Vincent Van Gogh spent his last few years in Provence where he painted the local landscape. But did he also paint the local wind?
Santons of Provence: All I Wanted for Christmas
My Christmas santons were late, but well worth the wait…
When Napoleon Met His Bunnyloo
Several years before Napoleon’s ill-fated battle at Waterloo, he suffered another humiliating defeat. This time at the hands (or paws) of little, furry bunny rabbits.
Van Gogh in Les Baux de Provence: What Would Vincent Say?
A bigger-than-life Van Gogh exhibition in Provence. What would the artist say if he could see this?…
Wake Up and Smell the Lavender
Rows of fragrant lavender plants stretching toward the horizon. It’s an unforgettable sight. In fact, for many people, this is the first image that comes to mind when they think of Provence…
Tarasque Festival in Tarascon: There Be Dragons There
A quirky Provence festival not to be missed…
Happy 130th Birthday, Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris itself. The grand old Parisian lady is celebrating her 130th birthday
Notre Dame de Paris
Victor Hugo’s words come true as Notre Dame burns…
Rennes-le-Château: A Tiny Town, a Problematic Priest, and a Massive Mystery
You’ve probably heard of The Da Vinci Code, but did you know that the story started with a poor priest in the south of France?
Montmartre and the Windmills of Paris
Windmills aren’t what I would usually associate with Paris, but…
New Book: Berets, Baguettes, and Beyond
New book about France makes a great gift…
Restore Yourself at a Restaurant
There have always been places to eat outside one’s own home, but they weren’t always called restaurants…
Fleur de Lys: The Iris of Kings
The fleur de lys has a long association with the kings of France…
The French Show Their Stripes (on Their Shirts)
If you’re looking to add a bit of Frenchness to your wardrobe, a blue and white striped knit shirt could just do the trick…
The Marseillaise: The French National Anthem
France’s rousing national anthem is called the Marseillaise and was written during the French Revolution…
The Curious History of Foie Gras
Foie gras – doesn’t that sound much nicer than “fatty liver?” But that’s exactly what this controversial French delicacy is…
Demonstrations, Strikes, and Bossnappings
When the French are unhappy about something, they don’t keep quiet – they draw attention to their cause…
Curious French Superstitions
Every country seems to have its superstitions, and France is no exception. Which ones have you heard of?…
Best of Enemies: Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli
Coco Chanel was queen of fashion until Elsa Schiaparelli rolled into town…
History of the French Croissant
The flaky, buttery croissant is as French as a beret or a baguette…
The Calisson of Provence: A Sweet Story
The calisson is a Provençal treat linked to Good King René and Queen Jeanne…
Boney Napoleon Scares British Children
How “Boney” Bonaparte went from being a little pest to a child-eating ogre…
The Provence Christmas Story
You may know the traditional Biblical Christmas story, but in Provence, there is a bit more to it…
Matisse, a Nun, and a Chapel
“Night Nurse Needed – Should be young and pretty.” This was the ad Henri Matisse placed in 1942…
The Artist and His Objects: Matisse in His Studio
Some of the objects that Matisse collected showed up in his paintings and others served as inspiration…
Renart and Chantecler: Two Animals that Shaped French Culture and Language
We have to go back to the twelfth century and start with a fox…
Jean Cocteau in London
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several sites decorated by Jean Cocteau on the French Riviera, but I was surprised to find his work in the center of London…
Who Put the Bubbles in the Bubbly?
Did the French invent the method of making champagne? Or was it the British?
The Gallic Rooster of France
Find out why the rooster represents France…
I’m happy to announce that my latest book, Curious Histories of Provence: Tales from the South of France is now published…
Prints of Provence: “Les Indiennes”
How could a fabric that originated in India, was copied by Armenians, and outlawed in France become a symbol of Provence?
Victor Hugo and the Joker
Who would have thought that one of the greatest 19th century French writers would have anything to do with a 20th century American cartoon villain?
