A Trip Through Jewish History in Provence

Despite having deep Catholic roots, France has the third-largest Jewish population in the world, after Israel and the United States. Jewish communities have existed in the country since the first century and it has long been a center of Jewish learning.

You might think that Paris, with its famous Marais neighborhood, is the center of French Jewish life. And while that is true today, it hasn’t always been. For centuries, it was Provence.

Read more about Jewish history in Provence at Frenchly.

 

San Francisco, the Paris of the Pacific

San Francisco was known in its early days as the Paris of the Pacific. You might think this was because it was beautiful and sophisticated, like the City of Light, and you would be right. But it was more than that. It was also due to the city’s large French community.

Read about France’s outsized influence on early San Francisco at My French Life.

Taking Your Dog to France

Imagine a chic Française sitting at a Paris café with her chic chien. Now imagine yourself there with your own dog. Impossible? Non!

As the world’s most dog-friendly country, France is full of dogs in restaurants, hotels, boulangeries, on hiking trails, the Métro — you name it. So how American dog-friendly are they?

Learn the secret of taking your dog to France at Frenchly.

Driving in French

The French road system is excellent. The country is covered by a comprehensive network of autoroutes – similar to our Interstate Highway System – along with plenty of secondary roads. They are in uniformly good condition and are well-marked so you can find your way. If there is any downside to the French road system it would have to be…French drivers.

Find out why French drivers are NOT one of the glories of France at My French Life.

9 Reasons Why Provence is the Best Part of France

Everyone wants to go to Paris when they go to France. It’s one of the world’s great cities, with the Eiffel Tower, romantic cafés, great museums… what’s not to like? (Okay, the Parisians not so much, but the rest is great.) But you’d be wrong to put Paris at the top of the list. Instead, you should follow the insiders who know better and head south to Provence. Here’s why.

Read the rest of the story at Frenchly.

 

How to Make French Friends

Val and I are lucky–some of our best friends are French, people we’ve met while living in Provence.

We are sometimes asked, “How did you do it? Aren’t the French kind of standoffish?”

The answer is Non! There are wonderful people in France just like everywhere.

Having lived abroad twice now, we’ve learned a few things about making friends in a new country. Anyone can do it! If you’d like to know how, check out my article at The Planet D.

Ancient Treasures of Arles

What’s 2,000 years old, 100 feet long and used to float?

If you guessed a Roman barge, you win!  And you can see one now in the Arles Museum of Antiquity.

Arles was once an important Roman town, a trading center with a major port. Barges with cargo from all over the Empire plied the waters of the Rhone River.

Around 2,000 years ago one of those barges sank. It lay there quietly, covered by mud, until scientists discovered it about ten years ago.

Read the rest of the amazing story of how this barge was recovered and restored in Perfectly Provence.

Book Review–Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

SYNOPSIS

The author of the Love in Provence series returns to the South of France with a poignant portrait of a woman who must learn how to create a new life for herself.

Sixty-two-year-old Arianna arrives in the South of France for a two-week artists’ workshop full of anticipation but burdened by guilt. Back home in Toronto, she has been living with the devastating diagnosis of her husband’s dementia and the heartbreak of watching the man she has loved for decades slip away before her eyes. What does her future hold without Ben? Before her is a blank canvas.

Encouraged by her family to take some time for herself, she has traveled to Arles to set up her easel in the same fields of poppies and sunflowers that inspired Van Gogh. Gradually, she rediscovers the inner artist she abandoned long ago. Drawing strength from the warm companionship and gentle wisdom of her fellow artists at the retreat (as well as the vitality of guest lecturer Jacques de Villeneuve, an artist and a cowboy) Arianna searches her heart for permission to embrace the life in front of her and, like the sunflowers, once again face the light.

MY REVIEW

At an artists’ retreat just outside of the ancient Roman city of Arles, Arianna begins to rediscover her love of painting…and of life. She is helped along by her fellow artists, a colorful crew that becomes a supportive family over the course of the book. My favorite character was Bertram, a rather pompous Englishman who reveals surprising depth as the story unfolds.

This is a tale of love, grief and renewal, brilliantly told. All of us who have lost a loved one can understand the confusion and darkness that cloud Arianna’s mind. But slowly, petit à petit, she opens herself to new possibilities, connecting with her newfound friends and allowing the artist within her to reawaken. It’s a beautiful book, a mix of sadness, joy and discovery, as Arianna “reaches for that light in Provence.” By the end, her life has begun to move forward again.

I live part of the year in Provence and I tip my cap to Patricia Sands for her magnificent descriptions. She does a masterful job of capturing the glorious colors, sights and smells of this most beautiful part of France. From the weekly outdoor markets to the charming hilltop villages to the wild horses of the Camargue, Sands makes you feel as if you are in Provence. And she gives the mouth-watering Provençal food a starring role, reflecting the way that so much of French life revolves around the table.

Highly recommended.

Drawing Lessons is available from Amazon.

The French National Sport: Protesting

France is a very athletic nation, but is there a French national sport? There are certainly plenty of contenders.

It could be cycling. Or maybe soccer. And don’t forget pétanque–you get to drink pastis while you play! What could be more French than that?

But no. The real French National Sport is…Protesting. Millions of French people participate! And they love to play dress-up when they do.

You can read the whole article at Frenchly.