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!
Picking a list of “greatest French people” is impossible. How do you define greatness? How do you compare a king to a scientist to a philosopher?
This hasn’t stopped people from trying. In 2005, a French television survey asked viewers this question, with dubious results — Charlemagne was ranked behind a soccer player! A study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified the best known French people, but fame is not the same as greatness. And then there are the lists of top French monarchs, French inventors, French writers, etc.
I decided to create my own list, based on who has had the greatest influence on France—usually positive, but sometimes negative. I combined the resources above with an informal survey of French friends, including business people, professors, scientists, and artists.
Check out my Top 10 in France Today!
Parlez-vous français? (“do you speak French?”) For most of us the answer is non, but there are more people who have mastered the language than you might expect.
Some you might already know about, like Jodie Foster and Serena Williams. But how about Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II? Or her Prime Minister, Boris Johnson?
Check out this list of surprising French speakers in France Today. And be sure to watch the funny video of a famous actor speaking French…and then being graded by a group of French teachers!
Are you looking for a great new book to read? Then consider trying a French novel. Books that have won the prestigious Prix Goncourt (Goncourt Prize) are a good place to start because most have been translated into English. Some have even become movies, like The Perfect Nanny and The Life Ahead, recently made into a Netflix film starring Sophia Loren.
What’s not to like about the Goncourt? It’s got class! (winners include Simone de Beauvoir and Marcel Proust.) It’s got controversy! (non-winners include Albert Camus and Colette.) And sometimes the prize committee gets hoodwinked, like the time they awarded the Goncourt to an author that didn’t exist.
Find your next great read at France Today!
The world is rich with legends. We still dream of Camelot and King Arthur’s court. We hope to one day find El Dorado and its streets paved with gold. And who wouldn’t love to take a dip in the Fountain of Youth?
Provence, too, has its legends.
Is it true that a terrible monster once lived in the depths of the Rhône River? Did a saint poke his finger in a rock and cause wine to pour forth? And what’s this about Mary Magdalene living out her days in Provence?
Read about these and other legends in My French Life!
When you think of classic French monikers, names like Brigitte and Jacques come to mind. But do French parents still give their kids those names?
Some of today’s most popular names are what you’d expect, like Chloë and Jules—it doesn’t get more French than that! Others, like Noah and Adam, reflect the country’s long Catholic heritage. Mohamed makes the list in a nod to French citizens with North African ancestors.
But there are some big surprises, like the number one girl’s name. Wonder what it is? Check it out in France Today!
If you look at a list of the most expensive wines in the world you’ll see it stuffed with beauties from France. Look closer and you’ll see one name pop up over and over—Leroy. You think to yourself, I don’t know who this Monsieur Leroy is but he must be quite the winemaker.
Surprise! It’s not Monsieur Leroy, it’s Madame: Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy. Another surprise: she’s in her 9th decade and still at the top of her game. You might not have heard of her but she’s famous among the cognoscenti, and for good reason.
Lalou Bize-Leroy is the fourth generation of her family to run Maison Leroy, founded by her great-grandfather in 1868. She was perhaps destined for a life in wine after her father Henri placed a few drops of Burgundy on the lips of his newborn daughter.
Read all about this fascinating lady in The Good Life France!
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.
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!