The Camargue: Horses, Bulls, and Gardians
Southwest Provence, around Arles and the Camargue, has a very distinctive horse and bull culture…
Bread and Bad Luck: A French Superstition
Find out why you should never lay bread on the table upside down…
Father Whipper: St Nick’s Evil Helper
Misbehaving children have to be very careful the first part of December, or St. Nick might send his not-so-nice “helper” to see them…
Good King René and His Fountain
The city of Aix-en-Provence has a lot of fountains, but one of them caused quite a stir when it was unveiled in 1923…
Singing About the Avignon Bridge
The Avignon bridge is known around the world today because of the famous children’s song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”…
Secret Language of Cypress Trees in Provence, France
There is more than meets the eye to these slender, conical cypress trees. They have a hidden meaning…
Gaspard de Besse: Robin Hood of Provence
Just like Robin Hood, Gaspard de Besse robbed from the rich and gave to the poor…
The Mistral Wind of Provence
Provence claims thirty-two different winds, but the mistral is master of them all…
The Cicada (Cigale) of Provence
When the warm days of summer arrive in Provence, the air is filled with the song of the cicadas, or cigales in French…
Tartarin of Tarascon
Saint Martha isn’t the only slayer of ferocious beasts whose name is associated with Tarascon. The town’s other celebrated hero, who also participates in the annual Tarasque festival, is Tartarin of Tarascan…
Saint Martha and the Tarasque in Provence
Saint Martha washed up in Provence and wandered into a village with a dragon problem. The Tarasque was terrorizing the town, but Martha wasn’t afraid. ..
A Saint, a Convict, and a Gargoyle go into a Swamp…
This story seems like a pretty reasonable explanation for all those gargoyles…
3 Useful French Inventions
Today, we are looking at three French inventions that make our lives easer…
Madame Tussaud: Ahead of Her Time
During the French Revolution, Marie Tussaud was forced to make wax casts of severed heads. Later she took them to England and set up her Wax Museum…
The Pennsylvania French
In 1789, aristocrats started to flee revolutionary France. One group of these refugees ended up in a most unlikely place – the wilds of Pennsylvania.
The Crazy Calendar of a Revolutionary Republic
The French Revolutionaries weren’t content with just changing their government. They wanted to change everything – even how they kept track of time.
Mistletoe and a Flying Donkey
Mistletoe in French is called gui. This ball of vegetation that grows high in trees has been considered magical since ancient days…
Marie Antoinette’s Adopted Children
Marie Antoinette is usually characterized as aloof and uncaring. However, she was very motherly and adopted several children…
First Thanksgivings, Huguenots, and Alligators
The Pilgrims are credited with serving the first Thanksgiving meal… but could the French have beaten them to it? And what was on their table?…
Marie Antoinette’s Cats and an American Rescue Attempt
Marie Antoinette almost escaped to the USA. Of course, she didn’t make it – but maybe her cats did. Could that be the origin of the Maine Coon?
Berets, Onions, and Stereotypes
In the mid 1900s, if you had asked nearly any British person what a Frenchman looked like, you would have gotten this description: He wears a beret, and he rides a bike with onions hanging on the handlebars…
French Beret: A Hat with Attitude
The French beret, that little pancake of a hat, has become the recognized symbol of all things French – at least among those outside of France…
God Save the Royal Derriere
It seems that the British National Anthem could be yet another link in the intertwined histories of the United Kingdom and France…
Mosaics on the Hill
Have a look around the “Colline du Chateau” overlooking Nice, France, and you can find some spectacular mosaics…
Homer’s Odyssey in 13 Easy Steps
If it’s been a while since you’ve read the Greek classics (or if you just never got around to it) no worries! There’s no need
The King is no Match for the Women of Paris
At the beginning of the French Revolution, when the Parisians had nothing to eat, several thousand women took things into their own hands…
An Accidental Tourist at the Festival of Avignon
As our taxi entered the city walls of Avignon, it was evident that something was happening. I had seen online that a festival would be
Bob was a Woman of Many Talents
In early 1900s Paris, Madame Bob was a thoroughly modern woman: She had many professions, but is best remembered for helping young lovers elope…
The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
It was 1925 and Victor Lustig was sitting in his Paris hotel room reading a newspaper article about the Eiffel Tower. That gigantic structure had
Mayday! Mayday! Help, it’s May Day.
What does the month of May have to do with the call of distress? Nothing really, it’s just an example of how words slip from one language into another. The distress call actually came from the French phrase, “m’aidez”…
The Cats of La Romieu
One of the main tourist attractions in the small medieval village of La Romieu, in southwest France, is the abundance of cats to be found
*Published April 1, 2015 Ahh Paris… Just the mention of its name brings up images of sophisticated people in sidewalk cafés surrounded by elegance. It’s
Legends, Laws, and Lengthy Loaves: History of the French Baguette
What could be more traditionally French than the baguette, that long slender loaf of bread that has become an instantly recognized symbol of France?
The Changing Face of the French Republic
Marianne’s Story – Did you know that France has been led by a woman ever since the French Revolution of 1789? It’s true!
