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The French port that’s like St Tropez before Bardot

Laid-back Marseillan can’t claim to have the celeb clientele, glam bars and designer shops of its famous Riviera cousin, but that’s why it’s special

Sex-kitten starlets are thin on the sun-seared ground. So are €6,000 cotton beach dresses with Mongolian fur trim, Lamborghini Gallardos ostentatiously parked in front of harbourside cafes, and gin-palace superyachts. And you certainly won’t see estate agents with details of stratospherically pricey villas in French, English and Russian.

Yet the petite port of Marseillan on the Languedoc coast, kissing a Mediterranean lagoon east of Béziers, has an undeniable frisson of St Tropez. Not the 2009 Riviera honeypot oozing bling, Eurotrash and traffic, but the serene isolated fishing village that first attracted artists and writers in the late 19th century, and then Bardot and the jet set in the 1950s.

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A tapas pilgrimage in Spain

One block, 50 bars and a small mountain of Spanish fast food. Norman Miller loosens his belt for a gourmet tour of Logroño

The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Friday 7 August 2009

The piece below about the tapas bars of Logroño in northern Spain mentioned in passing the art collection housed in the city’s Museo de La Rioja. To clarify: the museum is closed. It may reopen some time this year.

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