base, over which two rows of “kokoshniks” hang with drums lying on them. The windows inserted into a narrow rectangular frame “bathe in the light” the interior of the domes. The central space is also decorated with three small windows on each side, richly decorated with majolica. The drums themselves are crowned with domes covered with lacquered tiles (3 shades of green are used), over which high gilded crosses are hoisted.

The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park

The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park is a French regional natural park created on October 25, 1977. It is located in the heart of the Massif Central, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes administrative region. Covering an area of 389,733 ha, it is the largest regional natural park in mainland France. Forming a landscape, geological and heritage ensemble, the regional natural park includes the Puys chain (puy de Dôme 1 465 m), listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018, the Dore mountains (Puy de Sancy 1 886 m), Artense (granitic plateau 800m), Cézallier (signal du Luguet 1 551 m)and Cantal mountains (Plomb du Cantal 1 855 m).

The Cantal massif is a single, very old volcanic edifice (between three million years and two hundred and fifty thousand years) 150 km around, eroded by twelve or thirteen glacial valleys which converge towards its three main peaks: the Puy Griou, the Puy Mary and the Plomb du Cantal. It is a land of thermal springs and lakes. Man has worked tirelessly to shape his living environment, graze infertile slopes and build villages, castles, burons and Roman churches with lava.

Very different in appearance, the panorama of the Puys range spreads out a flurry of cones and often wooded domes. In total about 80 volcanoes of more recent origin (between twelve thousand and seven thousand years).

in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park, le Cézallier seen from the sky… from PHILIPPE TOURNEBISE on Vimeo.

Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park from Vincent Tiphine on Vimeo.

Lake pavin, a crater lake

Nestled at an altitude of 1,200 meters, near Besse in the Puy-de-Dôme, Lac Pavin attracts many visitors. But do you know the many mysteries that surround it?

Located halfway between the towns of Besse and Super Besse in Puy-de-Dôme, Lac Pavin continues to attract visitors. It is one of the favorite destinations for Clermont Ferrand residents looking for a bit of coolness in summer.

This natural setting in its raw state retains a great deal of mystery. It has fueled the imagination of the inhabitants of the region. Some say it intrigued first before it interested researchers. It is a lake on which there have been hundreds of scientific publications in international journals, dozens of theses defended, numerous research programs.


A unique lake in mainland France

But if it is so intriguing, it is firstly because Lake Pavin is a meromictic lake, that is to say made up of two different layers of water that are superimposed on one another. Christian Amblard is Honorary Research Director at the CNRS and Vice-President of the CSRPN Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Regional Scientific Council for Natural Heritage). He knows the lake by heart.
He explains: “It is the only lake of this type in mainland France. Everything comes from his training. It is a lake that has a volcanic origin. It is said to be an explosion crater lake. These lakes of this type are generally circular, deep, Lake Pavin is 92 meters deep, but these lakes have a small area. The Pavin is 750 meters in diameter. When a lake is very deep and has a small area, it has a very steep slope. It is this shape that makes this lake unique. In the lakes there is what is called the stirring of the waters. Every year, in the lakes, depending on the temperature and the wind, the waters are mixed. Surface water plunges deep and, conversely, deep water will rise. While in most lakes this mixing of water goes to the bottom, in Pavin Lake this mixing does not go to the bottom.
It is divided into two large areas. There is a zone of the surface at 60 meters, the mixolimnion, a mixed, stirred and oxygenated zone. The area between 60 and 92 meters is never going to be oxygenated. This is roughly the same layer of water since the lake was created, just over 6,000 years ago. Since there is no light, no oxygen, since the temperature is stable, there is a completely original environment. This is what characterizes this lake, this unstirred bottom layer which is called monimolimnion
“.

A rich microbial life

It is this deep layer that makes it so special. “This layer has no light, no oxygen, lots of chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, methane. The temperature there is more or less stable, between 4 and 5 degrees. These are extreme living conditions. And yet there is extremely rich and abundant microbial life. In this medium one finds on average 1 million microorganisms per milliliter. They are very diverse communities. Three-quarters of the species described by our laboratory had never been described in the world before, “explains the scientist. This very rich life fascinates researchers. His study takes them back to the origins of life.
Chrisitian Amblard specifies: “We can say that microorganisms must have developed original metabolisms and life strategies. It got us going in two directions. A direction to seek to have applications in biotechnology. An innovative company has come up to use these assemblages of microorganisms to do work in cosmetics, in the degradation of non-food waste. The second way is to think that the characteristics of the lake bottom resemble the characteristics of the primitive soup of the ocean from which life sprang. There are studies to understand the first stages in the evolution of living things “confides Christian Amblard. Primitive soup is a physicochemical mixture described and studied by scientists who seek to understand, model or reproduce the origins of life on Earth.

Lac Pavin, Auvergne in French from Pascal Vincent on Vimeo.

The origins of Lyon, from prehistory to early Christian times

Lyon before Lugdunum

Traces of the most ancient period of Lyon are concentrated along the Saône river on the Plain of Vaise (Lyon, 9th arrondissement).

The site was inhabited from the end of prehistory, around 12,000 B.C. Numerous discoveries attest to the presence of a sedentary community in the Neolithic era, starting in the fifth millennium. During the Bronze Age, a village was established around 1,200 B.C.

After a gap of several centuries, a small town had developed by the Early Iron Age at the end of the sixth century B.C. The presence of wine amphorae from Italy and Marseille, as well as Greek ceramics, are evidence of contacts with the Mediterranean world through the Rhône-Saône axis. Trade intensified during the Late Iron Age (450-50 B.C.).

The roman foundation

The history of Lugdunum starts in 43 B.C., nine years after Caesar had conquered Gaul and one year before his assassination in Rome, when Lucius Munatius Plancus, the governor of Gaul, was sent by the Senate to found a Roman colony.

The first inhabitants were Roman citizens, veterans of the army. Its status as a colony placed Lugdunum at the summit of the municipal hierarchy and would favor its future development. First established on the Fourvière plateau, the city would gradually spread to the river neighborhoods, the peninsula and the right bank of the Saône river.

The choice of this emplacement was strategic. The site of Lyon at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône placed it on an important axis of circulation through the Rhône Valley, which linked the Mediterranean to the future interior provinces. But major work was necessary to establish the city.

Lugdunum, capital of the province of Lyon

During the last decades of the first century B.C., a certain number of decisions made by Augustus, the first emperor (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.) gave rise to the rapid growth of Lugdunum. Augustus divided Celtic Gaul into three provinces: Lyon, Belgium and Aquitaine.

Lugdunum became the capital of the province of Lyon. The city was the site of administrative services shared by several provinces. It also became the headquarters of a major coin workshop that minted money for the whole empire. Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus, who was appointed by the Emperor to establish a roadway system, placed Lugdunum at the center of the Gallic network.

The city’s reputation was enhanced with the creation in 12 B.C. of the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls, dedicated to the imperial cult. Located on Croix-Rousse Hill, it was the setting for the annual meeting of the 60 Gallic tribes that made up the Council of the Gauls.

