Provence is located in the southeastern part of France. It is well known for its beautiful landscapes, warm climate and incredible food.
Christophe Bernard was born and raised in Provence; here's a description of this beautiful region in his own words.
Also check out our resource page for more books and movies about the region.
About Provence by Christophe Bernard
|By Robert Brink [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
After many years spent on the American continent, I returned to Provence in early 2010.
Provence is the place where I was born some decades ago. It is very dear to my heart. My childhood memories, vivid and strong, are sweet like the kisses of the grandma I loved so much. They smell of wild rosemary. They look like the purple fields of clary sage. They sound like the locals loudly arguing over a glass of Pastis.
So dear reader, allow me to tell you more about this special place. I won’t be very objective. But who cares. I will let my heart speak, and the heart knows nothing about objectivity. Left brain goes to sleep. Right brain, the floor is yours.
What makes Provence unique?
Provence has a long history of prosperous times intermixed with battles and wars, and started to get full prominence very early on, during the Greek and Roman empires. It has enjoyed a great reputation since then.
What exactly makes Provence such a popular destination you may ask? After all, all regions of France are beautiful in their own ways and deserve attention as well. So why would Provence occupy so much space in the spotlight?
Here is my viewpoint:
- There is something indescribable embedded in the old stone walls of the villages of Provence. Put your hands on those chipped stones along the “Mur de la Peste”. Sit down on the small trail overlooking the “Abbaye de Sénanque”. Do you feel those vibrations from the past? Do you realize those places that have witnessed millenniums of history? Provence is old history frozen in time, giving you a sense of peace, of grounding, of belonging to something bigger than the eye can see.
- The weather is mild and forgiving. Everything grows here. Provence used to be the orchard of France, and still is to a certain extent. Come take a walk along the Sorgue, lay a towel on the grass, listen to the cold water flow all around you and feel the sun trickle through the oak leaves. That sun is soothing and healing.
- The geography is quite unique. In the valleys, you will see vineyards, orchards and olive trees. Climb a bit on the flanks of the Luberon and get acquainted with the evergreen oaks, the wild thyme and rosemary, goat’s rue and savory. Get transported by the rich aromas on this sunny morning of spring where the nature seems to awaken from a winter than has been a bit biting. Climb up a little more, meet the barren rocks, see those carved-up paths that have been pounded by centuries of traveling farmers and their donkeys. I love that diversity of sight, sound and smell.
- Spend some time with the locals. Bust-up that old myth that French people are grumpy. OK, we can be grumpy, myself included. But overall, the Provençal folks are plain old nice people. They will take the time to talk to you if you take the time to listen and talk to them. They don’t like to be treated like peasant, which the city people used to do, especially those pesky Parisians. I am joking of course – times are changing, Provence is opening up to the world. You shall be welcome.
Vaucluse : small but fascinating
Rosalee and I will welcome you in the heart of Provence, a region called Vaucluse.
Vaucluse is a place where you will see no jet-setters, no movie stars in fancy swim suits. We are away from the sea, into the hills overlooking vineyards and orchards, in the land of perched villages.
Vaucluse might be a small department, but it is very dense in things to see and to do. Brace yourself for a memorable stay. Yes I know, there will be lots of studying. But there will be a few getaways too. And you can always come a few days early, or stay a few days later.
If you do tour around on your own, you can enjoy the following :
- Many cities and villages are worth the drive. Once parked, there is nothing like walking around to get a feel for it. All the different villages have their bit of history to tell, their own unique settings and peculiarities.
- Vaucluse is a great place for walking and hiking. The mountain chains tower over a good portion of the department, and allow you to get an aerial view of the surroundings.
- Arts and culture, with Avignon at the center with its theater festival getting international exposure;
- If you are planning to combine rest and health, Vaucluse is a lovely place for sports activities:
- You can bike, whether you like easy countryside roads, gravel paths or single-tracks for the more experienced mountain bikers;
- You can take advantage of the rivers to do canoeing or canyoning in certain areas;
- You can do tree climbing and rope courses;
- You can golf;
- Best for last : gastronomy.
- Provençal cuisine is known all around the world, and you will find fantastic eating places from small mom-and-pop family kitchens to outstanding restaurants run by starred chefs;
- The Vaucluse vineyards may not enjoy the reputation of Bordeaux or Burgundy, but I will tell you this: you will get a kick out of the fruity and flavorful Côte du Luberon and Côte du Ventoux.
Are you ready to join us?
Welcome to Provence!