Provence & Languedoc-Roussillon

(Gorges du Verdon)

Your suggested itinerary in Provence

Visit the French Riviera

Daily flights from Paris to Marseille, Nîmes, Montpellier and Perpignan. The TGV Paris-Marseille takes 5 hours, with stops in Avignon or Nîmes. There are train connections in Marseille for Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne and Perpignan.

Though most of the area enjoys a relatively mild climate, weather can be capricious, so be prepared with umbrella and sweater. Expect extreme heat in the summer and pleasantly cool winters. Late spring and fall are the best touring seasons.

Garlic and olive oil are the staples of both the Provençale and Languedocian kitchens; emphasis is on fish and vegetables. Bouillabaisse is the classic fish soup, seasoned with saffron and herbs and garnished with aioli, the garlic mayonnaise that is another hallmark of the regional table. Daube de boeuf is a beef stew with red wine and tomatoes; ratatouille and all of its components are essential Provençal ingredients-tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic. Goat cheeses are produced all through the region.

Both Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon make superb wines: Châteauneuf du Pape, Cassis, Collioure, Bandol, Palette, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Coteaux d'Aix, Costières de Nîmes, Coteaux des Baux, Côtes de Provence, Fitou, Faugères, Picpoul de Pinet.

Jam, honey, herbs, herbal teas, lavender sachets and olive oil are all avialable at daily or weekly outdoor markets. A few local specialties: almond-paste candies called calissons from Aix-en-Provence; candied fruit from Apt; olive oil from Les Baux; bull sausage from the Camargue; anchovies from Collioure.

Santons, carved wooden figurines for the Christmas crèche-shepherds, angels and Wise Men, but also butchers, bakers, cobblers, cooks, seamstresses and a world of other Provençal folk-are on sale everywhere, as well as olive wood bowls and utensils, pottery and faience.

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is renowned for its Sunday morning antiques market; Marseille has an old-books-and-flea market the second Sunday of each month.

Frédéric Mistral, Marcel Pagnol, Madame de Sévigné and the Marquis de Sade are all authors associated with the region. Other works include Stendhal's Travels in the South of France; Ford Madox Ford's Provence; M.F.K. Fisher's Map of Another Town (about living in Aix-en-Provence); and, more recently, Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence.

International Lyric Art and Music Festival of Aix-en-Provence July Tel: 42-17-34-00 Fax: 42-96-12-61

Chorégies d'Orange in the Roman theater July to August Tel: 90-34-24-24 or 90-34-15-52 Fax: 90-34-87-67

Festival of Avignon for music, dance theater, and poetry July and August

Bullfights in Arles Easter, July to September

Music in the Abbaye-St-Victor in Marseille October to December