France is an easy country to drive in but, like every country, it has its quirks. So I’ve written a guide to French driving, including these helpful topics:
- How to avoid disaster at the pump
- A special leasing program that can save you money
- How French toll roads work
- An important setting on your GPS
- French traffic circles
- And, of course, French drivers
Read all about it at My French Life!
My wife Val and I live part-time in St-Rémy-de-Provence, and over the years we’ve discovered lots of wonderful places to eat, including some that are off the beaten path. And, of course, we have our favorite boulangerie, cheese shop, and all the rest.
Would you like to dine while gazing at the Alpilles mountains, with horses in the field next door? Or while sitting under leafy sycamore trees in a beautiful park? Or maybe you’d like to try the specialities at Provence’s best chocolatièr.
I share my insider secrets with you at The Good Life France!
This article is taken from my upcoming book An Insider’s Guide to Provence, available for pre-order on Amazon.
Let’s go underwater this week!
The Underwater Museum of Marseille (Musée Subaquatique de Marseille) recently opened its doors, so to speak, with ten newly-created sculptures near a popular city beach. Admission is free, and guided tours are also available.
The museum’s founder was inspired by Mexico’s underwater sculpture garden near Cancun. Such sculpture gardens have begun to pop up worldwide, and Marseille’s is one of the first in France, along with two others near Cannes and Corsica.
Learn more about visiting the museum and see some great underwater photos at Perfectly Provence.
Further east along France’s Mediterranean coastline lie the remains of Olbia, a Greek colony founded in 325 B.C. It once had a bustling port that eventually sank beneath the waves. The port broke apart into hundreds of stone blocks, strewn across the sea floor. Today no one knows what it looked like or how it was used.
But never fear, an intrepid group of scientists is virtually recreating the port. They are using sophisticated imaging technology, plus software that helps them put it back together–kind of like solving the world’s hardest jigsaw puzzle.
Find out how they are doing this, plus see a great video of the Olbia site, at Perfectly Provence!
Just two miles from the center of Arles sits the Villa Benkemoun, a magnificent estate designed by a disciple of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Visiting it is like stepping back in time.
The villa was the brainchild of Simone and Pierre Benkemoun, who enlisted their friend Émile Sala to design their dream home. Sala took an unusual approach.
Instead of creating an initial set of architectural drawings, Sala began by asking the family to jot down, day by day, how they lived their lives. Where did they take their meals, how did they entertain, did they spend time indoors or out? Then he used this knowledge to design a home that fit their needs, as well as Pierre’s desire to have a home that was “open and transparent.”
The Benkemouns liked Sala’s initial design but thought it had too many sharp edges. They suggested rounding a corner here, creating a curve there, until the house took the form they wanted. The final design was made up of round and elliptical rooms, “full of sensuality,” that seemed to swirl from one to the other. The result is a triumph of 1970s design, a masterpiece of modern architecture.
Read all about it, and see some beautiful photos, at Perfectly Provence!
Way back around 50 B.C., Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (now France) and the area remained part of the Roman Empire for the next five centuries. Today there are Roman sites all over France, but the best are in and around Provence. In fact, ‘Provence’ comes from the Latin ‘Provincia Romana’, the name of the large Roman province along the Mediterranean coast.
Whether it’s Nîmes with its magnificent temple, Arles with its arena, or Orange with its theater, you can find many reminders of the greatness that was Rome. And let’s not forget the Pont du Gard aqueduct, as tall as an 18-story building!
Follow me as I take you on a tour of Roman Provence in My French Life!
Let’s say you are strolling through a French village and come across thousands of sheep bleating in the streets. Or maybe you see horses with flowers in their manes. Or perhaps you are startled by French cowboys charging past with a bull in their midst. Where might you be?
You are probably in Provence.
The people of Provence have a deep respect for nature and for the animals that have long been integral to their rural life. And they maintain their traditions, many of which have to do with animals. Enjoying them is one of the most interesting parts of a visit to Provence.
What are these traditions? Let’s look at a few in My French Life!
Annette Charlton is an Australian woman who bought a house in France on her very first trip to the country–true story! Now she’s a part-time Frenchwoman, as she and her family spend part of the year in Brittany. If you haven’t already visited her wonderful website A French Collection, I encourage you to take a look.
Annette asked me to write about what Val and I love about our part-time life in Provence. There was so much to say that I had to keep myself from running on and on–there are the markets, the charming villages, the stunning landscape, and so much more. Best of all are the people, some of our best friends on earth. Whenever we are away from Provence, we long to return.
If you’d like to know what we love about Provence, take a look at this article that I wrote for Annette.
There are so many fun things to do in Nice—you can walk along the Promenade des Anglais, enjoy the view from one of those famous blue chairs, and dig into a salad niçoise in the Old Town. Now here’s one to add to your list: visit the most Russian spot in France, the Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral.
This magnificent structure was built in 1912 in memory of Nicholas Alexandrovich, the one-time heir to the Russian throne who died in Nice of meningitis. It was designed in the classic Old Russian style, with five beautiful onion domes. Seeing the cathedral you think you’ve somehow stumbled into Moscow. Today the cathedral is a National Monument of France and one of the most visited sites of the French Riviera.
Read all about this unique site in Perfectly Provence!
Imagine walking into a massive cavern inside a mountain. The walls shoot straight up and the ceiling is high above your head. Here and there are side chambers, and rough-hewn benches are carved into the walls. The whole place looks drab in the dim light—you wonder why your friends keep saying “You can’t miss it!”
Even after having looked at the photos and having viewed the promotional video, the actual experience of the Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) is almost impossible to describe. But once the lights go out and the magic starts, you just know you have to tell your friends, “You can’t miss it!”
Read all about this unique Provencal spot in My French Life. It’s part of my “Only in Provence” series and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
When most people think of the Côte d’Azur, they think of glamorous spots like Cannes, Antibes, and Nice—beautiful cities, all of them. But this glorious corner of France is also home to charming inland villages that are well worth a visit.
There’s high Gourdon, the Eagle’s Nest. And Saint-Martin-Vésubie in the so-called Little Switzerland of Provence. And let’s not forget the “Tibetan village” of Saorge.
You can see a garden designed by the same architect who designed the famous gardens of Versailles, a monastery famous for its ancient sundials, and visit a park where wolves roam free. It’s a fascinating region of France.
Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!