Studying the Mediterranean forest functioning under climate change

L’O3HP (Oak Observatory at the OHP) interdisciplinary and experimental approaches to study Mediterranean forest functioning under climate change

The need to improve our understanding of the functioning of Mediterranean forests in the light of their future evolution, has led to the elaboration of a program concerning the Downy Oak forest. It’s one of three major species of importance in the region of the French Mediterranean, and covers more then 250.000 ha in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur (PACA) Region.

This program is complementary to pioneer programs at Puechabon for Holm Oak, installed and run by the CEFE in Montpellier, and at Roquefort la Bedoule for Aleppo Pine, installed and run by the INRA Avignon.

The O3HP program is managed and coordinated by a consortium of the IMBE/OSU-PYTHEAS/ECCOREV and is strongly supported by the Institute for Ecology and Environment (INEE) of the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research). The installation of the dedicated field site and laboratory has further received substantial financial support by the PACA Region and the Conseil Général des Alpes de Haute Provence.

The central installation consists of an experimental field site, situated at the research center of the Observatory of the Upper-Provence (OHP, UMS CNRS Pythéas) at Saint Michel l’Observatoire, close to Forqualquier in the Alpes of the Upper-Provence. The site is thus named O3HP (« Oak Observatory at the OHP »). The O3HP is part of the national research infrastructure AnaEE-France.

The field site is equipped with a precipitation management system (PMS) to simulate drier climate.
A device is installed above 300 m² of canopy, that dynamically excludes a defined fraction of precipitation (rain & hail) by extending automated covers, and which allows to re-irrigate part of the excluded water. The system manages a reduction in precipitation by 40 % using temperature derived functions based on 50 year records of local meteorological data. This results in a scenario of 500 mm annual precipitation corresponding to about 2°C temperature increase, which is in line with climate predictions for the Mediterranean region (Giorni & Mearns, 2002). The reduction is piloted dynamically between 20% and 60% for year 2100 in relation to year 2000. Therein lays the originality of the system, whilst environmental conditions are hardly affected. During leaf development in spring, exclusion of precipitation events is performed at night-time as not to disturb photomorphogenesis. Intercepted precipitation will be evacuated to a temporary reservoir. An irrigation (sprinkler) system attached to the metal structure will use this water to fine-tune the fraction of excluded precipitation.

The O3HP system is thus organized around 5 elements:

  1. A system of instrumented walkways organized in the form of a cross, each branch of which is 10m long and installed at 2 height levels: 0.80 m and 3.50 m, thus allowing easy access to the canopy and strata lower without disturbing the ground
  2. A rain exclusion system covering approximately half of the plot (300 m2) and designed using a system of drop-down tarpaulins intercepting precipitation.
  3. An irrigation system, currently being installed, on a 300 m2 plot to limit water stress.
  4. A network of sensors (T°, humidity, at different soil and canopy levels, sap flow, etc.), providing real-time information on meso and microclimatic conditions as well as tree activity .
  5. Laboratory parts for simple sample processing, storage and analysis.

Various functional aspects are studied or monitored in particular:

  • biogeochemical cycles and in particular the decomposition of litter
  • gas exchange
  • VOC emissions
  • phenology
  • the water cycle: rainfall, runoff, interception
  • edaphic biodiversity and biodiversity-functioning relationships
  • tree growth (dendroecology, etc.), biomass evolution and carbon storage
CNRS video in French

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. 

Biathlon, from an unknown sport to a popular discipline

While the Winter Olympics start Friday 4th February in Beijing, the discipline is indeed more and more known. Still very confidential ten years ago, this sport has benefited from growing media coverage which has given it better exposure, especially on television. Despite this popularity, the practice remains more limited, with less than 6,000 licensees in France

Biathlon is one of the most challenging winter games which gives thrilling experience in chilled winter. This winter sport is a mixture of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Biathlon is difficult to play because here the athletes participating in a cross country skiing race are distracted by frequent stops to shoot at sequence of targets. Biathlon is a combination of five events − individual, sprint, pursuit, relay, and mass start.

In this game, the athletes compete in cross country skiing and shoot series of targets from a distance. The athletes need to be fast, focussed, and have more stamina. Every time the target is missed the biathlete either gets an additional time or distance penalty. It is important that the skier is fast enough to maintain the competition but should be slow enough to maintain control. In this game the athletes carry a rifle and shoot the target from the distance of 50m.

Biathlon – How to Play?


Individual race is the oldest event of biathlon. The male biathlete runs a distance of 20km while the female runs over 15 km. In this event the skier has to shoot four targets each in five laps. The shooting positions for the target is prone, standing, prone, standing. If the target is missed then a one minute penalty is imposed.


Sprint has 10 km distance for males and 7.5km for women. Here the distance is covered three laps. The biathlete shoots once in the standing position while second time in the prone position. Every time a shot is missed a penalty loop of 150m is to be skied before the race can be continued.


Contestants for the pursuit event are chosen from the sprint event. Top 60 finishers of sprint race qualify for this event. The pursuit race is of 12.5 km for males and 10 km for females. Biathlete with the best timings in sprint event starts the race and is followed by other deserving candidates accordingly. The objective of this race is to accompany the leader and patch up ground to be the first to cross the finishing line.
The pursuit race is parted into five laps and four shooting bouts. Here the racers can team up at the target areas of the race. It’s better to shoot in the sequence of their arrival at the shooting range. Mostly this means that the racers simply stand and wait for their turns. Every time they miss a target a penalty loop of 150m is imposed before the racer can go along the course.


In this event all the biathletes start at the same time from the same source. After completing their course, the biathletes have to touch the next biathlete who will be running the next part of the race. For male biathletes relay is a 4 x 7.5 km and for female biathletes relay is a 4 x 6 km.

In short, all the four biathletes have to cover the distance in three laps and two shooting bouts. All qualified biathletes have to perform two shooting rounds. In each shooting round the biathlete faces five targets. In case if a shot is missed they are given three chances to manually load the bullet and try again. For the fourth time a penalty loop of 150m is to be covered.

Mass start

Mass start is the latest event that was included in biathlon events in 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. In this event top 30 biathletes who managed to maintain the best scores in other four events start the race altogether. For male biathletes mass start is a 15km race and for female biathletes it is 12.6km. There are five laps and four shooting rounds and for each missed target a penalty loop of 150 m is to be covered.

Martin Fourcade

Martin Fourcade

Martin Fourcade is a biathlete from France who has won overall world cup five times and he is the only biathlete to do so. Along with this he also won Olympics two times. Martin started his career in 2002 and in 2006 he started participating at international level.

He won bronze medal in junior championship in 2007. Since 2007 he kept participating and improving his rank. After 2010 winter Olympics he took part in world cup and won a silver medal. He won 2009-2010 Pursuit world cup.

In 2011, world championship he took part in mixed relay and finished 3rd. He also won a silver medal in sprint event of biathlon. After that he took part in pursuit event and won gold. In 2012-2013 session he won silver in world championships in sprint and pursuit and a gold in individual. In 2013-2014 session he won a gold in mass start event in world championship and 2014 Olympics.

BathyBot/BathyReef – A rover and its docking station to study the abyss

40 km off Toulon, Ifremer and the CNRS are preparing to deposit on the ocean floor, at a depth of 2,400 m, the small robot “BathyBot” and five other instruments that will accompany it on this adventure. In total darkness, where human beings only have access by submarine and only for a few hours, this underwater laboratory will remain for several years, reporting on what is happening 24 hours a day and seven days on seven.

Beyond a thousand meters, we are in the deep ocean, quickly plunged into total darkness. Little studied, this vast space is the scene of unprecedented phenomena. It is here that organic carbon is transformed into inorganic carbon, setting in motion processes that have an impact on climate change and of which we do not yet know all the details.
How to quantify these flows in an environment where, as we descend, the temperature decreases while the pressure increases, making it more difficult to take samples.
How to study the bioluminescent organisms that inhabit the depths?

