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Provence

Provence Itineraries

Discover Aix-en-Provence with a Tasty Walking Tour

Provence in the Footsteps of Van Gogh

Provence: 24 Hours in Nîmes

Provence: a Perfect Day in St-Rémy

Provence: a Perfect Day in the Luberon

Provence: Côtes du Rhône Wine Route

Provence - a state of mind?

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Provence is one of those magical destinations that travellers dream about. Blue skies, warm days, balmy evenings, healthy cuisine, splendid architecture, a fascinating heritage and the wonderful sing-song accent of the local inhabitants, the Provençaux. It is almost as much a state of mind as a geographical area.

But where exactly is Provence? Technically it is contained within the modern Région of Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur which occupies the south east corner of France. It includes the Départements of Vaucluse, Bouches du Rhône, Var, Alpes Maritimes as well as Alpes de Haute Provence and Hautes Alpes. However, I have taken the liberty of straying into the Gard which is actually part of the Languedoc-Roussillon. In doing this I am following the many Provenceaux who maintain that Provence includes territory on both sides of the River Rhône.


Provincia Romana

Provence was much favoured by both the Greeks and the Romans from whom the name of Provence derives. Gaul, as France was known to the Romans, was divided into regions. This area was called the Provincia Romana hence the appellation Provence of today. History buffs can enjoy the Roman cities near the Rhône, the amazing Pont du Gard, the fascinating ruins at Fréjus and above Monaco the magnificent Trophée des Alpes.


Cities and Parks

Around the Rhône Delta several of the exciting cities of Provence such as Nîmes, Arles and Avignon can be found. They exude a vivacious, Latin culture contrasting with the tranquillity of the amazing Regional Nature Park of the Camargue with it’s white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos.

Further east lies the great port city of Marseille founded by the Greeks. Great shopping, fascinating monuments and the view of the Vieux Port from the Phare are all absolutely awesome!

A little north of Marseilles lies the city of Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence. Aix boasts one of the best known brasseries in France, les Deux Garçons, situated on one of the most well known thoroughfares, the wonderful tree lined Cours Mirebeau.

North of Aix, across the Durance River lies the Luberon Mountain which has its own Parc Naturel Régional. While it lacks the bulls and flamingos of the Camargue it is nevertheless a beautiful wild area. Enjoy forest walks, historic villages and an ochre massif with its giant’s causeway also known as Le Colorado Provençal!

In the far eastern corner of Provence above Nice lies the amazing Mercantour National Park. The Mercantour borders Italy from where its population of wolves have come in recent years. Below Mont Bego, one of the highest peaks in the Mercantour, you can find some amazing rock carvings in the Vallée des Merveiles dating back to the Bronze Age.


==> See the RELATED links below to explore local itineraries.

And check out itineraries to the French Riviera too.


Villages

Some of the most famous villages in France are found in Provence as well as several Plus Beaux Villages. In the Luberon explore Bonnieux, Roussillon, Ménerbes, Lourmarin and Gordes. Further east discover Seillans, Bargème, Éze and St-Agnès. Many of these are so-called ‘villages perchés’ or perched villages and have their origins in medieval times when their inhabitants very sensibly decided to build them on cliffs or rocky spurs!


Green Provence

Not so well known is the region which many see as the heart of Provence. Stretching from Cézannes’ beloved Mont St-Victoire to Draguignan in the east and from the Gorges of Verdon, France’s answer to the Grand Canyon, in the north to the magnificent Mediterranean coast in the south around Hyères and St-Tropez. Centred around Brignoles, Green Provence includes the charming villages of Barjols, Cotignac and the fascinating old town of St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume where they claim to have the remains of St Mary Magdelene.


The Côte-d’Azur or French Riviera

The coast from the Italian border at Menton to St Tropez is where most of the visitors head. The cities of Nice and Cannes are world famous and the many other resorts such as Antibes, St-Juan-les-Pins, Beaulieu-sur-Mer not to mention St-Tropez are legendary. Discover miles of fabulous beaches along the coast and arguably the most sophisticated resorts in the World.


Booking Accommodation

To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in Provence, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments in Avignon. To book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you are headed for a particular region, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.


Booking.com


Don’t forget to click on the yellow bar above for details about when to go to in the Provence; what it costs to travel within the Provence; transportation to and from (and within) the Provence; informative background reading that digs deeper into Provençal history, cultureetiqutte, languagerecommended readingmovies set in the Provence and a photo montage of Provençal images.


When To Go

How Much Time To Spend

Anything from a few days if you are exploring a city like Marseille or a couple of weeks if your are exploring the Rhône Valley or the Luberon. You could easily spend longer as I’ve done many times and enjoy touring the interior – it’s really a case of how long have you got?

