Provence in the south of France is very popular with Americans for vacations.
Although everyone says the Americans hate the French and the French hate the Americans, you wouldn’t think so to walk around Provencal towns and villages in summer.
Americans on vacation are pretty visible and audible in Provence in summer. :)
Despite the overall antagonism between Americans and the French, it’s clear to see why France in general and Provence in particular are attractive to holidaymakers from the US.
Those wanting to experience the atmosphere of Europe and European history are spoiled over here. My local town, L’Isle sur Sorgue, is a good example. It’s a beautiful small market town not far from the gorgeous medieval, papal city of Avignon.
Isle sur Sorgue is surrounded by the crystal-clear Sorgue river which parts at the partage des eaux and flows along each side of town. L’Isle has a small medieval centre of wonky buildings, narrow crooked alleys and low archways. Small canals from the Sorgue criss-cross the town, running under little foot bridges and turning water wheels. L’Isle, like every French town, is stuffed with history, much of it visible in buildings and street names. There are lovely bookshops and antique shops to browse. Caf©s and restaurants appear at every corner as you walk round town.
Every Sunday the whole town becomes an outdoor market with small producers selling oil, cheese, bread, olives, sausages, ham, melons, peppers, courgettes, jam, cherries, chickens, lavender, herbs and a hundred and one other wonderful local products. The Caf© de France opposite the huge church in the centre of L’Isle is a popular meeting place and so is the Bar de la Sorgue on the quay near the town’s main banks. The Caf© Bellevue is another good place to have coffee or eat. It looks over a wide pool where the Sorgue flows peacefully into town one way and cascades down over a weir in the other direction. Ducks paddle about blissfully unaware that magret de canard is a staple for restaurant diners around here.
I have American friends, from Boston, who’ve spent part of the year here every year since 2003. They bought a house in the blissful little hamlet near my own home – a peaceful little paradise of olive trees, vines, oleanders, fig and cherry trees. There’s a large swimming pool for the adults and a small one for kids too. Cats sun themselves on window sills or under olive trees. Bright green lizards dash about in the summer heat. My neighbour’s shaggy dog, Friskette, shambles about amiably, greeting everyone in her path and hoping for a scrap of meat or some other titbit.
The American couple recently sold their home, for personal reasons to do with age and health, and were sad to give up their home in Provence. Much as they love the USA and their home in Somerville, Boston, they found they were captivated by Provence and its culture and people.
I entirely understand why that is. Though I’m British, I’ve loved France since I was a child. The moment I first arrived on the sleeper train at Avignon over 30 years ago, I fell in love with the place. It was 6.30 in the morning and the famous Provencal sunlight was dazzling. From that point in, I wanted to live in Provence and some years ago I was finally able to make the move.
Living in Provence is even better than visiting on vacation. If you’re wondering whether to visit Europe, or wondering whether to visit France, I would highly recommend Provence. In fact, I’d say it’s unmissable! I’ve travelled all over the world in the past and have little inclination to take long haul flights these days. Of all the regions and countries I’ve spent time in, Provence is the only one that made me quickly fall in love. Of course, if cold northern climes are your thing, or you’re inescapably drawn to desert, then Provence is not for you. But if you’re drawn to beauty and history, subtley and nature and a rich culture, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll love Provence.
**See also: http://provencesouthoffrance.blogspot.com/**