The Alpilles from the Air

Many of us love the Alpilles, the “little Alps” that rise between the famous Provençal towns of St-Rémy and Les Baux. Their craggy beauty dominates the surrounding landscape. But outside of taking a plane ride, it is impossible to appreciate them from the air.

Until now.

Gilles Lagnel’s new book, Les Alpilles Vues du Ciel, includes over 100 magnificent photos of the Alpilles and their many attractions.

You can read the full article at Perfectly Provence.


A Story of Franco-American Friendship

Today is Bastille Day, with presidents Macron and Trump joining together to recognize America’s entry into WWI a century ago. No matter what you think of the politics of these two men, it is heartening to see this recognition of the long friendship between our two countries.

It reminded me of a story from a few years ago, when my wife and I were living in France…

We were walking through town with our dog Lucca when an older gentleman asked what breed he was. We stopped to talk and he quickly figured out from our accents that we are not native French speakers.

“Are you English?” he asked suspiciously. Relations across the English Channel are not always the friendliest.

His frown became a smile when we explained that we are Americans. He shook our hands warmly and thanked us for “saving” France in 1944.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened. It was always gratifying to know that American sacrifices during the war are still remembered and honored.

When someone thanked us for 1944 we always tried to return the favor.

We would express our gratitude for France’s essential support during our war of independence. We would point out that France is America’s oldest ally.

And we would tell them something that even most Americans don’t know.

There are only two portraits in the House of Representatives, one of the centers of American government. These large paintings hold pride of place, flanking the Speaker’s rostrum. On the left is the father of our country, George Washington; on the right, French general Lafayette.

And the painting of Lafayette came first.


20 Books That Have Changed French Lives

France is one of the most literate and literary countries in the world – the average French person reads 15 books a year and French authors have won more Nobel Prizes than those of any other country.

But what if it’s all an act? What if, instead of reading Proust and Zola, the French are really binge-reading romance novels while eating pain au chocolat?

I decided to investigate.

You can read the rest of the article at Frenchly.

Secrets of St.-Rémy: Parking

The Wednesday morning market in St.-Rémy is one of the best in Provence. And it is very popular, which makes parking a challenge. There are a few spots available in the pay lots and on the street, but they tend to fill up early. So most people have to park far from the market.

This is fine on the way in, but trudging back to your car with everything you bought at the market can be a pain. Isn’t there a better way?

Happily, the answer is yes, and most people don’t know about it.  And it’s free!  It’s a series of parking lots that you wend your way through and you can find parking even on busy market days.

The series of lots is called Parking de la Libération. It’s on Avenue de la Libération, just off Boulevard Mirabeau. But it is not well marked and can be hard to find, even with a GPS.  Here’s how to find it.

If you are coming from out of town, you will probably find yourself on the D99 at some point. This is the East-West road between Cavaillon and Tarascon. Get off the D99 onto the D99A on the East side of town (there are two such intersections.) Go 1.5km, until just BEFORE you dead end onto Boulevard Mirabeau. On your left will be something that looks kind of like extra space between buildings but is actually a driveway. Here’s what it looks like.

Alternatively, if you are coming from St.-Rémy itself, you will probably be on the ring road that circles the downtown. It changes names several times and at one point becomes Boulevard Mirabeau. When you get there, stay in the right lane and take the exit towards Cavaillon.

After 70 meters, at the crosswalk, the parking lot entry will be on your right. Go slowly or you will miss it! Here’s what it looks like.

Turn right and go slowly. You’ll end up in a small parking lot that is always full. Don’t worry, go to the far end of the lot and follow the “Sortie” sign.

Now you will be in a larger parking lot that is also probably full. Drive out the exit on the far side (that is, to the right as you first enter the parking lot.) As you drive through the parking lot, keep your eye out for this sign on your right – it’s the walking path into town.

As you exit this second parking lot, going up a little ramp, you will enter a third parking lot that looks like the second one. On market days it is usually full. Never fear! Keep going, out the far side of this lot and up another ramp.

Now you’ve hit the big lot, with lots of dirt and grass and plenty of parking. I’ve seen it get crowded but never full. You will almost certainly be able to park here.

Now go back to the walking path into town and enjoy the market. But be sure to note the end of the walking path so you can find it on the way back. The path is on Rue Marius Jouveau and here’s what it looks like from town.

When you go back to your car, don’t try to exit the way you entered, as this is a “one way” parking lot. Instead, continue on the dirt road in the parking lot to the far side and go out that way.

When you exit, you can go right (towards Maussane), left (back to town) or straight (other directions). If you go left, be aware that this is a narrow road with two-way traffic and periodically one car will need to stop in a wide spot to let another pass.

Enjoy St.-Rémy!

Meet Provence Artist James Jaulin

James Jaulin spent decades as an antiquaire, a dealer in antiquities, traveling the world in search of rare and beautiful treasures. He now travels the world as a photographer, capturing the beauty of life through his lens.

So what does he consider himself to be first and foremost, a photographer or an antiquaire?

“I am a voyager,” says Jaulin, “and I have been all my life.”

His voyaging began early, as his father was in the French military. Part of Jaulin’s childhood was spent in France, part in Vietnam, and part in Algeria. He found beauty and wonder everywhere.

You can read the rest of the article here.

For those of you who would like to try your hand at French, here’s a translation of the article that was kindly done by one of my friends in France.

James Jaulin a passé des dizaines d’années de sa vie en tant qu’Antiquaire, voyageant dans le monde entier à la recherche d’objets exceptionnels. A présent, il parcourt toujours l’univers, mais en tant que Photographe, capturant ainsi la beauté de la vie avec son appareil photo.

