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!

Try a Graphic Novel for Easy French Reading

Let’s say you know some French and would like to try reading something more challenging that a magazine article. Here’s an idea for you: a bande dessinée, or BD, what we call a graphic novel in English.

When native English-speakers think of illustrated stories, comic books like Batman and Spiderman usually come to mind.These are considered ‘kid stuff’ rather than something an adult would read. Sure, there is the occasional graphic novel that reaches an adult readership, like Persepolis or Maus (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), but those are exceptions.

Not so in France.

No, in France the BD is a serious and respected art form, with an annual festival in Angoulême that attracts hundreds of thousands. And while comic-book-style BDs are popular, those dealing with adult themes are also widely read. And they are a great way for a French learner to read in French. The text is limited and the illustrations help you understand the story.

I’ve written an article on the advantages of BDs for French learners, along with an explanation of the different kinds that are available (history, humor, contemporary social issues, and more.) You can read all about it at My French Life!

How to Spend a Day in St-Rémy-de-Provence

It may be the middle of winter, but what better time to plan a trip to sunny Provence? And if you go, you won’t want to miss St-Rémy-de-Provence, where my wife and I live for part of the year.

Provence has so many great places to visit that you may only have a day for St-Rémy. I’m here to help you plan that day, with ideas on art (Van Gogh!), markets, restaurants, nature, and more.

You can read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

Improve Your French With a Language Partner

People sometimes ask me how I learned to speak French and I always tell them that the key was when I discovered language partners.

There are plenty of ways to learn French, such as traditional classroom courses, apps like Duolingo, and listening to podcasts. But while these can teach us the basics, what we really want to do is communicate. We want to be able to make our way around Paris and Provence on our own. We want to connect with the locals and learn about life in la belle France. And for that we have to speak, which can be scary. Which is where a language partner comes in.

A French language partner is someone who speaks French and is trying to learn English. You get together regularly and speak one language and then the other, encouraging and correcting one another.

Unlike a classroom where the opportunity to speak is limited, a meeting with a language partner gives you plenty of time to talk, listen, and ask questions. It allows you to learn not only formal French but also real-life French, with all of the slang and nuance that French people use in everyday conversation. And because you’re working with someone who is also learning a new language, you skip the usual embarrassment because you are both making the same kinds of mistakes. It’s relaxed and informal and downright fun.

Want to know more? Check out my article in Frenchly!

The Most Beautiful Villages in Provence

My friend Annette Charlton is a part-time Frenchie like me, splitting her time between homes in Australia and Brittany. She has a wonderful website called A French Collection that you should definitely check out.

Annette recently asked me to write an article about the most beautiful villages in Provence. “But they’re all beautiful!” I protested. “Yes, yes, I know,” she said, “but please try to keep it to under 10.”

So I wrote the article, reluctantly leaving out gems like Egalières and Oppède-le-Vieux. And of course I led off with my own St-Rémy-de-Provence. All of these towns are worth a visit on your next trip to la belle Provence.

Check out my article at A French Collection!

What Do the French Think of the Transit Strikes?

France is experiencing its biggest strikes since 1995, with the nation’s transportation system largely shut down, paralyzing the country. The strikes began in December and continued through the holidays, with regular street protests in Paris and other major cities. More “Days of Action” are scheduled, when thousands of protesters will again march in the streets. Getting around Paris has never been harder.

What do the French think of all this? Are they still solidaire with the strikers or are they tired of the hassle? I looked at some recent polls and the answer was surprising.

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Wines of the Rhône Valley

If someone asked you, “What are the wines of Popes and Presidents?” what would you say? You might guess Bordeaux or Burgundy or maybe even Champagne. But the right answer is the wines of the Rhône Valley.

The mighty Rhône River bursts forth from Lake Geneva in Switzerland and flows 500 miles south to the Mediterranean Sea, passing Lyon and Avignon along the way. Along its shores are grown the grapes that make some of France’s greatest wines.

Many of these wines are produced near where Val and I live in St-Rémy and we just love them. I’ve written an introduction to the wines of the Rhône Valley that you might enjoy…and maybe you’ll discover a new favorite!

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

Discover Marcel Pagnol, the Bard of Provence

Jean de Florette…My Father’s Glory…Marius and Fanny. These and other beloved works were all written by Marcel Pagnol, the bard of Provence. Ask a local what author best describes their part of the world and chances are they’ll name Pagnol.

A fascinating character, Marcel Pagnol was not only an author but also a great filmmaker, the first to be elected into the prestigious Académie française. And he’s my favorite French author. No one else can conjure life in the south of France the way he can.

Want to learn more? Read my article about Pagnol 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 and it’s fun to learn about them.

The wine writer Jill Barth has written an interesting article in Forbes 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.