A Fun Quiz About Provence

So you think you know Provence? Let’s find out!

I’ve written a series of articles called Only in Provence for the marvelous publication My French Life, and now I’ve created a short quiz about them. All of the answers can be found in the articles, or you can just go ahead and try your luck.

There are 14 questions in all and here are two of them.

Why did the ochre quarries of Roussillon go out of business?

    1. The quarries were depleted of their ochre
    2. French labor laws made the quarries uncompetitive
    3. New synthetic dyes were cheaper
    4. Earth tones didn’t go with groovy 1960s fashion

A transhumance is:

    1. When an alchemist turns lead into gold
    2. What Nostradamus predicted as the future of humanity
    3. The movement of sheep to higher pastures for the summer
    4. What you experience if you drink too much pastis

You can find a link to the answers at the bottom of the article. And if you add a comment, you’ll be eligible to win a free copy of my new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence! 

Here’s the quiz. Good luck!

 

An Insider’s Guide to Provence

I am thrilled that my new book has just been published! It’s a guide to all the “insider secrets” that Val and I have discovered during our years of living in Provence.

An Insider’s Guide to Provence has our favorite restaurants, wineries, outdoor markets, picnic spots, hiking and biking trails, you name it. There is dining advice for the gluten-intolerant, vegans, and vegetarians, and special sections on Roman Provence and Jewish Provence. And with hundreds of links to maps and websites, it is perfect for the on-the-go traveler.

Here’s what others have to say…

A must-have for every visitor looking for local advice”–Carolyne Kauser-Abbott, Perfectly Provence 

A super add on to any general guidebook of the area”–Janine Marsh, The Good Life France.

“You will not be disappointed with this modern guidebook—it is a bottomless treasure!”–Judy MacMahon, MyFrenchLife 

“If you’re looking for an expert guide to show you the ins and outs of beautiful Provence, look no further”–Tuula Rampont, Belle Provence Travels

“I’ll be using this guide every time I go back to France”–Janice Chung, France Travel Tips

“A must-read for anyone planning a trip to Provence”–Annette Charlton, A French Collection

An Insider’s Guide to Provence is the perfect gift for the Provence lover in your life, and is available from Amazon as a paperback or e-book.

I hope you enjoy it!

The Best View of Avignon

Avignon is a distinctive city. Sitting on the banks of the Rhône River, it has some of the most extensive medieval fortifications in Europe and is dominated by its massive Papal Palace. There is so much to see! And if you want the best spot to view this beautiful city, it’s not in Avignon itself, it’s across the river on Barthelasse Island (Île de la Barthelasse.)

Barthelasse Island, one of Europe’s largest river islands, is just minutes from Avignon by ferry, foot, or car. From there you have a clear line of sight to Avignon, with nothing blocking your view. You can see the stone cliffs that protect the city and the thick walls built in the Middle Ages. And above them all is the Papal Palace, topped by its golden statue of Mary, sparkling in the Provençal sunshine. If there’s a better view of Avignon, I haven’t found it.

Barthelasse Island is easy to reach and is a great place for eating, biking, and tasting eau de vie. And it is the place where people actually danced in that famous song about the Pont d’Avignon!

Read all about this little-known corner of Provence in The Good Life France!

Gigondas: Wine Village with a View

Are you looking for a place with beautiful views, excellent food, and fabulous wines? Then consider Gigondas in the southern Rhône Valley.

This region has been producing excellent wines for over 2,000 years, from when it was part of the Roman Empire. The Romans liked the wines from Gigondas so much that they named it Jocunditas, or “delight,” and the name evolved into the modern Gigondas. Gigondas wines are similar to those of its famous neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but much more affordable.

Perched on a mountainside, the village overlooks its famous vineyards. Above it are the jagged, rocky crests of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small mountain range. Even in a region known for its natural beauty, Gigondas stands out. There is a walking trail above the  town, with a viewing platform, and the views from it are spectacular.

The town hosts special artworks every summer, and has excellent restaurants and one of the best wine-tasting centers anywhere. Find out what to see and do, and where to eat and drink, at Perfectly Provence!

