Welcome to PROVENCE TODAY, a blog about life and politics in France.
In our search for the ideal place to retire, my husband and I settled in Aix-en-Provence in 1998 and have never stopped learning about this fascinating country that has become our permanent home. While this blog deals with the socio-political aspects of France, my book "Taking Root in Provence" focuses on the pleasures and paradoxes of daily life in sunny Provence.
During the summer season the south of France is overrun by tourists, French and foreign alike, flocking southward like migrating birds. Trains and planes are fully booked, but many vacationers take to the road and move their families to rented houses, hotels, and campgrounds throughout Provence. This massive migration always takes place on the weekends because people rent from Saturday to Saturday, and on every Saturday between early July and late August the freeways clog up with cars. Even though the roads are excellent and well maintained (paid for by tolls) the French do not have a good safety record. Speed limits are broken routinely, especially by motorcyclists who fly like bullet trains past cars and trucks, and radar does not seem to slow down the speeders for more than the time it takes to pass the road-side speed traps. Highway police do their bit but are overwhelmed, so the authorities have now come up with an unexpected strategy. They have asked the Dutch government to send in DUTCH HIGHWAY POLICE to assist the French police during heavy-traffic weekends, especially to pull over the Dutch drivers who often speak little French (and to help out the French police who speak little English). Every summer, more than 1.5 million Dutch people descend on France, often with caravans in tow, with little concern for a French speeding ticket. Nowadays, the ticket will be explained in plain Dutch, including its obligation to pay.
Dutch police with French colleagues
After a rather hectic schedule of music and theatre in July, we enjoy the quieter month of August to visit friends who have second homes here. Sometimes they are Americans who tend to favor the Var area (incl. the Côte d’Azur), oftentimes Parisian friends who tend to congregate in the Luberon area of Provence made famous by Peter Mayle. There, in the beautiful villages of Lourmarin, Bonnieux, or Ménerbes we get away from urban Aix to find the rugged nature of the Luberon mountains and the cool thick-stoned houses with their shaded gardens and swimming pools. At less than an hour’s driving distance from Aix, this is a favorite getaway during hot summer days. We have a soft spot for the village of LOURMARIN where Albert Camus lived and is buried.
Lourmarin, like many other villages in Provence, has been described in Taking Root in Provence. For more about Village Life in this area, click here.