Aussi, lorsqu’on lui demande s’il pense être avant tout photographe ou Antiquaire, il répond : Je suis d’abord un voyageur !

Ses périples ont commencé dès le plus jeune âge, car son père étant dans l’Armée Française, il a vécu une partie de son enfance en France, puis au Vietnam, enfin en Algérie. Partout il a trouvé matière à s’émerveiller. Son premier appareil fut un simple Brownie qui lui servit d’abord à photographier le désert algérien et ses habitants. Il appréciait les photos de paysages, mais était surtout fasciné par les « gens », femmes et hommes au travail, en conversation ou partageant des scènes de vie quotidienne. C’est cette fascination qu’il cherche à exprimer dans ses clichés.

Durant toute sa vie d’Antiquaire et en voyageant dans le monde entier, il n’a cessé de photographier. En tant que marchand il se faisait un point d’honneur à rechercher des objets qui n’étaient pas simplement beaux, mais également qui exprimaient une émotion, une histoire, une âme. Aussi son choix s’effectuait en fonction de « ce que je vois et ce que je ressens »

C’est également son approche sensible de la photographie.

Depuis sa retraite prise il y a quelques années, James Jaulin continue les voyages, appareil photo en bandoulière. Comme dans sa jeunesse, il s’intéresse surtout à la vie de tous les jours, aux coutumes et traditions. Après avoir visité des dizaines de pays et vécu dans plusieurs d’entre eux, il apprécie toujours les différences des peuples. Il les fixe sur ses clichés, mais exprime également l’humanité que nous avons tous en commun.

James Jaulin se considère comme un « reporter », cherchant par ses images à raconter une histoire et à la partager. Ce qui le passionne c’est d’arriver à nous faire ressentir une émotion vécue à l’autre bout de la planète. Ainsi ses photos nous transportent et nous amènent à connaitre d’autres façons d’appréhender la vie.

Le prochain voyage de James Jaulin l’emmènera en Ethiopie, dans les pas de Rimbaud.

A French Collection

Annette Charlton is a francophile and self-confessed cheese lover who splits her time between Australia and France.  She has a wonderful and informative website called A French Collection ( that I encourage you to check out.

Annette recently wrote a great review of my book that you can find here.  Thanks Annette!

Meet Provence Artist Christian Detaux

Christian Detaux always wanted to be an artist. For as long as he can remember, he’s been drawing and painting and shaping forms.

At the age of 16, Detaux applied to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, ready to embark on a career as an artist. But then he read a biography of the great Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani, who lived a life of poverty.

It made Detaux realize that most artists, and even some famous ones, have a hard time making a living. So, wanting to someday support a family, he reluctantly set aside his brushes and pens and embarked on a new path.

Read the rest of the article here

Book Review: My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh

On a cold, wet day about ten years ago, Londoner Janine Marsh went with her husband and father on a day trip to France. They didn’t have big plans – it was just a quick jaunt to have lunch and buy some wine.

But sometimes life has other plans, and she ended up not only buying wine but also…a house. How that happened is the beginning of Marsh’s charming and funny memoir.

Nestled in a tiny town in France’s Seven Valleys area, near Calais, the house was a bit of a fixer-upper. No, it was more than that – it was a total wreck. And as you can imagine. everything went wrong, including an overflowing septic tank that earned Marsh the nickname Madame Merde. As she says, you have to be “a bit mad” to buy a house like this.

For the next few years, Marsh and her husband visited the house on weekends, beginning the monumental task of making it livable. But this split life proved unsatisfactory and eventually the big question had to be faced: do we move to France? Marsh, who had worked for years to rise from secretary to bank vice president – with another promotion imminent – agonized over the decision.

The couple decided to seize the day, and off to France they went. The more they repaired the house, the more they discovered problems, but their energy and optimism eventually carried them through.

Not only do they build a comfortable home, they build a wonderful new life for themselves in France. Marsh does a brilliant job of sharing with us what makes life in the Seven Valleys so charming. This isn’t Paris or Provence, but la France profonde, an area that tourists seldom visit.

We learn how neighbors help one another, like the time the Marshes nearly ran out of firewood in the middle of winter. With disaster looming, a neighbor showed up with his tractor, carrying several tons of firewood – and no payment expected.

We learn about the nearby town that is normally silent as a tomb, but that comes to life when Madame Magniez decides to bake some of her famous bread to sell. People see smoke coming out of her chimney, word spreads, and soon there is a traffic jam in the tiny downtown.

Marsh shares with us the local legends and the local celebrations. She describes the ins and outs of the French bureaucracy, French driving customs, and the proper way to kiss a person in greeting.   And she tells us about the food, one of the glories of France.

My favorite line in the book is when Marsh writes about the huge meals to celebrate Christmas and New Years. As she says, “At this time of year in France, you can quite easily eat yourself to a standstill.”

If you’ve ever dreamed of discovering “the real France,” you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

Janine Marsh is the creator of The Good Life France, an excellent website with information on all things French.

You can buy the book at Amazon:

Women of the French Resistance

Simone Segouin

There was a very interesting talk in St.-Rémy-de-Provence the other night, about women in the French Resistance. It focused particular attention on St.-Rémy, where I live part of the year.

The talk was organized by the local historical society and featured two historians who specialize in the subject. The event was held at the town’s movie theater and was surprisingly full.

Interest may be strong here because the great Resistance leader Jean Moulin had a home in nearby St.-Andiol.   He was a member of Charles de Gaulle’s government-in-exile in London. In 1942 he parachuted into the nearby Alpilles mountains, in the dead of night, to organize competing factions into what we now call the Resistance.

You can read the rest of the article at Perfectly Provence.