By Carmen Reivelo
Provence is still one of the most beautiful regions of France, attractive due to its lavender fields, its Mediterranean light, and its cultural heritage. So, seduced by its charm, I was ready to discover everything about this country aerated by the Mistral wind and sprinkled with olive oil. And, of course, while improving at the same time my mastery of the French language.
Fountain of Vaucluse
A large number of villages preserving the Provençal spirit can be found in Le Vaucluse, a name that comes from Latin and refers to the valley that surrounds the country as far as Avignon, on the banks of the Rhone.
This valley has its origin in Fontaine de Vaucluse, where an abyss takes the waters coming out of the depths of the earth to the course of the Sorgue.
It is a captivating and changing natural phenomenon: during the summer the waters go down allowing to cover part of the sima, while in winter it is all filled again. Besides, a hiking trail allows us to enter the valley through its oaks up to its crest, where we can enjoy a clear view of the Provencal country.
This perched village rises on a hill from which you can see the Luberon Natural Park as well as vineyards and lavender fields. Built-in stone, it is full of small streets that manage to preserve the coolness and shade. However, it is precisely the light that makes Provence exceptional.
It seems to flow through the hills, smoothing their stone, and then spreading over all the elements of the landscape. Like a magical patina, the Mediterranean light fills all nature with vitality, as can be seen by the constant rustling of cicadas, the aromatic smell of lavender grains, and the bitter taste of olives.
Close to Gordes is the Abbey of Sénanque, a beautiful place where one is tempted to stay to enjoy the Provencal beauties at one’s ease. The same happens in Venasque, where you are surprised by the landscape that extends along with the views.
On an island in the middle of the Sorgue river, this village hosts a large number of antique stores, making it famous all over the world. Here too the paddle wheels continue to shake the water of the several canals that cross the streets.
It is also possible to visit Villa Datris, a museum of contemporary sculpture housed in a beautifully restored house.
Next to the Sorgue, you’ll find cafés and bistros that allow customers to sit on shelves at the same edge of the freshwater. There are also small decks and terraces where tables are set up for a candlelight dinner.
No less important, the cities of Provence have an important cultural heritage, as demonstrated by their museums and historical buildings. Here you can find the spirit of Provence condensed in their food and drink, their streets filled with city dwellers and their curious stories.
City of the popes during the Middle Ages, Avignon has the largest Gothic-style palace in Europe as well as several museums of painting, science, or contemporary art that are well worth a visit. The city center is formed by several charming streets and alleys where you can discover small stores and bistros.
Also, the atmosphere is very welcoming and evocative, one is tempted to stay there to enjoy the city all year round.
We must not forget the Saint Bénézet Bridge, known all over the world because of the popular song. A little spoiler: the bridge is cut in half! It is ideal to walk quietly along the banks of the Rhone at night when the whole outline of the fortified city stands out against the starry sky and inside the ramparts, people fill the street with a festive atmosphere.
This city is located next to the Sainte-Victoire mountain, so much painted by Cézanne in his paintings. Its city center moves with renewed energy thanks to all the stores that offer a lot to the visitors.
However, the essence of Provencal life is concentrated in its oldest quarters, where calissons, the typical gourmet specialty made from candied melon, are also sold.
Once you have walked through the Cours Mirabeau and the several squares with fountains, the Musée Granet offers a very interesting collection of French paintings that gives the impression of being in a kind of small Louvre.
It is the second-largest city in France and the one with the oldest foundation date. The arrival of the Phocian Greeks to the French coast is currently told in the Mucem, as well as the history of other ancient Mediterranean civilizations.
Going down La Canebière, we arrive at the Vieux Port, an emblematic place that still preserves the maritime essence of Marseille as all the parked boats show. To get a beautiful view of the port city, you can go up to the Lighthouse or take a walk by the sea in the Fort Saint Jean. Marseille is known as the Gateway to the Orient due to the great mix of origins of its inhabitants, which makes it very interesting to discover its most cosmopolitan neighborhoods. And of course, to buy Marseille soap!
ENJOY THE COMPANY OF YOUR TEACHER!
It is not only the charm of Provence that made this vacation a very dear memory in my heart, it is rather thanks to my teacher and her family. She helped me a lot to improve my written and spoken French and to prepare the level certification exams. The classes were very pleasant and we were able to talk about many interesting topics.
Outside of class, we had a great time together during meals, walks, and evenings. I am very happy to have met other people with whom to share my tastes and interests. They taught me about the living French culture and we enjoyed delicious meals. In addition, the tours and activities were very well prepared and very fun. I enjoyed their company, without them the stay would not have been the same!
In conclusion …
Before making this trip I was wondering if there was a possibility to study French at the same time as discovering a part of France in the company of the natives. This mix seemed too ideal to be feasible, but now it is a reality thanks to S.L. Immersion France! In my opinion, this method is the most effective way to learn the language, but I value as much (or more) the human factor that makes the stay warm and friendly. A real cultural exchange and an unforgettable experience!
What about you? Have you ever considered travelling to France?