French Language Blog

Provence, terre insolite Posted by on Apr 22, 2010 in Culture, Vocabulary

Quand j’ai vécu (When I lived) en Provence, j’avais 15 ans. At age fifteen, I was already fascinée par la culture française, and especially by le sud de la France: the fabled South of France.

When I decided to go to Provence (on a summer programme d’échange), I thought I would be Brigitte Bardot, passant l’été a me bronzer sur la plage: spending the summer tanning on the beach! En fait (in fact), while PACA has 900 kilomètres of coastline, I was hours from la côte (the coast). J’ai découvert une autre Provence:  la terre insolite. (I discovered another Provence: the unique and extraordinary land.)


Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur (PACA) is une région in the southeast of France. Its largest cities are Marseille, Nice, Toulon and Aix-en-Provence: I was not in any of these. I was in une petite ville médiévale called St. Etienne-les-Orgues, population 800. Je parlais trois mots de français (I spoke three words of French) and I was étonnée (stunned) to be surrounded by des champs (fields), des collines (hills) et des Français!

Quand on attend la Côte d’Azur (when you’re expecting the French Riviera) et on voit des collines… c’est difficile. But I love those hills so much now that I can lose my breath looking at pictures of them. There’s not tons to do in St. Etienne-les-Orgues, mais il y a tellement de choses à voir (but there is so much to see)! Des champs de lavande et de lavandin (fields of lavender and lavandin), a more pungent hybrid. Des forêts (forests). Des falaises et des villes perchées: cliffs and “perched villages,” tucked into the side of the mountain.

One of the first phrases I learned was “J’ai mal au ventre”: I am sick to my stomach (pas “J’ai mal à l’estomac”!). Driving around those collines and villes perchées was its own défi (challenge), but the view could almost make you forget les virages en épingle de cheveux (hairpin turns). I hope ces photos tell some of the story, but they can’t evoke the scent at the end of a day of récolte de lavande (lavender harvest). For that, you’ll have to visit, and drive through des champs de tournesols (fields of sunflowers)yourself.

Cette rêverie de Provence was prompted, for me, by a short film I just saw about a farmer in Lacoste, tout près de (right near) St-Etienne-les-Orgues. Regardez-le and see if you can discern l’accent provençal du fermier, the farmer’s Provençal accent.

Cliquez sur (click on) Documentaries, puis (then) “Painter of the Earth” (

Vous voyez pourquoi on rêve de Provence? (Can you see why people dream about Provence?)

(Merci Joel de ce lien- Thanks, Joel, for the link!)

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