The benthic underwater robot BathyBot, developed by the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanology, is equipped with caterpillar tracks to move along the sedimentary bottom and is controlled by computer from the coast. It is equipped with probes for real-time measurements and two cameras, one of which will scan the bioluminescence with such sensitivity that its only illumination will be a red light known not to frighten deep-sea organisms.
A 70 m cable linking the rover to its Bathyreef “docking station” will connect it to the LSPM network, for control and data collection

BathyReef, born from the collaboration of the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanology and the Rougerie+Tangram Lab, was built by the Vicat group. It forms a ramp and reveals a space large enough for Bathybot to position itself and make observations.
It was designed in concrete, an inert material, which limits its impact on the deep environment and its shape offers organisms an easily colonizable artificial reef.

Identify bioluminescent organisms

During its mission, the little robot will allow scientists to progress in their knowledge of the deep sea and global warming. He will be able to bring new elements to a phenomenon observed in these deep seas: bioluminescence, that is to say natural underwater light.

It is customary to say that today, we know the Moon better than these deep seabeds: Bathybot’s mission is partly to make this formula lie.


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.

Sylfen: autonomy and long-term energy storage

Sylfen, a Grenoble start-up founded in 2015 has developed a hydrogen storage system for the construction sector. Its intelligent energy system (SHU) is capable of producing hydrogen, but also of being used as a fuel battery to restore electrical energy and heat to a building. Coupled with solar panels, this system significantly reduces the carbon footprint of a building, and fits perfectly into the many eco-neighborhood programs that are emerging! Ultimately, the company hopes to participate in the creation of cleaner and more autonomous cities, like smart cities.

Renewable products are on the rise and make it possible to democratize self-consumption, whether collective or individual. However, designing free-standing buildings is more complicated than it looks. To avoid making systematic use of the traditional energy network, it is indeed necessary to store the energy produced by the building in order to restore it later. Sylfen is developing a hybrid battery / hydrogen solution that allows short and long term storage.

Two subsets are used:

  • The first is a set of cabinets the size of a large fridge that can be integrated into spaces reserved for technical equipment. There are the batteries and the reversible R-Soc electrolyser, which functions as a fuel cell in the restitution phase.
  • The second is the hydrogen tank stored outside. It occupies the equivalent of one or two parking spaces depending on the power required.In terms of performance, we are on an efficiency of 90% for the batteries and 50% for our reversible electrolyser. This level of electrolyser efficiency is enabled by a new technology that we have developed. As a general rule, this type of equipment does not exceed 35% efficiency (70% for hydrogen production, 50% for energy release). The difference in efficiency between batteries and electrolysis is not a problem as the losses are mainly in the form of heat. We can therefore recover the latter for domestic hot water (DHW), exchangers, or for cold.

Another advantage of this technology is that if there is not enough hydrogen in stock, the battery can use methane. This makes it possible to use local biogas to limit the loss of autonomy of the building.

Finally, this solution is modular to adapt to the level of consumption required by each building. Sylfen thus developed a projection study service which makes it possible to calculate very simply the number of modules required according to the uses.

Sylfen’s activity is part of the sustainable development

The Sylfen’s ambition is to change the image we have of buildings. They want to turn them into producers and storers of energy. In their opinion, this is the missing brick for the ecological transition. A building will always be a consumer of energy, because it is a place of life, entertainment, etc. There is a lot of talk today about hydrogen in transport, which, along with the construction sector, is the main emitter of greenhouse gases. Why not transpose these technologies to construction? Depending on the energy mix of the countries, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 75% by limiting the use of traditional energy networks as much as possible. It is necessary to decompartmentalise the world of construction. Energy must be included in the design of buildings and it is necessary to take into account that energy means both electricity and heat production.

In addition, the self-consumption aspect responds to another social debate: that of short circuits. By favoring self-consumption, access to energy is decentralised. It comes down to the local level to become closer to the users, the professionals who intervene, etc. This had not been the case since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The batteries are recharging
The surplus is transformed into hydrogen and stored in a tank
Batteries provide electricity
Hydrogen is used to generate the missing electricity, as well as heat
When the stock of hydrogen is likely to be insufficient, methane can be used to produce electricity and heat. This high-efficiency cogeneration makes it possible to recover the biogas produced locally.
Alternatively, it is also possible to anticipate purchases of electricity on the network, in order to replenish reserves.

The Uros project of an innovative french company

Ecocean is an innovative French company of 15 people, founded in 2003 and based in Montpellier, Marseille and Toulon. Ecocean is a leader in the field of ecological engineering in the marine environment and inventor of habitat solutions. Its main activity is to offer simple, effective and ecological solutions to support biological populations in coastal marine areas and is now diversifying to bring its experience to freshwater ecosystems.

The UROS project is an innovative ecological engineering project that brings together the skills and experience of the ECOCEAN company and the ECLA “Lake Ecosystems” R&D Pole (OFB / INRAE). The UROS project aims to compensate or mitigate the negative effects of artificial fluctuations in the water level induced by the hydraulic management of artificial lakes by the installation of artificial floating vegetated islands. These true floating ecosystems therefore reproduce the essential ecological functions of a natural shore (feeding, reproduction and nursery area) by being constantly available for aquatic fauna since they are free from fluctuations in water level.

The main objective is therefore to promote the biodiversity of artificial lakes and improve their ecological status, which would make it possible to reconcile usage constraints and biodiversity.

To date, three 75 m² floating structures acting as demonstrators have been installed on the Serre-Ponçon lake in September 2018. After more than 3 years of scientific monitoring, the results show that the structures have been largely colonized by macroinvertebrates. and fish including pike (target species). From these results, a final architecture of UROS structures optimizing the cost / ecological efficiency ratio can be defined

Waste capture device installed in Marseille’s Old Port

Marseille’s Old Port has seen the installation of an innovative new waste capture device that intercepts rubbish destined for the sea.

The ‘D-Rain’ system is the product of local startup Green City Organisation, which aims to fight water pollution in the Mediterranean.

The organisation says that 80% of sea pollution comes from land and that “with each major rainfall event, coastal cities discharge waste, plastics and other emerging pollutants directly into the sea via land and underwater stormwater outfalls, like a flush”.

the concept of the “D-Rain system” is simple:  it consists of a net connected to both offshore and onshore water outlets that is able to capture waste as small as 5mm.
The net has a volume of 10m³ and will need to be emptied ten times a year.
The system is able to alert when the net is full so that the water flow can be released and the net can be emptied.

Sensors on the system are also able to measure the quality of the water, collecting data on factors such as acidity, turbidity and levels of oxygen.

Within five years, the organisation aims to recover the equivalent of what France discharges into the Mediterranean – 11,000 tonnes of waste per year.

So far, it has been recognised by various institutions and received multiple awards, including the Monaco Smart & Sustainable Marina Award 2021 and the Special Jury Prize in the EDF Pulse 2021 competition (Biodiversity and Nature Protection category)

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.


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

In Lyon and Villeurbanne, homeless mothers accommodated in “tiny houses”

At the top of the Vaise district, in the 9th arrondissement of Lyon, a small village has just appeared, discreetly located along the railway line. It is made up of about twenty tiny houses, these small rolling houses of 15 to 20 square meters which are usually the delight of “bobos” in the countryside.

There, on the outskirts of the city, the wooden-walled caravans shelter women with their very young children, in a very precarious situation. Toys stored between the little houses brighten up the old industrial land. To the right of the portal, a trailer contains the food reserve. Opposite is the laundry room. At the end of the field, a tiny house is transformed into a mini-crèche, with its games and its Christmas tree.

For a year now, the metropolis of Lyon has been increasing the number of locations of these micro-houses, used as innovative solutions among its emergency accommodation offers. They are offered to a particular audience of homeless people: women with children under 3 years old.

Forty-eight tiny houses were set up in 2021, on two sites open in Lyon (9th) and Villeurbanne. One hundred women and young children benefit from these habitats, which provide social assistance to the most disadvantaged. In Villeurbanne, the site is managed by the association Le MAS. In Vaise, Le foyer Notre-Dame des sans-abri takes care of the support and management of the village called “Les Amazones”, in reference to the Scythian people, advocating equality between men and women.

