Bien sûr! Brush up on your French, but don't worry if you're not fluent. Villagers usually respond to pointing, head shaking, and smiles. However, standard travel phrases do come in handy, and it's fun to be able to chat with locals. Countless language books are available through www.amazon.com.
- French in 10 Minutes A Day
Gives you the basics and a practice CD.
- Hugo Language Course: French in 3 Months
For those of you who plan ahead.
- Journal Français and Le Petit Journal Newsletter
Subscribe to either or both of these free email subscriptions to get your brain working in français.
- Michelin Green Guide if you've traveled in Europe, you know that this is essential reading. Published in a format that makes it an easy traveling companion, the Provence edition is full of sightseeing information, history, useful French words and phrases, maps, touring itineraries and more.
- Michelin Map #527 Provence, Alpes, French Riviera, Cote d’Azur — use this detailed map to identify places, routes and distances outlined in the Green Guide. Purchase in advance and study the maze of small country roads before you encounter them in traffic.
- Fodor's Provence is a comprehensive guide book to the area, in its 8th edition, for up-to-the-minute schedules, routes and more.
- Rick Steves' Provence 2011 an annual update of this popular guidebook.
- Provenceweb provides a wealth of information on wineries, tourist attractions, and events.
- Patricia Well's At Home in Provence: Recipes Inspired by her Farmhouse in France lets you anticipate the gastronomic possibilities, find the best cheeses, and try simple but elegant recipes.
- Another Patricia Wells favorite is The Provence Cookbook, with over 200 recipes culled from home cooks, farmers and chefs in the Vaucluse Valley, where she makes her home near Vaison-la-Romaine.
- The Markets of Provence provides details about daily, open-air markets in nearby towns.
- Robert Parker's Wines of the Rhône Valley is the definitive guide to everything from Marseilles north to Côte Rôtie. Parker's extraordinary palate and knowledge of the area offer a reliable roadmap to hundreds of wines and winemakers. Visit Robert Parker's site for everything you ever wanted to know and more about wines of the Rhône Valley.
You may want to peruse this selection and purchase after your visit to remind you of your stay in Provence. Most are hard-bound photo-rich volumes that would be a hassle to pack in your suitcase.
- Provence, The Art of Living offers a glimpse into private homes and gardens of some of the world's most interesting designers, artists, and collectors.
- Provence: A Country Almanac explores the region from the perspective of a 30-year American resident and tour guide.
- Provence A-Z by Peter Mayle is this best selling author’s latest chronicle of living in the nearby Luberon Valley. Guaranteed to put you in the mood for country life. Others by Mayle: A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, Hotel Pastis, and Chasing Cezanne.
- Provence-Art, Architecture & Landscape is useful for planning your trip. Includes handy maps, floor plans of historic buildings, historical context and information about the current ecology, economy and populations. Many wonderful photographs.
- Provence Style: The Art of Home Decoration is another glorious photo and idea book to inspire you.
From Paris, Gare de Lyon, take the TGV train (two-and-a-half hours) or a one-hour flight to Marseille or Avignon. If you are arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and wish to bypass Paris, there is a TGV train station right inside the airport at Terminal 2. Once you arrive in Avignon or Marseille, pick up your rental car and drive to the villages. We recommend small to mid-sized cars, to navigate narrow streets, minimize very expensive fuel and avoid being a target for thieves. Our best connection from Portland is on Delta to Amsterdam, then on to Marseille. We’ve taken nearly every conceivable route and mode of transportation and are happy to share other options with you. Contact us for full details.
Pack lightly and go casual — especially important if you plan to travel by train, which can turn into a real hassle if you’re hauling loads of luggage. As to how to dress, remember Provence is a casual place. Leave the coat and tie at home — you’ll never wear them unless you combine your stay with a visit to Paris or you plan to eat at fancy restaurants. And good news for the ladies: provençales are rarely seen wearing stockings, even in winter!
Weather is typically Mediterranean — usually warm and sunny from mid-April to mid-September and often into October. Recently however, weather patterns in Provence seem to have shifted, as they have elsewhere. Friends have reported shirtsleeve weather as early as February — and as late as mid-November. One summer, we wore sweaters to a Bastille Day celebration in July! The infamous Mistral, a cold, northwest wind, can be fierce and comes on unexpectedly. We’ve also experienced downpours in all seasons, so take a jacket, a warm sweater, a light raincoat — and think sun. Learn about today’s weather in Provence.