Hello my dear readers,
How are you? I hope your week is going smooth so far
We have discovered the marjoram on Monday, today let’s discover Provence, the place of herbs of Provence that we all love so much.
Classic postcard scenery and mild climate make Provence one of the most loved regions by artists and tourists from all over the world.
Lavender fields so huge that you can’t see the end, narrow cobbled streets, colorful flowers on the windows, small villages on the hills, are the characteristic elements of the Provencal landscape.
From Marseille to Martigues to Saintes Maries de la Mer on the coast, until reaching inland cities like Arles and Avignon, Provence is all to discover.
Gastronomy, small harbors and the crystal-clear waters of the seaside towns join the colorful and folkloristic atmosphere of the inner cities, creating a peaceful and relaxed environment.
Marseille is a collection of narrow streets and squares animated by the warmth and joy of the people and, in spite of its patriotic spirit, it is one of the cities where different cultures and ethnic groups are most concentrated. Due to its resemblance to the Neapolitan city, to which it is also united by the propensity of a part of the citizens for shady deals, Marseille is called the “Naples of France”.
A few things to not miss in Marseille are: the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Garde, overlooking Marseille and from which you can admire a splendid panorama over the city and the Mediterranean; the Old Port of Marseille, the synthesis of the spirit of the city; the historic center and the Le Panier district in Marseille, a fascinating mix of Naples, Barcelona, Vietnam and other world cultures; the Church of the Vieille Charité, an ancient hospice magnificently restored; If Castle and the Frioul Islands, a castle that served as a prison for centuries.
From Martigues to Marseille there’s Côte Bleue, the Blue Coast, 20 km of beaches, coves and crystal clear sea. Along the Calan Estaque, which can be traveled by car, there are spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
If Marseilles is the “Naples of France”, Martigues, with its canal system, is called the “Venice of Provence”. The peculiarity of this village lies in having preserved the main tourist attractions and its appearance of a small fishing village, despite having had a strong industrial growth. Let yourself be captivated by the charm of its canals, bridges and islands, especially in the neighborhood around the Saint-Sébastien canal. The picturesque character of the neighborhood, with the ancient colored houses of the fishermen who, from the seventeenth century, continue to mirror themselves in the water, has been a source of inspiration for many artists.
According to various legends, Saintes Maries de la Mer was the refuge of many followers of Jesus of Nazareth, after escaping from Palestine, and here they protected and spread the Christian creed.
Among these is the servant Sara, to whom the Church, the town’s main monument, is dedicated. The Church, before being a religious function, has always been a sighting tower to protect the inhabitants from attacks by Saracen pirates. Saintes Maries de la Mer, as well as being known for its artistic and natural beauty, is famous for hosting the pilgrimage of Gypsies from all over Europe who come to worship Santa Sara, their patron saint, whose statue is preserved in the Church, every year in May. The image of the saint is carried to the sea, while the whole village celebrates with bells, guitars and shouts of joy.
One of the greatest attractions of Avignon is the Palace of the Popes, testimony of an unforgettable historical event: the transfer of the papal seat from Rome to Avignon. This event has forever influenced the history of the city, which since then has remained an important cultural center, although it no longer enjoys the wealth and luxury of the time.
The Palace, along with the Avignon Bridge, pont Saint-Bénezet, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today Avignon continues to preserve its artistic tradition, with a dense calendar of events including the July Festival, certainly the best known: an exhibition of theatrical performances, dance and music that attracts spectators from all over Europe.
Arles is located on the delta of the Rhone river and, although it has only 50,000 inhabitants, it is the largest municipality in France. The Arena and the Roman Theater are the remains of a glorious past; a past that saw Arles the Roman capital and great religious center in the Middle Ages.
Despite being rather large, all the most important monuments of Arles are concentrated in the center where tourists can walk along the streets in the shade of the plane trees, stop at one of the many outdoor cafés and enjoy the liveliness of the people, especially on the occasion of an important event, the Arles festival: a succession of theatrical performances, folkloristic shows, concerts and dances.
Elegant residences, majestic avenues, sumptuous fountains and attractive squares are still living testimonies of a rich past. Ancient capital of Provence, Aix-en-Provence is now home to the law and letter faculty of the Aix-Marseille University, which is why the streets of the city, both day and night, are populated by young students.
