Provence: Insider Tips

This past spring I was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Alliance Française of Pasadena, one of the most active groups in the US. I gave a Zoom presentation about Provence and answered questions about the life that Val and I live there.

It was a fun session, with lots of good back and forth, and you can watch the recording if you’d like. There are a few minutes of club business at the start that you can skip if you want; I come on at about the four-and-a-half minute mark.

Here’s the link!

The Great Women of France, Part 1

Who are the great women of France? There are so many, it is hard to list them all! But let’s start with 15 who have played important roles in the history of la belle France. You’ll find a few surprises on my list, like the woman who was not even French, but that’s part of the fun of learning about these extraordinary women.

There is so much to say that I’ve divided my list into three different articles, each discussing five women. This first article covers the period up to the end of the 16th century.

Some of the women you are probably familiar with, like Joan of Arc. But did you know that Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, once saved the city from Attila the Hun? Or that Catherine de Medici brought haute cuisine to France? And is it true that Mary Magdalene arrived in Provence by boat?

Read all about these and other great women of France in My French Life!

Visiting St-Rémy-de-Provence

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy, a charming town at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains, and we’ve learned a lot in our years here. I’ve written a series of six articles that will be helpful to visitors: the must-see sights, our favorite restaurants and wineries, our favorite places to hike and bike, and more.

If you are thinking of visiting St-Rémy, or just want to dream a little, please give these articles a look. You can find them right here in My French Life!

Driving in France Without a License

Let’s say you are driving on a French country road and find yourself stuck behind a slow driver. A very slow driver. “Can’t this guy go any faster?” you wonder. And the answer might be…no!

France is full of microcars, called voiturettes or pots de yaourt (pots of yogurt!), that are specially designed to go slowly. Anyone can drive one, even without a license, as long as they are at least 14 years old.

Why would anyone drive a tiny car that can’t go very fast? And why are they so popular with young urbanites? Read all about it in The Good Life France!

12 Influential French Women to Know

France was behind many countries in granting women the right to vote, doing so only in 1944, but a lot of progress has been made since then. Today French women hold top roles in politics and business: the prime minister and the mayor of Paris are women, as are the heads of some of the most important companies and financial institutions. Women are leading lights in the worlds of art and entertainment and are some of the country’s greatest chefs.

Would you like to meet a few? I’ve written about a dozen of them, all immensely talented. And soon I’ll share a series of articles about some of the greatest women in French history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Madame Curie, and many more.

Read all about 12 of today’s most influential French women in France Today!

The Black Diamonds of Provence

The black truffle season has begun, thrilling chefs the world over. Black truffles are one of the culinary delicacies of France, and their pungent, earthy taste enlivens many a plate.

France produces about half the world’s black truffles, mostly from Provence. They are difficult to farm, so most are foraged in nature, especially among the roots of trees like oak and chestnut.

Traditionally, truffle pigs were used to find them, but pigs have fallen out of favor because they eat the truffles! Now truffle hounds are used, because dogs don’t find truffles tasty.

The tiny Provençal village of Richerenches calls itself the Truffle Capital of the World, and it might be right. This year its truffle market celebrates its 100th anniversary, and the town’s church even holds a special Truffle Mass!

Read all about these “black diamonds” in Perfectly Provence!

How to Make a Holiday Toast Around the World

From drinking glühwein in Germany to Lambrusco in Italy, each country has its own holiday traditions.

The wine writer Jill Barth has written a fun article about wine and winter holidays around the world, including recommendations on what to drink. It might come in handy for New Year’s! And I’m thrilled to be quoted—about France, of course.

You can find Jill’s article here. Happy New Year!

Christmas Traditions in Provence

Like many parts of France, Provence has Christmas traditions that go back centuries. Some are well-known, like those cute little santons and the 13 desserts eaten after midnight mass. But did you know about the wheat that predicts the future? Or the lamb and shepherds in church? And how about those camels strolling through the streets?

Read all about these fun Provençal Christmas traditions in The Good Life France!

10 Historic Jewish Sites in Provence

France has a thriving Jewish community, the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States. And while today Paris is the center of French Jewish life, this wasn’t always the case. For centuries, that center was Provence, thanks to a surprising protector: the Pope! I’ve written about ten historic Jewish sites in Provence, most of which you can visit today.

Would you like to visit the oldest synagogue in France? Or a museum rich with Jewish and Provençal history? Or maybe you’d like to attend a Jewish music festival!

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence! And Happy Hanukah!

Destination Christmas: Strasbourg vs Provence

Strasbourg is known as “the Christmas capital of Europe,” with its festive mood, lights and holiday magic. The city gives you the feeling that if you were to bite into any of its buildings, they would taste like gingerbread and chocolate.

But is it the best place to experience a real French Christmas? I think not.

In Provence you’ll find festive local markets, colorful parades like the bravade calendale, and santons galore. There won’t be the crush of international tourists you’ll find in Strasbourg, and the weather will be much better than way up north.

One of my colleagues and I recently faced off, each arguing for our favorite Christmas destination. Who’s right? See what we have to say and decide for yourself!

Read all about it in Frenchly!