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delta festivalOver 30,000 students and young revellers are expected to converge on Marseille for the city's Delta Festival on 8 July. The event's first two editions were a roaring success and this year's festival promises to be even bigger.

Based at the Plage de la Vieille Chapelle at the far end of the Prado beach park, Delta encompasses sport, art and, naturally, music. Body painting, beach volleyball, sumo wrestling and, inevitably, pétanque are among the daytime attractions.

As night falls, the music starts up and the 2017 programme includes Madeon, Gramatik, Møme, Ofenback, Mozambo and Carl, all providing sounds until 2am. Click here for the full programme.

The previous week sees another big music festival in Marseille, this time a concert at the Vélodrome football stadium. Its Summer Stadium Festival takes place on 1 July and features a starry line-up including Feder, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Kungs, Sam Feldt and Jonas Blue. Click here for the full programme.

OAM Mazzia at workur favourite chef in Marseille in branching out! Alexandre Mazzia, pictured, opened his restaurant, AM, in 2014, and was immediately showered with awards, including a Michelin star. Now he has launched two new ventures.

The first is a brasserie, Pointe Noire, in the Old Town of Aix en Provence, which Mazzia has opened with his brother, Jean-Laurent.

The restaurant's name is a tip of the hat to the brothers' African roots: Pointe Noire is the city in the Congo where they were both born.

At the end of June things get even more interesting. Mazzia is taking on the catering aboard a new pop-up venue, a boat called Razzle moored in the fishing port of L'Estaque just outside Marseille.

His restaurant, called Le Mess, will offer 40 covers, and there'll be concerts, discos and exhibitions on boardas well. We'll be visiting and reporting on both these venues very shortly, so watch this space.

arles10On the first Sunday of July – 2 July in 2017 – the city of Arles is transfigured by a remarkable tradition when hundreds of women, young and old, bring out their most beautiful traditional dresses and finery for the annual Fête du Costume.

The Arles costume is distinguished by its elegance, sophistication and richness. It’s very different from the much simpler, more peasant-like dress that dominates in eastern Provence.

The first Fête du Costume was in 1903 and since then it has gone from strength to strength. Today Arlésiennesof all ages take part in the ceremonial procession and the culminating show at the Théâtre Antique.

Not to be left out, the menfolk will be togged out in Camargue gardian (cowboy) guise to escort them. This year there’s an added extra: the coronation of the Queen of Arles, a young woman who is elected every three years to be an ambassador for the city and its culture.

The procession begins at 9.30am on the place de la République, and festivities continue pretty much all day. Click here to read more about it and the Queen of Arles.

 

 

sardinesA new-ish addition to the fast expanding fun run scene is the Sardine Run. a 4 km / 2.5 mile course at the Campagne Pastré, a large park to the south of Marseille.

This highly kid-friendly event is open to children over the age of eight and involves sections with toboggans and water slides.

It's part of the Sardine Day, a sardine themed weekend that also includes art, a water chute and, very possibly, the odd sardine or two to eat.

The "concept" (or pretext) is the annual sardine run (migration) off the coast of Africa and the weekend is supposed to raise consciousness about pollution of the environment.

It's on 1-2 July. There's a "Sardine Night Fever" disco on Saturday 1 July and the run itself is on Sunday 2 July.

trets festivalCertain spots in Provence are magnets for tourists. The guides on this website to such legendary destinations as Cassis, Saint Rémy, Lourmarin and L'Isle sur la Sorgue are among the most visited pages on Marvellous Provence - and so are those towns and villages themselves.

Yet Provence is jam-packed with lovely secret places that most international visitors have never heard of and never go near. And so they are mercifully free of souvenir shops and tour groups, you can park there relatively easily and lunch won't cost a king’s ransom.

Now the region has decided to single out one of these hidden gems - a town or village with a popukation of under 20,000 - to be the "capitale provençale de la culture" each year: perfect for anyone in Provence this summer who would like to try something a little bit different, away from the crowds.