High and Low Season

The high season is July through September when everywhere is busy and you will need to book ahead – low season November through January tends to be quieter with many visitors heading up to the Winter resorts in the Mercantour and elsewhere but the festivals of February which occur all along the coast, from Bormes to Menton, bring in lots of visitors.

Weather and Climate

Provence is a year round destination with a very warm, even hot climate during the Summer, and mild winters especially in the south eastern corner, a fact not lost on wealthy and aristocratic Northern Europeans during the 19th century when many overwintered here. Spring and Autumn are extremely pleasant times to visit although the risk of rain is greater.

Away from the coast winters can be hard though especially when you are caught out by the cold Mistral wind blowing down the Rhône Valley from Siberia. This generally only affects the western parts of Provence and rarely reaches beyond Toulon. Snow is a rarity along the coast although up in the mountains and resorts of the Alpes de Haute Provence they usually get enough to enjoy really good winter sport activity.

Events and Holidays

Local Events include:
February –
Mimosa Procession – Bormes–les-Mimosas
March
(4 days – varies)) – Easter Feria – Arles
July
14th – French National day – all over France
Early August – Corso of Lavender – Digne-les-Bains
3rd week August – St. Louis Festival (water jousting) Sète

French Holidays include:
January 1st New Year’s Day
Good Friday and Easter Monday
May 1st or the first Monday in May
May 14th   Ascension Day
May Whit Monday – last Monday of month
July 14th Bastille Day
August 15th Assumption Day
December 25th: Christmas Day
December 26th: Boxing Day

Consult: http://www.feiertagskalender.ch/

Time Zone

Provence is located in the Central European Time, EET

To check the local time in Provence, click here.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) happens in the Spring (last Sunday in March at 1AM) when clocks are advanced one hour. In the Autumn (last Sunday in October at 1AM), clocks shift back one hour to standard time to give more daylight in the morning.

What it Costs

France and in particular Provence is not expensive – expect to pay much the same as, or even less, than you would elsewhere and certainly much less than in neighbouring Switzerland for example. Admission to sites of interest is often surprisingly cheap and eating out, while not exactly inexpensive, is normally very good value for money.

Of course the traveller will find that large cities such as Marseille  can be a little pricey especially for eating out but, if you are prepared to shop around a little, you will find something to suit your pocket.

What you can expect is value for money wherever you go. For food shopping try the local outdoor market, held daily in the big cities and weekly in small towns and villages. These are not necessarily cheaper than shops but the produce is guaranteed to be local and fresh.

For really low prices on a whole range of goods try the local Hypermarché. These are huge retail outlets, usually to be found on the outskirts of town, which sell everything from food to clothes. Hypermarchés to look out for are Carrefour, Leclerc, Auchan, Intermarché Hyper and Géant Casino.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest. Price ranges are quoted in Euros (€)).

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than €10 per person
$$ => Tickets €10-20 per person
$$$ => Tickets €20 per person

Sleep
Out of town/rural:
$ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
$$ => Rooms €60 – €120 for a double
$$$ => Rooms €120 for a double

Large Cities:
$ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
$$ => Rooms €100 – €180 for a double
$$$ => Rooms €180 for a double

Eat
#Note new construct to swap in
$ => Up to €10 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => €10-25 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => €25 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than €20 per person
$$ => Tickets €20-30 per person
$$$ => Tickets €30 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2,  British Airways, flybe and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about €8; rentals are about €8-13.50; fuel and insurance are included.

Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe.  It is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical — Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means for example that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do.  Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.

For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.

Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries.  For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.

Pre-existing health conditions
— Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition.  Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance
— If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

Exchange Rates and Currency

The main currency of Europe is the Euro which is currently used in 25 countries a few of which are not even EU members. Some countries within the European Union have retained their original currency including the UK (Pound), Denmark (Kroner) and Poland (Zloty). Most non-EU countries such as Switzerland (Swiss Franc) and Turkey (Lira) continue to use their own currency. All are decimalised and have 100 ‘pennies’ in each main unit.

Euros come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. They vary in size from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (500) and colour, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)

There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!

Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs

If you get money from an ATM machine abroad you will usually incur charges (typically 1.5 or 2% per transaction)

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Europe.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary.If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card,  which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

The good news for travellers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.

Restaurants
Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.

Other methods are to add a euro/pound for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros/pounds.

Many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!

Taxis

With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.

Hotels
You may wish to give the porter a euro or pound for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.

Other

Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between €40 (£30) per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, insect repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery, super/hypermarkets and pharmacies will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Due to the fact that so many parts of Provence are quite remote and the local populations small, rural bus services aren’t great and, while the SNCF train services are good, they tend to link only the main towns and cities. Bus services, where they exist, usually only serve the cities in which they are based (Exception: the Lignes d’Azur buses of Nice) and trains link only the main town and cities.

