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) […]
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. […]
Another day, another market
Wherever you are in Provence, you’re never far from a market. There are literally hundreds of markets, big ones taking over whole towns and smaller ones consisting of just a few stalls in villages. Some of them have been going for over eight hundred years (there are mentions of Uzès market as long ago as 1226) and each market, big or small, has its own special atmosphere, selling everything from hats to rotisserie chickens, tablecloths, espadrilles, antiques, santons (Provençal crèche figurines), herbs and spices, baskets and, of course, fruit, vegetables, olives and cheeses… Regular markets take place in the mornings from 7 or 8 and start packing up promptly at midday. Evening summer markets normally start at 5 or 6pm for a couple of hours but some go on till 11pm. There are also many specialist seasonal festivals or markets celebrating one product such as truffles, pottery, wine, flowers, goats’ cheese, asparagus, strawberries, cherries, melon, lambs, garlic, lavender, petit épeautre (spelt), apples, lemons… In recent years, Christmas markets have also increased in popularity. Specialist market at Provence lavender festival. Every market is unique but none more so than the farmers’ market at Velleron (near L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in the Vaucluse). It takes […]
The gardens of Provence
The first weekend of June in France is designated ‘Rendez-vous aux jardins’ – over 2300 gardens throughout France are open to the public (some by appointment only), in order to encourage people to see the remarkable gardens and parks of France – it’s the perfect time to discover some amazing gardens in Provence. Provençal gardens are a play of light and shade, of shapes, forms and fragrances, and all are determined by the precious supply of water. Provence gardens can be roughly categorised as follows: ‘classic’ gardens such as Château de Bourgane, le Jardin de Brantes and les Jardins d’Albertas; gardens round bastides (country houses) such as le Clos de Villeneuve, Romégas and le Domaine d’Orvès; ‘collection’ gardens such as the Jardin de plantes tinctorales or the Jardin de l’abbaye de Valsaintes, and contemporary gardens such as La Louve and Le pavillon de Galon. Then there are also the magnificent vegetable gardens at Château Val Joanis, the ethno collection at the Jardins de Salagon, the fascinating town garden of Villa Santa Lucia in Marseille, the marine garden at Domaine du Rayol, and the lovely sculpture gardens at the Commanderie de Peyrassol. Below are our recommended gardens to visit. Most of […]
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 […]
Autumn in Provence
It’s autumn in Provence: the grape harvest is finished and the vines are slowly turning red and gold. Out walking, you’ll spot the occasional blue-black bunch of table grapes the pickers have overlooked. The grapes will be sweet and delicious, and as the month goes on they will turn more raisin-like, and you might prefer to spit out the tough skin. But it’s not just the vines that are glowing, cherry orchards drip red and gold too and in the woods the pistachio bushes turn every shade from ox-blood to palest apricot. You’ll find yourself gazing at trails of ruby-red Virginia creeper flowing over a fence or at a clump of bright golden autumn crocus at the foot of a dry wall. Provence in October is special. Whilst you’re unlikely to take a dip in the pool or have dinner outside, it’s still warm enough for lunch on a sunny terrace or a picnic now that the hiking trails are open again. The famous Provencal light has lost much of its summer harshness and is soft and golden. The sun stays lower in the sky, it’s a wonderful time for photography all day. Day-time temperatures are warm and perfect for […]
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.
Cavaillon melons & how to choose one
‘Marriage is like a melon, it’s a question of luck’ (Provençal proverb) Melons are notoriously difficult to choose but, in summer in Provence, your chances are actually quite high of finding perfect, sun-drenched, sweet, succulent, scented melons. Eaten with raw ham, filled with Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (a sweet local wine) or simply just as they are, they are one of the highlights of a summer meal in Provence. When you come off the A7 autroute at Cavaillon, gateway to the Luberon, you can hardly fail to miss the huge sculpture of a melon beside the first roundabout. Weighing in at 9 tonnes, this enormous melon indicates that you’re entering the Melon Capital of Provence. Melons have been grown in the region since the Popes were in Avignon in the 14th century but the renown of melons from Cavaillon started in the mid 19th century when it became possible to ship produce rapidly to the Paris markets by train. In the 1950s melon production in Cavaillon accounted for 64% of the melons grown in France. This figure has diminished but the region still produces more than any other in France with an annual production of about 130,000 tonnes. There’s […]
Café like a local
If your school French has long faded, but you want to make some kind of effort when you stop for a coffee, here’s our guide to getting by… Never feel bad about just having a single coffee in a bar, it’s perfectly normal. The most important rule is the simple “Bonjour”. Launching into any kind of request before saying hello is considered impolite. In the morning many cafes will have a basket of croissants to choose from, if not, it’s usually OK to bring your own from the bakery. Busy cafes will ask you to pay up front, others will leave the bill when they deliver. Leftover change is the ideal tip. You don’t tip as much here as in the USA or UK for example. The French tend to drink a coffee in the morning and one after lunch. This means an espresso: small, black, simple. If you expect anything else when you ask for a coffee you will be disappointed with what is brought to you. Here are some useful terms: Un café a small espresso Une noisette a small espresso with a dash of milk (macchiato) Un café allongé a long coffee (americano) Un grand crème a […]