We feel at Home

The metropolis, run by environmentalist Bruno Bernard, is set to launch three more markets over the next year, targeting women with young children. In the second largest agglomeration in France, 500 women and small children are currently placed in homes or hotels as part of emergency accommodation. There are also 850 unaccompanied minors, falling under the social skills of the metropolis, which has integrated the Rhône department into its geographical area.

In the Amazons village of Vaise, Peggy, Odette and Jeanne finally seem to have found some stability and privacy, after months of wandering between continents and lawless areas. The mothers mostly came from sub-Saharan Africa, following a migration punctuated by painful stages, difficult to recount. Their small 16 square meter houses offer a welcome break.

“We feel at home, at night we fall asleep without fear, we rest. In homes or hotels, I was never quiet, I thought too much, I worried, I did not know what I could become, “says Odette. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the young mother crossed multiple countries, including England, before arriving in Lyon in the summer of 2021, where she experienced the homes of 115 and hotel rooms. “Children play together, mothers meet, imagine activities. The place allows you to enjoy a home and encourages the collective spirit, ”says Sébastien Guth, director of the Notre-Dame homeless home in Lyon.

Effective support

The formula seems particularly suitable for young mothers. Above all, the stability of the place allows effective social support. “Single women with children have a safe space, with the possibility to make meals and organise their lives. When they were in hotels, they were isolated for months, with no open rights, in depersonalised places. This changes a lot in the support we provide to find lasting solutions “, explains Bruno Bernard.

The Lautaret Alpine Botanical Garden, a garden and a research centre

Set up in 1899, the Lautaret Alpine Botanical Garden testifies to the one-hundred year history of the University of Grenoble’s passion for alpine flora. The sheer variety in the collections, and the design of the rock gardens set into the landscape, make this altitude garden one of the most beautiful in Europe.

D!CI TV : Jardin alpin du Lautaret from ALTO Dici Radio on Vimeo.

An exceptional natural environment

The natural diversity of species growing in the Lautaret region is due to its extraordinary geographic, geological and climatic configuration. There are over 1,500 species growing in the wild in the three municipal areas of La Grave, Villar d’Arène, and Le Monêtier-Les-Bains.

Geography: a region of major Alpine passes

The Lautaret Alpine Station is located at the very heart of the French Alps right next to Lautaret pass, between the urban centres of Grenoble (90km away) and Briançon (30km away) in the district of Villar d’Arène in the Hautes-Alpes area.

The Lautaret pass is located at 2,058m above sea level and connects the Romanche Valley (a tributary of the River Isere) to the west with the Guisane Valley (a tributary of the River Durance) to the east.

Lautaret Pass (2058m)

The pass has been an important link between the Grenoble and Briançon regions for a very long time. It is vital to the local economy and everything possible is done to keep it open all year round.

The panoramic view that can be enjoyed from the Lautaret pass encompasses:

  • The Ecrins-Pelvoux mountain range with its high peaks (Meije is 3,974m above sea level) and glaciers to the south. This area has been included in the central zone of Ecrins National Park since 1973.
  • To the north, the jagged cliffs of the Grand Galibier mountain range peaking at 3,228m above sea level and breaking off at the Galibier pass, one of the highest and most famous Alpine passes (2,642m above sea level). Located on the border between the Savoie and Dauphiné regions and 7km from Lautaret pass, it offers access to the Maurienne Valley. It is open from early June to late September and is accessed by road from the Lautaret pass.

Geology: a brief overview of the history of the Alps

The Lautaret pass is renowned for its geological panorama where the large Alpine structural units that overlap from east to west with very complex tectonics can be observed.

Climate: a unique location

The Lautaret pass is located close to Briançon, the driest spot in the French Alps, and enjoys an exceptional climate which combines dry summers, lots of sunshine and significant temperature variations.

Distinctive features of the climate:

  • Low rainfall
    Average annual rainfall is roughly 1,300mm at the Lautaret pass, i.e. barely half the amount recorded near Grenoble at the same altitude. Furthermore, the seasonal distribution of rainfall shows a marked trough in the summer.
  • A sun-rich environment
    The area is well protected from westerly winds by the peaks of the outer mountain ranges and from the mists of the Pô plain by the mountains located on the border with Italy.
  • Significant temperature variations
    In summer, temperatures close to 20 -25°C at midday and night-time temperatures of only 2-3°C above zero are not uncommon. The temperature variations are accentuated by the dry air.

Zoning of plant life in the mountains

Anyone who has walked along a mountain path or road will have observed that plant life changes with altitude. This is called the zoning of plant life. The most striking of these changes is undoubtedly the disappearance of forests, which are replaced by meadows, at 2,000 – 2,500m above sea level in the Alps.

Bioclimatic zoning of the French Alps

Biogeographical observations show that major changes in vegetation in the French Alps are structured along three major geographical gradients.

  • The altitudinal gradient determining the zoning of vegetation, moving from the foothill zone to the alpine zone.
  • Latitudinal gradient with the gradual change from the northern to the southern Alps.
  • Transverse gradient with the gradual change from the outer to the inner Alps (the High Romanche, Maurienne, Tarentaise and Durance valleys).

Two climatic parameters have a determining influence on plant growth and development, particularly that of trees: rainfall and temperature (these are called bioclimatic parameters). However, these two parameters vary in a complex fashion along the length of these three geographical gradients.

The fescue hay Meadows

In the non-landscaped areas of the Alpine Garden and the surrounding area of the Lautaret pass, you will observe the hay meadows of Festuca paniculata or ’queyrelle’ which constitute one of the most remarkable groupings in the region. These are known locally as ’queyrellins’.

These subalpine meadows are generally found on gentle, south-facing slopes and at altitudes of below 2,400m (although it can be exceptionally found at 2,500m in protected conditions). It thrives on soft rock (notably flysch) which easily deteriorates and produces deep, relatively fertile, soil at this altitude (the last altitude at which earthworms are found in abundance…).
These meadows have a similar floral composition throughout the southern French Alps

A festival of colour
Festuca paniculata is a perennial tall grass which grows in large dense tufts. The leaves lengthen rapidly at the start of the season. The first leaves start to grow even before the snow has entirely thawed. This usually takes place in the month of May. These first shoots, found growing alongside the crocus flowers, are extremely modest compared to the numerous leaves from the previous year flattened by the snow, which will progressively disappear between May and June.

Vegetation: preserving the region’s exceptional biodiversity

The Lautaret-Galibier region has long been renowned for its exceptional wealth of plant species and populations. Almost 1,500 species (out of the 5,000 recorded species in France) have been recorded here.

Landscapes fashioned by human impacts
The absence of natural forests at the Lautaret pass is linked to the human activities in the area. At some point in the distant past, the areas around the pass were deforested in order to increase the amount of land available for grazing livestock and growing crops. The gentle slopes and the abundant pastures have made this sector a destination of choice for the summer transhumance.

Internships and field courses

Every year the Lautaret Alpine Botanical Garden has a number of openings for interns and students in different fields. These internships and field courses concern students of horticulture and landscaping (horticulture internships), university students (guided visits internships) and university students and researchers (field courses in botany and alpine ecology).


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.

BalleConcept – Innovative company with bio-based ideas

The production of Camargue rice involves waste, such as its stem, also called rice straw, or its part unfit for consumption: the rice husk (protective covering).
Balleconcept recycles all of this waste, in particular by offering insulation solutions. The company packages ready-to-use “boots” in various sizes for the construction industry.
Balleconcept’s innovations also concern manufacturers, such as breweries or pharmaceutical laboratories, which will be able to use this rice waste for their difficult filtrations, since they are without grain residues, without additives, without aromas and without microbiological risks.

Founded in 2015, BalleConcept is a company specialising in the valuation of by-products from rice cultivation and milling. It offers its customers high quality rice husks, in bulk or in the form of high density bundles. BalleConcept is an innovative company, concerned about its environment and the evolution of the agricultural sector.