War and peace in Lugdunum

The takeover of power in 41 by Emperor Claudius, who was born in Lyon in 10 B.C., corresponds to a phase of development of the colony, which took the name Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum. Lugdunum covered nearly 350 hectares and became one of the largest cities in Gaul.

Several emperors stayed in Lyon, most notably Hadrian in 119. Under the reign of Marcus Aurelius in 177, the Christian community was persecuted. Forty-eight martyrs died, including St. Pothin, one of the first bishops, and St. Blandine.

A few years later, in 197, the war of succession that opposed Septimius Severus, who had been proclaimed emperor by the Senate, to Clodius Albinus, governor of Britannia, ended at Lyon with a battle won by Septimius Severus. The city, which had defended his adversary, was subject to severe reprisals.

Map of Lyon in the second century B.C.
Map of Lyon in the second century B.C.Map of Lyon in the second century B.C. © Lugdunum

Late Antiquity : the new site of power

From the middle of the third century, part of the city began to decline. Fourvière Hill began to lose inhabitants.

At the end of the third century, during the reign of Diocletian (284-305) and following a reorganization of the provinces, Lyon lost its rank as a capital to Trier and the Council of the Gauls disappeared. The city now centered around the bishop’s residence on the banks of the Saône, near the baptistery and Saint-Jean Cathedral.

In the upper part of the city, which was being abandoned, construction of funerary basilicas began in the late fourth century in connection with the cult of martyrs. Large cemeteries developed around them.

Museo Parc Alesia

The MuséoParc Alésia (Parc Museum Alesia) is an history museum and archaeological site located in the Côte-d’Or, Burgundy, France. Opened in 2012, the center is situated in the place where, in 55 BC, Julius Caesar defeated the Gallic tribes led by Vercingetorix in the famous Battle of Alesia, therefore opening the conquest of Gaul by the Roman legions.


MuséoParc Alésia lets you explore three sites : the Interprétation Centre, the Gallo-Roman ruins and the statue of Vercingétorix

The Interpretation Centre

Built on the plain of Alésia, this building with symbolic architecture was designed by famous architect Bernard Tschumi. Its circular form evokes the siege of Alésia, the netting that clads the building provides a nod to the wooden fortifications used by the Romans, whilst the oblique columns of its atrium recall the chaos of the battle itself.

Inside, an educational trail built around archaeological discoveries and hypotheses that have been confirmed by scientists places Alésia firmly within the context of the War of the Gauls (from 58 to 51 B.C).

The Gallo-Roman ruins

The Gallo-Roman ruins, situated just 3km from the Interpretation Centre, allow visitors to imagine what daily life was like for the people that settled here following the battle between Vercingétorix and Caesar. Strolling through the ancient streets thanks to a trail with commentary (in French, English, German and Dutch), you can explore the monumental centre made up of a sanctuary, a theatre and a forum enclosed by a basilica, a building known as the Ucuetis monument, an area of residential dwellings…

The statue of Vercingétorix

A hundred metres of so from the Gallo-Roman ruins, accessible on foot or by car, you can admire the monumental statue of Vercingétorix dating from 1865. 6.60 metres tall, this work in copper was commissioned by Napoleon III to mark the successful conclusion of the archaeological excavations undertaken at Alésia.

Contemporary analysis of this statue has revealed numerous anachronistic elements and a representation of the Gauls that has now been debunked by recent archaeological discoveries and a rereading of texts from Antiquity

The history of the site

The exact location of the Battle of Alésia was debated for many years. In the XIX century, under the orders of Napoleon III, colossal excavations were carried out at Alise-Sainte-Reine from 1861 until late 1865. These brought to light a huge quantity of weapons, coins belonging to the Gauls and Romans and military items. What is more, the methodology employed (cross referring the discoveries with texts written by Caesar, which was truly experimental archaeology at the time) allowed for a life-sized reconstitution of sections of the battle lines and of Roman war machines.

Despite the significance of these findings, the debate raged on and the scientific community remained divided.

In the 1990s, a Franco-German team of archaeologists unearthed new evidence. They were able to confirm that the « oppidum of Mont-Auxois in Alise-Sainte-Reine and the military siege of the first century B.C that was uncovered by archaeological digs corresponded with the Battle of Alésia ».

Today, the French and international scientific community considers Alise-Sainte-Reine as the historic site of the battle.

Quite naturally, it is on this site that the MuséoParc Alésia now stands.

Revisiting the events of 52 B.C

For 6 years, Caesar had been a redoubtable war general whose power was growing and was now ready to lead the War of the Gauls. In order to check his progress, the chieftains of Gaul formed an alliance in 52 B.C under the leadership of Vercingétorix, a young king of the Arverne people. In Gergovie they defeated Caesar, who decided to withdraw to the Roman province to the south of Gaul. On the journey there, his army was attacked in northern Burgundy by the armies of Vercingétorix who relied on the customary superiority of its cavalry. The Romans however, thanks to the assistance of the German cavalry, routed them.

Vercingétorix therefore decided to station his troops (80,000 men, according to Caesar) at the oppidum of Alésia. Facing them was between ten and twelve Roman legions (around 40 to 45,000 men) and several thousand auxiliaries and German cavalrymen.

Caesar took the opportunity to encircle the chieftains of Gaul and lay siege to the oppidum. He ordered the construction of a double line of fortifications and a whole ensemble of very elaborate traps in front of each line.

Of course the Gauls did not just simply watch the Romans; they set out to attack them. The first sortie made by Vercingétorix’s cavalry resulted in defeat and he decided to send them out to bring reinforcements from all across Gaul.

But as the days passed the Roman fortifications were visibly growing stronger and reinforcement did not arrive. The besieged Gauls were ravaged by hunger. What could they do? Surrender? Attempt another sortie? «Following discussions, it was decided that those who were too sick or elderly to be of use would leave the town» De Bello Gallico, VII, 77-78. These exiles, wandering in between the two fortified lines, died of starvation or were massacred.

Help finally arrived: 240,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry, according to Caesar. Twice more the Gauls attempted to escape and were pushed back on both occasions. When they tried for a third time, for many hours the outcome of the battle was uncertain. However, once again fortune smiled on Caesar. Under pressure from the Romans, who were supported by the Germans, the Gauls from the relief army fled.

Vercingétorix retreated back inside the oppidum and elected to surrender in order to save his men.

Although referred to as a “battle”, the siege of Alésia probably lasted between a month and a half and two months. The experience, discipline, resilience and organisation of the Roman troops, allied with an exceptional knowledge of the art of siege warfare, guaranteed that Caesar enjoyed a definitive advantage.

THE HOSPICES DE BEAUNE – Hotel Dieu

A hospital foundation from the Middle Ages, the Hospices de Beaune is one of France’s most prestigious historic monuments.

A hospital foundation from the Middle Ages, the Hospices de Beaune is one of France’s most prestigious historic monuments. Its flamboyant Gothic architecture, its polychrome roofs and a renowned vineyard make this museum one of Burgundy’s gems. The Hospices de Beaune is also famous for its 60 hectares wine estate, producing prestigious wines, sold at auction on the third Sunday in November.

