As you approach Provence there's a magical moment when you finally leave the north behind: cypresses and red-tile roofs appear; you hear the screech of cicadas and breathe the scent of wild thyme and lavender. Along the highway, oleanders bloom against a backdrop of austere, sun-filled landscapes, the very same that inspired the Post-Impressionists.Ever since Peter Mayle abandoned the London fog and described with sensual relish a life of unbuttoned collars and espadrilles in his best-selling A Year in Provence, the world has beaten a path here. Now Parisians are heard in the local marketplaces passing the word on the best free-range rabbit and the lowest price on a five-bedroom mas (a traditional Provençal farmhouse). This bon-chic-bon-genre city crowd languishes stylishly at Provence's country inns and restaurants. Ask them, and they'll agree: when Princess Caroline of Monaco moved to St-Rémy, Provence became the new Côte d'Azur.But chichi Provence hasn't eclipsed idyllic Provence, except that now every farmer and crafts vendor has an iPhone. Still, it's possible to melt into a Monday-morning market crowd, where blue-aproned paysannes scoop fistfuls of mesclun into willow baskets, matron-connoisseurs paw through bins containing the first Cavaillon asparagus, and a knot of pépés in workers' blues takes a pétanque break.Relax, join them—and plan to stick around awhile. There are plenty of sights to see: great Roman ruins; the pristine Romanesque abbeys of Senanque and de Montmajour; weathered mas; the monolithic Papal Palace in old Avignon; the narrow streets in Arles immortalized on canvas by Van Gogh. Check out all these treasures but remember that highlights of any trip here are those hours spent dawdling at a sidewalk café, wandering aimlessly down narrow cobbled alleyways, and, after a three-hour lunch, taking a quick snooze in the cool shade of a 500-year-old olive tree. Allow yourself time to feel the rhythm of modern Provençal life, to listen to the pulsing cigales, smell the parfum of a tiny country path, and feel the night air on your skin.
Copyright © Wed May 24 15:39:11 EDT 2017 by Fodor's Travel, a division of Random House, LLC. All rights reserved.
Things You Can't Miss
Picnic in front of the spectacular Palais des Papes, where popes lived in the 1300s, then hop aboard for a 45-minute tour of sights and back streets.
Whether in Nice, Aix-en-Provence or Saint-Rémy, find out when it’s market day to sample fresh produce, breads, flowers and jam.
Near the medieval city of Les Baux, a magical sound and light show of Impressionist paintings is projected on the rock walls of an abandoned quarry.
Alcohol and seat pockets are not your friends. Use this advice to avoid getting sick on a plane.
In France’s “wild west,” look for wild white horses, black bulls and pink flamingoes. See a bullfight in Arles’ Roman amphitheater.
Here are some great romantic getaway ideas and locations and great honeymoon destinations to spice up your romantic life by going on a second honeymoon.
The Pine Train takes you from Nice to Digne, past mountains and acres of lavender fields. Stay for August’s five-day lavender festival.
From Atlantic to Pacific, these solar showplaces offer a front-row seat to America's most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Spend the day at this quiet beach resort, then ferry to nearby St. Tropez to check out the scene and the swanky yachts moored in the harbor.
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