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!
Working life has changed all over the world, especially this year due to the coronavirus. Is it the same in France?
A recent survey asked French managers what have been the biggest changes in French working life over the last 30 years, since 1990. That’s a long time—back in 1990 we still used rotary phones and didn’t have to go through an Xray machine to board a flight!
What sorts of changes did these French managers identify? The creation of the 35 hour work week, of course, but also things like “the right to disconnect” and the recognition of burnout as a professional illness.
The survey results are very interesting and you might want to check them out. Here they are in France Today!
People are often surprised to learn that France has the third-largest Jewish population in the world, after Israel and the United States.
And they are even more surprised to learn that for centuries the center of Jewish life in France wasn’t Paris, it was Provence… thanks to the Pope!
How did this happen?
Jews have long been subject to persecution in France, as in many places.
In the Middle Ages, French Jews were the victims of murders, riots, and outright expulsions. There were few places where they were allowed to live, even fewer jobs they were allowed to hold, and many were forced to wear a yellow star.
Life was intolerable… but hope beckoned in the south.
Learn all about the surprising history of Jewish Provence in My French Life!
Some quotes from France are beyond famous. King Louis XIV saying “I am the state” or Napoleon’s “An army travels on its stomach” are known around the world. And, if you love quotes, you’ll enjoy these fun France sayings…
“How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?”—Charles de Gaulle
“France is the most civilized country in the world and doesn’t care who knows it.”—John Gunther
“They have a very low rate for attempted murder and a high rate for successfully concluded murder. It seems that when a French person sets out to kill someone, they make a good job of it.”—Nick Yapp
“You should definitely visit the Louvre, a world-famous art museum where you can view, at close range, the backs of thousands of other tourists trying to see the Mona Lisa.”—Dave Barry
“Boy, those French. They have a different word for everything.”—Steve Martin
“True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee. But why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don’t know.”—P.J. O’Rourke
“France has neither winter nor summer nor morals—apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.”—Mark Twain
“Every Frenchman wants to enjoy one or more privileges; that’s the way he shows his passion for equality.”—Charles de Gaulle
“The thing that staggers you when you first come to France is the fact that all the French speak French—even the children.”—Olivia de Havilland
In the easternmost part of Provence, near the border with Italy, lies the wild and rugged Mercantour National Park. It is famous for its natural beauty, its Bronze Age stone carvings and its growing population of grey wolves. It is also home to the Route de la Bonette, a road that claims to be the highest in all of Europe. But is it?
The Swiss, Austrians, Spaniards and others would disagree, as they all believe they possess higher roads. But the proud French claim top honors and even have official road signs proclaiming their triumph.
What’s not in dispute is that the Route de la Bonette is a high road indeed and is famous among cyclists–it’s been part of the Tour de France a number of times. My article explores the history of the road, some interesting sights to see, and a link to a short video of this beautiful part of France.
Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!
We use lots of different words to describe animals. It’s a flock of sheep but a herd of cattle. A pride of lions but a gaggle of geese. A litter of puppies but a swarm of bees.
Do the French use the same terms? Yes and no. Many are the same but not all, and that raises some interesting questions. For example, English-speakers refer to a chattering of starlings but in French it’s a murmur (murmure.) Does this mean that French starlings are better-behaved? Or maybe they’re just shy?
I list some of the fascinating words that are the same in both languages, like an exaltation of larks. And I explore the differences and what they might mean, like why French mice should be avoided and why you run from English crows like your life depends on it.
Read all about it in France Today!
If you love color, you’ll love Roussillon.
This charming village is perched on a hilltop in Provence’s Luberon Valley, the region made famous by Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’. But Roussillon’s fame came long before Mayle, as it was once the world capital of ochre.
Ochre is a naturally occurring pigment that comes in an astonishing variety of colors, from bright shades of yellow and orange to vivid red and purple. It is embedded in certain clays and prehistoric people used it for cave paintings. The pigment can be extracted to create dyes, and ochre mining was once a big business, with Roussillon its world center.
The ochre quarries are now abandoned but they are a delightful place to visit, walking though an almost unbelievably colorful landscape. The village is also a pleasant place to wander through, with its buildings all painted in different shades of ochre.
Read all about it in My French Life!
I’d like to introduce you to my friend Annette Charlton, part-time Frenchwoman and the author of a delightful new book, A French Life.
Some years ago, Annette and her husband bought a house in a small village in Brittany. This, you might think, is not particularly unusual. But they bought the house on their first-ever trip to France. And they live in Australia. All right, you think, this is not your run-of-the-mill couple.
Annette is the publisher of A French Collection, where she writes about all things French. And she occasionally writes funny stories about her life in France. She has now collected these blog posts into a slim volume that I very much enjoyed reading.
Annette begins with a straightforward question—how do you buy a house on your first trip to a country? While others might choose a different path, preferring to visit a few times first, the method she lays out will profit anyone thinking of buying a home abroad.
Then Annette starts telling funny stories about the life that she, her husband, and their three kids live in France. She describes an unusual French specialty, chocolate sausage. She tells how she once accidentally invited an elderly priest for a visit, then had to entertain him when neither spoke the other’s language. And she asks the vital question, what is the proper French etiquette when someone’s hair catches on fire?
Whether you buy this book, read the stories on her blog, or just dip into A French Collection from time to time, I guarantee you’ll enjoy getting to know Annette and her family.
You can purchase A French Life here.
What do you do with a giant cavern?
That was the question that vexed the Provençal village of Les Baux-de-Provence. For centuries, giant blocks of white limestone had been extracted from a nearby mountain to build the town and its towering château. But by 1935, competition had forced the limestone quarry to close, leaving behind a massive, ghostly chamber. There it sat for decades, cold and silent, waiting for someone to restore it to glory.
That someone was Albert Plécy, a photographer and filmmaker, who arrived in 1975 with the idea of a “total image.” He installed a few giant projectors that flooded the cavern with color, projecting images that he coordinated with music. For viewers inside the cavern, it was a kind of total immersion that he called the Cathedral d’Images–the Cathedral of Images.
From this modest beginning, the program has slowly become more sophisticated and today it uses hundreds of cutting-edge projectors and complex computer control. Now called the Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light), the site is run by Culturespaces, France’s leading private manager of museums and art centers. Carrières de Lumières has become one of Provence’s leading tourist attractions and has led to the creation of “siblings” in Paris, Bordeaux, and South Korea.
Read about these magical siblings in France Today!