A Palace for the Poor

When in 1443, Chancellor Nicolas Rolin founded the Hôtel Dieu (Hospices de Beaune), Beaune was coming out of the 100 years war, a period of unrest and plague that decimated the countryside. It was for the poor and the most disadvantaged that this masterpiece inspired by the most outstanding hôtels-Dieu of Flanders and Paris was built. Behind the austere slate roofs of the facade are the stunning courtyard, beautiful varnished tile roofs and overhead skylights. All around the courtyard, the harmonious organisation of buildings rule the life of this charitable institution: under the hull-shaped arches of the poor room, the sick were welcomed in, and in the kitchen with its huge Gothic chimneys, meals were prepared, while the apothecary with its mortar and earthenware pots, was the preserve of the sister pharmacist.

Hospices de Beaune: a foundation for all eternity

Nicolas Rolin used his vast knowledge of hospital institutions to make his hôtel Dieu (Hospices de Beaune) an establishment capable of surviving the centuries. As a good trader, he placed it under the spiritual authority of the Holy See, free from any charge and under good management, endowing it with vineyards, farms and woods. But the search for architectural perfection, the beauty of objects and the polyptych of the Last Judgement ordered from Rogier Van der Weyden, one of the great masters of Flemish painting, it’s the Christian and philanthropist to whom we’re indebted. Nicolas Rolin made his hôtel dieu a work and an act of faith for all eternity.

Hospices de Beaune: the wine-makers’ hospital

In 1457, Guillemette Levernier made the first gift of vineyards to the Hospices de Beaune, and this tradition was to continue for five centuries. Today, the wine estate is around 60 hectares, of which 50 are devoted to Pinot Noir and the rest to Chardonnay. Entrusted to 22 winemakers handpicked by its manager, this exceptional vineyard accounts for 85% of premiers crus and grands crus sold at auction on the third Sunday in November. The sale, today organised by Christie’s auction house, is the most famous wine charity auction in the world. The proceeds of the sale are used to improve the hospital’s equipment and in the conservation of the Hôtel Dieu.

VÉZELAY, the Eternal Hill

This little village became a star in Burgundy, just by the number of illustrious people who made it famous! But it’s best known for its basilica which overlooks the surrounding countryside.  This impressive religious building, saved from ruin by Viollet-le-Duc, a jewell of romanesque architecture, has been part of the UNESCO world heritage list for the past fourty years.  Thousands of people flock to discover or rediscover this monument on the road to Compostela.

Famously used as a backdrop in the cult french film “La Grande Vadrouille”, the village, surrounded by vineyards, will impress you by its diversity; art, literature, gastronomy, religion, plus its surrounding countryside…  Vezelay’s soul is as authentic as it is inspiring.

The town of Vézelay is a departure point for the major medieval pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, as well as a pilgrimage destination in its own right, as the possessor of the relics of Mary Magdalene.

Saint Mary-Magdalene Basilica –  A masterpiece of Romanesque Architecture

You will be dazzled by the overwhelming beauty of the roman basilica, where light is in perpetual motion and breathes life into the stone itself.

You just have to let the contradictions wash over you: the beauty of the building and the modesty of its layout;  the complexity of the sculptures and the simplicity of the architecture.  The height of the archways and the strength of the pillars.

Be entranced by the chants of the benedictine monks and nuns which resound three times a day from the abbey-church.
Meditate in the crypt where, for hundreds of years, pilgrims in their thousands have travelled to worship the relics of Saint Mary-Magdalene

Summer and winter solstice in the Basilica –  the magic of light

The basilica is impressive by its overwhelming proportions.  When you enter,  the light gives the building an incredible dimension

When the sun reaches its highest point on the summer solstice,  on 21st June at solar noon, the light coming through the southern clerestory windows casts a series of nine circles of light perfectly aligned along the center of the nave floor, connecting the narthex to the quire

On winter solstice, the 21st december at solar noon, the sun hits the capitals of the higher part of the nave facing southward with perfect symmetry.

Vézelay is also OPERATION GRAND SITE (OGS)

Vézelay and  surrounding villages make up a remarkable territory, thanks to the beauty of its landscapes and architecture.  Vézelay and its surrounding area committed to obtaining the GRAND SITE DE FRANCE label back in 2010, with the support of different government departments and locally elected officials, but the procedure is long winded.   Ministerial approval was granted end 2011 and the county council has taken charge since 2017 with the help of central government.
Grand Site de France status has been granted by the Environment Ministry to a dozen tourist sites which respect sustainable development such as Mont Saint-Michel, le Pont du Gard, Bibracte…
It not only means restoring heritage sites and landscapes which make up the reputation of Vézelay and its surrounding area, but also laying down the cornerstone to preserve them and ensure that they continue to thrive.

The Loire Valley chateaux in Touraine

To say that the castles in Touraine are part of the landscape would be an understatement! Whether they are illustrious french chateaux or less well-known manor houses, their silhouettes are always omnipresent. Why are so many of them concentrated in this part of France, around the city of Tours?

Those heritage sites are the legacy of the French kings who adored the Loire Valley.

Alongside the medieval fortresses (Chinon, Loches) then the royal estates (the royal chateau of Amboise, right above the Loire river), a large number of castles were built by leading figures of the realm and court nobility (Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Villandry). A beautiful travel through history.

Initially built for defensive purposes in the troubled times of the Middle Ages (Langeais, Le Rivau, Ussé), the Loire Valley chateaux gradually opened outwards during the French Renaissance (15th century), abandoning their austere ramparts and drawbridges to make way for a style particularly inspired by Italian culture. It was at this time that the tradition of gardens, considered as ‘outdoor salons’, came into being in the Loire Valley.

Map of the Loire Valley Chateaux

The myriad personalities of the Loire Valley Chateaux

Today, each one tells its own unique story, which is part of the French history: the sumptuous feasts of the royal court at the royal chateau of Amboise, the legendary meeting between Joan of Arc and the French Dauphin in the town of Chinon, the multi-talented genius Leonardo da Vinci at the chateau of Clos Lucé, the epic marriage of a Windsor at the Domaine de Candé, the work of the great gardener Dom Pacello at the Royal estate of Château Gaillard, Rodin and Camille Claudel’s love affair at the chateau de l’Islette… You’ll be spoilt for choice!

The Renaissance monuments

Château Gaillard. Louis XII entrusted it to Dom Pacello, one of the first landscape designers of the Italian Renaissance.

Royal Castle of Amboise. Associated kings: Charles VIII and Francis I. Shelters the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci in the Saint-Hubert chapel.

Château du Clos Lucé. Visit to the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. To see: a large collection of models of his inventions.

Clos Lucé Castle

Château de Chenonceau: Visit the property of Diane de Poitiers and then Catherine de Médici, its arches elegantly spanning the Cher river.

Castle of Chenonceau

Castle of Azay-le-Rideau. Visit of a masterpiece of the first French Renaissance, reflected in a water mirror fed by the Indre river.

Castle of Villandry. Property of Jérôme Bonaparte, the castle of Villandry is mostly surrounded, known for its splendid gardens.