Aix is located in the center of one of the richest tourist regions of Europe and you can’t help but appreciate its sweet and dynamic life and the wonderful landscape offered by the surrounding countryside which has been a source of inspiration for many artists.
In the heart of a countryside dominated by olive groves, rises Nostradamus, a small village that has hosted the greatest astrologer and prophet of all time. His house and his grave are already two reasons enough to visit Salon-de-Provence.
The old city stands on a hill, while at its feet extend the modern districts, separated from each other by a row of tree-lined avenues. In the shade of the green plane trees, in one of the picturesque streets of the center, you can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Salon, typical of all Provence, while sitting comfortably in one of the many cafes.
Salon is famous for the olive oil from which the famous Marseille soap is made. You will notice it from the quantity of shops and laboratories around the town and from the fragrances that spread in every corner.
Provence is favored by a Mediterranean-type climate, with mild temperatures throughout the year, and especially with hot, dry and sunny summers, the region is in fact the area of France with the most sunshine per year.
Provence lights up with colors and scents with the arrival of spring and until late autumn retains an absolutely unique charm in Europe. Every month has its colors and its secrets to discover.
In any case, late spring and summer are the periods in which it is possible to admire Provence in all its splendor.
In particular May and June, swept by winds that leave a clear and bright sky, they are rich in wild flowers and see a lower concentration of tourists to crowd the villages, while July is the triumph of lavender flowering. An incredible show, a palette of all the variations of purple and lilac that is accompanied by a succession of local and village festivals.
Provence offers a lot of hotels, B&B, rooms for rent and accommodations suitable for all pockets.
Marseille equals bouillabaisse, a fantastic fish soup prepared with different types of fish, sauces and vegetables. The bouillabaisse is prepared in all the seaside resorts of Provence but in Marseille it reaches its peak. Always from the sea come the Marseillaise mussels, seasoned with tomato.
The other prevailing scent in the streets of Marseilles and all around Provence is alioli, the equivalent of our garlic and oil, the basis of every dish in Provence.
There is no ingredient that is so deeply linked to the Mediterranean than the olive. In fact, whether it is green, black or Kalamata, this small and tasty fruit can be found almost everywhere in the cuisine of the region. The Provençal version of the olive-based condiment is the tapenade, very popular today all around the world. The simplest recipe includes olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil in abundance, a winning combination!
There are only a few types of French salads that have spread outside the country’s borders. The best known is the salade niçoise, a specialty of the far south of the country. The salade niçoise, a so-called salade composée of the French tradition, contains fresh tomatoes, tuna, boiled eggs, local olives and anchovies. Topped with a bit of vinaigrette, this recipe has a unique flavor, deeply linked to the Mediterranean region.
Once considered simply a peasant dish based on inexpensive vegetables, over the years ratatouille has become an iconic dish of France, thanks also to the craze for healthy food and to the homonymous and well-known Pixar film. The stew, which is born in Nice, is made up of tomatoes, aubergines, onions, courgettes, peppers, and any other desired vegetables, cooked slowly with garlic and Provence herbs to obtain a delicate and invigorating dish.
In France it is impossible not to mention cheeses. Provence is an area rich in chèvre, often protected. In particular, Brousse de Rove is appreciated, a fresh cheese with a persistent aroma, also used in desserts and Banon, an ancient goat’s milk cheese with a creamy consistency and wrapped in chestnut leaves collected during the autumn.
A visit to the pastry shop in Provence is a pleasure as in the rest of France: here too there will be pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, croissant aux amandes and all sorts of viennoiserie. But if you are looking for something local, eat a slice or a single portion of tarte Tropeziénne: a typical dessert of St. Tropez, this tarte is composed of a sweet brioche with orange blossom garnished with pearl sugar, stuffed with a mélange of three creams, including butter cream and custard.
Not so much a dish as an element that unites all the famous specialties of the region, the herbs of Provence are as fundamental as they are beautiful. The bouquet of herbs does not have a fixed composition but usually consists of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano. To give some color, lavender is often added, but it is not flavoring. These herbs can become a fantastic souvenir of Provence to remember your journey, bringing home the perfume of France!
Have you visited Provence? What city did you like most?
Thank you all for reading.
Join me next time as it’s time for a delicious recipe.
And if you enjoy traveling as much as I do, you may visit my other posts and discover our world one step at the time.