Everyone wants to go to Paris when they go to France. It’s one of the world’s great cities, with the Eiffel Tower, romantic cafés, great museums… what’s not to like? (Okay, the Parisians, not so much, but the rest is great.) But you’d be wrong to put Paris at the top of the list. Instead, you should follow the insiders who know better and head south to Provence. Here’s why.
1. The Weather
This is an IQ test: do you want warm weather or dreary rain? Artists like Cézanne and Van Gogh have been drawn to the brilliant sunlight of Provence for centuries. That’s what gives us sunflowers and lavender and all the colors Provence is famous for. It’s no contest!
2. You Have to Speak French
This is not the big city, baby. You’re in PROVENCE and we’re not going to coddle you. Sure, you can hang around with those pasty-faced British expats who are always whining about how they can’t find good bangers and mash. But if you want to get around and make friends you need to speak our language. Think of it as boot camp. You’ll thank us one day.
3. The Food
Mealtime in Provence is a time for serious eating. We don’t have Paris-style soirées with canapés and sterile discussions of Molière. No, here it’s food and wine and lots of it. A dinner party might be six or seven courses plus one dessert, or no let’s make that two desserts, and how many bottles of wine did we just drink? Then coffee and eau de vie and we really should open that special bottle of wine that Jacques’s been saving, and whew let’s hope we don’t all explode. By the end you’ve gained four kilos and made some new friends, and then you do it all again next week.
4. Living Local
Sure, Paris has stylish restaurants, but where do you think they get their delicious ingredients? Are there farms in the 6th arrondissement? Non ! Instead, look south to Provence, the breadbasket of France. That’s where you’ll find olives, lamb, truffles… all the best! One of our towns is so proud of its melons de Cavaillon that it built a ten-foot tall melon statue.
5. Regional Traditions
Course Camarguaise is our style of bullfighting, one where the bulls don’t get hurt. In fact, the best ones become celebrities and even have endorsement deals.
The goal of a Course is to pull various doodads off a bull’s horns without getting gored. It’s a sport that requires a lot of sprinting and a love of danger, so the players tend to be young men. And the traditional costume is white shirt and pants, the tighter the better. Very popular with the ladies.
6. The Scenery
There are some nice parks in Paris. And they are… (how to put this?)… small. In Provence, we have untold acres of sunflowers, poppies, vineyards, and olive groves. In springtime the countryside practically explodes with blooming almond and cherry trees. And if you’ve never seen the ochre mines of Roussillion — cliffs of yellow, orange, white, and purple — you need to hop on the next plane and get here ASAP.
7. The Wine
Sure, Paris has fancy wine shops, but they’re just stores. Here’s where the action is. In Provence you can visit wineries, taste wines, talk to winemakers, walk around vineyards. Real life, in other words. You want red, white, rosé? Provence has got them all. And they’re cheaper than in the big city. Might explain why we, um, enjoy our wine so much.
8. Nature Up Close
Speaking of real life, one of our annual festivals is the transhumance. It’s where sheep are herded through town before heading to higher pastures for the summer. Ever watched thousands of sheep march down the main street? Impressive! But watch where you step afterwards.
9. The Beach
Provence has over a thousand kilometers of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Paris has a dirty river where they truck in some sand every year and call it a beach.
Paris versus Provence? It’s Provence: game, set, and match.