Experience Provence: the ultimate guide to unique Provence

The Provence region of France provokes romantic images of lavender fields, olive trees, and hilltop villages. There’s no denying the magic of Provence.

While the quintessential southern French landscape may initially lure you to visit, you will be happy to discover that the region is full of interest.

Here, we’ve highlighted some of the more unique experiences and surprising aspects of Provence— such a rich resource on Provence. It contains seven fabulous articles written by Contributor Keith Van Sickle, which are so popular and informative that we’ve rolled them all together to offer you this deep rich resource.

Don’t miss out in order to experience Provence to the fullest!

1. Experience Provence: Brilliant Roussillon

experience Provence

If you love color, you’ll love Roussillon.

This charming village is perched on a hilltop in Provence’s Luberon Valley, the region made famous by Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’. But Roussillon’s fame came long before Mayle, as it was once the world capital of ochre.

Ochre is a naturally occurring pigment that comes in an astonishing variety of colors, from bright shades of yellow and orange to vivid red and purple. It is embedded in certain kinds of clay and prehistoric people used it for cave paintings. The pigment can be extracted to create dyes and this was difficult until the 18th century, when an industrial process…Read more

2. Experience Provence: Carrières de Lumières

experienceprovence - my french life

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 is almost impossible to describe…Read more

3. Provence legends

experience provence

The world is rich with legends. We still dream of Camelot and King Arthur’s court and 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.

There’s the one about Saint Gens, who saved Provence from a drought by poking two fingers into a rock and causing streams to pour forth—water on the left, wine on the right (this being France, after all.)

And there’s the Drac, the legendary creature that lived in rivers and lured its victims by floating leaves with jewels piled on top…Read more

4. Experience Provence: Surprising Jewish History

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? Let’s take a look.

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…Read more

5. Experience Provence: The Animal Kingdom

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…Read more

6. 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 remain Roman sites all over France, but many of 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.

Let’s take a look at six of these Roman sites…Read more

7. Experience Provence: The Popes of Provence

One of the highlights of a visit to Avignon is seeing the magnificent Papal Palace, once home to seven popes. But what were they were doing in Avignon rather than Rome? Why did the papacy relocate from the Vatican to Provence? It’s an interesting tale.

For centuries, popes jockeyed with kings and emperors for worldly power. Things came to a head in the early 14th century when Pope Boniface VIII decided to excommunicate King Philip IV of France (this was not a good idea.) This enraged the king, and before long forces loyal to him attacked and beat the pope, who died soon after….Read more

Do you have a unique Provence experience to add to this list? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @maviefrancaise

Image Credits:
  1. Roussillon by Guy Dugas via Pixabay
  2. Culturespaces.com
  3. Tarasque statue copyright author Keith Van Sickle
  4. Synagogue 2 via Carpentras synagogue
  5. St. Eloi via graveson-provence.com
  6. Pont du Gard via Nimestourisme.com
  7. Palais des Papes by Jean-Marc Rosier via Wikimedia Commons

    1. Special acknowledgement that the original author of the articles ‘Only in Provence’ is Contributor Keith Van Sickle and Contributor Alexis Herrington is the author of the editorial work rolling these articles together into one rich Provence resource. Thanks to both Keith and Alexis.
    2. If you’re planning on travelling to Provence—or even to partake of more dreaming and immersion from afar. Don’t miss Keith’s upcoming book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence, now available for pre-order.


About the Contributor

Alexis Herrington

Growing up in the United States, I always dreamed of living abroad. After completing degrees in English and French, I was able to live in different parts of France as an English language teacher. I currently live in Bordeaux and work remotely as a copyeditor for Jellysmack's Paris office. I spend the rest of my time exploring this beautiful city and learning as much as I can about French wine.

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