Provence in summer… the aroma of warm baguettes and the fragrance of the Lavender that is in vibrant bloom in July lingers on your senses.
Our family first stumbled upon this region in the south of france as part of a business trip over a decade ago. Speaking very little French and understanding even less, was not nearly as difficult as you might think. We have rarely had a time where communication was so difficult that we were unable to achieve our objective, which was usually a wonderful meal.
The people of Provence are well aware that they are a major tourist destination and are far more accommodating to us then we are to them while communicating. It is always better to begin with a greeting in French. If you stumble along trying, the servers or shop keepers are very willing to help you get what you need, even if their English is limited, it’s usually better then our French. We have been renting the same house in St Remy de Provence for six summers. Many of the shop owners and restaurant workers have come to recognize us. The friendly lady at our favorite Boulangerie speaks almost no English but greets me by name and a kiss with each visit. This has been our experience over and over in this region.
France wins the Football World Cup… in St Remy de Provence
This year on the second night of our stay, which was a Sunday, France was playing in the final for the World Cup in soccer.
Sundays in Provence are usually quiet, sleepy days, perfect for long afternoon meals with chilled rosé, fresh baked bread and tasty cheeses. The large commercial markets are not open on Sunday, but usually the small local shops in town are available to purchase the necessary items to make a meal if your preparations on Saturday fell short. This we learned very early on, as the markets on Saturday’s are as packed with shoppers as if a storm was on the way. This Sunday we headed into town to find a restaurant with a television showing the game. That was not a problem as every restaurant and café had televisions all over the place. They were set up on chairs, on tables on the sidewalks and hanging where pictures were a few hours before. This was a big event for France, and our little town of St Remy was fully participating in the festivities.
When France finally won, the town went wild. We had a table at one of our favorite little corner cafés, the Bistro Decourte, and sat watching open mouthed. You haven’t seen anything till you have seen a Volkswagen Golf go by with over a dozen people hanging off it. There were hundreds of cars driving round and round the roads. Lap after lap the cars and trucks seemed to get heavier with celebrants. The celebration went on long into the night and was in full swing as we headed back to the house.
The next morning when I took my early customary trip to the boulangerie, it was as if it was any other Monday morning. St Remy is an immaculate town. We have never been anywhere that takes such pride in appearance. The whole of Provence is very much the same.
St. Remy is a great base for excursions to dozens of quaint little towns like Gordes, Roussillon and Uzes as well as larger, more populated towns like Aix, Avignon and Arles.
The people, food, wine, and scenery all bring us back year after year – always fabulous.
By Don Lippencott