The roads generally are also very good although a little slow in the more remote areas – always allow a little more time that you think you need to get from A to B and, even though it can be expensive, use the Autoroute whenever you can as it will save so much time. So, if you have access to a car and you wish to get out of town to see the many wonderful Points of Interest mentioned in this guide, get out there and explore!

Getting There

France is blessed with an excellent transport infrastructure and getting to Provence couldn’t be easier! If you intend to travel under your own steam, so to speak, then there is some basic information below which should help with your planning.

AIR: The two main international airports are Nice and Marseille but there are regional airports at Avignon , Montpellier , Nîmes and Toulon which are served by flights from Paris and elsewhere.

SEA: If you are lucky enough to have your own yacht there is no shortage of ports to anchor in! However, for the majority of us there is a great selection of ferries crossing the English Channel ( La Manche ) from Dover or Portsmouth to Calais, Dunquerque and Caen, all of which are linked to Provence by Autoroute, and there are of course ferry services between North Africa and Corsica to Provence.

TRAIN: French Railways are amongst the best in Europe and the TGV ( Train à Grande Vitesse ) will propel you to Provence from Paris or Lille at 270kph/170mph with the choice of Arles, Marseille, Avignon, Toulon or St-Raphael as your final destination. Paris to Avignon takes 2hrs 38mins.

CAR: French roads, and in particular the French Autoroute (le Peage), are probably the best in Europe and while it is relatively expensive, (Paris- Avignon €52.40 at the time of writing), it is very direct and quick provided you avoid peak travelling times i.e. Public Holidays.

 

Getting Around

Because so many parts of Provence are quite remote and the local populations are small, rural bus services aren’t great and trains link only the main towns and cities. By far the easiest way to get around Provence is by car or Motorhome (See getting around). The exception to this is Nice where the Ligne d’Azur buses link all the small towns and villages both east and west along the Côte d’Azur and even provide services into the Mercantour.

For more information about local buses click here.

Transportation Hubs

The main Transportation hubs in Provence are Marseille serving western parts and Nice serving the Côte-d’Azur and the east.

Background

History

A short history of Provence

Prior to the Roman conquest of Gaul, the south of France was occupied by Celtic-Ligurian tribes and Phocaeans who were Greeks from what is now modern Turkey. The Phocaeans settled in Massalia (modern Marseille) around 600 BC but tended to stay in and around the city.

The Romans spread north from Italy and between 125 and 122 BC, as was their wont, they conquered the south of France. In 27 BC Emperor Augustus named it Narbonensis, although they often referred to it as Provincia Nostra or ‘our Province’. It remained in Roman control, enjoying the Pax Romana , for the most part, until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. After they left Provence was invaded by Visigoths, Burgundians and Ostrogoths until finally in 536 AD it came under the control of the Franks.

From the 7th – 9th centuries the folks of Provence found themselves between a rock and a hard place – they were ruled by the Carolingian Franks who fought amongst themselves for control and they were invaded from the sea by Saracens who carried them off into slavery.

To make matters worse, some Saracens stayed and it was not until 973 AD that they were defeated at the Battle of Tourtour by Count William of Provence. After this, and throughout the Middle Ages, Provence was ruled by its Counts, who included the illustrious Ramon Berenguer , Count of Barcelona. The French Monarchy began to increase its influence after 1246 however, and King Philip IV was able to establish the Avignon Papacy in 1309. Soon after the death of ‘Good King René’ in 1480, King Louis IX of France was elected Count of Provence effectively absorbing Provence into his kingdom.

In the period after annexation Provence remained a rural backwater and was heavily involved in the Wars of Religion (1562-98) when several massacres took place in the region. The 17th century was a period of economic stagnation compounded by an outbreak of the Plague which struck Provence in 1720 killing some 50,000 people in Marseille alone. Towards the end of the 18th century, small-scale industry began to expand including textiles and faience pottery while Marseille continued to develop into a major port.

During the French Revolution much of the region was Royalist except for the major cities which produced some of the leading figures in the Revolutionary movement, including Charles Barbaroux and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, not to mention promoting the most memorable song of the time, La Marseillaise , sung by volunteers from Marseille on the streets of Paris and which went on to become the national anthem of the Republic. Listen to and see the lyrics (dual language) to La Marseillaise here.

The 19th century saw further expansion of trade especially from the ports of Toulon and Marseille which were linked by rail to Paris in 1848 and 1864 respectively. Provençal culture and language also saw a revival at this time led by the poet Frédéric Mistral.

