1. Find your house
Choose from a beautiful selection of hand picked Provence rental properties we know and love, photographed and described by us.
2. Use our local know-how
We live and work in Provence – we give you insider knowledge and tailored add-ons for the perfect Provence stay.
Favourite Squares of Provence – Place Richelme, Aix
This is the first of an occasional series on our favourite squares in Provence – for a market, a cafe, or watching the world go by, and preferably all three. One of the best squares in Provence for letting the hours slip by and the blood pressure drop is Place Richelme in Aix-en-Provence. Place Richelme is a gorgeous setting with the high golden facades and wooden shutters so typical of Aix, and the towering plane trees that bring welcome shade in the summer – you feel you are right at the heart of the town here. Place Richelme has two distinct personalities, by day and by night. Its daily food market is one of the key attractions of the old part of Aix, and yet it is not overrun with tourists. This is where the locals shop as they have done for centuries, from the elderly down to students pulling together a picnic lunch to munch on a sunny step. It is this demographic smorgasbord that makes Place Richelme so great for people-watching, and the best place to do that is at one of the cafe tables on the square, where the colours and sounds of the market and its […]
Provence in the movies
There’s no better way to get in the mood for a trip to Provence, or indeed to reminisce upon your return home, than through the medium of the movie. Here are our favourite films set in Provence to whet your appetite. To Catch a Thief (1955) Cary Grant & Grace Kelly (Côte d’Azur) Classic Hitchcock crime caper on the Côte d’Azur in the golden era, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly messing about on the Riviera. It was while promoting this film that she met the prince of Monaco, who would quickly make her his Princess Grace. And God Created Woman (1956) Brigitte Bardot (St Tropez) The film that launched Brigitte Bardot and put St Tropez on the map, taking it from sleepy little fishing village to the place to be seen. Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources (1986) Gerard Dépardieu, Daniel Auteuil, Yves Montand (Aubagne, Vaugines, Ansouis, Mirabeau) A wonderful pair of films, faithful to the books of Marcel Pagnol, that made quite a splash on release in the 1980s – these films forged the idealised image of Provence and the region has never looked more beautiful on film. La Gloire de mon Père (1990) […]
Know your lavender
If anything says ‘Provence’ it’s lavender. Snaking, parallel humped lines of glorious scented, purple lavender – the icon of Provence. And if you’ve been lucky enough to be in Provence when it’s in flower it’s a sight (and scent) you’ll never forget. Particularly at the end of the day when the warm evening air is heavily perfumed and vibrating with the hum of a thousand insects hovering over the purple flowers, gathering pollen before nightfall. Lavender flowers from mid/end June to late-July or mid-August depending on the region. Generally speaking, the higher the lavender fields, the later the flowering and harvest. Harvest depends on the weather and the humidity of the air so it can vary. Lavender is grown principally in the Drôme-Diois valley, the Drôme provençale, in the regional national park of Les Baronnies, around the Mt Ventoux, the Luberon and the Lure mountains and in the Verdon region in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Several different varieties of lavender grow in Provence but really only two varieties are cultivated; ‘la lavande fine’ and ‘le lavandin’. ‘La lavande fine’ (or ‘real’ lavender) grows naturally above 700-800 metres (approx. 2,600 ft). It’s very robust and able to cope with conditions […]
Mwa! mwa! mwa!
If you stay long enough in Provence to make friends, you are going to be doing a lot of kissing. Because if you turn up at some sort of gathering you may find yourself kissing everyone there on arrival and departure. If you sneak off without the kissing thing, that is known as an ‘English departure’. Although this type of kissing is French it should under no circumstances be confused with French kissing – it is called ‘faire la bise’ and means a mwa on the cheeks. The complication is how many cheeks? Even within Provence there are variations. Rule of thumb is 3 kisses in the north and 2 everywhere else. See the map for kissing precision. If you think 3 is exaggerated, bear in mind there are parts of Corsica where FIVE is the norm. And while it may seem like all that kissing is really eating in to your day, think of it as a moment where time slows as you pay your dues to friendship – the important stuff in life. This is the slow lane, after all.