The chosen "capital" for 2017 is Trets, a small, pretty, mediaeval town in the beautiful foothills of Mont Sainte Victoire, pictured, a short drive south-east of Aix en Provence.

The programme runs from June to December and is a mix of traditional festivals, street theatre, art shows and concerts open-air feasts and other food and drink events and ambitious spectacles, such as a Brazilian-style mini-carnival to kick-start it all.

sainte victoire late afternoonSome of the region's bigger shindigs, such as the Aix music festival, the piano festival of La Roque d’Anthéron or the Five Continents jazz festival of Marseille will be staging guest events in Trets too.

The inspiration behind the project is Marseille-Provence's dazzlingly successful year in the spotlight as the European City of Culture in 2013. The new initiative has nothing like that budget, of course, and is on a much smaller scale.

It's also confined to the Bouches du Rhône region around Marseille, Aix and Arles. But this could be a fantastic way for you to discover the authentic, undiscovered Provence. Click here for the full programme.

 

 

universal prayer ndary lo avignonAvignon is turning African this year. The continent is the focus of the Theatre Festival in July, which features no fewer than seven productions from Africa.

But even before then, from mid May onwards, African art is popping up at venues all over the city under the umbrella title Les Éclaireurs (The Pathfinders)

It is all on loan from the Fondation Blachère, a foundation based in the nearby town of Apt which specialises in contemporary African art.

The Foundation owns some 1800 works, and 76 sculptures from its collection are on show in Avignon from 19 May.

The featured artists, either from Africa or of African origin, include Mali's Abdoulaye Konate, Senegal's Ousmane Sow, the French-Senegalese sculptress Diagne Chanel, South Africa's Andries Botha, Ghana's El Anatsui and the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare.

Some of the works can be seen in public spaces, such as the eight metre / 26 foot high La Prière universelle (The Universal Prayer) by Senegal’s Ndary Lo, pictured, which soars proudly in front of the Palais des Papes.

Others are inside the Palais and at key museums around Avignon. You can buy a ticket for 11 €uros which gives you access to all the venues from the Avignon Tourist Office.

These rare and magnificent pieces are in town until 14 January 2018. But, if you can't make it to the Papal city in time to catch them there, never fear: you can always head off to Apt to view the permanent collection at the Fondation Blachère, which is open to the public.

Parades free promenade concert in Aix en ProvenceThe world-famous Aix Music Festival begins in July - but if you are in town a few weeks earlier, don't worry about missing out.

Since 2013 the city has held a curtain-raising event, Aix en Juin, which offers a packed programme of concerts and masterclasses throughout June.

This year you can also get a sneak preview of Don Giovanni, The Rake's Progress and the other big operas in the main festival at public rehearsals. In 2017 Aix en Juin runs from 7-30 June.

This mini-festival is aimed at locals. But it is open to everyone. And, best of all, many of the performances are free, if you get Le PASS, available from the Festival box-office.

Le PASS is free for anyone under the age of 30. and costs a mere 15 €uros for everyone else.

They're held both in the city centre and at atmospheric locations all over the surrounding region, including the Fondation Vasarely and the beautiful Abbaye de Silvacane.

Aix en Juin reaches its climax with Parade[s], a very popular - and free - open-air promenade concert, pictured top left, on the Cours Mirabeau, just before the start of the Festival d'Aix proper.

It's on 26 June, features extracts from this year's production of Carmen and starts at 9.45pm. Some 3000 people turned up for it in 2016, so it might be a good idea to arrive early!

Click here for the programme for Aix en Juin and here to read our full guide to the Festival d'Aix.

 

Niolon2This summer galleries and museums across Provence are clubbing together for a collective, event under the umbrella title L'Appel du Large (The Call of the Sea), celebrating the romance of the deep blue yonder.

First up is Martigues, the "Venice of Provence", whose Musée Ziem has a show of seascapes painted in this pretty little town and highlighting its exotic qualities. 17 May-17 September.