During the first years of World War II Provence was part of the unoccupied or so-called Free Zone governed by the German sponsored Vichy regime. However, in late 1942 the Germans occupied Provence in response to the Allied Landings in North Africa. Following the Invasion of Normandy the Allies invaded Provence in August 1944, landing in the Var east of Toulon and successfully pushing the Germans North.

Following the end of the War there was a massive cultural and economic revival helped by the building of new roads and a massive expansion of tourism. The area became, and remains today, one of the major centres for tourism in France as visitors from all over Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, flock here every year.

Etiquette

The French tend to be quite formal although the Provençeaux are a little less so than the inhabitants of other regions. It is not polite to use anyone’s first or given name unless invited to do so or to indulge in cheek kissing (faire la bise) unless the person you are meeting initiates the process.

Always say ‘Bonjour’ when meeting someone  or entering a shop and don’t forget ‘au Revoir’ when you leave. ‘S’il vous plait’ and ‘Merci’ are both essential phrases. If you’ve never spoken French before you may feel a little awkward  at first but it is essential if you want to get along with folks and get the most out of your visit.

You may find that the person you are speaking to wants to practice their English – I’ve often found myself in the bizarre situation of endeavoring to speak to someone in French who insists on speaking to me in English!  Nowadays I indulge them as there will be plenty who don’t speak English and on the whole they will respect your efforts.

Although things have improved in recent years, the politeness you find on the street or in shops does not always extend to the road. Always make sure drivers are stopping before you step out onto a crossing and, if driving yourself, don’t assume that a driver flashing his/her lights at you wants you to proceed – he/she is probably warning you that ‘Les Flics’ (Gendarmes) are waiting down the road to check your speed!

Cuisine

Restaurants, Brasseries, Auberges and other eating places

There are various categories of eating place in France ranging from posh restaurants to very basic eateries.

Restaurants can be found everywhere and open only at traditional meal times i.e. noon – 2pm and 7.30 – 10 or 10.30pm. The food available ranges from haute-cuisine to regional dishes and best value is usually the set menu at lunchtime. Café Restaurants normally serve coffee or breakfast and Brasseries usually serve food throughout the day. Both are much less formal than the restaurant. The Auberge is found in the countryside and offers regional food and a place to stay should you need one.

Note that restaurants and other eating places are often closed on a Monday. Finally, if you’re very hungry and can’t find one of the above, then the local Bar will often be happy to sell you a delicious sandwich made from a fresh baguette with ham or cheese.

Language

The culture and history of the Provence is very much linked to the ancient Oc language used in earlier times by the people of southern France and the dialect of the area reflects this even now.

However, the main language spoken in Provence is French and is used by everyone. While some people in the large towns speak English, this is not normally the case, especially in the more rural areas. It pays to assume that the people you come across don’t speak English so begin any conversation in French, if only out of politeness. Often it is resented if you assume people speak English – if they do they will usually switch over when they realise where you’re from and if they don’t, well it can be hard work!

As always when travelling it is a good idea to know at least the basics i.e. the words for good day (bonjour), good evening (bon soir), goodbye (au revoir), thank you (merci), and please (s’il vous plait). Using these will get you a long way especially when you accompany them with monsieur or madame!

The language of Oc

The Oc language is the old language of southern France, Catalonia, Monaco and parts of Liguria and Piedmont in Italy. It has several dialects including Provençal, Nissart (spoken in Nice) and Catalan.

Derived from Vulgar Latin, Oc is the southern French word for ‘yes’, hence the term Languedoc for the southern French Region. Interestingly, the modern French word for ‘yes’ is Oui and the French language used to be referred to as the ‘Langue d’Oui’ although originally it was spoken only in Northern France. During the Middle Ages the Northern French gradually took control of the south and the ‘ Langue d’Oui ‘ became the official tongue of the whole country.

During 19th century Oc re-established itself thanks mainly to the poet Fréderic Mistral and something of a revival took place. Throughout the south you will notice several dual language street signs and occasionally some graffiti defacing those which are not dual language!

Movies

Several well known movies were located, at least partially, in Provence:

To Catch a Thief  (1955) Grace Kelly & Cary Grant
And God…Created Woman (1956) Brigitte Bardot
The French Connection (1971) Gene Hackman
Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources (1986) Yves Montand
Swimming Pool (2003) Charlotte Rampling
A Good Year (2006) Russell Crowe
Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007) Rowan Atkinson)
The Connection/La French (2014) Jean Dujardin

Websites and Maps

Some itineraries may be augmented by having one of the authoritative Michelin Department Maps:

In the footsteps of Van Gogh  Michelin Department Map 340.
Côtes-du-Rhône Wine Tour  Michelin Department Map 332.
A perfect day in the Luberon Michelin Department Map 340.

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