Due to its very low density, rice husks occupy a large area around rice mills. In the spirit of protecting its natural environment, BalleConcept invested in a high density baler in 2016. In the form of compact bundles, the rice husk becomes easier to transport, store, and handle on construction sites. Its price and carbon impact are also reduced.

Since then, we have conditioned the 4,000 tonnes of Camargue rice husks produced by Silos de Tourtoulen in Arles and marketed them in high density bundles.

“La cervelle des canuts”

Current research highlights the fact that “For the canut, a silk worker who was not very wealthy, this dish replaced the lamb’s brains that his means did not allow him to afford”. This is confirmed by a gastronomic chronicler: “The brains of a canut often constituted the essential part of a canut’s meal. Its name claqueret (the brains of the canuts are also called claqueret) comes from the fact that the white cheese must be well beaten (claqueret) for the recipe to be successful”.


  • 250 g faisselle or fromage blanc
  • 50 g cream cheese or double cream
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 spring onion (white)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch of grey salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Peel the garlic clove, shallot and spring onion. Wash the parsley and chives and dry them. Put everything in a mini chopper.
  • If you use a faisselle cheese it should be drained in a bowl. Add the crème fraîche (or cream cheese) and whisk vigorously.
  • Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and the chopped mixture. Taste to see if the seasoning suits you.
  • Set aside for at least 1 hour in the fridge before serving. This is great with steamed potatoes and toasted bread.

Lake Léman : The Tauredunum event of AD 563

The Tauredunum event of AD 563 was a tsunami on Lake Geneva (then under the Frankish territory of the Kingdom of Orleans), triggered by a massive landslide which caused widespread devastation and loss of life along the lakeshore. According to two contemporary chroniclers, the disaster was caused by the collapse of a mountainside at a place called Tauredunum at the eastern end of Lake Geneva. It caused a great wave to sweep the length of the lake, sweeping away villages on the shoreline and striking the city of Geneva with such force that it washed over the city walls and killed many of the inhabitants.

A study published in October 2012 suggests that the Tauredunum landslide triggered the collapse of sediments that had accumulated at the point where the River Rhône flows into Lake Geneva. This caused a huge underwater mudslide that displaced several hundred million cubic metres of sediment, producing a tsunami up to 16 metres high that reached Geneva within about 70 minutes. There is evidence of four previous mudslides, suggesting that tsunamis may be a recurrent phenomenon on Lake Geneva. It is also speculated that such an event could happen again, with far more severe consequences as more people live within potentially affected areas, and because most people are not accustomed to the idea of tsunamis happening in landlocked bodies of water and are thus unaware of the danger.

Proposed mechanism for tsunami of 563

A study by a team from the University of Geneva, led by Stéphanie Girardclos and Guy Simpson, has found that the tsunami of 563 may not have been directly caused by the landslide, but by the collapse of sediments on the lake bed. The team found a giant fan of turbidite – a mixture of sand and mud deposited by a rapid flow of water – spread across the lake bed. The fan extends in a north-west direction from the Rhône’s mouth, where the river’s flow has carved a series of canyon-like underwater channels. The deposit is huge, extending over a length of 10 kilometres and a width of 5 kilometres, with an average depth of 5 metres and a volume of at least 250 million m³ . Biological material found in the turbidite enabled it to be dated to between 381 and 612, consistent with the date of the Tauredunum event.

It is hypothesised that the impact of the Tauredunum landslide destabilised sedimentary deposits at the mouth of the Rhône, causing their collapse and triggering a large tsunami. According to computer simulations, a wave up to 16 metres high would have been created by the collapse and would have travelled the full length of the lake within 70 minutes of the event. It would have struck Lausanne within only 15 minutes, where it would have been about 13 metres high, though the damage there would have been limited as the city stands on a steeply sloping shoreline. Much greater damage would have been caused at Geneva, where the wave would have been about 8 metres. A wave this high would certainly have been capable of causing the destruction described by the chroniclers. Other towns along the lakeside would also have been hit by the wave, which would have been about 8 metres high at Evian-les-Bains, 6 metres high at Thonon-les-Bains and 4 metres high at Nyon.It would have travelled at about 70 kilometres per hour, giving those on the shoreline little time to flee.

The team also found evidence of four older layers of turbidite, suggesting that such collapses have been a recurrent event since Lake Geneva formed at the end of the last Ice Age some 19,000 years ago. It is not yet known how frequently they have occurred – further investigation will be required to answer this question – but researcher Guy Simpson says, “It’s certainly happened before and I think that we can expect that it will probably happen again sometime.” Although most people’s focus has been on marine tsunamis such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the March 2011 tsunami in Japan, lakeside cities such as Geneva, 275 kilometres from the sea, are also at risk. Katrina Kremer notes that the risk of a fresh tsunami still exists, not just in Lake Geneva, but in other mountain lakes as well: “We have recognised that a tsunami risk applies to all lakes that have unstable slopes along the shore.”However, she warns, “the risk is underestimated because most people just do not know that tsunamis can happen in lakes.”
The risk is particularly pronounced for the city of Geneva, given its position on low ground at the funnel-shaped end of the lake, which magnifies the effects of a tsunami. The impact of a new tsunami on the whole of Lake Geneva would be far more severe now than in 563, as over a million people now live along the lake’s shores

Historical accounts

The event was recorded in some detail by Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks. He wrote:

A great prodigy appeared in Gaul at the fortress of Tauredunum, which was situated on high ground above the River Rhône. Here a curious bellowing sound was heard for more than sixty days: then the whole hillside was split open and separated from the mountain nearest to it, and it fell into the river, carrying with it men, churches, property and houses. The banks of the river were blocked and the water flowed backwards. This place was shut in by mountains on both sides, for the stream flows there through narrow defiles. The water then flooded the higher reaches and submerged and carried everything which was on its banks. A second time the inhabitants were taken unawares, and as the accumulated water forced its way through again it drowned those who lived there, just as it had done higher up, destroying their houses, killing their cattle, and carrying away and overwhelming with its violent and unexpected inundation everything which stood on its banks as far as the city of Geneva. It is told by many that the mass of water was so great that it went over the walls into the city mentioned. And there is no doubt of this tale because as we have said the Rhone flows in that region between mountains that hem it in closely, and being so closely shut in, it has no place to turn aside. It carried away the fragments of the mountain that had fallen and thus caused it to disappear wholly.[1]

Marius of Avenches also described the event in his Chronicle:

The great mountain of Tauretunum, in the territory of the Valais, fell so suddenly that it covered a castle in its neighbourhood, and some villages with their inhabitants; it so agitated the lake for 60 miles in length and 20 in breadth that it overflowed both its banks; it destroyed very ancient villages, with men and cattle; it entombed several holy places, with the religious belonging to them. It swept away with fury the Bridge of Geneva, the mills and the men; and, flowing into the city of Geneva, caused the loss of several lives.

Tauredunum Sequence Anim 2D from Guillaume Briet on Vimeo.

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.


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.

“La Pompe aux grattons” what a funny name for …..

This brioche with lardons which is part of the jewel in the crown of provincial, country-style gastronomy. In the past, it was cooked by the peasants and tenant farmers of Bourbon (and Berry) with the rind of the pig that was killed for the holidays. From the fried pieces to recover the fat (the lard), the parts with a little meat were recovered: the grattons. It is made with a classic brioche dough, but with a third less eggs. You can instead of the “grattons” prepared it with blue cheese, walnuts, St Nectaire cheese and why not mixed all together!

Like potato pie, most bakers in the region offer it to their customers.
It is often served warm as an aperitif or as a starter with a green salad.