Castle of Villandry

Castle of Ussé. Charles Perrault was inspired by it to write Sleeping Beauty ( La Belle au Bois Dormant)!

Castle of Montrésor. A large collection of objects is to be discovered in this historical monument marked by the presence of Xavier Branicki, a very rich Polish count in exile during the nineteenth century.

Castle of Islette. The favourite meeting place of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin.

Montpoupon Castle. A fortified castle dating back to the Middle Ages, built under Charlemagne, Montpoupon was transformed in the 16th century to become a Renaissance château by Aymar de Prie, a great crossbowman under the reign of Francis I of France.

Château de Gizeux. Numerous activities are offered to families. To be seen on a visit: the great gallery of castles.

Champchevrier castle. Particularly well furnished, King Louis XIII nevertheless slept there on straw!

Castle of Candé. Here, we plunge into the history of England, with the marriage of the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson.

Chateau de Candé

The Third Landscape

French semester symbol inspiration with Gilles Clément (1943 – ) French Landscape Architect, Theorist and Writer.

At the invitation of our friends from the French Semester 2022 to bring nature into the Eiffel Tower, which will be located on the roundabout at the entrance to the JRC (Ispra), we looked for inspiration in the work of the famous gardener, philosopher, botanist and professor at the Versailles Landscape School, Gilles Clément, and the three principles he created:

The garden in motion, the planetary garden, and the third landscape.

And the latter… the Third Landscape seems appropriate for our little project.

Gilles Clément calls the third landscape

all places abandoned by man

… the roadside, the edge of the field, a suburban field that has escaped construction, a traffic island, a roundabout… spaces that, almost without human intervention, can become pleasant places, gardens of the future where biodiversity finds refuge.

For Gilles Clément, working on the Third Landscape means not going against nature but with it, supporting it, observing it and intervening as little as possible.

Free yourself from rules and be “lazy”, let Nature do the work

The idea of the third landscape is a garden WITHOUT a gardener, WITHOUT a grass trimmer, a shredder, a perfect English lawn, artificially trimmed hedges and plastic looking bushes.  On the contrary, it extols the wildness and natural “imperfection”.

In our project, we will invite nature, birds, insects, vagrant plants and others to “occupy” the space around the Eiffel Tower:

    We will set up birdhouses, a small insect hotel. We will plant daffodils, crocuses and a few other bulbs. Cornus sibirica plants for their resistance and beauty during the winter months.

    Other vagrant plants known to French gardens:

  • grey leaf plants because they are drought resistant
  • calendula officinalis because it flowers in spring
  • alcea rosea and iris, which are very typical of French gardens

    In the management of the roundabout lawn, we will leave a strip of lawn with a moderate cut to encourage the wild flowers already present to flower and spread. 

JRC Gardening Club, for the French semester 2022

The Grandes traversées du Jura (GTJ)

The Grandes Traversées du Jura offer 6 main routes across the mountains of Jura where you can practice 6 different ways of trekking.

Along these suggested routes are villages where you can always rest and enjoy good company.

Hikers will enjoy the GTJ hiking route which guides you along marked and maintained trails in a well-preserved and wild environment. Stop-overs every 20 kilometres are recommended to enjoy the Jura mountains peacefully.

For mountain bikers, there is the GTJ mountain biking route. This route is partly easy, partly demanding, but bikers of all levels can bike it: when the route becomes too difficult, “lighter” options are provided as alternatives.

The GTJ road biking route guides you along scenic countryside roads throughout the Jura mountains. Whether you plan to ride a hundred kilometres in a row or to take it easy, this route will let you discover the richness of Jura’s heritage.

On the GTJ horseback riding route, riders can enjoy the beautiful scenery from horse back. Riding 30 kilometres or so per day will give you enough time for a picnic or a dip in a lake. It is the only route of the Grandes Traversées that goes through the wine country. Specific lodging facilities for riders and their horses have been selected along this route.

Skiers can take the GTJ skiing route, which offers marked and maintained ski trails across the country. Cross-country skiing in the Jura’s rough winter climate for a whole day can be demanding, but dining on a fondue jurassienne or baked Mont d’Or cheese in a guest house is such a rewarding experience!

Snowshoe hikers will enjoy nature to the fullest on the GTJ snowshoeing route: no groomed trails, no hiking trails, just wild nature! If you happen to be the first one to leave your footprints on powdery snow after a snowfall, the only way to get around is to follow the posts that mark the way.

GTJ Hiking Route

The Grande Traversée du Jura hiking route takes long-distance hikers all along Jura’s crescent-shaped massif on the mythical GR®5 and GR®9 trails.

It begins in the north, in the country of Montbéliard: do not hesitate to stop for a while and visit the city of the Dukes of Württemberg. It quickly veers upward on the highest plateaux and then goes back down toward the beautiful Doubs river. It follows the river’s banks along the Swiss border all the way to Villers-le-Lac, and then goes through a picturesque scenery composed of pastures, where Montbéliard cows graze, and deciduous forests. This is the country of typical comtois farmhouses, with their imposing “tuyé” chimneys where the sausages and ham you will certainly eat at a guest house are smoked. After Pontarlier, it meets the Joux fortress, then the Saint-Point lake, two places in the foothills of Mont d’Or, the highest mount in the Doubs department (1463 m). The summit gives a beautiful and compelling view over the Alps… This is where the Haut-Jura regional nature park begins. The trail winds its way between spruce forests and lush narrow valleys, in a rich and preserved environment. You will then arrive at Mouthe, a village known for its harsh winters and the place where the river you have been following since the beginning of your trip starts its journey. As a side note, the Doubs department takes its name from this river. Further on, the trail will take you to Chapelle-des-Bois, with its narrow valley and two lakes nestled between the Mont-Noir forest and the Risoux cliffs. In Les Rousses, take some time to listen to the story of the Massacre forest before venturing into it. Try to imagine the bird who lives here, because it is unlikely you will get to see it even if you walk in its territory; the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus, Grand Tetras in French) that still inhabits our forests is a very discreet animal. Its presence is the result of a well preserved natural environment, and the heritage of a natural and wild mountainous habitat. Only a short hike is required to walk through the beautiful Hautes-Combes, and you will be able to admire the Haute-Chaîne of the Jura.

Gustave Courbet and his paintings

An artist who was among the primar figures in the Realist movement, Gustave Courbet has proven himself as one of the most remarkable artists during his time.

Background

Gustave Courbet, born as Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet, was a renowned French artist during the 19th century Realist movement. He was dedicated to presenting his independent style in art as he steered clear of the traditional art techniques during his time. In fact, his unique styles became a source of inspiration among the cubists and impressionists.
It was his paintings during the 1840s that made him quite popular. His masterpieces attempted to challenge the conventions during that time. Most of his paintings also featured less political subjects such as nudes, still lifes, hunting scenes and landscapes.

Early Life

Gustave Courbet was born in Ornans, in 1819. His parents were Regis and Sylvie, and they had a thriving farming business. The young boy was drawn to art much to the inspiration of his sisters named Juliette, Zelie and Zoe.
In 1839, he decided to move to Paris to undergo training at the Steuben and Hesse studio. Even when he was in Paris, he would often go back to his hometown to find more inspiration for his artworks. Soon, he left the studio as he was more interested in perfect his individual style, and started haunting the Louvre copying old-master heroes such as Titian, Caravaggio and Diego Velazquez.

