A Sad Day

As I’m sure you know, the great cathedral of Notre Dame suffered a terrible fire on Monday night. Many words have been written about the tragedy and I think some of the most beautiful were in Le Monde. Please find my translation below.

France Touched To The Heart

Like a majestic stone ship enclosed by the two arms of the Seine, Notre Dame has always maintained a singular dialogue with the history of mankind and the eternity of the gods. The terrible, voracious, long-lasting flames that ravaged the Cathedral of Paris did not put an end to this dialogue. But they will add to it the staggering pain of the catastrophe, the tragedy of the Parisians, the mourning of a France touched to the heart, and the immense wave of sadness that has traveled the planet.

The emotion of all was mixed with the sobs stifled by many. For Christians, first of all, the Church of Our Lady has been for more than eight centuries – or fifteen centuries including its former Merovingian form – one of the high places of a faith that has shaped Europe through the ages. Unlike many other houses of worship, if it had not always withstood the ravages of time, the cathedral had escaped the flames that had destroyed so many others. Its medieval roof, this mysterious “forest”, is today in ashes.

Notre Dame, enthroned in the heart of the island where the city was born, with its long and high nave, two massive towers and the spire which collapsed in flames yesterday, was for Parisians the eternal silhouette of the city, almost its magnetic pole. And for all lovers of art and civilization, the cathedral was a sumptuous Gothic jewel, a miracle of architecture, and a priceless museum that will take years, even decades, to repair and restore.

Geography, history, and literature have made Notre Dame the epicenter of the country. On its forecourt is the “zero point” from which is calculated the distance to every town in France. Its nave has hosted some of the richest chapters of the national novel. Kings were crowned in Reims and buried in Saint-Denis, but for centuries the monarchy came to kneel at Notre Dame, to celebrate marriages and military victories. A decade after the Revolution, which did not spare it completely, Napoleon had himself crowned emperor in 1804.

The French republic has often made it the place of its triumphs and sorrows. It was the great bell of Notre Dame which first sounded the victory of 1918. It was in this cathedral, under rifle fire from the desperadoes of the Collaboration, that General de Gaulle came to celebrate the liberation of the capital in 1944. There again, all the great people of the planet gathered to salute, during solemn Masses, the death of three French presidents: de Gaulle, Pompidou and Mitterrand.

“On the face of this old queen of our cathedrals, beside a wrinkle, we always find a scar,” wrote Victor Hugo, chronicler of Notre Dame. The scar, this time, will be indelible. “We will rebuild this cathedral,” Emmanuel Macron assured us on the evening of the disaster. But this commitment will not be able to erase the terrible images of the immense fire that spared Notre Dame only its skeleton of stone, nor will it erase the memory of a poignant evening of mourning, both for France and across the globe.

Congratulations to our Winner!

Congratulations to Marjorie from California, the winner of our “write a book review” contest! She wins the lovely Provence gift basket pictured below, which is on its way to her now. Marjorie’s name was chosen randomly from among the several dozen readers who entered.

A big thanks to all of you who have written reviews of Are We French Yet? I so very much appreciate your time and effort. And to those of you who are thinking about writing a review…there’s no gift basket but I’ll appreciate you just as much!

Bises,

Keith

Win a Basket of French Goodies!

I have two bits of good news for you today. The first is that my new book, Are We French Yet? is now available in paperback. It’s the perfect Christmas gift for the France-lover in your life! You can find it here at Amazon.

The second good news is that I’m offering a prize for those of you who write reviews of Are We French Yet? Authors love reviews and the more the merrier. So I’d like to offer you an incentive to post a review on Amazon.

The rules are simple: just leave an Amazon review of Are We French Yet? and you are eligible to win! That’s it! Send me* a link to the review and your name will go into a drawing. The winner will get the basket pictured above, stuffed with French goodies like olive oil, tapenade, Provence herbs and more!

The deadline is January 31, 2019 and the drawing will be in early February. Sorry, the contest is only open to US residents.

* Please email me at author@keithvansickle.com

Enter soon for a chance to win!