Preparation time: 20 min
Break time: 2 h 15
Cooking time: 45 min

Ingredients :

  • 300 g flour
  • 100 g butter
  • 50 g double cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 g fresh baker’s yeast
  • 1/2 glass of milk
  • 300 g bacon (or lardons)
  • 1/3 teaspoon pepper


  • Make a brioche by mixing the flour with the salt, milk, cream, pepper and three beaten eggs.
  • Add the yeast, diluted in warm milk.
  • Knead, while adding the almost melted butter, until you form a ball.
  • Cover with a cloth and leave to rest for 2 hours at room temperature.
  • When the dough is done, add the bacon and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.
  • Form a crown or ball from the mixture and decorate with beaten egg.
  • Bake at 210°C for 45 minutes.

Bon Appetit les amis

The Scandola Nature Reserve in Corsica

The Scandola Nature Reserve is located on the west coast of the French island of Corsica, within the Corsica Regional Park. The reserve was established in 1975. The park and reserve has been recognised by the United Nations as a Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 because of its beauty, rich biodiversity, and maquis shrubland.

The Scàndula Nature Reserve (SNR), both terrestrial (919 ha) and marine
(664 ha) is considered the first European nature reserve to have a protected part on the sea and a part on land.

The marine part of the SNR includes a No-Take Zone (82 ha) where any form of fishing is prohibited, and a partial reserve, where artisanal fishing is authorised, under a number of constraints, while recreational fishing is banned.The SNR has been frequented by man since the Neolithic period, but never accomodate permanent human dwellings; it is now uninhabited.

Terrestrial ecosystems include forests and high maquis, low maquis, Cistus shrublands, low shrublands, more or less nitrophilic lawns, coastal rocks with halophilic vegetation, vegetation of inland rocks and cliffs, and other very localized plant communities. Fifty species of birds (46 % of the whole
of the Corsican avifauna, including the iconic osprey Pandion haliaetus), 8 species of bats, 12 species of amphibians (including Discoglossus sardus), 33 species of ants, 64 species of parasitic Hymenoptera, 56 species of Lepidoptera, 138 species of spiders, 710 species of vascular plants (a third of the floristic richness of Corsica) and 57 species of bryophytes (traditional name for any nonvascular seedless plant—namely, any of the mosses)
occur in the SNR.
Non-flying mammalians are all introduced species, while all native species were extirpated by humans shortly after they colonised Corsica, ~10 000 years ago. The small islands and islets are characterised by high degree of originality in the structure and functioning of the terrestrial communities and in their biodiversity.

Biodiversity and lessons from 46 years of management

Overall, the SNR has been an undeniable success. It owes this to nearly 50 years of uncompromising protection and efficient management, to the unsparing dedication of wardens and curators, to a symbiosis between management, agents and independent scientists and to a Scientific Council that was not just window-dressing. Among the most remarkable successes is the reconstitution of the osprey Pandion haliaetus population,
which was almost extinct in the early 1970s, and the coexistence of a profitable artisanal fishing industry with marine biodiversity sometimes close to the baseline. But these successes should not mask failures. The decree creating the reserve has not been updated; overcrowding by boats, in particular sightseeing boats, was neither anticipated nor limited, and is now out of control; the degradation of the Posidonia oceanica meadows
and the recent failure of ospreys to produce fledgings are other examples. The reserve is too small to be fully efficient and has not been enlarged; the Council of Europe, on the basis of the failure to respond to its long-standing requests, withdrew the European Diploma from the reserve in 2021.

The territory of the SNR is today among the best known in the Mediterranean. In addition, the SNR has constituted a sort of scientific hotbed: many major discoveries, now widely known and used, of great importance for management, originated in Scàndula.
Unfortunately, the success of the SNR, which has been iconic in the Mediterranean, could be jeopardised in the near future by uncontrolled frequentation which could destroy the very features which constitute the justification of the reserve and at the same time its attraction for tourists.

ITER in Cadarache- the way to new energy

ITER (“The Way” in Latin) is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today.
In southern France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars.
The experimental campaign that will be carried out at ITER is crucial to advancing fusion science and preparing the way for the fusion power plants of tomorrow.
ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy

Net Energy: When the total power produced during a fusion plasma pulse surpasses the thermal power injected to heat the plasma.

ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time. And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.
Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985. The ITER Members—China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States—are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

Podcast : Fusion: Energy at the Extreme (Oak ridge National Laboratory)


The amount of fusion energy a tokamak is capable of producing is a direct result of the number of fusion reactions taking place in its core. Scientists know that the larger the vessel, the larger the volume of the plasma … and therefore the greater the potential for fusion energy.

With ten times the plasma volume of the largest machine operating today, the ITER Tokamak will be a unique experimental tool, capable of longer plasmas and better confinement. The machine has been designed specifically to:

1) Produce 500 MW of fusion power
The world record for fusion power is held by the European tokamak JET. In 1997, JET produced 16 MW of fusion power from a total input heating power of 24 MW (Q=0.67). ITER is designed to produce a ten-fold return on energy (Q=10), or 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of input heating power. ITER will not capture the energy it produces as electricity, but—as first of all fusion experiments in history to produce net energy gain—it will prepare the way for the machine that can.

2) Demonstrate the integrated operation of technologies for a fusion power plant
ITER will bridge the gap between today’s smaller-scale experimental fusion devices and the demonstration fusion power plants of the future. Scientists will be able to study plasmas under conditions similar to those expected in a future power plant and test technologies such as heating, control, diagnostics, cryogenics and remote maintenance.

3) Achieve a deuterium-tritium plasma in which the reaction is sustained through internal heating
Fusion research today is at the threshold of exploring a “burning plasma”—one in which the heat from the fusion reaction is confined within the plasma efficiently enough for the reaction to be sustained for a long duration. Scientists are confident that the plasmas in ITER will not only produce much more fusion energy, but will remain stable for longer periods of time.

4) Test tritium breeding
One of the missions for the later stages of ITER operation is to demonstrate the feasibility of producing tritium within the vacuum vessel. The world supply of tritium (used with deuterium to fuel the fusion reaction) is not sufficient to cover the needs of future power plants. ITER will provide a unique opportunity to test mockup in-vessel tritium breeding blankets in a real fusion environment.

5) Demonstrate the safety characteristics of a fusion device
ITER achieved an important landmark in fusion history when, in 2012, the ITER Organization was licensed as a nuclear operator in France based on the rigorous and impartial examination of its safety files. One of the primary goals of ITER operation is to demonstrate the control of the plasma and the fusion reactions with negligible consequences to the environment.

ITER 2020 Q2 from SUNMADE FILMS on Vimeo.

More Info

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.


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


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.

La Fourme d’Ambert , the mildest blue cheese of all!!

Experience a Fourme d’Ambert and you will discover a Grande Dame that has survived through the ages. A traditional cheese from the Monts du Forez in Auvergne (the AOP region), today La Fourme d’Ambert is accredited with an AOC and an AOP that safeguard it beyond the region’s borders.


La Fourme d’Ambert stands upright, displaying its light, blue-grey garb, which looks like stone. This protective exterior yields to the touch and releases the soft, subtle scent of woodland undergrowth.

It is impossible to foresee that cutting into La Fourme d’Ambert will reveal a soft core, and a bright ivory centre with a supple, smooth texture, which is the culmination of the long alchemy between blue and white, that has taken place during maturation.

Naturally, this balance is revealed on the palate with the fragrant notes, delicate aromas, and smooth, rounded taste that make this the mildest of all blue cheeses.


Production of La Fourme d’Ambert in the Haut-Forez region undoubtedly dates back to the Middle Ages when an agro-pastoral system was kept – and preserved right up to the end of the Second World War.

Nevertheless, legend avows that at the time of the Gauls, the druids observing their cults in the Monts du Forez knew this cheese. According to M. MAZE, former Director of the Pasteur Institute, La Fourme d’Ambert was already in production during the Arvernes period, before the Roman conquest.

Since the VIII century, traditional narratives agree that La Fourme d’Ambert existed and was consumed. To this day, built heritage shows us that La Fourme d’Ambert was present. For example, carved in the shape of regional products of the time (sausages, ham, eggs, ‘fourmes’), the ‘pierres dîmales’, on the church of La Chaulme (Puy-de-Dôme), are a living testimony as to the existence of La Fourme d’Ambert. La Fourme d’Ambert was even used as currency when renting ‘jasseries’ during the XVIII century.