Initial Works

One of Courbet’s first masterpieces was an Odalisque, which was largely inspired by the works of a Lelia and Victor Hugo. However, he lost interest in artworks with subjects that featured literary influences. Instead, he became more inspired to create paintings based on realistic themes. Thus, most of his artworks during the early 1840s featured himself while performing various roles. He created a number of self portraits including the Desperate Man, The Sculptor, The Wounded Man, Self Portrait with Black Dog, The Cellist, and The Man with a Pipe, among a few others.

By 1846, he began touring Belgium and the Netherlands, and his adventures made him realize the value of portraying images that happen from day to day. He was specifically inspired by the works of Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt, including a few other Dutch artists who presented their artworks with images of daily life activities. In the latter part of the 1840s, he began to inspire younger art critics and enthusiasts, particulary the Realists and Neo-Romantics.

Early Accomplishments

It was in 1849 when Courbet obtained his initial success at the Salon with his masterpiece entitled “After Dinner at Ornans”.

After Dinner at Ornans (1849), Courtesy of Gustave-Courbet.com

This painting earned him a gold medal, which meant he was exempted from jury approval until 1857.
Another great painting by Courbet was the Stone-Breakers, which he created in 1849. Art critics considered this fine piece of art as a model of peasant life. It depicted a scene that the artist observed during one of his travels on the roadside. In addition, his works were not specifically taken from the Neoclassical or Romantic schools of art. He claimed to have his own unique style, and these paintings sprung from his personal experiences.

The stone breakers (1849) – Courtesy of Gustave-courbet.com


Eventually, Courbet started introducing social issues and imageries in his artworks including peasants and rural bourgeoisie. Soon, his work was labeled as realism, along with the artwork themes of other artists including Jean-Francois Millet and Honore Daumier. For Courbet, he believed that realism is more focused on rough handling of pigments, and that it should present the reality and harshness occuring in day to day situations.

The Artist’s Studio

The Artist’s Studio, 1855 – Courtsey of gustave-courbet.com

One of Courbet’s most sensational works was The Artist’s Studio, and it was considered as a masterpiece by several artists including Baudelaire and Eugene Delacroix. According to the artist, this masterpiece presented his life and the world around him. He explained that there were various elements in the society where he lived including wealth, poverty, misery and sufferings. Thus, there were several figures included in the painting such as a grave digger, prostitute and priest among a few others.

Exile and Later Life

After serving a prison sentence in 1872, Courbet experienced additional problems despite the end of the Vendome Column. A year after his sentence was over, President Patrice Mac-Mahon decided to have the column rebuilt, and the cost of reconstruction was to be settled by Courbet. Unfortunately, the artist did not have enough means to pay for the expenses, which made him decide to go on a self-imposed exile. He settled in Switzerland, and he became active in national and regional exhibitions in this foreign land. Soon, he became the head of a Swiss realist school, which inspired a number of artists including Ferdinand Hodler and Auguste Baud-Bovy.

During his life in exile, he was able to create magnificent works of art such as various paintings of a trout, which he claimed to symbolize his own life. In addition to painting, he became fascinated with sculpting. In fact, one of his finest sculptures was called The Fisherman of Chavots, which he completed in the 1860s. He donated this sculpture to Ornans, yet it was later removed after the arrest of the artist.

In 1877, Courbet died in La Tour-de-Peilz, in Switzerland while on exile. He suffered from a liver disease, which was caused by the artist’s heavy drinking.

The Artist’s Legacy

During his lifetime, Courbet has influenced a number of artists in the younger generation. In fact, Claude Monet featured a portrait of the artist in a painting entitled Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Courbet implemented an independent style of realism, which inspired several artists such as the Liebl Circle of German artists. His unique style was also evident in the works of other artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, James McNeil Whistler and Henri Fantin-Latour.

Indeed, Courbet has managed to remain as an inspiration to many despite his personal trials and challenges during his time. His ingenuity and craftsmanship made him one of the most revered artists in history, and his legacies continue to live on years after his death

Arc-et-Senans Royal Saltworks

Unesco World Heritage Site

In 1982, the Arc-et-Senans Royal Saltworks was included on the UNESCO world heritage list. Designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806), a visionary architect in the Enlightenment period, the Royal Saltworks site is a rare and an exceptional example of industrial architecture history. The site was designed for the production of salt, commissioned by Louis XV, and built between 1775 and 1779.

Almost all of the employees at the Royal Saltworks lived on the premises near the production site. It was built in the form of a circular arc, and included both the dwellings and the production sites. In all, there were 11 buildings: the Director’s house, the Stables, the East and West Salt Buildings, the Eastern and Western Workers (Commis) buildings, the Eastern and Western Dormitories (Berniers) Buildings, the Cooperage, the Guards Building, and the Farrier/Blacksmith.

When new technologies emerged, the Royal Saltworks became obsolete, and closed down in 1895. The site was abandoned, plundered, and damaged by fire in 1918; but in 1927, the Doubs Department bought the premises and saved them from ruin. After three consecutive restoration cycles that were completed in 1996, the site was restored to its former glory.

Visitors from around the world acknowledge that by virtue of its exceptional architecture, its history and reconstruction, the Royal Saltworks site is a unique monument. It is now open for visits, and venue hosts exhibits are featured during each cultural season, a garden festival and concerts, hosts researchers and artists-in-residence, and organises activities for children, conferences, and innovating events.

The Ledoux Museum

The « Ledoux Museum », which presents the work of the Royal Saltworks creator, is the only European museum dedicated to an architect.
The life path of the architect is illustrated through about sixty models. Nowadays, few of his buildings remain, either because they were never built, or because they were destroyed by time or by man. Along the way, visitors can marvel at the variety of his works (theatres, private estates, and tax collection buildings), as well as at his “dreamed projects”, that sometimes had a utopian ring to them. Examples are the Ideal City in Chaux, a cemetery, a pleasure house, schools, prisons, and industrial buildings.

Video in French

French movie 01 – Le Brio (2017)

Le brio / Quasi nemici: l’importante è avere ragione

Friday 28 January at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Movie in French with Italian subtitles,
mandatory registration, mandatory Mask FFP2 , mandatory Super Green Pass

Please REGISTER HERE (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

FRENCH

Le rêve de Neïla Salah (Camelia Jordana) est de devenir avocate et pour y parvenir elle s’inscrit à l’université d’Assas. Mais quand on vient de Créteil et que l’on est d’origine maghrébine, le projet ne va pas de soi, surtout quand on a affaire au fameux professeur Mazard (Daniel Auteuil) , un cynique qui n’a aucune limite dans ses provocations : deux milieux, deux générations, deux perceptions du monde vont se confronter. Pourtant, quand le prof apprend que son étudiante a décidé de se présenter au prestigieux concours annuel d’éloquence, conscient du potentiel de la jeune femme, il accepte de l’aider. Portés par ce projet commun, tous deux vont devoir réviser leurs certitudes et préjugés… Pour sa cinquième réalisation, Yvan Attal a voulu faire « un film politique, social, mais aussi léger, drôle, avec de l’émotion ». Ceux qui ont vu le film saluent les performances du duo formé par ce vieux briscard de Daniel Auteuil et par la nouvelle recrue, Camélia Jordana.