Provence in the Rain

Provence is famous for clear blue skies. Its brilliant sunlight has attracted painters such as Cezanne and Matisse as well as scads of tourists. There are plenty of things to see outdoors in Provence, like the colorful ochre mines of Roussillon and the lavender fields of Sault. But what if you happen to visit when the weather is not so great, like it has been this spring? Can you still enjoy Provence in the rain?

Yes ! Read all about how to enjoy a rainy day in Provence at The Good Life France.

Top 100 French Blogs and Websites for Francophiles

I’m thrilled to announce that this website, Life in Provence, has been named by Feedspot as one of the Top 100 French Blogs and Websites for Francophiles. Many thanks to all of you who read and share my stories.

The Top 100 list includes plenty of terrific sites and I encourage you to check it out. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Perfectly Provence. If you want news and stories about Provence, don’t miss this one! Food, travel, sights to see, recipes, current happenings–it’s all here.

My French Life – Ma Vie Francaise. Lots of interesting stories about French culture, lifestyle, language, history and more. Check out the French book club, an online group that reads and discusses a different French book each month.

Frenchly. News, art, style, culture and all things French, including plenty of funny stories.

The Good Life France. This is one of the best websites out there for things to do and see in France. Plus it’s entertaining as Janine Marsh tells us about life in her little corner of France, along with her dozens of ducks, geese, chickens, cats and dogs.

The Provence Post. Another great site about Provence, with lots of information for those planning to travel to this beautiful area.

France Travel Tips. Janice Chung has been to France dozens of times, tracking down fascinating but lesser-known places to see. Here she shares her tips with us.

Oui in France. Diane moved to France with her French husband and shares stories of life as an American expat in France.

French Word-A-Day. Follow the adventures of an American expat in France and learn French while you do!

The French Village Diaries. Entertaining stories about life in a small French town, plus frequent reviews of books set in France.

A French Collection. Funny stories of a family that somehow splits its time between France and Australia.

 

Secrets of St-Rémy: Shady Canal Walks

The area around St-Rémy-de-Provence is wonderful for hiking. The Alpilles Mountains are crisscrossed with well-marked trails that offer fabulous views.

But let’s face it, who wants to schlep through the mountains on a hot summer day? Isn’t there a better way to stretch your legs and still see beautiful countryside?

Yes—a canal walk.

St-Rémy is surrounded by agriculture—vineyards, olive groves, and fields growing fruits and vegetables of all kinds. A vast network of canals, built around the main Canal des Alpines, supports it all. This canal and its offshoots are like a bunch of little rivers with pleasant, shady walking paths alongside them.

My favorite starting point is from Domaine Milan, a winery just outside of town. From there you can follow the path to the right and go for miles, with wonderful views of vineyards and the Alpilles beyond.

If you instead go left from Domaine Milan, you will quickly come to a place where the canal branches into two. Follow the left fork and you’ll amble towards town, passing bassins full of croaking frogs and the occasional peep into someone’s back yard.

If you instead take the fork to the right, you’ll pass a little waterfall as the canal drops down to a lower level. Tourists like to stop here to take pictures of it.

If you continue along this branch of the canal, you’ll soon cross over the main road—what looks like an overpass from below is actually an elevated canal!

Continue for a mile or so you will be rewarded with beautiful views down onto St.-Rémy itself.

The network of canals extends far beyond St-Rémy, towards Eygalières in the east, St.-Ètienne-du-Grès in the west and towns like Maillane in the north. Check Google Maps to trace their path and find a spot to begin your walk. It’s an unbeatable way to get some cool exercise on a hot day.

Long Term Car Rentals in France

Have you ever seen a mysterious red license plate on a French car and wondered what it meant? Was the driver a diplomat? A military officer? A French James Bond saving the world from an evil genius?

No, the car was from the French Buyback Lease program. If you need to rent a car in Europe for more than a few weeks, this may the way to go. You get a brand new car with 100% insurance for less than the price of a normal rental.

Find out all about it at The Good Life France (page 106.)

A Great Website About France

This past spring I had the pleasure of meeting Janice Chung in Provence. Jan runs the great website France Travel Tips, with information about things to see and do all over the country. I love reading her stories about hidden corners of France that most tourists never see. An example is this story about sculptured seaside rocks in Brittany.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to Jan’s website, you should be!