Arles' excellent Musée départementale Arles antique journeys back in time to explore navigation in the Rhône delta during the Roman era. 1 July-30 September.

It's not just about the Mediterranean: some shows are setting sail for more distant shores. Over the summer and autumn a number of museums in Marseille have marine-themed exhibitions, the most intriguing of which at the Vieille Charité charts the writer Jack London's adventures in the southern seas, from Hawaii to Samoa. 7 September-7 January 2018.

And in Aubagne, home of the French Foreign Legion, the focus is equally exotic: the escapades of the intrepid legionnaires in the Indian Ocean. 21 September-15 January 2018.

There can be few more delicious ways to spend a summer day or night than on one of Marseille's open-air toits terrasses (roof terraces) contemplating the Mediterranean.

rooftop terrace marseilleAnd there's something for everyone in this most eclectic of cities, whether your thing is sipping a sophisticated cocktail, lingering over lunch or dinner, grooving to the sounds of some of the world's leading DJs, catching an avant-garde art exhibition or even watching a movie.

An improbable major venue is the Terrasses du Port, the shiny new shopping mall in the city's Joliette district near the ferry and cruise ship terminals.

Pictured, its enormous roof terrace on two levels with breathtaking panoramic sea views has been an instant hit: last summer an average of 1,500 people a night flocked there.

Inspired by the commercial port which it overlooks, ship's containers have been crane-lifted in and repurposed as bars, gourmet fast food kiosks and DJ cabins.

And it has a packed schedule every night except Mondays from now until mid-September. The rooftop terrace stays open late - until 2am on some evenings.

Each evening has a different theme from rock 'n roll and disco to deep house and funk. If you don't feel like dancing, there's always babyfoot (table football) and arcade games.

Among the international guest DJs and artists expected over the summer of 2017 are Carl Craig, Breakbot and Feder. Details and a link to the ticket office here.

Across town on the south side of the Old Port the five-star Sofitel hotel has a mini-terrace, an extension of its lobby bar.

It offers all-day food, artisan ice-cream (courtesy of Le Glacier du Roi), cocktails and, on some evenings, live music (jazz, pop, rock or soul) - plus one of the best views in town over the Old Port and the MuCEM.

The Sofitel has now created an even larger terrace on its roof where the scene is even more fabulous. Called the Dantès Sky Lounge (after Edmond Dantès, the hero of Alexandre Dumas's legendary, Marseille-set novel The Count of Monte Cristo), it has a DJ in attendance on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Expect to stump up 16 €uros plus for a cocktail (with minor nibbles such as peanuts and olives): you're paying for the stunning view.

Also on this side of the Old Port with similar views, the Rowing Club has a roof terrace that's open all year round. It's open to the public and especially reputed for its (rather pricey) buffet brunches.

The MuCEM, with its own rooftop restaurant, pictured, Mediterranean garden, open-air performance space, chill-out area with chaises-longues and panoramic walkways has also quickly become a firm favourite with both Marseillais and tourists.

mucem restaurantBorderline organises legendary parties in some of the most beautiful locations in Marseille and is particularly famed for its boat discos.

And let's not forget La Friche La Belle de Mai, the cutting-edge arts complex near Saint Charles station which pioneered these rooftop events.

Its truly vast roof terrace launches the 2017 summer season on 26 May and promises a fabulous line-up, from live music from all over the world and film screenings (deckchairs provided) to sundown apéritifs and discos late into the night.

Bring a picnic, or buy a classy takeaway. There are children's games too - and a pétanque court. Best of all, entrance is entirely free!

Finally, those into modern art and architecture should head straight over to Le Corbusier's pioneering modernist apartment block, the Radiant City, where a series of events is planned on its own stunning roof terrace throughout the summer. This year's exhibition is devoted to the French artist Jean-Pierre Reyaud.

If your next travel plans are for a trip to the US rather than to Provence, this E-Visa FAQ will help you navigate the complicated ESTA Visa Waiver Program. Our thanks to them for this sponsored link.

 

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