Bread Delivery: Les Porteuses de Pain
If you like bread, then when you’re in France you probably stop by the boulangerie, or bakery, every day to buy a baguette, croissant, or
The Mad Farter or “Le Pétomane”
The highest paid performer at the Moulin Rouge at the end of the 19th century had a very peculiar talent…
Shakespeare and Company
For any book-lover, the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris is a must-see. It’s been the centre…
St Nicholas… Santa Claus… Father Christmas
Even though some of the American/British folkloric characters don’t come to France, you’ll be happy to know that the jolly old man in the red suit does. Of course, he goes by a different name: in France he’s known as Père Noël, or Father Christmas.
Who wants to be a Bank Robber?
Well, I think I’ve done it! No, I haven’t robbed a bank – I think I’ve finished my book! I still have to wait to
The Grand Vacations: July and August in France
The French love their holidays. There are lots of them scattered throughout the year but July and August are the months of les grandes vacances when business almost comes to a halt….
Pierre the Patriot
When the French Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille, one man saw his chance for fame and fortune….
French Jazz Fans outsmart Hitler
French jazz developed under some interesting circumstances during the Nazi Occupation of World War II….
The Murphys, American Trendsetters on the Riviera
In summer, it’s hard to find an open space on the beach, so It’s hard to imagine that up until the 1920s there were no summer tourists here, no open hotels….
French Expressions Pop Up in the Park
Some animal and plant related French sayings illustrated with photos from a day in the park….
Tooth Fairy vs Little Tooth Mouse
There’s no Tooth Fairy in France so who collects the children’s teeth?…
May First and the Spirit of Labor Day
May 1st, a day to take off work and give out flowers….
American Easter Bunny vs French Easter Bell
There is no Easter Bunny in France but fear not, the French have come up with another method to distribute those Easter eggs
April Fool or April Fish?
In many countries, the first day of April is a day to play harmless jokes on family and friends. This usually consists of telling a farfetched story in such a way that it sounds like it could be true. When the other person falls for our joke, we exclaim…
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognised symbols of the United States. But did you know that Lady Liberty is an immigrant?…
It Pays to be Polite in France
“A cup of coffee” – € 7.00″A cup of coffee, please” – € 4.25″Hello, a cup of coffee, please” – € 1.40 At this café in Nice, France, minding
Menton, France celebrates the Lemon
They say when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. But what if you are a town on the French Riviera and life gives you extraordinarily delicious lemons?…
Carnival Kings, Silly Strings, and Blooming Things
In Nice, France we are preparing for the carnival and that means another royal visit. Every year in February, a different king comes to town
Nice, France: Her Relationship with Italy and How She Became French
Normally, I write about the city of Nice, but in this article, when I mention Nice, I am speaking of the historic “County of Nice”
The King Cake holds a Surprise
In France, it’s a tradition to eat pies and cakes containing little “prizes” in January. This practice can be traced back to Roman times and their winter solstice celebration…
Truffle Hunting in Provence
Our wedding anniversary was approaching and when Jeff asked what I wanted, I didn’t hesitate, “I want to go truffle hunting!” Looking a bit puzzled,
Thirteen Desserts? That’s my kind of Meal!
Christmas time in Provence and the south of France is full of traditions and, as with most good traditions, food is usually involved. Miniature wheat
A Girl Called Fanny That no one Wants to Kiss
Recently, when I was at the Christmas “santon” fairs looking at all of the little figures that make up the Nativity scenes in southern
Santons: The Little Saints of Provence
In many parts of the world, Nativity scenes make up a part of the Christmas decoration but in Provence, they are taken to the extreme…
Farewell to a French Apartment
The above collage is a selection of lovely bourgeois buildings in the Musicians quarter of Nice, where we used to live. It is called the
What do you mean, you can’t bring it inside???
I was sitting in a folding chair in our empty new apartment waiting for our delivery from Ikea, which was scheduled to come between 1:00
No Kitchen? It’s Perfect!
No one would ever accuse me of being a gourmet chef, or any kind of chef for that matter. Really, I’m pretty much useless in
Happy May Day! Give a Flower to Someone You Love
May 1st is a public holiday in France. It’s called La Fête du Travail, and it’s the equivalent of the US Labor Day. But it’s
Renting a French Apartment
The Cours Saleya market proved to be the perfect place to go to forget about the stress of trying to rent an apartment here in
French Class: A Poem
I’ll soon be off to Italy to start studying the Italian language. I know what I have to look forward to because I remember my