Provence and the Greatest Power of the Ancient World

Fontvieille is a charming Provençal village in the south of France, close to Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

This quaint town has a lovely old lavoir (wash house), a shady central square, and a bustling open-air market on Monday mornings. It is a delightful place to spend a few pleasant hours and is also the perfect base for exploring three outstanding nearby sites.

First is the windmill immortalized by Alphonse Daudet in his beloved classic Letters from my Windmill. Then there is the ancient Montmajour Abbey, a favorite of Vincent Van Gogh. Finally there are the remains of the Romans’ Barbegal aqueduct and mills, part of the system that brought water to the city of Arles. They were so vast that they could mill enough grain for 12,000 people a day and have been called, “the greatest concentration of mechanical power in the ancient world.”

That is quite a lot to see! It makes for a lovely day trip.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

The Hollywood Glamour of Monaco

Monaco is a small country with a big reputation. Surrounded by France, it sits just a few miles from Nice on the French Riviera. Monaco is famous for its Monte Carlo Casino, its annual Formula One race, and the elegance of the late Princess Grace. The principality’s stunning beauty has attracted filmmakers for decades, who have used it as the backdrop for films starring a long list of Hollywood legends.

Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Yves Montand are just a few of the stars who have been filmed in Monaco. And let’s not forget James Bond, who seems to have a special affinity for the place, whether he’s being played by Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan.

Read all about Monaco’s Hollywood legacy and watch some film clips at Perfectly Provence!

Insider Tips for Paris in the Summertime

Summer is here! From Paris Plages to sunny sidewalk terrasses, Paris is particularly magical in the summer months, the late sunsets drawing locals to the riverbank and canal quays to revel in the ambiance.

The wonderful website Bonjour Paris asked its contributors (I’m one) for their favorite spot in Paris during the warm summer months. Want to escape to a secret island? Swim in an Art Deco pool? Enjoy a coffee in a royal garden? Then check out this article…and discover my own insider tip.

Read all about it in Bonjour Paris!

Where I Live

I was asked recently by Perfectly Provence to describe St-Rémy-de-Provence, the town where my wife Val and I live part of the year. What is there to see and do? Where is our favorite place for coffee or an apéro? How about our top picks for a romantic meal or for a casual bite to eat?

For anyone considering a visit to St-Rémy, you might find this helpful.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

Roman Provence

Provence is famous for its charming hilltop villages, brilliant sunflowers, and fragrant lavender. It is also where you can find some of the best Roman ruins in all of Europe. This is because Provence was once an important part of the Roman Empire. The Romans even gave it its name: “Provence” comes from the original Latin “Provincia Romana.”

If you like beautiful temples, magnificent amphitheaters, and stunning aqueducts as tall as an 18-story building, then Provence is the place for you. Let’s take a look at some of the best of these Roman sites.

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

Bring French Culture into Your Life…Virtually!

Oh, to be in France in the spring! My wife and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence but, like a lot of people, have had to cancel our travel plans. Now we are sheltering-in-place and yearning for sunny days in the South of France.

But all is not lost! We are still connected to la belle France virtually and you can be, too. There are plenty of books, movies, and TV shows that can transport you to that magical land. You can whip up dinner a la français and imagine you are in a cozy Paris bistro. And if you’d like to combine tourism with murder mysteries, I’ve got just the show for you.

Check out the resources I’ve put together for you in Perfectly Provence!

A Delightful Trip to Middle-of-Nowhere France

Oh boy, I love books about France and this is one of the best.

France is full of fascinating places to visit, like Paris, Provence, the Riviera, Normandy, and more. There are so many that it’s hard to decide where to go! Well, it just got harder because Janine Marsh’s description of her tiny village in “middle-of-nowhere-France” is so delightful that you’ll want to go there, too. I know I do.

Fifteen years ago, Janine and her husband Mark bought a wreck of a house in the Seven Valleys region of northern France. They didn’t plan to buy a house; they were on a shopping trip from their home in London and stumbled into a real estate office to get out of the rain. The next thing they knew they were looking at a place that cost “less than a Hermes handbag.” They bought it as a bit of a lark, thinking it would make a nice place for vacations and the occasional weekend getaway.

But life had other plans. The little village captured their hearts and soon they packed up and moved to France. The next dozen years were spent refurbishing the house (including a septic tank explosion that earned Janine the nickname Madame Merde), collecting a vast collection of farm animals (including a demented chicken named Ken) and settling into the local community.

Janine and Mark are those rarest of birds, expats who have really become members of a French village. They drink at a local bar that looks like someone’s living room circa 1955. They play charades with their neighbors, where everyone fights to play Johnny Holliday or Edith Piaf. They chat with the bread delivery man—their village is too tiny to support a boulangerie—who occasionally has questions about English (“What means the expression, ‘It sucks?’”)

The best part of the book is the way Janine writes about of her neighbors, a friendly and occasionally eccentric crew who have welcomed Janine and Mark with great warmth. There’s Jean-Claude, who teaches them how to trim hedges and make crow pâté. And Claudette, always ready with a hot cup of coffee and a plate of something tasty. And “Miss Pepperpot,” the tiny lady who occasionally needs help getting wayward cows out of her flowerbed, and offers jars of homemade jam as thanks.

I love Janine’s writing and laughed when she described a young couple falling in love over a shared passion for mushroom hunting (“one fungi led to another…”) And her description of a strong local drink (“Calvados can blow your socks off, and after a couple of hours we were all pretty much sockless.”)

If you are stuck at home and looking for something to brighten your day, think about taking a trip to this delightful corner of France. I just loved this book and I think you will, too.

You can find My Four Seasons in France on Amazon.

Armchair Travel in France with Robert Louis Stevenson

Bored at home? Missing France? Here’s a pleasant way to while away a few hours.

Known for his classic novels like Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson was an adventurer. Born into a family of lighthouse designers in Scotland, as a young man he longed to see the wider world. As he put it,

“I have been after an adventure all my life, a pure adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers.”

His first great adventure was in France, in the wild and rugged region known as the Cévennes. At the age of 27 he made his way to the tiny village of Le Monastier, where he gathered (too many) provisions, had a sleeping bag made, and bought a donkey named Modestine. Then he set out—admittedly, not really knowing what he was doing—on a 12-day march into the unknown.

Read all about this fun book in France Today!

5 Top Hilltop Villages in Provence

Provence is famous for its hilltop towns, known in French as villages perchés. These lovely villages, with their winding, narrow streets, were situated as high as possible back in the old days, as protection against brigands and invaders. Today we can take advantage of their lofty perches to enjoy their charm and their fabulous views, while the only invaders are tourists.

Want to discover some of the best of these villages perchés? Then read my article in The Good Life France!

A Small-Group, Women-Only Wine & Food Tour in the South of France

I know I’m biased, but I think the South of France is the most beautiful place in the world. And springtime is the best time to visit—it’s warm and sunny and the markets are full of succulent fruits and vegetables.

If you have always dreamed of visiting this lovely area, here’s an idea for you. A friend of mine, Sarah Covey, is organizing a small-group, women-only wine and food tour that starts on June 1. Sarah is a wine professional, a food lover, a French speaker, and a thoroughly delightful person—you can’t help but like her!

There are a few spots left on Sarah’s next trip, so maybe it’s time to make your dream come true! If you’d like to learn more, here’s her website: Vibrant Travelers.

Bon voyage!