Provence is a vast region in France and in order to truly appreciate it, you need to be the type of traveler who likes food, wine and local crafts. You should make your own itinerary – and by the way: make it as flexible as possible because you will be “forced” to linger in a café more than you expected or visit a Roman ruin for a longer period of time.
Where is Provence?
Located in southern France, on the Mediterranean Sea, Provence has been identified as a geographical region since the days of the Roman Empire. The actual region is called Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, which covers a lot of territory. The western part of the region is bordered by the river Rhone and the Languedoc region, while the eastern part is bordered by Italy.
Language in Provence
Obviously, the official language is French; but many people in the region have an atypical accent. That’s because a long time ago French was studied only in schools, while the dialect spoken in Provence was Provençal. Many writers have tried to reintroduce the language and although it has almost disappeared, universities and some non-profit organizations offer courses. The names of the villages are printed both in French and Provençal.
How to get to Provence
The TGV – Train à Grande Vitesse (high speed train) – links the region with Lyon and Paris. The journey on this high speed train takes about four hours, more or less, depending on where you’re going or if you need to switch to local trains that operate within the region. Common getaway cities in the region are Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. Read about how to get from Paris to Avignon to give you a better idea of traveling to the region.
The (glorious, glorious) weather in Provence
Most of Provence has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Snow is not very common at all, unless you’re up on a mountain top.
Within the region there are several micro-climates and local variations, such as the Alpine climate inland and the continental climate in northern Vaucluse.
Common in the region are the winds of Provence. The Mistral is a cold, dry wind which blows especially in the winter and often reaches high speeds. Ask people in Provence about the Mistral – they will tell you some freaky stories. There are many superstitions about the winds.
The easiest way to explore the region is to rent a car, if you want to visit the enchanting smaller Provençal villages that have made the region so very famous. You have the freedom to create your own itinerary without worrying you’ll linger in one place more than in others. But for everything else, local trains and bus lines can get you where you want to go.
Marseille is an important French city, known for its culture and history. There is a lot to do and see. The major city landmarks include:
- Old Port (Vieux Port), the main city harbor, guarded by two forts. Linger at one of the cafes which sit right on the waterfront.
- Centre Bourse and the rue St Ferreol district are the main shopping areas in Marseille.
- Musée d’Histoire, located in Centre Bourse, is the city’s history museum. Among other items you can see records from the Greek and Roman eras.
- The Abbey of St Victor is one of the oldest Christian churches in France.
- Stade Vélodrome, the home stadium of Marseille soccer team.
>>Read more about Marseille
>>Check out cool day trips from Marseille.
>>Learn how to get from Paris to Marseille.
Avignon is another major city in Provence. The major city landmarks include:
- Le Pont Saint-Benezet is a ruined bridge built in the Middle Ages.
- Place du Palais and Place de L’horloge are generally crowded with tourists during summer and the prices are shocking for most tourists (as in shockingly expensive!)
- Modern Art Museums houses artifacts from the Roman and pre-Roman period.
Cannes has been made popular by the international film festival baring the same name. However, there is more to Cannes than just glamour. The major city landmarks include:
- The Old Town is filled with restaurants and souvenir shops which pop up on every narrow street.
- Îles de Lérins are two islands in the bay. Ste Honorat, the smaller one, has a monastery and a ruin castle on it. The larger one, Ste Marguerite, also has a castle on it, as well as restaurants and shops.
>>Learn more about the interesting city of Cannes, for those times when George Clooney isn’t there.
Wines and Food
It’s difficult to find a bad meal in France, let alone in Provence. A nice option is to go to a local market and buy some local produce – bread, cheese, olives, fruits, vegetables, wine – and then head out and have a picnic.
You’ll find only seasonal foods, and they’ll taste so fresh it’s like you’re eating them for the first time. A local favorite wine in Provence is the rosé. This wine is dry and light, just perfect to go with cheese and bread.
Did you know?
The song “Sur le Pont D’Avignon” refers to Le Pont Saint-Benezet located in Avignon!
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