During this period, production is exclusively farm-based. From June to October, when cattle was put out to pasture, women and children would go to the ‘jasseries’ (mountain structures that were simultaneously stables, dairy and dwelling), while the men stayed in the valleys and tended to the hay.

At the beginning of the century, following a decline in farming in the Forez pastures, dairies were established in the Monts du Forez, particularly on the eastern slope. In 1950, there are around fifteen dairies collecting milk within a sometimes very narrow area.

Also at the beginning of the century, La Fourme d’Ambert producers first appear outside the Monts du Forez – first west of the Puy de Dôme (Laqueuille and Rochefort Montagne) then in the Cantal (Murat) and the valley of la Dore (Thiers – Puy de Dôme). Last of all, in the 1950s, producers set up in Saint-Flour (Cantal).

Since being awarded the AOC, La Fourme d’Ambert’s production has kept growing. In 1900, 200 tonnes were produced, but in the space of one century, this has increased 35-fold to 5,300 tonnes in 2012. More than 1,200 milk farmers, six dairies and four farms (that is, 300 direct employees) secure the continued existence of this exceptional cheese.

Le Parvis des sciences (Grenoble Science Fair)

Every year during France’s national science week, the esplanade in front of MINATEC (MINATEC’s research addresses vital issues in the fields of healthcare, energy, and communication in order to find solutions to the unprecedented economic, technological, and environmental challenges facing modern society) is transformed for the “Parvis des Sciences” (Grenoble Science Fair). There are exhibits for visitors of all ages, made possible by scientists and students from

1- Grenoble Institute of Technology labs

  • CIME Nanotech: a joint center for education and research in microelectronics and nanotechnologies,
  • LMGP Laboratoire des Matériaux et du Génie Physique
  • IMEP-LAHC, Institut de Microélectronique Electromagnétisme Photonique and LAboratoire d’Hyperfréquences et de Caractérisation
  • GSCOP, Sciences pour la conception, l’Optimisation et la Production
  • G2ELab Grenoble Electrical Engineering

2- Science schools

  • INP Phelma: School of engineering in Physics, Applied Physics, Electronics & Materials
  • ENSE3: Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Energie, l’Eau et l’Environnement

 3- CEA labs

  • CEA Tech: Speeding innovation for industry
  • IRIG: Interdisciplinary Research Institute of Grenoble

4- the large scientific instruments

  • ESRF: The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility 
  •  EMBL: Structural Biology research, instrumentation development and services
  •  ILL: The Institut Laue-Langevin, The world’s leading facility in neutron science & technology

5- Science education outreach providers, research projects, and local industrial companies.

The fun, hands-on activities are designed to illustrate “how stuff works” and explain the research being conducted by all stakeholders on the GIANT (Grenoble Innovation for Advanced New Technologies) campus.

The topics covered include nanotechnology, chemistry, microelectronics, energy, biology, robotics, and more. Every year, more than 40 activities are spread out over three days to the delight of the more than 3,500 visitors from across the Greater Grenoble area.

The first two days of the fair are reserved for local school groups; the third day is open to the general public (free of charge, registration not required).

Pissaladière of Nice – Recipe

For 8 people
Preparation: 30 min
Rest of the dough: 1 h 30
Cooking: 45 min for the onions, 20 min for the Pissaladière.

Bread dough:

  • 500 g of flour,
  • 10 to 15 ml of water,
  • 10 g of salt,
  • 15 to 20 g of baker’s yeast,
  • 15 ml of olive oil.


  • 2 kg of straw onions,
  • 100 ml of olive oil,
  • 1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, rosemary),
  • 10 g of garlic (1 clove),
  • 8 anchovy fillets in salt,
  • Black olives from Nice,
  • Salt pepper.


  • 25 g of pissalat
    The pissalat can be spread over the dough before putting the onions in or mixed directly with the cooked onions before spreading them on the dough.

Peel the onions, finely slice them and put them in a pot with the olive oil, the dressed garlic cloves and the bouquet garni, salt and pepper, cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes (while allowing water to evaporate). Remove the garlic at the end of cooking.

Prepare the leaven: on a work surface, put 125 g of flour, dig a fountain in it and add the yeast dissolved in a little lukewarm water. Mix everything to obtain a ball of dough and leave to rest in a terrine covered with a cloth. In half an hour, the dough should double in size.

Arrange the rest of the flour in a crown, add the water, olive oil and salt to the middle. Work the dough, adding water to a consistency. Add the sourdough to the dough and knead everything. Let stand for an hour, covered.

Oil a pie plate or baking sheet, roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thick, add the onions, garnish with anchovies and olives.

Put in the oven, previously heated, for 20 minutes at 180/200 °. Pepper when removing from the oven.
Let it cool down to serve it.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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 UNISOAP association recycles five tonnes of unused hotel soap

Created in August 2017, UNISOAP is the first French non-profit association with a mission to collect and recycle used hotel soap for humanitarian purposes.

The objective is to transform this waste into resources for vulnerable populations and give them access to hygiene

A simple operation

They collect used soap from hotels all over France. We they recycle this with the help of an ESAT (Etablissement ou Services d’Aide par le Travail), an initiative that facilitates integration into the mainstream labour market for people with disabilities. Finally, they donate the recycled soap to local or international partner associations.

Some of the soap will be used for hygiene education missions carried out by UNISOAP in schools and hospitals. With this approach, they support a sustainable and inclusive tourism sector and advocate zero waste.

Unisoap, three aims are to:
1) reduce waste,
2) allow more people to access good hygiene, and
3)create employment among disabled people

Their initiative is motivated by two alarming findings:

  • The first concerns child hygiene. Each year 2.2 million children die from diseases linked to a lack of hygiene.
  • The second reveals a considerable waste of soap. They estimate that more than 51 million soaps are thrown away each year by hotels across France.

Charles, the robot that stores energy and moves autonomously to the vehicles

Given the working name “Charles”, it has been designed to solve one of the key problems of electric vehicles: how to charge them while at work or at airports, without having to move them from the electric point once full. 

The classic case is someone who takes an electric car to go to work and plugs it in a street charging point in the morning. Once the battery is full, or has the charge they want, the car sits there without charging until either they leave work to move it to another parking space, which might not be easy to find, or until they go home hours later. In either case, there is a significant time when the power point cannot be used by anyone else, and is just trickle charging the car

Salim El Houat, chief executive and co-founder of Lyon-based Mob-Energy

The robot solution is also useful for places such as car parks that do not have rows of high-powered wall chargers. 

How does it work?

The robot operates from a charging station linked to the grid. When customers want to use it, they plug in a cable linked to a box which sits on the ground. Using their smartphones, they tell the robot how long they will be away and how much charge they want to have. The robot, which uses recycled electric car batteries to hold its own charge, then moves between vehicles which need charging and its charging station, to ensure all the cars are ready when their drivers want them again.

“If it is in an airport and the driver is away for a week, then the car will most likely be charged by the robot at night, while day-trippers will be looked after during the day,” said Mr El Houat. The other strong point of the robot is that it will be able to adapt the charge according to the capacities of the vehicle. Not all vehicles have the same charging capacity or system.

“So someone with a plug-in hybrid, which has a relatively small battery that can only take a relatively weak charge, can be served just as well as someone with an electric sports car with a huge battery,” said Mr El Houat. “While charging a battery will be its main job, a robot presence might well be able to serve a security function by discouraging groups of youngsters from loitering in the garage, for example, or be a mobile camera to alert security staff when there is a problem.”

