Provence Charm–The Countryside of Mediterranean France

By: Edward Dye

A beautiful countryside region in south Mediterranean France is called Provence. It is adorned by vineyards, ancient villages and olive groves in an authentic countryside atmosphere which add to Provence’s charm.

‘A Year In Provence’, a book by Peter Mayle presents a vivid picture of the region, which kindled the interest of English visitors to this region. There are hundreds of beautiful villages in the region stretching from west of Avignon running across the Italian border to the north of Monaco, then down to Carmargue at the west and Cannes at the south.

There are twenty two monuments of historical importance and wonderful buildings that exist from the tenth and eleventh centuries. The influence of Roman architecture, and Roman remains are also seen. It has shops, galleries and several cafes where you can enjoy the French coffee in an espresso form.

The landscape portrays tiny villages that are charming. Mouries and Moussane are chief in olive oil production of France. The Var region is popular for wine production, especially Provencal rose. A few villages make Santon, a showy figurine, liked by the French.

Art and literature add to Provence’s charm, with a number of renowned artists connected to the region. Matisse, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Picasso are among the many that were drawn to this region due to its beauty, landscape and brightness. Provence has all the art works on show. The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Albert Camus, a person who was born, brought up, and lived all his life in Provence.

Though the region north of Cannes is refined and cosmopolitan, Provence’s charm is retained. Valbonne located at about twelve miles to the north of Cannes, has a splendid medieval square, and some parts of it date back to the twelfth century. For most part of the day, it is not open to vehicles, and has a few cobbled streets allowing you to explore the place. There are more than twenty restaurants within the village, and three Michelin star hotels within five miles. It isn’t compulsory to speak French as English is locally spoken by most people (an ex-patriotic community) here, but it is not so in the deeper parts of Provence in the west and north.

Grasse, located at the northern part of Cannes, is an old perfume manufacturing centre. Several producers like Galimard and Fragonard who remain here, offer tours to observe the production process. Orange blossom is basically used and it is grown on hilly areas around the town. Thousand kilos of blossoms are required to manufacture one kilo of its oil, which is the basic material used for production. Plenty of flowers are harvested, and hence flowers feature the region’s landscape.

Biot, a village near Nice, is supposed to be the place where the smoked glass had been invented. This is a beautiful village and has an ancient history connected to Knights Templar, with festivals to commemorate them. Many glass blowers along with production facilities are seen here, and a number of shops sell their glass or ceramic works.

St Paul De Vence is probably the best known village of Provence, set on the hill above Monaco. The village adds much to Provence’s charm with small alleyways, local craft-shops, beautiful old buildings, olive oil and much more. Columbe D’or has art work on its walls worth millions of pounds donated by artists.

The Nice airport offers flights from Europe and many London airports. Montreal and New York have daily service. Several villages are about twenty minutes from Nice, and Marseilles airport is at the other end.

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