This article is taken from my upcoming book An Insider’s Guide to Provence, available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

 

Art and Beauty in Provence

Tucked into the mountains north of Nice sits an arboretum unique in the world. It mixes exotic trees, rare flowers, and “no-made” art in a mountain park overlooking the wild Tinel Valley—a perfect day trip for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike.

The Marcel Kroënlein Arboretum stretches over 17 hectares along the flank of a mountain, rising from an elevation of 1300m to 1700m and creating “a green cathedral. It is home to many mountain flowers and it has assembled a complete collection of the wild roses of the Alpes Maritime region, a feat which garnered it the prestigious Henry Ford Environmental Award.

Besides the protection of flora, the arboretum’s mission is to serve as a place of artistic expression. Every year, artists worldwide gather to display their Land Art among the trees and turn it over to the elements. The forces of nature refashion these pieces over time, as each is sculpted by the sun, wind, rain, and snow.

Learn more about this unique and beautiful place in Perfectly Provence!

And on the subject of beauty, the Rhône River is one of the world’s most majestic. It begins in the Swiss Alps and flows into one end of Lake Geneva, then emerges from the other end and runs all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

Noted photographer Camille Moirenc has now captured the Rhône in a series of 80 magnificent photographs, on display in Paris. You can see the photos from the comfort of your own home, along with an explanation of each one. They are stunning!

See the photos and learn more about the exhibition at Perfectly Provence!

 

Swirling 70s Architecture at Villa Benkemoun

Just two miles from the center of Arles sits the Villa Benkemoun, a magnificent estate designed by a disciple of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Visiting it is like stepping back in time.

The villa was the brainchild of Simone and Pierre Benkemoun, who enlisted their friend Émile Sala to design their dream home. Sala took an unusual approach.

Instead of creating an initial set of architectural drawings, Sala began by asking the family to jot down, day by day, how they lived their lives. Where did they take their meals, how did they entertain, did they spend time indoors or out? Then he used this knowledge to design a home that fit their needs, as well as Pierre’s desire to have a home that was “open and transparent.”

The Benkemouns liked Sala’s initial design but thought it had too many sharp edges. They suggested rounding a corner here, creating a curve there, until the house took the form they wanted. The final design was made up of round and elliptical rooms, “full of sensuality,” that seemed to swirl from one to the other. The result is a triumph of 1970s design, a masterpiece of modern architecture.

Read all about it, and see some beautiful photos, at Perfectly Provence!

 

Roman Provence

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!

Discover Socca, the Delicious Specialty of Nice

“The culture of Nice is based on three things: the sea, soccer, and socca.”

In a city famous for dishes like pan bagnat and ratatouille, socca holds a special place in the hearts of the niçois. A thin, deliciously crispy bread made from chickpea flour, socca was first brought to Nice by Italian dockworkers in the late 1700s. Cheap and filling, it became known as “poor people’s food,” a favorite of workers and fishermen.

Eventually, all of Nice discovered the dish, helped by a socca maker named Thérésa. She began with a pushcart near the beach before opening her own restaurant, Madame Thérésa. Today, niçois of all ages love socca’s rich, crispy taste. You’ll find cafés full of these locals, having a chat over a plate of socca and a glass of wine. It is so popular that some call it “the national dish of Nice.”

Socca’s ingredients are simple—chickpea flour, water, oil, and salt. Its distinctive crispiness comes from the wood-fired ovens where it is baked at a roaring 750 degrees. The secret ingredient—you might call it the magic—is the loving care with which Nice’s chefs make it.

Award-winning filmmaker Scott Petersen now shares a bit of that magic with us in his short documentary We Eat Socca Here. Read all about it and watch the fun trailer at Perfectly Provence. Warning: it might make you hungry.

 

The Animal Kingdom of Provence

Let’s say you are strolling through a French village and come across thousands of sheep bleating in the streets. Or maybe you see horses with flowers in their manes. Or perhaps you are startled by French cowboys charging past with a bull in their midst. Where might you be?

You are probably in Provence.

The people of Provence have a deep respect for nature and for the animals that have long been integral to their rural life. And they maintain their traditions, many of which have to do with animals. Enjoying them is one of the most interesting parts of a visit to Provence.

What are these traditions? Let’s look at a few in My French Life!

Legends of Provence

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!