Welcome to Provence
Think about Provence and what comes to mind? Fields of lavender, sunflowers and olive trees? A slower pace of life, a Sunday lunch under the shade of plane trees in a village square, a café crème at a sidewalk café, or a long walk through a forest of oak and chestnut trees?
You may think of a village clinging to the side of a mountain, a church tower with a wrought-iron campanile where the mistral finds little obstruction, or narrow cobble-stoned lanes. And, finally, when you're marvelling at the rocky inlets of the Mediterranean sea, or relaxing on the beach of Pampelonne, near Saint-Tropez, it's also possible to say, 'I'm in Provence!'
Provence, to many a surprised visitor, also includes the Côte d'Azur. The famous towns of the Riviera - Cannes, Nice, Antibes, St Tropez are also a part of this diverse area. The French divide up their country into 'regions' of which Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur (also referred to as PACA) is one. This 'region' is then split up into six 'departments': Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, and Vaucluse.
This is a vast region, of contrasts and connections, of snow-topped mountains and delightful sea resorts, of shepherds and yacht captains, of cork oak and palm trees, of a simple beef stew and an elaborate bouillabaisse. Provence is more than a lush vision that hides its complexity under a veil of simple delights. It is home to the incredible red colours of the Esterel mountains, the taste of tapenade, the scent of rosemary, the cadence of the Provençal accent, and, above all, the mistral, the fierce wind that blows down from the Alps.