You Couldn’t Make This Up

One day our Provence friends Xavier and Marie-France decided that Val and I should join them at an avant-garde theatrical performance. They said it would improve our “cultural appreciation.” The show was being put on by a private group, the kind that rarely opens its doors to foreigners like us, so we were thrilled to be invited. But I have to say, it was about the strangest piece of theater I’ve ever seen!

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence.

What Do the French Think of the Gilets Jaunes These Days?

Since November, thousands of people known as gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have blocked roads and marched through cities to demonstrate against the French government. What began as a protest against a gas tax quickly metastasized into a general protest against rising inequality, lack of economic opportunity, the elitism of the French ruling class, and more.

After months of sometimes-violent protests, what do the French people think of the gilets jaunes these days? The answer might surprise you. Read all about it at Frenchly!

The Transhumance of St-Rémy

In the old days in Provence, flocks of sheep were marched hundreds of miles, to cool mountain pastures, where they would graze during the hot summer months. They passed through village after village in what was called the transhumance, and all the villagers would come out to watch the spectacle.

In the 1960s and 70s, the transhumance faded away as shepherds began to transport their flocks by truck, but then towns like St-Rémy-de-Provence revived the tradition with annual festivals. Held every year on Whit Monday, the modern transhumance features thousands of sheep circling the town, along with shepherds, sheepdogs and the occasional goat. It is like a river of sheet flowing past, a sight not to be forgotten!

Read all about this link to the Provençal past in The Good Life France.

The Interrogation

In the old days in the US, doctors were kind of like gods–Me Important Doctor, you lowly patient, that sort of thing. You certainly didn’t ask questions or share what you learned on the Internet. It’s still like that in France. So imagine visiting a French doctor and being interrogated…in French. It happened to me, with a surprising result.

You can read all about it at Perfectly Provence.

Life in Provence is Different

A neighbor who feeds baguettes to the local donkeys? Another who wants you to taste his pig-snout salad? Folks who think Americans all wear cowboy hats and six-shooters?

Yes, life in Provence is different than California. I’m thrilled that a chapter of my new book Are We French Yet? has been featured in France Today. It tells these stories and more. You can read all about it here!

The Four Queens of Provence

There have been many famous families in history. Take the Curies, for example: Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes and her husband, daughter and grandson each won one. Quite the talented family! And then there are the Wright brothers and the Brontë sisters. And let’s not forget those comic masters, the Marx brothers.

But imagine a family where not one, not two, but four sisters become queens, each heading a great European power. It’s hard to believe, but it actually happened in the 13th century! It’s a tale of Pride and Prejudice meets Game of Thrones…

Read the whole story at The Good Life France!

Sex and Politics redux

The link I sent you in the article below didn’t work properly. Sorry for the technical difficulty! Here it is again with a link that should be just fine.

Sex and Politics…oh la la! I suppose you’ll find them together in any country, but in France they make for an especially entertaining mix.

I’ve had some funny experiences with politics in France that you can read about in the latest issue of The Good Life France Magazine. My story is on page 92 and is adapted from my new book Are We French Yet?

Never Argue With Your French Teacher

My wife Val and I live in California but spend several months every year in St-Rémy-de-Provence. When we first started doing this some years ago, Val spoke basic French and I spoke next to none. So we each took classes in the US to improve our French and then, after a few years of this, started private lessons in Provence with a professor named Geneviève.

I was nervous about starting a weekly class of just Val and me. On the one hand, it would really help me improve because I’d get lots of attention from the professor. On the other hand, Val’s been studying the language a lot longer than me and all that attention would make abundantly clear how much better she is. But part of learning any language is accepting occasional (or in my case, frequent) humiliation so I’ve resigned myself to it.

The first time we had a class with Geneviève, she pulled a book off a shelf and asked us to each read a few paragraphs to test our pronunciation.

We failed.

I knew we were in trouble as soon as Val started. As she spoke, Geneviève began writing notes on a pad of paper. After a few sentences, she started grinning. Then she started giggling. When it was my turn she put down her pen and started laughing out loud and wiping her eyes.

You can read the rest of the story at Perfectly Provence. It is adapted from my new book Are We French Yet?