Lyon : a city of gastronomy

One of Lyon’s most famous traditions is undoubtedly its gastronomy. Since 1935 and thanks to Curnonsky, famous food critic, the city bears the title of “world capital of gastronomy”. From the 19th century, when you come to Lyon, you want to “eat”: first with the Mothers, those excellent cooks who have helped make Lyon cuisine a real institution; today in the “bouchons“, these typical restaurants where you are served, in the conviviality, these dishes so typically Lyonnais, that we like… or not… The history of the gastronomy of Lyon has long been characterised by these two trends: the first from bourgeois tradition, the second from popular culture. But today, even though Lyon has managed to preserve and promote its traditions, the gastronomic landscape of Lyon is diversifying and opening itself up to new trends.

Les Bouchons Lyonnais

Any visitor who comes to Lyon wishes to eat in a “Bouchon”. A great symbol of Lyon’s gastronomy, the “bouchon” comes from the tradition of “mâchons” established by the “canuts”, silk workers. Associated with Guignol and Gnafron, it offers simple dishes, composed mainly of pork and all generously washed down with Beaujolais or Côtes-du-Rhône.

If nowadays the “Bouchon” is a restaurant where you can taste Lyon specialties, originally the term refers to a place where you can “mâchonner” (chew). In the 19th century, the canuts, who started their day very early, organized a sort of “snack” around 9 or 10 am: The “mâchons”, strictly speaking, is not a meal, but a snack, often made up of leftovers from the day before and taken outside of traditional restaurants, in a bistro, a wine merchant, at the restaurant or at workshop of the canuts. Shared between men, they were often a pretext for discussing business between the various players in the silk industry.

“Mâchons” can be considered to have definitely become part of the Lyon tradition when the Halles de Lyon was founded in Les Cordeliers (at the site of the current Cordeliers car park). Since the 19th century, the organization of work has evolved, but the “mâchon” is still practiced in some restaurants.

The term “bouchon” has several meanings: it can refer either to the bouquet of ivy or broom that was hung, in the old regime, at the doors of cabarets to differentiate them from inns; either with the straw that travelers had available in the inns so that they could “bouchonner” their mount before the meal; or, more simply, by the bottle stopper, even if in Lyon, the custom is to serve wine in a jar and not in a bottle.

The”bouchons” were originally installed in the Croix-Rousse district, where the canuts live and work. According to custom, the wife is in the kitchen, while her husband takes care of the cellar and the dining room. The dishes offered are often composed of leftovers from the day before, which the cooks arrange to avoid waste. Over time the dishes have diversified. Today, the bouchons offer dishes made with traditional Lyonnais products. Mention may in particular be made of rosette, grattons, quenelles, gratin of cardoons with marrow or even local cheeses. All these dishes are accompanied by wine, usually Beaujolais but increasingly Côte du Rhône

Some Lyon specialties

“Les bouchons” offers simple cuisine, tasted in a friendly atmosphere. The menus offer a wide range of dishes to taste, but a few are part of the great Lyon tradition.

Les grattons: their notoriety has largely exceeded the Lyon region. Often eaten as an aperitif, grattons are small pieces of grilled pork rind. To taste in the Lyon style, in the conviviality, with a pot of Côte du Rhône or Beaujolais!

Les charcuteries: and first and foremost the sausage. The Lyonnais sausage manufacturing technique gives it all its qualities. It is made with a mixture of chunks of fat cut into small cubes 5 to 6 mm on the side and lean very finely chopped. The preparation is then seasoned and then enclosed in natural casings. On the butcher’s stalls, sausages are mixed with other specialties such as rosette or cervelas (cooking sausage), which is better when it is truffled and pistachio.

Le tablier de sapeur: offal, such as tripe, liver or double fat occupy a special place in Lyon cuisine. Le tablier de Sapeur is a typical Lyonnais dish. Its name comes from the Maréchal de Castellane who compared the double fat (beef strawberry) to the leather apron of the firefighters. It is prepared with beef strawberries cut into cubes and marinated in a preparation based on Mâconnais white wine, mustard, lemon, oil and salt / pepper. The strawberries are then rolled in bread crumbs and toasted in oil and butter and served with a Gribiche sauce.

La quenelle: a true tradition in Lyon since the 19th century, the quenelle is a preparation made from flour or semolina, butter and milk. The quenelles can be flavored with poultry, veal, or even, more traditionally, pike. The quenelles are served with a sauce, often a bechamel sauce, or for the pike quenelle, a Nantua sauce, made with crayfish butter.

Les Cardoons: this vegetable whose ribs are tasted, similar to chard rib. The Lyonnaise recipe offers it in the form of a marrow gratin, which can be enjoyed during the Christmas holidays.

The cheeses: the best known is the “cervelle de canut”, or “claqueret”, which is not strictly speaking a cheese, but a way to accommodate cottage cheese. To prepare it, choose a “male” white cheese, that is to say not too soft that you beat according to the “guignolesque” expression “as if it were his wife”. Then add salt, pepper, a drizzle of vinegar and olive oil, a shallot, chives, garden herbs and garlic “to keep the tongue cool.” Finally, a little crème fraîche and a drop of white wine (preferably Mâconnais) can complete the preparation.

Saint-Marcellin is also the cheese that can be found on all the cheesemongers’ stalls: originating in the town of the same name in Dauphiné, this cow’s cheese is eaten very matured.

Les Bugnes: Originally, the bugne was linked to the religious calendar. It was indeed a tradition to make them on the first Sunday of Lent because they were the only delicacy allowed. Its name comes from the old French “donut” which itself comes from “beigne”, a term that recalls the inflated shape of the bugne. Bugne is made from a mixture of flour, butter, sugar, a little salt and sometimes orange blossom. The resulting dough is cut with a knob (or spur) and then fried in oil.

France 24 – "Lyon: A visit to France's food capital" from Mathieu Käs 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.

Aix en Provence – Trees planted as part of pollution study

Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) is one of two European cities, alongside Florence in Italy, to be selected for a project called Airfresh (Air pollution removal by urban forests for a better human well-being) which will see 400 trees planted on the boulevard du Général Paul Angenot – located in a suburb to the south west of the city.

Test area

The aim is to find out if the newly planted trees will have an impact on the city’s air quality. The project, led by Pierre Sicard, a scientist who specialises in pollution and climate change in forests, aims to reduce ozone by three tonnes per year.

The species selected include plane trees, lime trees, maples, oaks and Japanese sophoras – all adapted to local climatic conditions and an urban environment as well as being resistant to disease. They also absorb harmful volatile compounds while emitting few allergenic pollens.

Sensors installed 1m80 up the trees measure what pollutants humans breathe in (fine particles, CO2, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide) while others higher up the trees record meteorological data.

installed sensors

Aix-en-Provence in Southeastern France (143,000 inhabitants) has a Mediterranean climate and is the third most polluted city in France. By 2100, the annual mean temperature will increase by + 1.9-4.6°C, and up to 5.7°C in summer. By way of comparison, in Aix-en-Provence, during the 2019 heat wave, the deviation was + 3.5°C compared to the nearby cities. In 2019, the EU target values for the protection of human health were exceeded for NO2 and O3. The main species of street trees are are Platanus spp., Populus spp., Quercus ilex, Pinus halepensis, Ulmus spp. and Cupressus sempervirens.

Southeastern France and Italy are the highest O3 risk areas in European Union with increasing O3 levels in cities. In 2019, about 95% of the population of the city was exposed to PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and O3 levels exceeding the WHO target values for health protection.

In 2019, a total of 55  deaths for non-accidental causes were attributed to O3, NO2 and PM10 in Aix-en-Provence . A total of 163 hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases was also reported . For O3, we observed a high number of hospital admissions for cardiovascular endpoints, i.e. about 67 per 100,000 people at risk in Aix-en-Provence .

The new planted trees will enhance the abatement of air pollution and urban heat island. The tree will also contribute to carbon sequestration and improve the infiltration of runoff water.

Tree charter in Aix-en-Provence

In 2019, the city of Aix accounts 180-ha of green spaces including 20,400 public trees (managed by the municipality).

The City of Aix made a plan to develop and protect its public tree heritage. The Tree Charter consists in preservation of the existing tree heritage. From now, the City wants to determine whether trees can be planted in certain quarters, which tree species, which planting and management strategy, and how to increase the pace of new plantations.