ENGLISH

Entering the contest for the first time is the feisty and stubborn Neila (Camelia Jordana), who hails from the Paris banlieue of Creteil and is in her freshman year of law studies at the conservative Panthoen-Assas University. On the very first day of class, Neila is berated by her professor Pierre Mazard (Daniel Auteuil) in front of the entire amphitheater, with the latter dishing out a racist rant that quickly goes viral. As a result, Mazard is reprimanded by his boss and forced to coach Neila for the “concours d’eloquence” as a way to demonstrate that he’s not a complete bigot.
Thus ensues a rather predictable series of ups and downs as Mazard lectures Neila on the art of speech, citing Schopenhauer and Rabelais, having her read Nietzsche out loud with a pen in her mouth, forcing her to orate on the Paris metro and repeating his favorite axiom over and over: “The truth doesn’t matter — it’s about being right.” Meanwhile, Neila tries to balance her newfound communication skills with life at home in the projects, where she sparks a romance with a local boy (Yasin Houicha) who doesn’t exactly share her capacity for rhetoric. Back in Paris, the lonely Mazard contends with his own alcoholism and loneliness, proving that the best teachers don’t necessarily make for the best people.

Cast: Camelia Jordana, Daniel Auteuil, Yasin Houicha, Nozha Khouadra, Nicolas Vaude, Jean-Baptiste Lafarge
Director: Yvan Attal

The archaeological site of Bibracte

It is commonly said that Bibracte is a Gallic town under the forest.

The archaeological site of Bibracte is located on Mount Beuvray, in a green setting where the forests are as imposing as the landscape

In the heart of a 1000-hectare forest nestles a town that was home to between 5 and 10,000 inhabitants during the pivotal period of the Roman conquest of Gaul. A short-lived town, capital of the powerful Aedui people, which was a major centre of trade, commerce and politics in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.

The remains of the town are now surrounded by a green setting. The quality of the landscapes and the biological richness of the environment are such that the entire Mount Beuvray massif has been classified as a site of landscape and scientific interest and is listed as a ZNIEFF and Natura 2000 site, while the summit is classified as a historical monument

Excavations of the ancient town of Bibracte began in 1864. Stopped in 1914, they were resumed in 1984 and are still active today.

WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?

Geophysical surveys are used to complete the excavations themselves. Lidar”, a laser remote sensing technique, is also used to establish a very precise survey of the topography of Mount Beuvray, even through the foliage. This allows archaeologists to identify earthworks and excavations caused by human activity, and to decide whether it is worthwhile to carry out test pits or even complete excavations.

At Bibracte there is still work to be done for generations of archaeologists, a long time needed to fully understand the mechanisms of development of the ancient town, to discern its organisation and to measure the rhythm and impact of the intensification of contacts with Rome and the Mediterranean. A long time which also allows students of protohistoric archaeology from all over Europe to train on the Bibracte sites and to build the archaeology of tomorrow.

The European Archeological centre

Located in Glux-en-Glenne, a few kilometres from Mount Beuvray, this unique centre in France brings together the skills of researchers and students to advance knowledge of the Bibracte site and Iron Age archaeological research.

It is a special feature of this centre that it does not have a permanent research team. Here, researchers and students from all over Europe work together to understand the mechanisms of the development of the Celtic town and to discern its organisation. However, an original work site is managed directly by Bibracte archaeologists: the school site, which every summer trains teenagers in the archaeological approach, in real conditions.

The research programme is divided into four-year cycles. The four-year projects are validated by Bibracte’s scientific council, made up of eight European experts, before being submitted to the State services for instruction.

Bibracte provides logistical support, stewardship and scientific coordination of research. The centre is equipped with high-performance facilities to support all stages of the research: site equipment, laboratories, documentation centre, conservation areas, publishing chain, etc.

The centre is also the seat of scientific meetings, an essential training centre for students and researchers, as well as a formidable laboratory for experimentation at the service of the archaeological community and heritage professionals. Since 2012, it has also housed the Conservation and Study Centre of the Burgundy-Franche-Comté Regional Archaeology Service, as well as the branches of several preventive archaeology operators.

French movie 07 – Il favoloso mondo di Amélie (2001)

Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)

Wednesday 27 April at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Movie in French with Italian subtitles,
mandatory registration, mandatory Mask FFP2 , mandatory Super Green Pass

Please REGISTER HERE (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

Amélie grows up a slightly introverted child as a result of her unusual parents. When she grows up she has her own unusual habits and quirks. When she finds a hidden box of childhood toys in her house she decides to track down the owner and return it to him. Seeing the happiness that she brings to him she resolves to work in secret to make other people happy. However can she be happy herself?

Why you should see that movie :

the grace is the fundamental virtue of film. a grace as result of humor, childhood’s crumbs, profound faith and love and joy and an actress who explores in wise manner each part from her character. a film who remains adorable for its deep force of freedom, high art and translation of every day reality in the right language who preserves the tools of fairy tale. a film about life as miracle. useful . charming. extraordinary. because it discover and not propose. because it is a crazy, magnificent trip in the essence of things. because it has not a specific genre. because it seems be only one of beautiful spring mornings.

French movie 11 – The Intouchables (2011)

The Intouchables / Intouchables (O. Nakache & E Toledano, 2011)

Friday 24 June at 9:30pm, Piazza Ferrario, Ispra

In Paris, the aristocratic and intellectual Philippe is a quadriplegic millionaire who is interviewing candidates for the position of his carer, with his red-haired secretary Magalie. Out of the blue, Driss cuts the line of candidates and brings a document from the Social Security and asks Phillipe to sign it to prove that he is seeking a job position so he can receive his unemployment benefit. Philippe challenges Driss, offering him a trial period of one month to gain experience helping him. Then Driss can decide whether he would like to stay with him or not. Driss accepts the challenge and moves to the mansion, changing the boring life of Phillipe and his employees.

Why you should see that movie :

Terrific comedy-drama from France about Philippe (Francois Cluzet), a rich man who was left paralyzed from the neck down after an accident and Driss (Omar Sy), a man from the ghetto who hasn’t had much going on in his life until he gets the job of taking care of the handicapped man. THE INTOUCHABLES has been breaking box office records around the world but I decided to stay away from it because of some rather lukewarm reviews. I’m certainly glad the trailer kept telling me to go see it because no matter what the critics say, this here is a complete winner and it’s easy to see why so many people have fallen in love with it. I’m really not sure why so many critics have bashed it for being a “crowd winner” or “too happy” because neither makes much sense. I thought the film was quite remarkable because the pre-credit sequence is just so touching and funny that you can’t help but fall in love with these two characters and the journey of their friendship that follows was incredibly touching and best of all is that it felt real. Cluzet and Sy are simply so terrific in their roles that you really do feel as if you’re watching real people with real issues. The way the two play off one another is so remarkable to watch that once you’ve seen it I don’t see how you could forget them. Directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano do a remarkable job balancing the comedy with the drama and in the end they really create such a special atmosphere that it’s impossible not to get caught up with it. THE INTOUCHABLES is without question one of the best films of the year and hopefully the strong word of mouth from around the world will get more people to check it out.

