My first assignment for a few months — long story.
But it was a good one: a trip to the Occitanie region of France for the opening of the new Museum of Roman Civilisation.
It was a Roman-heritage-themed trip, visiting the Pont gu Gard, the Unesco-listed aqueduct, and the city of Nimes — one of my favourite cities in the south of France.
The new museum is opposite the Roman Amphitheatre [pictured above], home to one of the largest bullfighting festivals outside of Spain.
Here’s a sneak preview of one of the stories that came out of my trip:
It brings together the city’s huge collection of Roman antiquities with its four sections tracing the development of Nimes from the Iron Age, through the halcyon days of the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages, and concludes by considering the legacy of the Roman era today.
Read more with my Ultimate Guide to Nimes in Independent Travel and look out for my Nimes feature in the August issue of France Magazine.
My story about a tour of the French Riviera [pictured above], first published in the Daily Telegraph, was shortlisted this week at the French Travel Media awards.
The article describes a trip in the footsteps of film stars and the Euro glitterati. It was timed around the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.
Here’s a taster of the text:
I was formulating my bid to be the next James Bond from the casino at Monte Carlo. All I needed was that powder-blue suit from the Hugo Boss store on La Croisette (a snip at a mere €750), a couple of well-promoted selfies on the red carpet outside Le Palais and a bit of luck with the croupier to thwart Le Chiffre’s plan to take over the world from a Monte Carlo gaming table. Watch your back Idris Elba. After a week on the Riviera, there’s a new leading man in the frame.
Better luck next time, then.
I’ve got my eye on Roman Nimes and Monet’s Giverny for next time.
I’ve been three times on assignment in the past year and recently returned from another and very timely sojourn.
The reason? The Cannes International Film Festival opens tomorrow — May 17. This year marks 70 years of cinema heritage [mural pictured above].
I was there to report back on preparations for a feature in this weekend’s Telegraph Travel.
But, joining an escorted tour for a few days, I was also trying to put the glamour of the Riviera into context.
I explored some of the reports, spanning the French-Italian border, frequented by the British gentry long before the likes of Brigitte Bardot [pictured below] arrived with photographers in hot pursuit.
Here’s an extract from my first draft, based around a visit to Monte Carlo Casino.
I’m not a natural high roller.
If I was Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, then I’d be sporting a freshly pressed tuxedo, sipping a martini, shaken not stirred of course, and nonchalantly placing all my chips on black 17.
In reality I’m budget Bond: a Ben Sherman shirt, sipping an espresso and observing the oligarchs at play from a safe distance.
Still, at least I can still admire the Belle Époque ceiling and renaissance frescos in the Europa gaming room of Monte Carlo Casino.
After all, I have paid 17 Euros just to walk inside.
The Cannes Film Festival marks its 70th anniversary this year. The event runs May 17 to 28.
I’ve always been a French film fan — ever since taking a module in French cinema as a student at Leeds University.
I was in Cannes last weekend, indulging my interest in cinema and French culture, to preview the build up to the festival.
I was there on assignment for France Magazine.
Touring the attractions for a cinephile’s guide to Cannes, I found the handprints of Pedro Almodovar [pictured above], the president of the jury for this year’s festival, outside the Palais des Festivals.
I also followed a trail of film-themed murals around the town, including giant facade-dominating images of Buster Keaton and Alain Delon.
Cannes is not an obvious weekend-break destination for Brits but, I discovered, it’s compact, culturally rich and pleasantly spring like — even in low-season February.
Here’s a preview of my story:
Cannes has been closely associated with the glamour of the world of cinema’s cornerstone event since the origins of the festival in 1939. The red carpet, today rolled out in front of the Palais des Festivals et des Congres just off the Boulevard de la Croisette, retains a frisson of Hollywood glitter. Not bad for the town that provided the backdrop to Meg Ryan’s French Kiss and Mr Bean’s Holliday.
Look out for this and more stories from the trip in May.