The charter aims to:
1) make people aware of the role of trees in the city;
2) evolve and adapt best practices;
3) prepare the renewal (e.g. methods of planting, places of plantation);
4) make the tree one of the vectors of nature and biodiversity in city; and
5) set up communication tools towards public.

French architect’s scheme saves building waste from skips

Nearly 75% of all waste comes from the construction industry, according to the government environment agency Ademe, a figure that architect Joanne Boachon is hoping to change

An architect has come up with a way to reuse waste from the building industry that would otherwise end up in a rubbish dump.

Joanne Boachon, from Lyon, had the idea while writing her thesis for her final exams, after realising how much material was being thrown away.

Nearly 75% of all waste comes from the construction industry, according to the government environment agency Ademe.

In 2016, with the support of other architects, she set up Minéka, an association which collects unwanted material from builders, checks it to make sure it can be reused, and sells it on at low prices from a warehouse at Villeurbanne, north east of Lyon.

It is open to professionals, individuals or associations, but anyone wanting to purchase has to become a member of Minéka for insurance reasons first (€10 for private individuals and €50- €150, depending on the size of a business).

A website shows what is in stock, including timber, doors, windows, insulation, pipes, paint and roofing materials.

Products could come from the end of a building project, a renovation, demolition or an order error. When buildings are about to be demolished, the association goes in to see what can be reclaimed and actively looks for people who might want to reuse the material.

Minéka also provides a collection service for professionals. Between 2018 and 2020, it collected 93 tonnes, of which more than half was wood.

In 2020, Ms Boachon won third prize in the Fondation Yves Rocher Terre de Femmes Award, which recognises women’s efforts from across the globe to save the planet.

She says she wants to make people aware that building waste can often have a second life rather than ending up in a skip.

Her association also offers advice on how this can be done, including speaking at conferences and via training sessions and exhibitions.

For people who do not live in Lyon, the Minéka website gives details of similar schemes operating in other parts of France.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur, Corsica

A preferred destination for lovers of mountain landscapes and outdoor leisure activities, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and its exceptional natural heritage are a haven for hikers who love protected, unspoilt countryside and sportier visitors in search of thrills.

From walks in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park or the Vanoise National Park to cross-country skiing in the Bauges, through rock climbing in the Mont-Blanc massif, canoe-kayaking in the Sioule gorges or swimming in the lakes of Annecy, Aiguebelette, Aydat, Le Bourget, Grangent and Chambon, you’ll be spoilt for choice at holiday time. Skiing fans will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of winter sports resorts in the French Alps! Less athletic visitors can also enjoy the wonders of nature by travelling along the famous Route des Grandes Alpes, an exceptional itinerary dotted with mountain passes at over 2,000 metres in altitude! And to unwind, you can’t beat a rest on the lake shores of the Massif Central and the Alps, or a pampering break in the thermal spas of Aix-les-Bains, Brides-les-Bains, Bourbon-l’Archambault, Chaudes-Aigues, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Royat, Uriage-les-Bains or Vichy.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes also boasts a remarkable built heritage. Its castle forts, Romanesque churches, typical villages and towns of great architectural and cultural importance, like Annecy, Chambéry, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Le Puy-en-Velay, Montluçon, Moulins and Riom, are sure to wow you! History enthusiasts and lovers of old buildings mustn’t miss the chance to visit some major heritage sites, like Lyon’s historical city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the archaeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal, Souvigny Priory, Orcival Basilica, Brou Royal Monastery, the medieval towns of Charroux and Salers, the picturesque villages of Balazuc, Bonneval-sur-Arc, Labeaume, Pérouges and Yvoire, and the castles of Anjony, Crussol, Murol, Tournoël and Le Touvet.

South of Lyon, on either side of the Rhône Valley, stand two favourite destinations for holidaymakers: Drôme on one side, with its charming villages, gently rolling hills, lavender fields and mountains, and the Ardèche on the other, with its famous gorges so loved by kayakers, characterful villages, volcanic sites, medieval castles and superb panoramas.


Iconic and legendary, the famous French Riviera is a top destination for holidaymakers, nestled between the Alps, the Italian border and the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoying a mild and sunny climate all year round, this pleasant territory stretching along the Var and Alpes-Maritimes coast offers no shortage of sites to discover! Always popular with fans of sightseeing and sunbathing, the Côte d’Azur is famous the world over for its famous destinations like Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Saint-Tropez. The lively seaside resorts like Juan-les-Pins, Sainte-Maxime and Hyères, beautiful sandy or stony beaches, the wild creeks of the Estérel, prestigious Baroque heritage, and charming villages like Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Èze and Bormes-les-Mimosas, are among its many must-see attractions.

In between visits to these attractions, you can enjoy some delicious regional products and famous specialities. Cheeses from Auvergne and Savoie, green lentils from Le Puy, Lyonnaise salad, potée auvergnate stew, poultry from Bresse, tartiflette, raclette and fondue, Romans ravioles, wines from Côtes du Rhône and Saint-Pourçain, Montélimar nougat, Saint-Genix cake and pompe aux pommes (a local apple pie) are all packed with flavour to tickle your taste bud!

Another major destination in the region, the famous Provence, so highly prized by artists and lovers of old buildings, is always a byword for charm and the good life. With its peaceful hills where you can hear the crickets chirping, its wonderful fields of lavender and olive trees, its maquis scrubland fragrant with the scent of thyme and rosemary, its impressive Verdon gorges, exceptional calanques (rocky inlets), secluded creeks and sandy beaches, it has something to amaze every visitor. This sought-after land has many attractions, and you can’t talk about Provence without mentioning the magnificent hillside villages of Luberon, the old city of the Avignon popes, the old town of Aix-en-Provence, the ancient arenas of Arles, the famous Sainte-Victoire mountain immortalised by the painter Paul Cézanne, the charming small town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the majestic citadel of Sisteron or the ceramics made in the picturesque village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

The PACA region also includes the Alps and therefore appeals to lovers of the mountains and outdoor activities, with its countless hiking paths weaving through Mercantour National Park, Le Queyras Regional Nature Park and Les Écrins National Park, its renowned ski resorts such as Serre Chevalier, Montgenèvre, La Foux d’Allos, Auron, Isola 2000 and Valberg, as well as the magnificent Lake Serre-Ponçon, a veritable sea in the mountains that’s ideal for water sports!

Also popular for its tasty food and ancestral traditions, Provence-Alps-French Riviera clearly has everything a visitor could wish for, with its colourful markets and flavoursome specialities like olive oil, tapenade, tian, Sisteron lamb, Banon cheese, Cavaillon melon, Menton lemons, Calissons d’Aix biscuits and Provence honey.


The third biggest island in the western Mediterranean, after Sicily and Sardinia (183 kilometres long, 83 kilometres wide and 2,706 metres above sea level at its highest point), Corsica is a true natural paradise where the heritage is wonderfully well-protected. Very attached to its traditions, this characterful land clearly deserves its nickname, “the island of beauty”! Located around 180 kilometres from the French Riviera, the birthplace of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte has no shortage of unique sites to enjoy.

Particularly popular with lovers of outdoor pursuits, this unspoilt land invites you to discover its charming mountainside villages, little wild creeks, nature reserves full of fauna and flora, golden beaches with crystal clear waters (ideal for sunbathing), colourful sea beds, mountain lakes and magnificent hiking trails, like the very famous GR20 that runs across Corsica from north to south. From renowned seaside resorts to mountain heights, the diverse and varied viewpoints are among the island of beauty’s many strong points, along with its pleasant climate.

Corsica is also famous for its cities, and if you’re spending a few days in this magnificent region, you simply must drop by Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi, Corte, Porto-Vecchio and Sartène!

The local gastronomy is also an important part of the area’s appeal to tourists, whether it’s cheese, charcuterie or chestnut specialities. Brocciu, coppa, figatelli, as well as polenta and fiadone, are a treat for visitors looking to sample the authentic flavours of the region.

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.