What to pack for Provence
Toiletries Supermarkets stock big-brand toiletries but local pharmacies (there is one in most villages, look for the green cross sign) will have the better quality ‘cult’ brands of skincare, suncare and haircare such as La Roche-Posay, Darphin, Bioderma and Nuxe. Bigger towns will have a Marionnaud or Sephora selling perfume, make-up and skincare. For even basic medicines such as aspirin you will need to go to a pharmacie. One medicine that may be sold over the counter where you live but needs a prescription in France is anti-histamine, for example Clarityn for hay fever. Food ‘Bio’ is French for organic – more and more Bio shops are cropping up. Look out for Bio-Coop – a mini supermarket selling organic and special dietary foods, also organic skincare brands such as Dr Hauschka. All supermarkets have an organic (bio) section and a special dietary section (gluten-free, sugar-free, weight-loss). Most also have a ‘global foods’ section – the focus is on Asian food with some American and British staples. You can even find Marmite, proper teabags and baked beans if you look in the right place. Clothing – summer In Provence in summer you will probably be eating outside 3 times a day. […]
September in Provence
September is a glorious month to visit Provence. The heat of summer has passed, and most of the visitors have gone home, leaving cafés, restaurants, markets and roads relatively empty. In Provence in September you are more likely to be held up by a tractor and trailer taking harvested grapes to the local co-operative than anything else. Here are some of our favourite things to do at this time of year. Wine time You’ll notice aisles in the supermarkets full of stationery, books and backpacks for ‘La Rentrée’ (the start of the new school year). If you do find yourself in a supermarket, steer clear of harassed mothers checking lists as they fill their trolleys with shiny new exercise books, pencils and pens, and head to the wine section. Most of the major supermarkets have a ‘Foire aux Vins’ (a wine sale) in September or October and you should be able to pick up a few interesting bottles. The grape harvest in Provence takes place in September, although thanks to a warm spring and a very dry summer, harvest in parts of Provence started about two weeks early this year, in August. It’s a busy time for wine makers […]
It’s asparagus time in Provence
There is no surer sign of spring in Provence than the arrival of the first tender asparagus spears on market stalls. Appreciated by both the ancient Greeks and Romans – Pliny the Elder recommended it as an aphrodisiac – asparagus has been cultivated in France since the 15th century. Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV, also valued asparagus for its aphrodisiac potential, and in the 18th century French court the tips were called ‘pointes d’amour’ (which roughly translates as ‘arrows of love’). At that time in France, green asparagus was rare and favoured by the bourgeoisie. The white stems were for ‘the people’. Nowadays, the situation is more or less reversed and white asparagus is highly prized for its sweetness. The Provence region is the third biggest producer of asparagus in France and the sandy soil found along the Durance river is particularly favourable. The main season for asparagus lasts about two months – principally April and May – although some producers prolong the season from mid-February through to mid-June. White, violet or green? The white are sweet and delicate, the violet have a slightly more pronounced flavour and the green are fruitier. France is also home to […]
The shutters of Provence
It’s hard to imagine a Provençal house without shutters. When you think of hilltop villages, towns or coastal fishing ports you imagine the different coloured shutters against the rendering or local stone. Open or shut, they give character to houses. However, you can’t just paint them any colour you like. If you live in a town, a National Park, or within 50 metres of a National Monument, the palette of colours you are entitled to use is restricted and controlled. Traditional colours in the Luberon region of Provence are deep red, dark green and brown, but lavender has been popular in recent years, and shades of beige often denote second homeowners. Shutters on the coast tend more to blues, greens and beiges. Nice has a very specific palette depending on the facade; recommended colours are browns, beiges, greys and green or grey blues. The colours in the old town of Aix-en-Provence are the most strictly regulated and you must apply to the town hall to check the approved colour for your facade before you get out your paintbrush. Traditional shutters are wooden and, in many places, modern metal shutters are not allowed. Depending on where you are in Provence, shutters […]
Come and taste the Black Diamond of Provence!
“Food-lovers of all eras have never been able to utter the word ‘truffle’ without tipping their hat” – Alexandre Dumas It’s winter in Provence, and one of the consolations of colder days and longer nights is that it is also truffle season. France produces more truffles than any other country, and 80% of them come from Provence. So if you love truffles there is no better place to be at this time of year. In the middle ages, monks were banned from eating truffles due to their apparent aphrodisiac effect. Today you are free to indulge. Pigs, dogs and goats are used to hunt for the truffles, though small flies may also mark the spot. The Ancient Greeks believed that a strike of lightning on damp soil created a truffle. In fact they are fungi that grow around the right sort of tree, like an oak, but they were right about the dampness of the soil, as truffles grow best after rain. The location of fertile truffle grounds is highly secretive, you will never be told where to go and look, unless you are being deliberately sent in the wrong direction. Fortunately you can buy truffles more easily than finding […]
Provence alive to the sound of music
If you haven’t sat outside under a starry sky listening to live music, you haven’t truly experienced Provence. For this is a musical land and in the balmy summer nights wherever you turn you will find it. Whatever your musical bent there is something for everyone in Provence this summer, from jazz to opera, steel bands to baroque. Many concerts are free, ticketed events start at around 15€ and you can usually book tickets online. Here are our favourites: Jazz dans les Vignes, Vaucluse 25 June – 6 July A series of concerts set in some prestigious vineyards just to the north of Avignon. Sit back with a glass of Gigondas or Vacqueyras and let the music wash over you. http://www.jazzdanslesvignes.fr/ Aix Festival, 30 June – 20 July A huge festival with 3 main components: Opera – this is serious stuff – most evenings are in the stunning Grand Theatre De Provence and it kicks off with Così fan tutti. Also works by Debussy, Handel, Stravinsky. Tickets start at 30€, expect to pay 270€ for top tickets. Concerts – in a variety of venues in and around the city. There are many free concerts and a huge choice of music […]