Questions We Ask About Provence

Google knows a lot about us, A LOT. We ask it billions of questions and it keeps track of every one of them, constantly tallying what we really want to know. For example, a few of the top questions that Americans asked last year were, “Where is my refund?” (tax day), “Can dogs eat apples?” (yes), and “Is Europe a country?” (time to go back to school!)

Google uses its vast database to aid us when we pose a question, using auto-fill to complete what it thinks we are going to ask. So when we type “Why is”, Google might complete our question with “the sky blue?”—another of last year’s most popular queries.

This means we can use auto-fill to find out what people really think about a subject. As an American who lives part-time in Provence, I was curious what my fellow citizens ask about this magnificent corner of the world.

Find out what I learned at Perfectly Provence!

The Greatest French Book of All Time?

France is known for great literature. Think of all those famous authors–Hugo, Balzac, Proust, Camus, Flaubert, and more. Ok, maybe we haven’t read a lot of them but Les Mis was terrific, wasn’t it?

Out of all the books written by French authors, which one is the best? Maybe Madame Bovary? The Stranger? In Search of Lost Time? Or maybe the beloved Little Prince?

I decided to find out. You might be surprised by what I learned.

Read all about it in My French Life!

The Most Roman City in France

Just west of Provence, across the mighty Rhône River, lays the Gard Department of France. Gard and Provence share a deep Roman history, from the days when both were part of the Roman region of Gallia.

Because it is so close to Provence, a visit to Gard makes for a nice day trip from Avignon or St-Rémy-de-Provence or wherever you might be staying. And one of the highlights of a visit is the city of Nîmes, once called Nemauses and known as “the most Roman city outside of Italy.” Emperor Augustus made Nemauses his local capital and today Nîmes is filled with sites and monuments that make it a must-see for any lover of Roman history.

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

French Universities: Bad or Just Misunderstood?

The latest Shanghai Ranking of the world’s universities has just been published. And once again France is disappointed. The list is dominated by American and British universities, while the top school in France is only ranked #37, four spots below the University of North Carolina. Headlines across France all have the same message: France “lags behind” and something must be done!

Are French universities really that bad? Or does the Shanghai Ranking not value the things that make them special? I decided to find out.

Read what I learned at Frenchly!

 

The Fabulous New Roman History Museum in Nîmes

For lovers of Roman history, the city of Nîmes in southern France is a must-see. It was once a major metropolis in Roman Gaul and today boasts a plethora of important sites: there’s the beautiful Maison Carré temple that Thomas Jefferson used it as a model for the Virginia state capital building, a large and well-preserved amphitheater, a massive Roman guard tower, and more.

There are plenty of reasons to visit Nîmes and now here’s another: the Museum of Romanity that opened in 2018. This museum exhibits thousands of fascinating artifacts and covers over 2,500 years of life in the city. And it’s great for kids as well as adults.

Val and I visited it a few weeks ago and had a great time. You can read my report on this terrific museum in France Today.

Van Gogh in Paris and Provence

If you are visiting Paris or Provence this year, don’t miss the fabulous sound and light shows at the Carrières de Lumières (Provence) and the new Ateliers des Lumières (Paris). They feature the works of Vincent Van Gogh, projected onto massive interior walls and choreographed with beautiful music. You’ve got to see it to believe it!

The Carrières de Lumières is in Les Baux-de-Provence, near both St-Rémy and Arles, where Van Gogh did much of his most important work. You can combine a visit to the Carrières with a visit to those towns, even seeing the room where Van Gogh lived in the asylum in St-Rémy; it’s a beautiful place and very moving.

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

New Rules for Sex in France

Sex permeates French society, including the language. All nouns have genders—either masculine or feminine—though it’s sometimes unclear why a word is one or the other. Chemise (shirt) is feminine, for example, while chemisier (blouse) is masculine. Go figure.

And just when you think you’ve figured out the gender rules, somebody goes and changes them. That somebody is the Académie française, the arbiter of all things having to do with the French language. And the new rules they just announced are such a big change that some consider them “true barbarism.”

Only in France!

Read all about it at Frenchly!

You Couldn’t Make This Up

One day our Provence friends Xavier and Marie-France decided that Val and I should join them at an avant-garde theatrical performance. They said it would improve our “cultural appreciation.” The show was being put on by a private group, the kind that rarely opens its doors to foreigners like us, so we were thrilled to be invited. But I have to say, it was about the strangest piece of theater I’ve ever seen!

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence.

Life in Provence is Different

A neighbor who feeds baguettes to the local donkeys? Another who wants you to taste his pig-snout salad? Folks who think Americans all wear cowboy hats and six-shooters?

Yes, life in Provence is different than California. I’m thrilled that a chapter of my new book Are We French Yet? has been featured in France Today. It tells these stories and more. You can read all about it here!