French movie 12 – Le concert (2009)

The concert (R. Mihaileanu, 2009)

Friday 01 July at 9:30pm, Piazza Ferrario, Ispra

Thirty years ago, Andrei Simoniovich Filipov, the renowned conductor of the Bolshoi orchestra, was fired for hiring Jewish musicians. Now a mere cleaning man at the Bolshoi, he learns by accident that the Châtelet Theater in Paris invites the Bolshoi orchestra to play there. He decides to gather together his former musicians and to perform in Paris in the place of the current Bolshoi orchestra. As a solo violin player to accompany his old Jewish or Gypsy musicians he wants Anne-Marie Jacquet, a young virtuoso. If they all overcome the hardships ahead this very special concert will be a triumph.

Why you should see that movie :

An explosion of desperate comedy, melancholy drama and passion

The Concert is a French/ Italian/Romanian/Belgian production shot in Moscow and Paris. The publicity blurb says that the musical finale is worth the ticket price alone, but I would say even reading the list of exotic names floating over the opening credits is worth a good percentage of the price.

We travel back 30 years to when Andrei, talented young conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra, was humiliated and sacked by Breshnev for refusing to get rid of his Jewish musicians. Fast forward to the present, and we find him still working at the Bolshoi – but as a cleaner. One lucky day he finds himself alone with the office fax machine. What follows is an audacious plot to get his old sidekicks to Paris, using borrowed instruments, hired suits and fake passports, posing as the real Bolshoi for a concert at the Theatre du Chatelet. If you can imagine a story as full of colour and drama as the TV rock ‘n’ roll serial epic Tutti Frutti, jammed into just one cinema experience, this could be it. It’s rare to see so many set pieces in one film.

I laughed out loud once or twice – and if you know what a grumpy old man I am you would realise what that means. I was also moved to tears, but I’m not telling you why. That would spoil it all – just saying that under its layer of manic fast-cut comedy the story carries a deep, dark and passionate secret which gradually reveals itself as the comedy peels off. The music is, I have to add, beautiful – whether it’s Roma dance jigs in the street or Tchaikovsky in the concert hall. Bring a hanky!

French movie 08 – The Taste of the others (2000)

The Taste of Others / le gout des autres (2000)

Wednesday 11 May at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Three men, three women, opposites, possibilities, and tastes. Castella owns an industrial steel barrel plant in Rouen; Bruno is his flute-playing driver, Franck is his temporary bodyguard while he negotiates a contract with Iranians, his wife Angélique does frou-frou interior decorating and loves her dog. The conventional Castella hires a forty-year-old actress, Clara, to tutor him in English, and he finds her and her Bohemian lifestyle fascinating. Is this love? What would she say if he declared himself? Through Bruno, Franck meets Manie, a barmaid who deals hash. They begin an affair. Are they in love? They joke about marriage. As the women hold back, the men must make decisions.

Why you should see that movie :

sharp, subtle, sublime

This debut for Jaoui (playing the role of Manie) as a director is a great comedy. Hilarious, but not over the top. ‘Le Goût des Autres’ has some very sharp dialogues filled with subtle jokes and delivered by a perfect cast. It was no surprise to learn afterwards that the same screenwriters wrote the script for ‘Un Air de Famille’ by Cedric Klapisch, another French comedy at its best. But this one is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable movies of the year. A well deserved Oscar-nominee for ‘best foreign language film’.

French movie 10 – L’ufficiale e la spia (2019)

L‘ufficiale e la spia / J’accuse (R. Polanski 2019)

Friday 24 June at 9:30 pm, Piazza Ferrario, Ispra

In 1894, French Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young promising officer, is degraded for spying for Germany, wrongfully convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, who is promoted to run the military counter-intelligence unit that tracked him down. But when Picquart discovers that secrets are still being handed over to the Germans, he is drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of deceit and corruption that threatens not just his honor but his life.

Why you should see that movie :

The story is nothing revolutionary, no extra twist or suprise but the real gem here is the way the story is told and the movie was shot.

In contrast to the oversaturated Hollywood exhaustive action packed style this movie manages to tell the intriguing Dreyfus affair in France 1895 without unnecessary overdone action scenes/music whilst maintaining the core tension of the topic that doesn’t let you off the hook.

When the movie was finished I couldn’t believe that over 2h were over and I felt pleasantly refreshed and renewed, although I was constantly focused on what will happen next. That’s the level of smoothness we are talking about here.

A connection to past Polanski or French movies is definitely visible and this way of storytelling can be thought of as a new take on it.

If you like historical dramas with a good portion of crime you should definitely take a look at this gem.

French movie 06 – Delicatessen (1991)

Delicatessen (1991)

Wednesday 30 March at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

mandatory registration,
mandatory Mask FFP2 ,
mandatory Super Green Pass

max 50 people in the Club House auditorium

You can register HERE

Storyline

Centered on a post-apocalyptic society where food is scarce and used as currency. In an apartment building with a delicatessen on the ground floor. The owner of the eatery also owns the apartment building and is in need of a new maintenance man since the prior one “mysteriously” disappeared. A former clown applies for the job and the butcher’s intent is to have him work for as little as possible. The clown and butcher’s daughter fall in love and she tries to foil her father’s plans by contacting the “troglodytes”, a grain eating sub-group of society who live entirely underground

  • Why you should see that movie :

A film about people, relationships, feelings, gestures, reactions, answers to the reactions of the other, absurd, chaotic, without coherence; Not surprising because it is only a film about ordinary people living together.
A dark comedy, a childish game who seems be more improvisation, it is a strange artistic delight and this is its basic virtue to be an open door to an universe who mix love story with savage habits, food with eccentricity , fear with a sort of carnival. So, a show about simple people who is more expression of imagination, seductive for the puzzle of images, great for the references to the world of circus, great for the delicate portrait of hidden aspects of life, taboos. A form of experiment and this is its significant good point.

French movie 05 – Tanguy (2001)

Tanguy (2001)

Friday 18 March at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Mandatory registration
Mandatory Mask FFP2 ,
Mandatory Super Green Pass; Please

register Here (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

Storyline

Tanguy is 28 years old and staying home with his parents. So the parents organize a get-out-of house campaign.

  • Why you should see that movie :

Tanguy is a very good and funny comedy. The film became quite famous and now sociologists in France, Great Britain and Canada call young adults staying with their parents although they have enough income to live in their own house the “Tanguy generation”. The main actors Eric Berger and Sabine Azema are really excellent.

