La Belle Provence

Provence, or La Provence, as the French call it, is the south-east part of France and one of my favorite regions in the country. Provence is sun, blue skies, sunflowers, lavender fields, amazing food and the best rose wine France produces – among other delicious things. In Provence, everything is gorgeous. As Aix-en-Provence native Paul Cézanne once said, “If you’re from Aix, that’s it. Nothing can compare.”

I’ve been to Provence at different times of year. Each season has its beauty, but I prefer spring and fall there. Summers can be hot and crowded, and sometimes a wind called Sirocco blows for days. Once I saw sand on the porches of houses in Aix, and was told it had been blown from the Sahara desert in Africa, across the Mediterranean!

Until not long ago Provence was a well-kept secret of the French. It all changed when a British writer called Peter Mayle took a sabbatical there and wrote a book – A Year in Provence – that was in the international bestseller list for the longest time. ‘Provençale’ became a magic word, and from decoration to food the style became all the rage. Locals were not very happy with the sudden fame their beloved ‘pays’ got (pays in French can mean the region someone is from) and complained that life had become more expensive. Then the tourists arrived, looking for a piece of the paradise Mayle described in his book. Many stayed permanently; it’s hard to resist the charms of Provence.

For me not even this notoriety ruined Provence. It’s still beautiful, colorful, natural and fresh, and with the nicest people in France. Every time I’m there I feel like never leaving.

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