A Guide for Happiness in Provence
One thing you can count on if you live in Provence is visitors. It’s a given. Everyone wants to go to Provence and they all want to stay with you.
This is a mixed blessing; it’s wonderful to have your friends and loved ones around to share this magical place. But it’s not always fun being tour guide, holiday planner, chauffeur, cook, grocery-getter, translator and general go-to person for all things Provence. It can get incredibly demanding and rather tiring. While everyone else is on holiday, you are in full-on provider mode. So I am going to clear up a few things in advance for prospective visitors to help your holiday go smooth as silk.
- Provence is in France. France. This should almost be enough of an explanation in and of itself and really I shouldn’t need say more. However…
- Provence is not Paris. It’s the country. There is nothing but farms and small villages. Things are FAR apart. Things are different here. People don’t wear make-up or have their nails done. These are farmers, at least where I am. I’m not referring to Marseille or the Côte d’Azur. That is another world altogether.
- Things close. All. The. Time. Randomly. Someone just doesn’t want to reopen their shop or they had an extra long nap—I don’t know the reason. Things aren’t reliable. The one thing you can count on is the lack of reliability. You need to relax and go with the flow.
- You cannot get what you want, when you want it, exactly how you want it. Because you are not HOME. You are somewhere else and things are done differently. If you want the same, stay home, don’t come here. Please.
- Further to point #4, you cannot always get food. Most grocery stores close for a “siesta” between noon and 3pm and are wrapped up for the evening by 7:30pm. Restaurants do not seat you past 1:30pm nor feed you past 2pm at lunch. If you are hungry between the hours of 2pm and 8pm—you did something wrong. You either didn’t get up early enough to get to lunch on time or the grocery store. All that lallygagging around the pool cost you a meal. So make sure you are well stocked up at home or expect that you will get nothing but beer or pastis between 2 and 8pm. Dinner service at restaurants generally never starts before 7pm, but no self-respecting Provençal or French person would ever have dinner before 8pm, and even that’s early.
- It’s challenging when people are in holiday mode to get them focussed and aware that there is a system/schedule here, and you have to work within it. If you choose not to, you might not get what you want. It’s difficult as hostess to constantly play time minder, pointing to the watch every moment. People say “just relax, we’re on holiday”, until they are starving. Then they blame you.
Provence is brilliant yet somewhat particular. It's definitely worth the trip with so much to see and do, and eat. So long as you remember to bring a watch.