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Caroline Longstaffe is a British lady who lives in California and owns a house in Provence. Talk about an international life! A few years ago she and her husband fell in love with the village of Lourmarin, one of the prettiest in France, and bought a place there.

Caroline has a website, Shutters and Sunflowers, where she writes about all things Provence. I love her wonderful photos–they make you want to be there so badly! If you haven’t seen her website before, I encourage you to check it out. I’ve included a couple of her photos here.

Caroline recently reviewed my book so I’ll include a link to that as well. As someone who, like me, splits her time between California and Provence she has a special appreciation for what each has to offer.

Here’s her website and here’s the link to her book review. Happy reading!

A Guide to the Chateaux of the Alpilles

If you’ve spent time around the Alpilles, the small mountain range near St-Rémy-de-Provence, you’ve probably spotted a medieval chateau or two. Some are hard to miss, like the one above the fortified city of Les Baux. Others are little more than piles of rubble.

The Alpilles were once dense with chateaux of all shapes and sizes. But why so many? And what happened to them? Here’s some history, plus a guide to the chateaux that you can still visit today.

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

What Did the Pont d’Avignon Originally Look Like?

Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond

Many of us learned that song as kids, about the famous Pont d’Avignon in Provence. For those of us lucky enough to see the real bridge in all its glory, we are often surprised because it’s rather short—only about 100 yards long and ending partway across the Rhone River.

Much of the original Pont d’Avignon tumbled into the Rhone centuries ago, a victim of inadequate construction and poor maintenance. Today it’s hard to imagine what it looked like when it was nearly a mile long and spanned the entire river. Was it straight or curved? Was it fortified? Did it have a drawbridge in the middle?

Luckily, a group of scientists and historians has discovered what the bridge looked like and has created a full 3D model of it. There’s even a video that shows what it was like to cross from one side to the other and back!

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

The Great Wall Of Provence

When most people hear of “the Plague,” they shudder and think of the Black Death that killed so many people back in the Middle Ages. But did you know that in the 1700s an outbreak in Provence took the lives of thousands? And that the King of France teamed up with the Pope to build a great wall to stop it?

The outbreak of the Plague should never have happened, but you know how it is: someone in power was motivated by greed and let an infected ship enter Marseille. From there it spread north until the only solution was to “Build That Wall!”

Part of the wall still exists and you can visit it today. Read all about this fascinating and little-known chapter of Provence history in Perfectly Provence.

Fjords? In Provence?

An hour east of Marseille is the cute little port town of Cassis, one of the prettiest in France. And in between the two are the rugged calanques, the mini-fjords for which the region is famous. With their steep grey cliffs against the deep blue waters of the Med, they are a sight to behold. And the good news is, they are easy to get to.

From Cassis you can take a boat ride to see a few or many of the calanques, with the rides ranging in length from 45 minutes to a couple of hours. You can even hike to some of the calanques if you wear sturdy shoes. It’s a landscape like no other and not to be missed.

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

What to See and Do in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

One of the prettiest spots in Provence is the little town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. It sits next to the Sorgue River and has lovely restaurants along the riverfront, plus some interesting museums and craft centers. But the most amazing thing is the source of the river.

Rather than a series of little streams that slowly build into a river, the Sorgue arrives fully formed, at the base of a cliff just a few hundred yards from the town. This is the “fontaine” (fountain) that gives the town its name–one  of the largest springs in the world. Waters gather deep underground and then come to the surface in a pool that spills out in a cascade and becomes the river.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

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!

Did Mary Magdalene live in Provence?

A crippled ship bobs helplessly on a storm-tossed sea and those on board face certain death…but then a miracle occurs. Guided by the hand of God, the ship arrives safely on the shores Provence. Out steps Mary Magdalene, ready to spread The Word throughout France.

Mary Magdalene landing in France…wasn’t that in The Da Vinci Code? Well, not quite. It’s from the legend of Mary Magdalene in Provence, a rich vein of tradition that author Dan Brown almost certainly tapped for his bestseller. Monuments to Mary and her shipmates abound in Provence and her legend stretches back nearly 2,000 years.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

The Transhumance of St-Rémy

In the old days in Provence, flocks of sheep were marched hundreds of miles, to cool mountain pastures, where they would graze during the hot summer months. They passed through village after village in what was called the transhumance, and all the villagers would come out to watch the spectacle.

In the 1960s and 70s, the transhumance faded away as shepherds began to transport their flocks by truck, but then towns like St-Rémy-de-Provence revived the tradition with annual festivals. Held every year on Whit Monday, the modern transhumance features thousands of sheep circling the town, along with shepherds, sheepdogs and the occasional goat. It is like a river of sheet flowing past, a sight not to be forgotten!

Read all about this link to the Provençal past in The Good Life France.