• A Provencal State Of Mind

    August 31, 2017 | Travel
  • It's amazing to think of the history that the French countryside could recite. Great painters came here for inspiration. A French pope temporarily moved the home of the Catholic Church to nearby Avignon from Rome. Some say the Roman ruins are better in this region than in Rome. Castles, with their steps worn from centuries of climbing are impossibly perched on mountain peaks. In more modern times, imagine the boys of “the Greatest Generation” rolling through these tiny towns, liberating them at the end of WWII.

  • Miles of fields with rolled bales of winter wheat and cud chewing cows give way to grape vines and fields of sunflowers and lavender; later in the summer, the vineyards and olive orchards are ripe with amazing smells of upcoming harvest. With the winter months come the biting cold chased by the “mistrial” winds – legendary in their intensity as they cut through the mountain pass.

     And we can think of no place better to spend as long as possible on vacation.

     Five things to know when you go to Provence:

    1)     Be prepared for uphill, downhill hikes – go before your knees prevent you from climbng to a summit and taking in the breathtaking views

    2)     Chase the lavender and sunflowers … Away from the tourists. Farmers are (mostly) happy to oblige as long as you don’t pick their flowers.

    3)     To market, to market … Early. It seems like every little town has a market – very, very popular destinations for both locals and tourists. Going early ensures a parking spot and “first dibs” …

    4)     Bone up on your Parlez-Vous Francais. Unlike Paris where enough people speak English you can get by, the countryside of Provence remains unspoiled by “Anglais.” One thing will help throughout: acknowledging the French etiquette of ALWAYS saying, “Hello, how are you today?” IN FRENCH. That will get you a long way.

    5)     You will need to rent a car (they do drive on the same ‘sides of the road’ as Americans, so that is reassuring) to get from town to town. You will need nerves of steel to drive the twisty-turny narrow roads. Rent a small car (automatic transmission a necessity unless you’re a real whiz shifting gears) with a GPS.

    6)     Bonus tip: The “wee-fee” (aka Wifi) is intermittent … most towns and cafes give enough to connect with those at home if you must, but also provides the perfect excuse to be “incommunicado.”