French movie 04 – C’est la vie: prendila come viene (2017)

Le sens de la fête / C’est la vie: prendila come viene (2017) with Italian subtitles

Mandatory registration, mandatory Mask FFP2 , mandatory Super Green Pass; Please register Here (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

Wednesday 02 March at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Pierre is marrying Héléna and he wants his wedding party to be first-rate. For that he has reserved the services of seasoned caterer Max Angély and his team. The reception is to take place in a sumptuous 17th-century leisure castle and its beautiful park, and an excellent DJ will supply the music. The rich, arrogant groom demands that everything go according to plan. Max assures him that it will, but he doesn’t mention that his team isn’t absolutely above reproach. For instance, Etienne (as James), a second-rate entertainer, has replaced the top-level DJ; Adèle, Max’s short-tempered assistant, keeps causing embroilment; Guy, the wedding photographer, is a free-loading has-been; Josiane, Max’s close collaborator (and lover), is on the verge of breaking up with him; Julien, a depressive ex-teacher-turned-waiter, once had a date with–the bride; Samy, an additional waiter, proves worthless. But Max, whose motto is “Always adapt!” is the persistent kind and will do everything to save the situation. Will he manage? That is the question.

Why you should see that movie :

Directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano had already come up with a masterpiece in 2011: INTOUCHABLES, brimming with joie de vivre despite the physical and social limitations of the two main characters, brilliantly played by François Cluzet and Omar Sy.

That same zest for life is present in LE SENS DE LA FÊTE, and certainly the acting is of the highest order once again. Were this an American film, and Jean-Pierre Bacri would certainly have received an Oscar nomination. His control over his party function team, his business sense, his perceptiveness of his troop members’ moods, and even his occasionally deadpan moments render his performance sublime, possibly the most complete, subtle, and perceptive I watched in 2017.

There are many other performers in this film but that never detracts from the film’s focus and all of them do an excellent job of raising this film to the highest levels of comedy, including two Indians from the Punjab who have some of the peachiest small parts I have watched in the recent past.

From the above, it is easy to conclude that dialogue is sharp and funny, as characters find themselves in all manner of laughable, embarrassing, sexy, unprofessional, and other situations. Perhaps the screenplay’s greatest merit is that it keeps subtly misleading the viewer into believing that the outcome of a given sequence will be this or that – to be sure, you never get the pat solution!

Photography is excellent, especially the night shots and the sequence involving a balloon in flight. Soundtrack is very appropriate, never interfering, but always helping to give substance to the film.

Finally – please forgive me if I repeat my introduction – what a great job of directing!

This is one of the best, subtlest and most sublime comedies I have ever had the privilege to watch. I was really sorry to see the credits roll up at the end. and that’s not what I feel about many movies these days

French movie 03 – Happiness is in the field (1995)

Happiness Is in the Field – Le bonheur est dans le pré (1995) – with English subtitles

Mandatory registration, mandatory Mask FFP2 , mandatory Super Green Pass; Please register Here (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

Wednesday 16 February at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Everything goes awry in the life of Francis Bergeade: his firm is on strike, his wife Nicole despises him and he has a heart attack. All these reasons incite him, helped by his best friend Gérard to take the place of Michel who disappeared more than twenty years ago and is demanded by his family. Thus, Francis arrives in the life of Dolores who breeds ducks in the south of France with her two daughters…

Why you should see that movie :

If you like good, intelligent comedy (something completely different from American empty-headed comedies) this picture is perfect for you. It has interesting and witty dialogues, bright atmosphere and great performances by Michel Serrault (Francis) ,Eddy Mitchell (Gerard) and specially Sabine Azema who is excellent and hilarious as Francis’ wife Nicole.

The plot of “Le Bonheur est dans le pre” is a simple one, but the excellent casting, the finesse of tone and dialogues, the constant humour give this movie real class.

It’s a modern fairy tale, worth seeing again and again (especially when you feel a bit depressed, or slowed down), an apology of the simple (and free) pleasures of life.

Some might remember the ‘Safrane’ as one of the highlights of the movie, I prefer the one remark made by Cantona: “C’est pas lourd le confit !”

French movie 02 – The women on the 6th floor (2010)

The Women on the 6th Floor (2010) – with English subtitles

Mandatory registration, mandatory Mask FFP2 , mandatory Super Green Pass; Please register Here (max 50 people in the Club House auditorium)

Wednesday 02 February at 8:45pm, Auditorium Club House

Paris, in the early 1960s. Jean-Louis Joubert is a serious but uptight stockbroker, married to Suzanne, a starchy class-conscious woman and father of two arrogant teenage boys, currently in a boarding school. The affluent man lives a steady yet boring life. At least until, due to fortuitous circumstances, Maria, the charming new maid at the service of Jean-Louis’ family, makes him discover the servants’ quarter on the sixth floor of the luxury building he owns and lives in. There live a crowd of lively Spanish maids who will help Jean-Louis to open to a new civilization and a new approach of life. In their company – and more precisely in the company of beautiful Maria – Jean-Louis will gradually become another man, a better man.

Why you should see that movie :

This interesting film is full of humor , drama , touching scenes and good feeling . It is a simple , dramatic and humorous portrait of a time when the Spanish people had to go other countries in order to encounter a work . This amusing as well as funny picture deals about lives of the immigrants with a minor support in their live condition and including a touching and emotive finale . As in Spain of the 50s and 60s ruled by General Franco there’s no job , there’s no money , and there’s no option for the poor people but to emigrate to a foreign country and attempting to encounter work . As it concerns about the Spanish way of life of a crowd of maids , their habits , costumes ; at the same time they improve the serious but uptight stockbroker who lives a steady yet boring life , being suddenly changed when appear the Spanish maids ; as Jean-Louis will gradually become another man, a better man . Actors are frankly magnificent with a first-rate acting for whole cast . Sensational Fabrice Luchini along with the wife played Sandrine Kiberlain and a gorgeous as well as sympathetic Natalia Verbeke . Special mention to the group of Spanish maids magnificently performed by Carmen Maura , Lola Dueñas , Berta Ojea , among others . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Jean Claude Larrieu . Imaginative as well as sensitive original Music by Jorge Arriagada , Raul Ruiz’s usual . It was a success among spectators, as well as a hit smash in the various film festivals it took part in ; as it achieved Prix d’interprétation à Natalia Verbeke au festival Sarlat 2010 .

The “Traboules” of Lyon

During the Middle Ages, Lyon had a flourishing silk trade. In order to allow the silk merchants to transfer their goods from barges in the river, or to and from their storage areas or shops, they had to walk through the narrow streets of the old Lyon (Vieux Lyon). On its own not a problem except when it rained. Silk does not like rain, so the merchants needed to keep their goods dry (plastic wasn’t invented on those days yet). So they thought up a smart system. Throughout the buildings in the older part of Lyon, they transposed passageways. These passageways, called “Traboules“, became an integral part of the building structure of the houses in the old city. Instead of walking the long streets, and getting wet, you would duck into a traboule and exit several streets further, and then ducking into the next one. Today there are some 215 Traboules spread around the “Vieux Lyon” (Old Lyon) and a total of 500 of them all over Lyon. But the vast majority are private and can not be visited. In the old town, some 40 of them are open to visits, but you need to know where they are, since often they are hidden and they are privately owned, forming part of a building so you need to keep quite.